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Brian McDonald is Mister Rogers

Last week, I graduated from the IT Leaders Program with other IT Directors from the University of Minnesota. This was my second time through the program, and I enjoyed it as much as my first time several years ago. As a cohort, I believe we built up new skills that will help the IT Directors lead the campus into the future.

After graduation, I reflected on the qualities of the program. Here is a thought I'd like to share with my fellow ITLP graduates, old and new:

Brian McDonald is just like Mister Rogers.


Give me a moment, and you'll agree with me. But first, let me relate a story:

In the mid 1990s, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives looked to reduce federal spending. Among other cuts, they looked at slashing funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides support for the Public Broadcasting System ("PBS").

Such a large budget reduction would have had a severe impact on PBS's ability to operate. PBS launched a national awareness campaign, with ads that showed everyday Americans stating their support for public television.

I remember seeing these ads on TV. One ad in particular has stayed with me over the years. A group of young business women were interviewed on the street. Each gave a quick quote for why PBS was important to them. The last quote was my favorite: "I don't think we'd be who we are today if not for Mister Rogers."

That's the quote that came back to me while I was reflecting on the IT Leaders Program. ITLP has had such a positive impact to me. Throughout the program, we learned new skills and tools to enhance our role in IT leadership. These skills, built up over several sessions, were supported by coaching between sessions. In addition, my cohort challenged each other to put these skills into practice.

The result? When I graduated from ITLP, these new skills had become habits. I no longer had to push myself to use these leadership tools, they had become part of me. And I continue to use them every day.

I know I've become a better leader by having participated in ITLP. I've been through several "leadership" and "management" classes, but none stuck with me like ITLP. I know my fellow ITLP graduates feel the same about themselves.

Brian plays a huge part in the success of ITLP. To some, Brian is the IT Leaders Program.

So I challenge my ITLP peers with this question: Would you be the IT leader you are today if not for Brian?

That's essentially the same statement that woman used in support of Mister Rogers. Turn that around, Brian McDonald is just like Mister Rogers. Except for the zipper sweater.