I go by Alexis—Lex for short.
I’m the Associate Director for Platform Integration & Automation at Stevens Institute of Technology. In addition to leading the Platform team, I co-chair the Web and Digital Governance Committee, and serve as an Accessibility SME for the Division of Information Technology.
At this point, I’ve been at Stevens for over ten years. In a past life, I worked in entertainment and media, leading engineering teams for The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and Adweek.
The space between engineering, design, and product is where I spend most of my time these days, and I geek out about digital strategy and engineering leadership. Believe it or not, my early background is in user experience, and its intersection between games, simulation, and the Web. The implementation side didn’t come until later, though I’m fluent in both.
In a word…
- Nonbinary. I use they/them pronouns.
- I’m white, as in, “most of my fondest holiday memories involve pan-fried haggis.”
- Queer and pansexual. I live with my amazing partner (she/her).
- I’m also disabled. I’m based in SoCal to accommodate a mobility impairment.
I live in SoCal, but work in Eastern Time.
- I used to live in Jersey City, but moved to Long Beach, CA after my knees stopped agreeing with the northeast winters.
- Along with the rest of the Platform team, I’m on an east coast schedule. In exchange for being up at 6am most days, I’m typically looking to wrap up by 2pm local.
- I’m about a ten minute walk from the beach, but I don’t work from there nearly as often as you might think.
Accessibility is near and dear to me.
- Ensuring equitable access to digital experiences is a big part of what I do.
- I’m a Certified Professional in Web Accessibility, a distinction conferred by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals.
I’m a photographer, maker, and geek of all trades.
- Macro, landscape, and creative portraiture are the genres I visit most frequently. My favorite day lens is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM.
- Home automation is a hobby of mine. I’m currently building out a smart mirror, built from a flatscreen TV that I repaired. Turns out the thing just needed a bath.
- I used to play FPS games competitively, before the term “eSports” came about. I no longer have the reflexes of my younger self, but I can still hold my own. (I’m an Ash main, for those it means something to.)
If the Name is New…
If you knew me by a different name and set of pronouns, I’d gently and sincerely thank you to retire them. Honestly, the name and pronouns are the biggest changes that you’ll see.
I know that those who have known me the longest may need some time to adjust those habits, and that’s okay. A sincere effort is all I ask. If you slip, I’d be grateful if you correct yourself once and move on.
Lex, Disability, and You
I’m disabled, though it won’t be immediately apparent to most.
In lay terms, my knees are breaking down slowly over time. I’ve already had surgery on the right, and someday I’ll very likely need it for the left.
I’ve found that those who hear about this typically start checking in frequently when I’m on my feet or exerting myself. While I do appreciate the concern, there’s no need: I’ll speak up if I need to stop or slow down.
Leading the Platform Team
While I can hold my own in a technical deep-dive, I don’t consider it my greatest strength. In fact, those who I have worked with in the past may notice that I’ve been shifting more to the “coach” side of the player-coach spectrum.
My role is to help define a holistic vision for how we, as a community, can get the most out of our digital platforms, and guide us through delivering on it. We get there through the procurement and bespoke development of new services, integrating those we have, establishing best practices for their use, and offering consultative support.
I help make sure everything is running smoothly, building relationships with other teams and organizations while looking for ways for us become better than we were yesterday.
Expectations for the Team
Strive individually. Act as one. Individual growth and skill expression are great, but none of us are ever going to be as capable as all of us. Iterate while seeking and challenging other perspectives, setting ego aside to build consensus in pursuit of the best way forward.
Communicate issues early and often. This holds true whether you’ve encountered a snag on something you’re working on, or it looks like a project might be at risk. I won’t be upset with hearing that there’s a problem—we deal in problems, after all—but I can’t help with a solution unless I know about it.
Manage expectations. As the saying goes, a reputation is built over months, but can collapse in a moment. We build and maintain trust by honoring our commitments to each other, and by communicating clearly and promptly when things have to shift. Sometimes we may not have all of the information needed right away, and that’s okay. Estimation is a tool, not an albatross.
Plan for failure. One of the worst things that happens to us when we’re young is that we’re taught to fear failure and imperfection. Anticipate potential sources of failure and mitigate risk, absolutely—that’s why we have things like premortem exercises and rollback plans. But if we don’t ever take informed risks, our growth slows tremendously. Build in room for experiments that might not pan out, and incorporate those lessons. They often teach us the most.
Evangelize inclusive design. Everyone on this team has the power to shape the experiences of an entire community. With our impact comes a responsibility to ensure we’re not leaving anyone behind. Don’t shrink from speaking up for others, while being mindful not to speak over them. Trust in the experiences of others, and act on them.
Maintain the machine. This extends far beyond paying down technical debt. Processes need to be maintained. Relationships need to be maintained. But most importantly, each and every one of us also needs dedicated time to both learn and recharge. This isn’t optional—it’s a necessary part of what we do.
I tend to favor asynchronous and semi-synchronous communication as a first-resort for problem solving, and real-time exchanges for requirements gathering, mentoring, building camaraderie, and long-term planning.
When it comes to meetings, if I don’t see an agenda I’ll probably be among the first to ask for one. I’m at my best when I can prepare.
Within the Platform team, for technical/project questions it’s generally best to use the appropriate Slack channel, since that way the entire team will benefit from the discussion. For anything else, you’re always welcome to reach out to me via Slack directly, and I’m happy to meet with you individually via a Teams call if you prefer.
I’m always happy to answer quick questions via Teams, and longer-form questions (or those that require third-party involvement) via email. When it concerns new projects, I’m still happy to have initial conversations this way, but will probably ask to schedule a Teams call in short order, since our intake process is a little more interactive.
For service requests and bug reports, please start with a ticket, even internally. (This way the entire team has eyes on it, and not just me.)
Please feel free to schedule against my calendar if you’d like to meet—it’s kept up-to-date. Since our sprint cadence is weekly, I’d appreciate a week of notice if it’s feasible. (Given the time difference, I’d also take it as a kindness if you avoid scheduling anything before 9a ET if at all possible.)
I do plan to experiment with No Extra Time over the coming weeks. When I do, my calendar for the current week will always show up as busy. If you need to schedule something during the current week and can’t find a window, please send me a quick email, and I’ll do what I can.
If it’s an emergency, please call my cell twice to break through any Do Not Disturb I may have up. In case I’m in physical therapy or otherwise detained, leave a text message if you don’t hear anything after that, and I’ll respond as soon as I’m able.
I thrive in environments with high transparency, direct communication, and candid feedback. If there’s something I can be doing better, please tell me. (I’ve been known to grow uncomfortable with large amounts of praise and limited constructive feedback, but it’s something I’m working on.)