Archive for February, 2012

The Power of a Network

Disclaimer: For the techies in the bunch, I will not be talking LAN or WAN or otherwise. Sorry. This post will be focused on another sort of network — your personal one. 🙂

Nearly a decade ago I was the president of the board for a non-profit, professional association. During my tenure on the board, I realized that there were really only two primary functions of the organization from the members’ perspective — education in the profession, and networking. I never much liked the “networking” piece of it, to tell the truth. For an introvert it always felt uncomfortable and awkward, but somehow, necessary. So I did it…I “networked”…but I never really *got* it.

Fast forward to the present. From my 2009 Frye cohort to members of the Bay Area CIO group, participants on the EDUCAUSE CIO listserv, and social media community of IT and higher education professionals — I now am fortunate to be a part of a number of networks that I both contribute to and recognize benefit from. I tweet and retweet, post questions to the listservs and answer them, and sometimes reach out personally to seek or offer advice.

I’ve made introductions and received them, and been offered writing and speaking opportunities via referral (just one this morning, in fact — w00t!). Just a few weeks ago I was able to connect the colleague of a colleague on the East Coast, to another colleague on the West Coast, to facilitate a job search surrounding a relocation. Now that’s the power of a network!

Perhaps it’s because it’s no longer something I “do”, and simply a part of how I choose to participate in and contribute to our community…but suddenly, I am reasonably well networked. And yet, I no longer “network.” Go figure. 🙂

A Focus on Success

I read about new research recently that looks at why some black men succeed in college. As a research question it seemed a little odd and overly vague to me, but after reading a little bit more about it, I was intrigued.

We’ve all heard the stats — black men make up a painfully small percentage of undergraduate students, and (at least in some parts of the country), a young black man is more likely to be in prison than in college. <sigh> But some black men DO go to college, and succeed there. The researcher (Shaun R. Harper, Ph.D.) decided to focus here — on the success stories — to see if there were identifiable and replicable factors in these successes, instead of continuing to perpetuate a black-men-as-college-failures narrative that helps to “shape America’s low expectations for black men.”

I get where Dr. Harper’s coming from. In the IT world, you don’t have to look too closely to realize that there is a serious shortage of women (and minorities) in the profession. And there’s no lack of discussion about the reasons (some valid, some not-so-much)  — women aren’t good at math and science, it’s a pipeline problem, the demands drive women of child-bearing age out, there’s a lot of sexism, it’s an image problem, and so on and so forth. At every conference I’ve been to, groups band together to discuss the situation and talk about how to bring more women into the profession. But tragically, it seems that these conversations all end up at the same place — with women describing, to one degree or another, the obstacles they have faced in their careers.

At the risk of sounding terribly insensitive…I’m tired of hearing about this. I understand and empathize with my colleagues about their experiences, and the obstacles they have faced, and continue to face, in their jobs. I get it, because I’ve lived it. I’ve been invited to sit at the “big boys table” and had vendors treat my (male) subordinates with more deference and respect than me. But much like Dr. Harper, I would rather focus on why I (and others like me) *have* been successful, rather than continue to belabor our negative experiences.

In his research, Dr. Harper found that there were multiple factors that contributed to black men’s success, and I suspect the same would be true for women in IT. I know that a combination of good role models and mentors, an inquisitive nature, and an aversion to being told that I can’t succeed at something, are all ingredients in my recipe for success. What ingredients are in yours?


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