Meet My Team: Learn about Mayo Clinic Networks staff, a.k.a. ‘network plumbers’

Mayo Clinic Networks staff work behind the scenes to ensure electronic data gets where it needs to go — and much more. Learn how many pieces of equipment they maintain, what a 'typical' day looks like, and what they'd be called if they were a band.

Valmik Patel had a goal: to work at Mayo Clinic.

He achieved that goal on Jan. 31, 2022. He says his greatest accomplishment was convincing his manager to hire him.  

Patel was drawn to Mayo Clinic for its focus on people over profits.

"Healthcare is perhaps the most unique environment to work in since financial revenue is not the only priority," he says. "Knowing that the work I do enables the organization to provide a service that is driven not by a need for financial gain, but rather a passion for healing and empathetic care is what gets me out of bed every morning."

His colleagues keep him motivated, too.

"I often find myself in awe of how passionate and dedicated my teammates can be," he says.

That became apparent to him just a few months into his time at Mayo, when a water pipe burst in one of Mayo Clinic's connectivity hubs, dumping water onto networking equipment.

"I was only five months into the job," he says. "Seeing the sheer dedication of my colleagues working tirelessly to restore services and capacity back to Mayo's network was something I had never witnessed before. Engineers, specialists, architects and managers were working around the clock to safely decommission the water-damaged hardware, source replacement hardware, configure the replacements, reinstall and validate the equipment, and brainstorm unique solutions on-the-fly for services we could not immediately remedy."

He says that early experience and those he's had since then have made him "Team Mayo for life."

"The support, education and genuine care that I believe Mayo provides for its staff are a rarity," Patel says. "I can near-guarantee that I will always be part of the Mayo family in one way or another."

The News Center team asked Patel to answer questions about his job and his team.

Tell us about your team. What is it your team does?

Mayo Clinic Networks is a team of over 60 talented individuals spread across the enterprise. We have a Plan, Design and Architecture group (responsible for our overall network design and future-needs planning), an Operations group (responsible for keeping our infrastructure online and updated), and the group that I belong to, Implementation (responsible for fun and parties renewing, building and expanding the Mayo network).

Together, we are responsible for ensuring that data across Mayo Clinic is shuttled efficiently and securely to where it needs to go, whether it's a patient record going from Gonda to Cannaday, digital pathology slides going from Hilton to a pathologist's laptop, or the latest Mayo research being published on the web.

We support over 25,000 pieces of equipment that provide connectivity to our colleagues in each shield and the millions of patients we serve.

How do you spend most of your day?

Each day is unique. As an engineer within Implementation, I can find myself installing new network equipment for projects, collaborating and problem-solving with various technical teams, performing construction site surveys, meeting with shield leaders, or planning and optimizing internal workflows.

What might surprise people about the work your team does?

Mayo Networks supports almost every aspect of modern healthcare.

Not only do we connect computers, phones and printers together for tools such as Plummer Chart, SCC Soft, Teams, Outlook and EmployeeConnect, but also equipment such as MRI/CTs, simulators, proton beam controllers, real-time location tracking, digital pathology scanners, Pyxis, nurse call systems, temperature and vitals monitors, and much more.

As healthcare progresses into the future, Networks works collaboratively to ensure we can provide a robust, reliable and secure connectivity service that complements our status as the No. 1 hospital in the world and is ready for our Bold. Forward. 2030 Strategic Plan vision to Cure, Connect and Transform.

Everyone at Mayo contributes to caring for patients. How does your team do that?

The needs of the patient come first, and that doesn't change within IT. We design our infrastructure to be highly redundant and resilient. We know that our 80,000-plus colleagues rely on our service 24/7/365 to provide the best care to our patients. Every change to our network is calculated, well thought out, and peer-reviewed to ensure we do not cause unnecessary disruptions to our practice. Of course, there are times when problems do arise (thank you IT gremlins). When that happens, every teammate understands the critical nature of the disruption and is committed to repairing the service as swiftly as possible.

You're going to hire a new team member. Describe your ideal candidate.

An ideal candidate for this team would be someone who can learn, communicate with nontechnical people, has strong emotional intelligence and, most importantly, has a solid sense of humor. Technical skills can be taught, but knowing how to provide customer service in a healthcare setting is not something taught in a classroom.

What is a recent team success that you're proud of?

Over the past few years, Mayo has seen tremendous growth across the institution. We have successfully installed/uninstalled equipment for the Kellen Building, Colonial Building, Discovery Square Ramp, Logistics Facility East and Ozmun Complex in Rochester; the La Crosse and Mankato hospital towers; Discovery Oasis in Arizona; the Carbon Beam Facility in Florida; and three archive warehouses. We are proud to be able to successfully support these endeavors, while also ensuring continued support for existing buildings and teams.

If your team was a band, what would it be called?

Lost Packeteers. (Packets are the units of information that traverse a network. Sometimes they get lost and so do we.)

If you had to describe your team's work in six words, what would your six-word story be?

Bashful and dysfunctionally competent network plumbers.