Support you can count on

Elaine Phillips, head of the PPD Support Services Department, wrote this week’s column.

Elaine Phillips

Quite a few things have changed in the last 20 years for our laboratory’s administrative staff. In 1990, when I started working as an on-call person at Fermilab, the fax machine was a novelty, and I did not have a PC, just a VAX computer.

While some things change—hurray for new technology—others do not. A lot of effort goes on behind the scenes at PPD to handle all the requests our department receives, many of them time sensitive or driven by changing regulations. Our motto is work not just harder, but smarter.

The team we built in our Support Services Department works very hard to make its efforts appear seamless. We work closely with Travel, Accounting, Procurement, Property, Housing, Visa, Employment and other offices to provide a wide range of services to a division of 400-plus employees who run or participate in experiments at Fermilab and in Minnesota, Argentina, Chile and Europe.

So far this year, our administrative team has handled 550 foreign trips (many with multiple itineraries), arranged 920 domestic trips and placed over 920 requisitions in support of laboratory programs. In fiscal year 2010, our admin team placed and documented more than 2,600 Procard purchase orders for over $1.3 million, and this year we are well on our way to processing about the same volume.

The Support Services Department comprises 19 admins (about 27 percent of Fermilab’s admins) as well as the laboratory’s Conference Office. Our customers include scientists, project managers, engineers, technicians, research associates, fellowship candidates, seminar and colloquium speakers, guests and visitors as well as students from around the world. Our staff coordinates office moves, serves on laboratory committees, communicates with vendors, supports safety programs, participates in self-assessments and coordinates the logistics for numerous collaboration meetings as well as DOE and Director’s reviews. You will often find admins at the registration table assisting the Conference Office at large conferences.

Next time your documents are ready on time for an important review, or your foreign trip goes without a hitch or a critical part gets delivered on short notice and in time, chances are the helping hands of an admin were involved.