At the end of my academic university career, I was brought into the Division of Information Technology to be the Academic representative- the person who liaisoned with Academic Affairs (the faculty) but also managed the relationships with the rest of the university. I worked with public relations, policy, governance committees, and any major complaints. In other words, Southern girl makes nice and smoothes things over! It was great fun. I took the job for the challenge. I wanted to learn new things and since IT is always changing, I was constantly learning. I also felt like an anthropologist entering a new culture and it was fascinating.
I served on the search committee for our new Chief Information Officer. We hired someone from Industry but he clearly understood the academic mission of the university. He brought me on as the Academic in IT and I became an advisor. I call him my Favorite Geek. He had great leadership instincts and courage. He also learned when to push and when to pull back. He had a great ability to help the campus see how Information Technology integrated with the academic mission of the institution. Part of my job was the communication and explanation of that mission. It was not easy. It required my best covert Southern woman skills. Some people considered IT an expensive nuisance and could not see it as an essential utility and necessity for delivery of the academic mission. The journey continues.
I learned so much about IT employees, whom I lovingly call Geeks. First of all, they love to eat. Many are fabulous cooks who approach a meal with the same zeal as writing code. Many are talented musicians. Many are introverts, which has implications for team and group work. All are really smart and want to be challenged. All want to make a difference so personnel management is a fine art. I met some of the most fascinating and intelligent people I have ever known. They are multi-talented and make behind the scenes contributions no one will ever see. I think I want to be an accomplished Geek when I grow up. What is Southern about some Geeks in the South is that they have grown up together professionally, going to college, and working together. This cultural influence is strong and hard to break through. Sometimes, it makes change difficult.
But my take-a-way from that job was that technology is our friend and not our enemy. We Southerners believe in relationships and communication and my work in IT has convinced me that the infrastructure will lead us there. We are a democracy and technology allows us the freedom and access to communicate and solve problems. Make nice, as we say in the South.