Delivering high-performing custom software applications to Princeton

Eemaan Siddiqi 

Director, Custom Solutions and Integration

By the Numbers

  • A team of 13 develop, maintain, and administer custom software applications for Princeton University
  • More than 40 applications are managed by the team
  • 5 new applications are currently in development and will support specialized University operations
  • Our team partners with more than 60 University departments to create custom solutions that deliver added business value

A day in the life

One of the things I enjoy most about my role at the University is that every day is different. The variety of work keeps me thinking creatively, and helps generate new ideas for the way I approach projects, meetings, and interactions with my colleagues. Being a people person, I enjoy that my work requires leading and participating in cross-functional working sessions with diverse colleagues across campus. At times, I meet with our campus customers and project stakeholders: faculty, staff, and administrators. At other times, I’m collaborating with technology colleagues and my development team.  A considerable part of my role is to cultivate relationships across the University community, and to understand business needs where we can apply technology solutions to create efficiencies. I also develop strategic goals for my team and introduce new methodologies to accomplish our goals---while keeping it all aligned with the mission of OIT and Princeton University.

It takes a team

It takes a creative and collaborative team to produce applications that don’t yet exist, yet will fulfill a great need for the University. Full-stack developers (who also play the part of business analysts and testers) and user experience experts contribute their talents to the success of the projects at hand. In our work, we partner with University departments and colleagues to understand their needs and then develop user-centered solutions (and often integrations) that support their specialized University business operations. The ‘Academic Management Tool,’ a project we are particularly proud of, offers a new way for departments to forecast and plan, supporting key decisions related to everything from onboarding employees to funding future research projects. Its power resides in the ability to merge departmental and centralized information, and present a clearer view of a department’s financial picture and goals in a standard format across 60 academic units. This project inspired our team to think across capabilities and reimagine how data can be leveraged across departments to inspire new solutions for Princeton.

Another project, the Financial Aid application, was rebuilt in the latest technology stack and redesigned with the mindset to provide a delightful end-user experience. Though the application code is extremely complex, the well-thought-out interface presents the financial aid awards to new students and their families in an easy-to-understand and user-friendly dashboard, which also reduces support calls to the Financial Aid office.

For our development work, we leverage the Agile methodology, which optimizes our efficiency and best ensures we deliver on customer expectations throughout the project. Working in OIT, I was provided the opportunity to influence best practices for managing development projects. This led to my offering Agile training sessions to OIT and campus colleagues. Bringing this change to OIT and the University has been impactful to our programming process.  With Agile methodology as our guide, we more closely partner with our University customers to understand their needs and develop custom applications that benefit a number of our departments. 

My team builds, maintains, and supports custom software solutions for faculty, students, and administrative units across Princeton University. As a result, faculty and students are able to spend more time on things they are passionate about: research, learning, and teaching.

Path to Princeton

The world of academia is one that I have always loved.  My mother was a Psychology professor. My father was a journalist (a book he wrote is even a reference book at the University library!) This all ties into who I am. Prior to working for OIT, I worked for a publishing company, where I led their eBook program and was tasked with understanding the landscape of childrens’ education to be able to promote to children the love of reading. Following this work, I joined a consulting firm where every few months I was on a new project, with a new customer, on a new team, or in a new role.  My years as a consultant gave me exposure to a variety of industries, project teams, and national and global cultures. This work experience provided tremendous learning and professional growth, which was great, but as a spouse, and a mother of three, I desired a better work/life balance. In deciding where I wanted my career to go next, I realized more than ever that I yearned to be in academia, contributing to a mission-driven workplace that offered a better work/life balance. Living close to the area, the first place that came to mind was Princeton University, which seemed to be a far-fetched dream. Today, I’m living that dream and am grateful for that opportunity every single day.

OIT and my career

I feel proud to be a part of the team responsible for providing central technology services to the University community. In OIT, we help everyone on campus. Whether they are aware of it or not, they are being touched by OIT in a way that enriches their daily work life. The work environment at Princeton is different from the competitive, corporate environment from which I came. Everyone here is kind and respectful, and building and valuing relationships with each other is at the forefront.  An added plus is having easy access to the historical and beautiful University campus. It has a unique character that adds an exciting aura to my job.

Everyone in OIT makes an effort to build and nurture relationships. My first day as an OIT employee left an everlasting mark in my memory. I felt as if I had finally found my work “home.”