August 08, 2017
Hollis Solves Puzzles On and Off the Job
By Kelly Saavedra
Ahren Hollis is great at solving puzzles, on and off the job.
Hollis has been a systems analyst for Carnegie Mellon University’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Department since 2003.
"When I started here, every unit in this department — biological, chemical, radiation, fire safety, ergonomics — had their own systems. They had their own databases, their own spreadsheets, and none of their systems were integrated,” Hollis said.
Hollis was hired to analyze the systems and find a way to make them work together. He discovered they fit together like a puzzle.
“Each system was a piece of the whole. Without each piece the picture was not complete,” he said.
Hollis works with students, principal investigators, staff, EHS administrators and external partners, including a company that provides software for safety training and laboratory inspections.
“The challenge is finding creative solutions that meet the needs of everyone we’re trying to serve,” Hollis said.
One of the most visible changes for Hollis has been the growth of the CMU-Alert emergency notification system.
“Right after I started here, CMU had a power outage. We had to notify every researcher whose laboratory experiments relied on power, and all we had were paper lists with phone numbers,” Hollis said.
Hollis helps to maintain the CMU-Alert system, which notifies students, faculty and staff of emergencies through text and voice messages, email and social media.
Hollis said CMU’s support of the LGBTQ community was one of the primary reasons he wanted to work at the university.
“To work in a community where I feel supported is amazing,” Hollis said.
His interests include mini-dachshunds, gardening and jigsaw puzzles, which he regards as a highly competitive sport.
“The largest puzzle I’ve done was 9,000 pieces. At that time, it was the largest one the company made,” he said.
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