Desktop download with Renee Petrina

Noise-canceling headphones and daily childcare make work-from-home work for this eDS manager and family

ALL SMILES. “I’ve been lucky to always find jobs with organizations I could believe in. When you believe in your organization and its mission, you can accomplish so much,” Petrina says.

Occasionally, we ask a member of the university IT community to give us a peek into their work life: their favorite gadgets, their time-saving habits, organization tips, and a little tour of their workspace.

This month, we’re featuring Renee Petrina, manager of online learning scaled partnerships for eLearning Design & Services (eDS). She shares her at-home workspace, tucked into a corner room in the lower level of the house, with her spouse (Adam Maksl, faculty fellow with eDS), and sometimes their 5-year-old, or their infant, or one of their cats.

What are your current devices?

My IU Dell laptop and a Google Pixel.  

Briefly describe your work-from-home desk space: where is it in your home? What are some of its features?

We are VERY lucky to have a dedicated home office, which we have been improving for the past 4 years. When Ikea opened in Fishers, we took advantage and installed a bookshelf wall. 

I use an L-shaped desk, two monitors on arms, and a desk-topper to raise things to a standing height. When we started working remotely, we added a second desk for Adam.

Letting in the light. In Petrina’s office, a big window offers plenty of natural light, as well as views of critters and plants. 

What piece of tech do you rely on the most?

For work, my noise-canceling wireless headset (a Jabra Evolve 75) is a MUST. The headset became essential when sharing a small home office with my spouse. When our children (ages 5 and infant) were home for 4 months, they grabbed at my headset cord all the time, so wireless was the way to go. 

Important vs. urgent. Petrina’s wireless headphones are important, so it’s urgent she keeps that dino away from them. 

For personal tech, my mobile phone keeps me connected to the world when I’m stuck in one place to breastfeed the baby—especially helpful for 3am feedings. I’m often using it to fill my cart for online orders when we’re low on groceries, or the baby is outgrowing his clothes. It also lets me stream music to a speaker, control the lights and thermostat, and even shut off the TV when the 5-year-old has hidden the remote. 

What piece of tech causes you the most headaches (or the most swearing)?

Recently my laptop has decided to have a really sensitive touchscreen. It will be docked and closed, but it still “senses” a sticker, or a piece of dust, or something. Then my cursor starts jumping and peripherals go haywire. My solution has been to leave it the tiniest, tiniest bit open. This works fine, until a cat jumps on it.

What’s your favorite gadget, for work or for home?

I love my Google Pixel. I still have the Pixel 2, but am looking to upgrade when a good deal comes along. I’m a big fan of the fingerprint sensor on the back and I’m glad Google brought it back. To me, it’s so much more ergonomic than a face-unlock or a thumb sensor on the front.  

A generally unobtrusive gadget that recently saved my bacon is a water/freeze alarm that is connected to Wi-Fi. The one beneath our kitchen sink pinged just before Thanksgiving, alerting us to a failing supply line in the faucet. Without it, we would have woken up to a lot of water damage.  

What’s a typical workday like for you?

I start my day with a half-caf iced coffee. While Adam takes the kids to daycare, I check messages while I pump milk for the baby. I spend a ton of time in meetings, and in between I’m crafting status reports, checking budgets, and studying the latest system updates. In the afternoon, I jet out the door to pick up the kids (our childcare is next to the CIB, which used to be great! But we live on the opposite side of town). In the evening, I’ll often use my phone to catch up on some useful professional development readings from UITS Slack, or review emails I missed at the end of the day. 


Hard at work. A frequent visitor in meetings, Pasha the cat has become known by Petrina’s colleagues as Desk Cat. 

How do you stay organized?

For work tasks, our team has a project management tool that I heavily rely on. I can assign things to myself and set deadlines. I automate by setting reminders on various devices, sending certain emails directly to folders and getting alerts for others. But sometimes I go more “old school” and leave myself notes, like the “IMPORTANT vs. URGENT” sign I placed on my monitor. It helps me to prioritize.  

What is your work philosophy?

Taking care of my team and stewarding IU resources are both incredibly important to me. I value meeting obligations, but not at the cost of my people. That’s where the mantra of, “Is this important? Or is it just urgent?” comes into play. I’ve been lucky to always find jobs with organizations I could believe in—newspapers, the US military, and now IU. When you believe in your organization and its mission, you can accomplish so much.