Friday, July 24, 2009

Observations from a Receptive IT Manager in Higher Education

There are some mornings that I look over my desk and envy the skills of the Web Services team. I remember it was only a few years ago that I was the sole developer at Elizabeth City State University. For the most part, I was responsible for programming, designing, promoting, managing, training, and writing. The job was fun but there never seemed to be enough time to accomplish my goals.

In 2006, two years after earning the M.B.A., I wanted to try my hand at management. A trusted friend and fraternity brother told me about an opening at North Carolina Central University and encouraged me to apply. I did. The call for an interview came within a few short days.

Knowing very little about the university, I was impressed. The Information Technology department appeared to have it all together. They had card entry on the doors, nearly 70 employees, and plenty of resources. The Deputy CIO, Leon Lewis, understood the web and recognized the value Web Services could have on the institution. He was open to ideas and told me that he fully supports the team.

On the way home, I could not contain my excitement. For the next 3 hours, which is the drive time between Durham and Elizabeth City, my face was stuck on "constant smile." Unfortunately, over the next few months the smile slowly faded. I heard nothing about the job. I made a few calls to the campus requesting an update on the position, but nothing. I nearly gave up the idea of ever moving out of Elizabeth City. That was until I received a call from the Human Resources department at NCCU. Not that you were surprised, but they offered me the job.

I wanted to hide my excitement, so I calmed myself enough to say, "Thank you!" Then, as if I had no clue to the decision, I asked for more time to weigh my options. They agreed.

After speaking with my current supervisor, family, and friends. I decided that moving to Durham and working for North Carolina Central University would be a perfect opportunity. For one, I could work with other developers. Second, I could enhance my management experience.

Over the next 2.5 years, I have learned a great deal about programming, graphic design, multimedia, business intelligence, web technology, and management. I realize that there will always be someone better than me. Let's try seven names out for size: Dindo Liboon, Darin Tyler, Mike Render, Derek Brinson, Bobby Nichols, Chris Porche, and Phil Molaro. If I could just be in the same room as these guys, I am pleased as punch.

At moments like now, I find that I envy their skill to make magic happen. Yes, I wonder sometimes where I would be today had I continued to develop the way I used too. Having made the move into management, I spend more time reading, networking, planning, and supporting. This is not to say I dislike being a manager because I LOVE it. It is just that I have to put down one skill set for the adoption of another.

Looking toward the future, I am very interested in moving up the managerial ladder. However, this decision means I walk even further away from programming. This is a sweet and sour moment. It is sweet because of the opportunity to explore my other interests and build strengths in new areas but sour because I also grow weaker in development.

I recall a time when I looked at the older managers, who failed to understand what I did on the web, and hoped that I never ended up clueless. Today, I understand. I personally do not have to know everything there is to know about anything. My value is in knowing and supporting someone who knows more than me.

I guess every passing moment is another opportunity to learn something new. I know I am, what about you?

Enjoy today and all that it brings. Until next time...

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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