Sylvia Ramirez, Madison College

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Sylvia Ramirez, associate vice president, Budget & Management, Madison College.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

The most challenging aspect of my job is supervising employees. It is really important to me to hire the right people, grow their strengths, and support them in their challenges. It takes a lot of time to do it right. It is also one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I am fortunate to have a team of people who are incredibly talented, love the college, our community, and most importantly, want the best for our students.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

The person I most admire is my colleague from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Sue Liegel. Sue is a tireless champion of the people of Wisconsin. Her service to the state is unparalleled. She goes out of her way to support people as much as possible, including intimately understanding complex state and federal laws. Sue is my inspiration as a public servant.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Joining Madison College in 2014 as the budget director is the high point so far. I have spent most of my career in higher education and am committed to working to make a quality college education accessible and affordable. Madison College provided me the opportunity to serve my values and my community, capitalizing on my strengths and experience, as well as my dedication to Madison and our district.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

I would encourage my 21-year-old self to trust in herself. I have always had strong moral convictions and a deep commitment to public service, and I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career. I have gained incredible experience and been able to capitalize on it to advance quickly. A lot of that came from people giving me great advice, support, and trust, including my husband, Mark Thomas, our VP for Administrative Services, and too many others to name. Their trust has built up my trust in myself.



What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

I live in Madison and am fortunate to live near the bike paths, the zoo, and the UW Arboretum. The opportunity to freely and easily access such wonderful amenities is one of the best things about living here. I have a child, so I am also grateful to have access to free, high-quality K–12 education.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I pick up computer coding languages fairly easily and can code in several languages, including websites and statistical software. I got into it fairly young, when I was developing my own Geocities site (R.I.P. Geocities) and it has just stuck with me. It’s been surprisingly useful in allowing me to resolve relatively small technical problems quickly and simply, and giving me a basic understanding of how to resolve more complex problems. It also underscores my belief that computer science is a part of everyone’s job in the future and we need to start treating it as such in our education system.

What are your guilty pleasures?

I really like cheesy holiday movies. I try to see all of them, no matter how bad. That means I have seen The Search for Santa Paws and the Hallmark classic I’m Not Ready for Christmas (twice)!

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