Listening to the OG IT managers, part 3: It’s all about the people, not the tech

If you are just tuning in to my series highlighting some of my long-time IT manager sources, see part 1 where I introduce them and part 2 where I talk about some of their more memorable purchases. In this edition, I want to talk about the people behind all the gear.

Erica Wilson has had many career transitions “but I’d have to say taking on a CISO role was certainly a good experience. I learned a LOT about myself and why having a people-first mindset – supporting their wellbeing and growth — needs to be critical for all organizations. By doing so, with a small but mighty team we were able to accomplish some amazing things.”

Adam Kuhn told me that looking at all his career transitions, “My biggest failure was staying in positions too long.” Like many of my sources, he considers himself a lifelong learner and likes to learn about new technology. When you stop learning, it is time to find new challenges

Gayle Barton told me, “It’s fun to look back at the great projects and fun tools I’ve used, but it’s the people that I remember more often, and especially the people I had the opportunity to help, hire, mentor, or promote. I get the most pleasure from the opportunities I’ve had to hire people I think someone else might have overlooked, to move people forward on their career path, or to mentor students and help them see new possibilities. For the most part, I made some pretty great hires.” When she was at Springfield College she remembers: “They had never had a person designated to help faculty with using technology in teaching, and you can imagine the state of technology use in the classroom. I was able to create a position for an instructional technologist but the pay was low and the pool of applicants was very small. We ended up with a experienced high school teacher who had taught Microsoft Word to hundreds or thousands of students, and was looking for a career change, and I thought that if she could answer the same Word questions over and over, she could teach our faculty to use a new learning management system. She turned out to be great.”

She mentioned several other people who were special to her:

  • The English professor who was finally able to publish his life’s work with the help of a custom database. 
  • The 18 year-old administrative assistant who is now her university’s Director of Campus Services and Outreach. 
  • The former copier repair technician who is on his way to becoming a great network engineer. 
  • The people who Gayle nudged out of management positions, who were more successful and happier in new roles and actually thanked her later. 
  • The man who wanted to get home from the Middle East and who rebuilt a campus’ dying infrastructure. She said, “He has skills that I don’t, but I could sell the vision, ask hard questions, and remove obstacles. Together we put that university on a solid path forward, and it was a wonderful way to end my professional career.”

Gayle told me that “it was mostly great fun, but I am happy to be retired and to let someone else have a turn!”

David Goodman came to the CIO for the International Rescue Committee to create a functional and more business-oriented IT organization. “It was both the high and low points of my career and I doubled the headquarters department during my tenure. But when it came time to develop and implement a longer-term plan, my CEO just didn’t trust me. He rejected my plan and I had to leave. I realized I wasn’t the right guy to implement this plan. My core strength was as a turnaround guy to fix things.” That job helped him understand that “Work doesn’t define who I am. I found out that I had lots of value outside of work. And I was able to have a lot healthier attitude about work later on.”

David continues: “You were an enormous mentor and helped me early on in my career. You believed in me before I understood what I could do and taught me to take what the tech vendors said with lots of grains of salt. You have touched a lot of people and had a front-row seat to the industry and significant historical moments.”

Thanks David, and thanks to all of my sources for making my job so much fun and so rewarding. It has been a great 30 years, and I am glad to have played such a role for so many people, and hope you have enjoyed reading their stories.

1 thought on “Listening to the OG IT managers, part 3: It’s all about the people, not the tech

  1. Pingback: Listening to the OG IT managers, part 2: first purchases | Web Informant

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