Cloud Superhero: Tom Lewis, Community and Collaboration Champion

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By Heather Berry, Writer, NET+ Program

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Cloud Superhero Spotlight

Editor’s Note: This conversation is part of our series of interviews spotlighting the wonderful contributions that research and higher ed community members make to the NET+ Program. 

Be on the lookout for additional interviews, and email amotley@internet2.edu if there’s a Cloud Superhero you would like us to spotlight in the future. We’re grateful for all our volunteers and appreciate all they do to move our work forward.

—Sean O’Brien – Associate Vice President, NET+, Internet2

Tom Lewis, director of Academic Experience Design and Delivery (AXDD) at the University of Washington, is an Internet2 NET+ Cloud Superhero thanks to his commitment, participation, and contributions to the all-volunteer R&E cloud community. 

Lewis has a long history with UW and NET+. He came to the university in 1992 for a doctorate in political science and, by 1999, was already a part of the university’s information technology landscape.

“Since 1999, I’ve been doing some ever-expanding version of this job,” said Lewis with a laugh. “I never really planned for this, but here we are.”

How It’s Going

Today, Lewis’ job has expanded into the supervision of more than 30 UW-IT employees divided into a variety of teams, including an academic analytics team with data scientists focusing on predictive analytics, an engineering team, an experience management team, and user experience design team. In addition, he oversees a productivity platforms team that runs Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace for the university.

Tom Lewis smiling in a classroom setting

Fun Facts about Tom

Total Years at University of Washington: 31 years

Favorite Song: “I don’t know if I could name just one, since I’m a musician (keyboard). If I had to name one, it would be something by Los Lobos.”

Favorite Book: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Best Advice About the Cloud Ever Received: “I don’t remember who said it about 15 or 20 years ago at a Common Solutions Group meeting when cloud first started. ‘Always have an escape plan.’”

Lewis is quick to pivot from his many, many career accomplishments to mention the dedication and expertise of those making up AXDD and UW-IT, who together, support the vast UW community. Others familiar with Lewis’ work, however, are just as quick to mention his contributions, especially to the R&E cloud community.

“Tom is one of the most active single contributors to our program,” said Sean O’Brien, associate vice president, NET+, Internet2. “He is currently the chair of both the Canvas and Panopto service advisory boards.” Lewis has also participated in other service advisory boards over the years.

“The University of Washington is also one of our top subscribing institutions and one of our most active contributors to supporting service evaluations and service advisory boards,” O’Brien continued.

Working with Smart People

When asked what he most enjoys about his role at UW, Lewis goes back to the collaboration and energy within the AXDD and UW-IT teams and the research and higher ed community.

“I enjoy the people I work with, whether it’s my own team or IT at-large, Internet2, or peer institutions,” said Lewis. “All that collaboration with smart people is great.” He also counts student-focused analytics and student/faculty interactions among the favorite parts of his job. 

“We work a lot with a really innovative faculty and students,” he said. “Learning what they are doing and supporting them is a privilege.” 

Lewis has had a front row seat as cloud services dramatically shifted in the past two decades. This is particularly evident with his many outside advisory positions and UW accomplishments. Today, all applications built or supported by AXDD, according to Lewis, reside on cloud platforms.

Cloud Evolution and Collaboration

“All of the software we build lives in Google Cloud Platform,” Lewis explained. “In fact, we just shut down my team’s last piece of service hardware owned by the university.” 

Lewis has a hard time remembering when his involvement with Internet2 and the NET+ R&E cloud community began. He has memories of early interactions and old relationships built back when Internet2 was new. His recollection is a bit like a trip down cloud nostalgia. 

The benefits of the NET+ R&E cloud community are too numerous to cover, according to Lewis. The ability to have constant collaborators, however, is the biggest win. 

In previous years, only those in the elite levels of research were available for collaboration, but the cloud community has made it possible for many, many voices to have a platform and an ability to network with peers.

“Fifteen years ago, mostly CIOs could call each other and work together,” Lewis recalled, “but now, I know people from all levels and a wide range of universities. Internet2 has fostered that culture; it’s a tremendous resource.”


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