Archive for the 'IT Management' Category

Once An Activist…

The notion of activism has been swirling around me for the past week or so.

I’ve always been an activist at heart. Standing up for what I believe in. Speaking truth to power. Privately, I lean *far* to the left and care deeply about issues of social justice, race, LGBT rights, gender equity, and more. Publicly, at work, I’ve focused primarily on advancing diversity in tech, especially gender diversity.

But lately, I’ve been asked — and have felt compelled — to do more. A colleague told me last week that I needed to “get involved” and “be an activist.” I have a perspective that needs to be heard.

The last two days have been difficult in Charlotte. A(nother) black man shot by the police. Protests. Riots. A protester shot and killed….and a state of emergency called. It’s sadly no different than what’s been happening in so many places across this country, but this one hits very, very close to home. My college community — faculty, staff, and students alike — came together in a moment of solidarity this morning. The message, from those who spoke, was clear. Solidarity is nice, but it doesn’t change anything. Action is needed. Be an activist.

I’ve always believed that those of us who hold positions of power have a responsibility to use that power for the greater good. It’s what I so greatly respect about Colin Kaepernick sitting/kneeling during the pledge (although, as a 49ers fan, I’m disappointed in Kaep for other reasons). And it’s why I advocate so repeatedly, and vocally, for women in tech.

But I can (and will) do more. I have power in my position, and power in my privilege. I stand with the #blacklivesmatter movement, and sit with Kaepernick. I rally against discrimination of any form, especially the hateful HB2. And I continue to advocate for #genderequity and diversity in all its forms within higher education and the IT community.

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Finding “The One”

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog recently, but for good reason. In two short weeks I’ll be packing up my belongings, leaving Menlo (and, in fact, leaving California), and taking on a new CIO position at St. Norbert College. Yep, that’s right — I’m changing jobs.

My job search started late last year, and ended in May when St. Norbert and I found each other. Along the way I’ve wanted to reflect on the process here, on my blog, but for obvious reasons I couldn’t…until now.

This was my first experience going through the full executive-level interview process — where the entire campus was involved with, and had a stake in, the process. I’ve held a number of jobs in my life, and been interviewed countless times. But none of my experiences compared to this. I imagine it’s what speed dating must feel like, but instead of picking who you want to date at the end of a 2-minute conversation, you decide who you want to marry at the end of a one-to-two day campus visit.

A visit which, in my case, generally went something like this:

  • wake up at 3 a.m. PST to catch a plane, travel all day, and arrive just in time to have dinner with members of the search committee (luggage arrival at the same time – optional, apparently);
  • wake up at 5:30 a.m. EST to be ready for a 7 a.m. start time (seriously…many of my meetings started before 8 a.m., east coast time, which translates to 5 a.m. or earlier for me!);
  • spend 30 minutes to 1 hour with person after person, or group after group, from the aforementioned start time until dinner (also with members of the search committee), with a presentation for 15-50 people thrown in there somewhere, for good measure;
  • pass out in hotel room before 9 p.m., then…
  • wash, rinse, and repeat.

The whole process was arguably the most exhausting activity I’ve been a part of, but the most exhilarating and enlightening too. There are the highs of getting the initial interview, and the lows of the subsequent wait — did they like me, should I have said something different to question “x”? It can be an emotional roller coaster. An exercise in “what if’s”. It can test your preparation skills, not to mention your interpersonal ones. And it can help you reflect — about the future (for you and for IT), your core values, what’s important.

I learned some things along the way. Well, actually, a lot of things. Among them…I learned that strengths and weaknesses are relative — what one institution sees as a weakness, another sees as a strength. That working for a values-based, mission-driven institution is critically important to me. Where, of course, those values align with my own. I learned to listen to my inner voice (and Frye colleagues, and friends). And that everything happens for a reason.

Along the way, I found some institutions that I wanted to work for, and some that wanted me to work for them. But not at the same time. Then I found a match made in, well…Wisconsin. I came home from my two day “speed date” positively beaming (or so folks tell me).

And in the end, I knew, that I had found “the one”.

Empowerment (A Lesson in Customer Service)

I took a really short business trip recently –fly in one day, meetings the second day, and back out again on the morning of the third day.

My flights were perfect — no turbulence, on time — and I arrived at my destination energized and ready to work. Sadly, the airline had other plans for my luggage — it was “delayed”. Some dozen phone calls later, each with a different (and sometimes conflicting) response about where my luggage was, and an unexpected trip to the shopping mall to secure some clothes to wear for my meetings, my luggage turned up. By that time it was late afternoon on my meeting day, and of no use. I didn’t even open it…I simply turned right around and headed to the airport for my return flight.

Right around the time my luggage did arrive, the airline sent me a notice that my flight had been canceled, and I needed to rebook. So my connecting flight turned into two connections. Then when I got to the airport there was a separate delay in my departing flight, and I was going to have to rebook, again. This time my arrival home would be delayed by 10 hours. Uugh. And then, just when I couldn’t take anything more, the question came: “And how would you like to pay for your bag?”

My bag? The one that you lost, and I called a dozen times about, and that you only returned to me a few hours before I had to leave today? If it had been “delayed” any longer, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, I said. I’m not paying for that! You need to waive the luggage fee.

“I would if I could,” replied the ticket agent.

Really?!? In a giant, multi-billion dollar corporation, the front line customer service staff are not empowered to make a $25 decision to preserve customer satisfaction? Unbelievable.

Of course, the airlines aren’t exactly known for their exceptional customer service. But, sadly, some of our IT departments aren’t, either.

If your front line staff are saying “I would if I could” to customers, ask yourself why. Most people want to help (thus, the saying). *You* need to break down barriers to doing so, and reward proactive decision-making in support of customer satisfaction. In other words, empower them.

More “I can and I will” just may be the result — and how great would that be?


@rclemmons on Twitter

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