My Elevator Pitch

When I was in sales and marketing, oh so many years ago, we spent hours and days, months even, perfecting the perfect 30-second “elevator” pitch. You know, the one that you use when someone asks you “so what do you do?” and you have a 30-second elevator ride to tell them? It usually goes something like…”I’m a [job title] for [company], the global leader in [some industry jargon]”.

In education it may be called something different, but we still have elevator pitches, generally speaking — some key points and messaging that’s important to get across when talking to a prospective student, faculty member, or donor.

What’s important about the elevator pitch is the description of who you work for, not really what you do for them. Usually. This past weekend, however, I realized that an elevator pitch might be in order for what I actually do, too.

You see, I went to a family event and saw distant relatives — the kind you only run into once every 5 to 10 years or so. The conversation that ensued went something like this:

Them: “It’s great to see you, how have you been? And what are you doing these days?”

Me: “I’m the CIO at Menlo College; been there about  a year and a half.”

Them: “Menlo is a great school, congratulations! So….what’s a CIO?”

Me: “Chief information officer.”

Them: [looking a little glassy-eyed] “Information officer? So you handle information requests for the college? Or PR? Or…?”

Me: “Um, no…actually I manage the college’s technology. Like servers, and network, and computers…things like that.”

Them: [even more glass-eyed, but feeling compelled to ask the obligatory follow-up question] “Wow, sounds exciting! So what are you working on these days?”

And here’s where I need that elevator pitch. The truth is we’re working on bringing up a learning management system, moving some of our servers to the cloud, and rolling out virtual desktops (VDI). Really exciting stuff! But nearly *everyone* I know gets more than a little glassy-eyed when we start talking cloud computing or VDI. It’s conceptual stuff, with no clear definitions — even within the profession.

So explaining it to a non-techie…fugetaboutit. Except, of course, I can’t. I won’t. I think this stuff is waaaay too cool to *not* explain. 🙂

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5 Responses to “My Elevator Pitch”


  1. 1 Mark Hager January 20, 2011 at 5:39 am

    Everyone needs the elevator pitch! It helps me at conferences as well as with new/renewed contacts. Now I just need some buzz words like cloud computing to make mine more 21st century.

  2. 2 Jeff Smurthwaite January 20, 2011 at 5:59 am

    I heard the best definition of cloud computing at Oracle World.

    IaaS – Infrastructure as a service – platform virtualization – virtual servers either on demand or steady state in a hosted shared environment.

    PaaS – Platform as a service – virtualized servers with a layer of O/S and/or database for use in deploying applications.

    SaaS – Software as a service – applications provided within the hosted servers and provided as a service to the customer versus maintaining those applications internally.

    All of this can be hosted within a private cloud – a cloud environment owned by your company/institution – example is the CMS at CSU or a public cloud where the environment is hosted by third parties, or hybrid clouds where there are combinations.

    The “cloud” word came from graphical representations showing the Internet as a cloud in drawings.

    I know you know all this, I am just being a smartass 🙂

  3. 3 Rae January 20, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Jeff, I *do* know all of that, but have you read what you wrote? I’d bet that’s confusing for many of our technical folks, much less a non-technical user. A plain-language elevator pitch would help, and not just for long lost family, either. Many of our constituents — students, faculty, and staff — don’t understand this any more than our relatives do. You know what they say…think about how you would explain it to your grandmother, and if she can understand it, then anyone can. Would your grandmother understand the descriptions above?

  4. 4 Jeff Smurthwaite January 21, 2011 at 6:55 am

    Hmmmm, good point. My wife, sister, etc. might not understand it, either. Sigh .. hmmm .. so how would you say it in plain English?

    “The stuff you use on your computer is no longer here, it is somewhere else. Don’t worry about it, it will work the same and it is safer and cheaper. Trust me, I am in IT.”

  5. 5 Deborah Mistry January 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    I completely agree with you Rae that in talking with relatives and / or other non-techie geek folk that we need real words that don’t leave the other person glassy-eyed.

    I think that you were on the right track with ‘manage’ ‘technical and computer-related things’ for XYZ company. It is at least a foot in the door of the mind! 🙂


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