The Ufirst Project

Why Cloud-based Updates Are Better Than Software Upgrades

Hands with gears

Updates and upgrades may seem like the same thing, but Workday’s cloud-based platform allows for smoother operation, saving downtime and IT-related expenses.

Today, Oracle and PeopleSoft upgrades are a time-intensive and costly nightmare for HR, ITS, and end users. Installed software upgrades lead to extended downtime of these systems, preventing faculty, staff and team members from entering time, making pay changes, etc.
With Workday, UVA faculty, staff, and team members will have access to essential HR systems on a more continuous basis. Workday updates its platform every week and delivers two major updates a year. We will still determine when to enable new features, but by delivering small changes on a regular basis, we maximize the availability of the system, allowing all of us to get our work done while ensuring that we are using the most current version of the platform. 

Meet Melissa Frederick, Senior Director of Service, University Operations

Melissa Frederick

Learn more about Melissa Frederick, Senior Director of Service, University Operations.

Q: What are you most excited to be working on in your position?

A:  This is such a cool time to be at UVA HR with the technology changes, leadership changes, and our own HR transformation. We have a unique opportunity to change how HR is perceived and how work is performed, which will ultimately help both our educational and patient care missions. I have the privilege of leading the business partner group for University Operations and learn new things every day from my team and from the leaders in the University Operations areas.    

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?

A: I enjoy hiking and trail running with my family and two dogs. We enjoy running 5Ks and travel to participate in those that sound interesting. I have run in the Pickle Run on Tybee Island, the Jungle Jog in Seneca Park, the Pirate Run in Hampton Roads, and am training for a Disney 10K. Regrettably, I missed the Running of the Bananas in Savannah, but I did get to run the Airborne and Special Ops 5K in honor of my father-in-law, who was a paratrooper in WWII.

Q: What is your proudest achievement?

A: I would say that getting my MBA while my kids were young and I was working full-time. It required a village of support. Thanks to my husband, our parents, and our kids, I was able to complete it in two years. My daughters saw me graduate and understood that they helped me get there – as well as the importance of education.          

Q: What song would be your personal anthem/theme song?

A: I love all kinds of music, and I think that your personal theme songs change during your life, based on what you are facing. Right now, I think it would be “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne. We have so much going on at UVA, my youngest is getting ready to go to college, and life is happening around us so fast!

Q: What is something that would surprise us about you?

A: My horoscope predicted my move to UVA. That is probably a longer story than this blog would allow. ☺

Meet Jenn Oliver, Senior Director of Service, Academic Division

Photo of Jenn Oliver and her children

Learn more about Jenn Oliver, UVA HR’s Senior Director of Service, Academic Division.

Q: What are you most excited to be working on in your position?

A:  Since the launch of the Business Partner (BP) function in February, I have been developing the team of BPs for the academic schools and working on many projects related to service. I am particularly excited about working on process efficiencies within their areas in preparation for and alignment with the future of UVA HR. I am thrilled to be on a team of such talented individuals partnering to build out our new UVA HR service model.    

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?

A: I spend my weekends with family, visiting local vineyards with my husband, Carey, as well as gardening, entertaining, spending time at the gym and, every so often, putting my feet up on the couch with the dog. I am also working on my bucket list as I prepare to have an “empty nest” in the fall. My go-to happy place is the beach!

Q: What is your proudest achievement?

A: My children: Josh, age 20 and a rising junior at Virginia Tech (yes, we have a Hokie in the house), and Emily, age 17, who will be attending VCU this fall. They bring me so much joy and know how to make their serious mom laugh.          

Q: What song would be your personal anthem/theme song?

A: I listen to so many genres of music and love so many different songs which have special meanings to me at different times, I can’t narrow it down to just one.

Q: What is something that would surprise us about you?

A: I helped start a crew team in college. It was super fun and I learned a lot about leading a team and negotiating as we had very little funding and purchased our first eight-man boat (shell) from Rutgers.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Cindy Frederick

We are always striving to create a best-in-class HR experience for stakeholders across Grounds. That’s why the Ufirst Project was initiated. So, it is always gratifying when this work is acknowledged. In a recent thank-you note to Kelley Stuck, Cindy Fredrick, AVP in UVA's Office of Engagement, wrote: 

“Over the past two months I have been able to witness firsthand the impact of UVA HR. This spring, the Office of Engagement had the most vacancies at any one time since the office was created in 2006. The level of customer service, professionalism, and expertise has been outstanding. While there are always areas for learning, growth, and improvement, I want to share my gratitude to you and your team. We have worked extensively with Matt Caesar, Chris Cunningham, G.T. Francis, and Ellen Beverly to help us navigate our human resource needs.

“I have been very impressed with the timeliness of requests. On one of our offers, the UVA HR team worked past 5:00 on a Friday to ensure that we had an offer out to a candidate who had another offer on the table. I appreciate the efforts to expand our pool through targeted recruitment. In our search for the UVA Club Director’s position, we now have three finalists from Harvard, Notre Dame, and Duke who have direct experience with regional engagement. And, finally, the professional expertise of your team members has helped us think through strategy, job descriptions, and related personnel issues.

“I know how much it takes to get a new program off the ground. So often, you only hear about what is not working and I wanted to let you know what is working. We look forward to continuing our partnership with University Human Resources.”

[Video] HR Business Partners, Explained


What can an HR Business Partner do for you?
Learn how HR Business Partners will provide dedicated support for your school or unit's unique HR needs in this video:

video with audio description and text transcript

Testing: Our Key to Success


What is testing?

The Ufirst Project team is working with Subject Matter Resources (SMRs) across Grounds to test 10,000+ scenarios in Workday, ensuring that the system functions as designed and meets UVA’s requirements.

Why is it important?

Testing provides an opportunity to inspect the functionality and usability of Workday, as well as the interactions with all UVA systems in different browsers and on different devices. As a result, when you use Workday, you will run into fewer issues. The team will also develop support materials based on questions that occur during testing.  

How does it work?

To begin, the team creates scenarios and subtasks by module which are then uploaded into an issue-tracking tool. Next, testers work through each scenario to complete subtasks and achieve a defined, expected result. If the tester cannot achieve the expected result, the team corrects the configuration and sends the task back to be retested. Retesting will continue until the defined task is completed successfully.

What is the purpose of each type of testing and who are the testers?

Graphic of testing types and details

From the Desk of Sean Jackson: Let the Work Teach You

Sean Jackson, Ufirst Executive Director

Sean updating the Ufirst Project kanban board

Several years ago, I created a Lean game to illustrate how to learn from work. The game has four timed rounds. In the first round, the method of the work emphasizes waste. In the next, the method of the work changes to emphasize the relationship between the customers and the worker. After the second round, with their focus now on their customers, I ask the teams to consider how they can improve their cycle times before beginning the third round. In the fourth round, we introduce another significant change that challenges the team’s quest to reduce their cycle times. The only thing that changes over the four rounds is how the work is done.

When the teams form, they have no idea what the work is. By design, they do not have the ability to change anything for the first two rounds so they can focus their attention on the work and experience the power of waste and how it inhibits flow. Appearances are deceptive, however, and teams that look beyond them are rewarded.

For example, teams often fail to recognize that the novelty of the situation precludes any single team member from being an expert capable of offering a “solution.” Nonetheless, between rounds two and three team members engage in wasteful behaviors centered on status seeking and influencing each other rather than sharing and analyzing their observations and developing hypotheses. This approach frequently results in the emergence of a dominant team member who takes on the role of “teacher” often promoting some clever idea aimed at outsmarting the game rather than letting the work teach them.

What does it mean to let the work teach you?

It means that you learn by observing the work from the customer’s perspective. You develop an understanding and appreciation of what is valuable, and what is not. You recognize that there is nothing clever about empirical observation, and you realize that while a guide can help direct and focus attention, there are no shortcuts to insight. Most importantly, you understand that a “solution” is an emergent property of a system rather than its goal.

Letting the work teach you means that you hypothesize and experiment based on what you have observed. By putting insights into action, teams can observe and learn what is effective and what is not.

Life is inherently a process of transformation and growth. In the workplace, Lean’s concern is to make these processes deliberate, conscious, and aimed in a particular direction. Over time, we learn through our experiences that inner transformation precedes outer transformation. Once we apprehend that the process of transformation resides firmly at the center of our lives, all of the surrounding circumstances likewise transform into pathways for our growth. We can observe and experiment our way along these paths, reminding ourselves to let the work teach us so that we may cease to be “governed by epistemologies that we know to be wrong.”[1]

Let the work teach you. Don’t be clever. Act on what you learn.

Next month we will look at how we have put this into practice.


[1] Greogory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p. 491 (


Workday Wednesday: The Power of One

picture of a cloud shaped in the number 1

The Power of One for UVA

Workday is a unique system that leverages the “Power of One” concept that enables a better user experience for everyone.

One System

Workday is one system with a suite of HR functionality, including everything from Recruiting to Payroll. End users will no longer need to log into 3-4 systems to complete HR work. The Power of One means there’s no longer a need for Jobs@, Lead@, Taleo, etc.

One Community

Worldwide, all Workday users are on one version of software. This makes it easy for UVA to connect with other Workday higher education/healthcare customers to discuss Workday best practices, and provide suggestions to Workday on how to improve the system. In fact, UVA is a charter member of Workday’s “R1 University Community.”

  • Higher Education Customers include University of Miami, University of Washington, University of Southern California, Ohio State, Penn State, and many others.
  • Healthcare Customers include Boston Medical, The Ohio State University Medical Center, and the University of Minnesota Physicians.

Meet Michael Latsko, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives

photo of Michael Latsko, UVA HR’s Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives

Learn more about Michael Latsko, UVA HR’s Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives.

Q: What are you most excited to be working on now?

A: Since my work on the talent selection/transition process for the Ufirst project, I’ve been helping Kelley assemble her leadership team, and then helping the AVPs assemble theirs. I have a long to-do list with “develop new HR strategy” at the top.  I’m probably most excited to get to work with the new communications team to build on Kristie Smeltzer’s excellent stewardship of the function for the past year plus. The team has exciting plans for new UVA HR branding and messaging, as well as a new website!

Q: What song would be your personal anthem/theme song?

A: Make your own kind of music (even if nobody else sings along),” popularized by Mama Cass Elliott in the late 1960’s (let’s see how many Google searches this response generates!).

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?

A: Sundays are busy.  I have been the choir director and organist at Grace Episcopal Church in Keswick since 2007 (and before that at another church for 14 years).  Rehearsals start at 930a for the 11a service; I usually wrap up duties by 1p.  Then from 6-7p I’m “on the air” hosting “The King of Instruments” or “Evensong,” a weekly classical music radio program for WTJU. This summer will mark my 25th year of doing that.  Consequently, Saturdays are as low key as I can make them – generally a trek to the City Farmer’s Market in the morning, followed by a leisurely breakfast, puttering in the yard, and doing lots of errands.

Q: What is your proudest achievement?

A: Following the outcome of a monumental U.S. Supreme Court ruling, both of my parents walked me “down the aisle” to marry the love of my life in a service sanctioned by the Episcopal church, presided over by my rector at Grace Church, in the presence of our family and friends, at a favorite venue of mine and Cesar’s on a perfectly beautiful September day, followed by delicious food, wine and a raucous party.

Q: What is something that would surprise us about you?

A:  While on a business trip to Tokyo in the early 1990’s, I sang karaoke with a live piano player in a geisha bar. No, I did not sing “Make your own kind of music.”

Change: The New Normal

photo of Fredrick Martin, Senior Director, Change Management, UVA HR

Hear from Fredrick Martin, Senior Director, Change Management, on his experience with change and what that means for UVA HR.

I’m often asked what do I love most about my job and my response is, “I love watching an organization unleash and harness the power of change through innovation, creativity, and sheer grit”. Change is often viewed as a bad thing and any disruption to the organizational norms will undermine the culture. Change is the “new normal” in any industry whether it’s technology, health care, sharing economy marketplace, or higher education. There was a time when organizations wanted to be more adaptable to change but being adaptable is no longer enough. An organization now has to hardwire “change agility” in the DNA of its culture.     

Power of Disruption

Change or disruption can provide the space for individuals to explore, create, and shape their environment in ways that they haven’t been able to do before. We can reshape how we interact with our customers, the community and key partners, operating as a cohesive body of one and setting the standard for how HR services are delivered in higher education.

Seizing Our Unique Opportunity

The journey toward UVA HR is one that is historic in nature as we are transforming our service delivery model and the experiences we create for those we interact with each day. During this time of change, how can we leverage the disruption in order to create an extraordinary experience?  Together, we have created a great foundation and achieved great success, but the journey has truly just begun. We will encounter lots of change during our journey. But in all of this, many key factors remains the same. Our incredible people, our spirit, our commitment to our customers, our belief in the transformative power of people. It’s why I come to work inspired every day. It’s why we’ve accepted the challenge, and why we’re evolving every day!

Rise and Grind,



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