At the January 17th Infrastructure and Production Quarterly meeting, Patton Fast officially introduced me as the senior director. He gave me the "Key to Infrastructure and Production" which I am including a picture of for those of you who were not able to make the event.
I had an opportunity to make a few remarks after Patton's introduction and I thought I would highlight them in this article because several people from infrastructure and production were not able to be there. In the future, I will use this blog to provide you with updates on significant happenings within OIT infrastructure and production and elsewhere.
I want to answer two questions that I'm sure are on everyone's mind: who is this guy and what are his plans? For the first question, I will give you a quick overview of me professionally and personally.
My Professional Background
I have had two successful careers so far. The first started while I was an undergrad here at the U where I was an on-air personality for WMMR, the student radio station. This led to a short stint in commercial radio as a DJ followed by sales, sales management, and, finally, general management. I worked at stations in Fargo - Moorhead (KQWB AM/FM, KVOX AM/FM) and also in Duluth (WEBC AM/ WAVC FM) during the late 70's and 80's.
Towards the end of my radio career I got my own personal computer (a Kaypro 2x) which I used to write letters, keep budget spreadsheets, etc.). It wasn't too long after that I became more interested in how the computer worked than I was in using it for my work. At the same time, I was becoming disillusioned with commercial radio because stations were becoming hot investment properties leading to frequent ownership changes. So I decided to pursue my new interest in computers and entered graduate school at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, in the fall of 1990 and got a Master of Science degree in computer science in 1993.
My first job in IT was at North Dakota State University where I was hired by a group of researchers to build a computational facility to support their research. I worked every day as a Unix server and network administrator but spent most of my time working one-on-one with the researchers and their post-doctoral students to find solutions to their technical problems. This was probably my best job ever in IT and it really sold me on the land grant mission and higher education.
When the research money ran out, I was hired by the university's central IT organization as a Unix system administrator. That led to managing the systems administration staff, followed by a director's position with responsibility for NDSU's infrastructure (very similar to my role here at the University).
NDSU had responsibility for university system-wide academic technology services which included things like email, Unix shell-access, help desk, as well as managing the state's wide area networking in collaboration with state government and the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
Some of the neat things that I did while I was at NDSU include:
- converting all mainframe-based services to Unix (Sun Sparc/Solaris, IBM RS6000's/AIX, Compaq Alpha's) and retiring the mainframe and, later, to Linux (I think we were one of the first higher ed institutions to do this).
- help to write an NSF grant that funded the creation of NDSU's high performance computing service. My staff designed and implemented the systems funded by this grant.
- developed an identity and service management system (Hurderos) based on Kerberos and LDAP including a developer's API. This system included the ability to differentially authorize access to services at the individual level and was used for all 30,0000+ university system accounts we managed (I still claim Microsoft stole this idea from us for Active Directory! Even now, AD doesn't include the service management piece.)
In 2006 my wife was offered her dream job working in economic development for the City of Minneapolis. We decided to make the move and I quit my job at NDSU without having a job in the Twin Cities. Fortunately, I knew Steve Cawley here at the university and he was very helpful in getting me introduced to the community which led to an opportunity to interview for an IT director's position in the newly formed College of Design. I was offered the position and started there on July 1st, 2006.
During my tenure at the college I had the opportunity to start an IT organization from scratch including developing position descriptions, budgets, services, etc. In addition, I also become active in the IT leadership community at the university and participated in leadership training and a number of joint initiatives with OIT (server consolidation, security policy development, infrastructure planning, and the IT services inventory).
After many years in central IT, the experience of being "on the outside looking in" was tremendously valuable. The relationships I have with the collegiate and administrative directors here at the university are very valuable to me in my new role in OIT and I hope to be able leverage that for our common benefit.
I am married and have two grown children and two grandkids. We all live in the metro area so I get to see the grandkids (and my kids) regularly. As I mentioned earlier, my wife, Beth, works for the City of Minneapolis in economic development and project management. Among many projects, she represented the city during the construction of the Twins ballpark.
I am a private pilot and a member of a flying club where I have served on the board of directors. I am studying the martial arts (Southern-style Praying Mantis kung fu). I am addicted to golf. I read a lot and am also known to smoke a good cigar once in a while.
What Are My Plans?
It's only natural to wonder what the new guy has in mind. In this case, thanks to Patton's leadership and your efforts, the infrastructure and production group seems to be working very well. Everyone in OIT infrastructure and production should be proud of the scalable, reliable systems and services you provide.
My short term agenda is to meet with the senior managers, managers, and service owners in the infrastructure area in order to understand how we organized, what services and functions we provide, what the current projects are, etc. Of course, I'll also be asking to be introduced to everyone else in infrastructure as part of that process.
I'm also planning to meet with the other directors and their managers and service owners to ask how well we are meeting their needs and what their future plans are. This will help inform our own plans for the future and, if necessary, tell us how to fine-tune ourselves to better meet their needs.
In addition to getting to know OIT and the staff, I am also thinking about some other things together with the rest of the leadership team:
- What is the future of infrastructure services in light of the advent of IaaS and other cloud-based services? I know this is something that we are all probably tired of hearing about but it can't be ignored and we have to be thinking about how we are providing value to the rest of OIT and the university now and in the future.
- We also need to think about alignment per VPCIO Studham and President Kahler. We all know about the efforts to get academic and administrative units to align with us. I also think we need to think about how we are going to align with them and, perhaps less obvious, how we align within OIT. Are their instances of duplication of effort that we can identify and eliminate that will bring us more into alignment as an organization?
- We all should be aware of the institutional priorities for IT and how we in the infrastructure and production units can contribute. Certainly we should all identify a Community of Practice to get involved with (with your supervisor's approval, of course).
- We can also think about the services we support and talking with the service owners to ask what we can do to improve them by lowering costs, improving the quality of the service, etc.
Thank you, again, for making me feel so welcome and I am looking forward to working with you over the weeks and months ahead. Please feel free to send me a note or stop by and say hello any time.
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