Progressive’s Elizabeth Fugitt focuses on infrastructure needs
Whether it’s for the U.S. President or Progressive, this infrastructure leader provides a range of communication services to her customers
'On the infrastructure side of IT, we combine handling and fixing problems – operational work – with doing projects and upgrades to make the IT environment better,” says Elizabeth Fugitt, IT group manager at Progressive Insurance (Mayfield Heights, OH). “Doing both can be very challenging.”
Fugitt works in the company’s Colorado Springs, CO office. “The team I manage provides project engineers who support, upgrade and maintain the IT infrastructure: mainframes, servers and the network. They’re not responsible for dealing with operational issues because they’re fully dedicated to project work.
“Equipment can go out of date quickly,” Fugitt points out, “so we have a strategic planning group within the infrastructure business area. That group envisions our target architecture, then prioritizes what we have to do to get there. My team works on that.”
Fugitt’s team, infrastructure resource services, is made up of IT engineers who are specialists in mainframe, server, network and desktop technologies. The team includes four managers and fifty-five individual contributors in Colorado Springs and Ohio.
“One of our biggest projects recently was a multi-year telephone upgrade to the entire company,” Fugitt reports. “It required moving to a VoIP-oriented phone system, and that impacted everybody. So much of our business comes into our call centers and claims offices, so to make a change this big and this drastic without negatively impacting users has been challenging.”
Early choices provide a foundation
Fugitt is from Willoughby, OH, just ten minutes from where the company’s headquarters are today. “It was a golf course when I was growing up,” Fugitt laughs.
Fugitt says she can trace where she is today from two decisions made when she was seventeen years old. “I decided to pursue a degree in technology that took me down an IT path. I also applied for a Navy ROTC scholarship to pay for my education, and that put me on a management track. Since I graduated from college, I’ve been in IT management in one form or another.”
Fugitt attended Miami University (Oxford, OH), where she earned her 1990 BS in applied science with a focus on systems analysis. “I thought about a business career, but then I moved to technology. It was a good fit for the ROTC program because many of the ROTC course requirements complemented the requirements of my major,” she says. “If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
The ROTC experience
Fugitt spent her summers in intense training for the U.S. Navy. The first year, she was on a ship with an enlisted crew off the coast of California. The summer of her second year included time working with the surface navy, submariners, navy aviators, and the marines. Fugitt spent her third summer with junior officers, learning more about what she would be doing after graduation.
After she graduated from Miami, she was assigned to Washington, DC, and enrolled in an IT masters program at George Washington University (Washington, DC) that offered courses at night. “I looked for a program I could complete during my first tour, because I was concerned about having to transfer credits and I didn’t want it to turn into a ten-year plan.” She finished the degree in 1992.
By day, Fugitt worked at the Naval Computer & Telecommunications Station (NCTS) in Washington. “We were on the U.S. Navy Yard and I was an IT manager. We gradually evolved into a network support team,” she remembers. “I got to do the project management work, meeting with our customers, setting up accounts, and doing oversight. In my spare time, my sailors would teach me how to do hands-on technical stuff, so it was a cool opportunity to do a little bit of both.”
In 1993, while stationed at the Anacostia Naval Air Station, Fugitt joined the White House Communications Agency (WHCA). “Another civilian working with me said I would be great for it and I should apply. At the interview, I found that I was seven years younger than the next youngest applicant. What got me the interview was my masters degree, because they wanted someone to run the IT department.”
She was at WHCA for almost four years, responsible for making sure that President Clinton had consistent communication capabilities twenty-four hours a day, anywhere in the world.
By 1997, three years past her minimum ROTC commitment, Fugitt decided it was time to move into the private sector.
A new civilian career
She chose to go out West. “I ended up at MCI in Colorado Springs. They were the biggest game in town for technology jobs, and I was able to join as a helpdesk manager.
“By 2000, I was in a senior manager role, but the company was going through some big changes,” she recalls. She looked for a new opportunity and found Progressive.
Her timing was good. “Progressive had just made a major investment in the data center here in Colorado Springs. It had been a disaster recovery site, and they were looking for someone to come in and run it. I came in as manager of the disaster recovery team in 2007 and then moved to the service management office. I was promoted to my current position in 2013.”
Fugitt is a member of Progressive’s Network of Empowered Women (NEW) and its military network.
“I really enjoy what I’m doing right now,” Fugitt says enthusiastically. “When I first came in, we were creating a whole new concept. Now I’m one of the senior leaders here, and I consider it not just my role but my passion to see this site develop as both a disaster recovery site and a major data center.”
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