Employee spotlight – Robert Birkline
Place a broken appliance in front of Robert
Birkline, and chances are he’ll take it apart and try to fix it.
“I fixed my ice maker not too long ago,” said Birkline, who is
manager of business solutions for the University of Houston’s
Information Technology department. “You can put anything in
front of me and I’ll take it apart. I’m not scared of it.”
That mindset comes in handy with his job, in which he helps come
up with solutions to problems and needs that departments across
Birkline came to UH in 2009 as an application developer. His job
grew over time into more of a business solutions role. His job
title was just recently changed.
“UIT needed someone to sort of help guide certain areas of
development. Right now, I still actively develop stuff, but I
also actively manage the team,” he said.
Much of the work he does focuses on the custom applications
within the UH website.
The path he took to get to UH is not a typical one for someone
who works with computers. After graduating from Kempner High
School in the Fort Bend Independent School District in 1994, he
earned an associate’s degree in applied science in automotive
technology from San Jacinto College. He was a master Ford
technician, but soon realized it was not the type of work he
wanted to pursue as a career.
He ended up going back to school at Sam Houston State
University, graduating in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in
computer science. He spent four years working at the Houston
Chronicle and was part of the core team that supported the
“You can thank me when you see ads on chron.com,” he said.
After a short stint working for a hosting company, he was hired
by the University of Houston. His office is at the Energy
Research Park’s Building 3.
He and his wife of two years have a 4-month-old daughter and
live in the Spring area. He also has a 13-year-old son.
As manager of business solutions, he works with different
colleges and departments that don’t have their own IT staffs.
Recently, he aided Admissions with a tool that allows students
to log in to CougarNet and input a phonetic spelling for
pronouncing their names that will be useful when names are
announced during graduation ceremonies.
“Admissions came to us and said we need this. What can you guys
do? We scoped out the project and came back to them and asked if
this was what they were asking for, and they said yes,” Birkline
Talking with customers about what they need is a key component
to his job. His previous experience in the automotive industry,
he said, provided him with much of the interpersonal skills he
relies on at UH.
“I want to talk to you. I want to find out really what you want.
Then we will make exactly what you want instead of you settling
for what we give you,” he said.