Only 9 weeks left until we NAFSAns saddle up and head to NAFSA annual. Watch out Houston, 9,000 eclectic folks are headed your way! To celebrate, this week I am continuing the countdown by sharing tech tip 9. If you’ve ridden in the tech rodeo for many years, then, likely you know about this one. If not, get ready pardners because this tip will keep you from gettin’ techy as a teased snake.
Tech Tip 9: Network with information technology (IT) professionals
The best way to get up-to-speed on how to improve your office’s technology is to network with some IT folks. My decision to network with IT folks has transformed my professional life. Knowledge is power.
“The new source of power is not more money into the hands of the few, but more information into the hands of many.”
— John Naisbitt
IT folks are magic. You probably already know this. But do you network with them? What?! At this point, I know you are saying to yourself: “Are you crazy? I don’t have time to do my job, let alone network with IT people.” Exactly! You don’t have time because you are spending countless hours working inefficiently by participating in the use technology for evil.
I am a big believer that you become like the books you read and the people you spend time with. Want to be more tech savvy and, in turn, productive? In order to understand how technology can be used to make your work and personal life easier, expand your professional network and technological horizons.
Here comes the hard part for most of us. We say to ourselves: “IT people won’t like me because I don’t know my tech ditties.” This is simply not true. In fact, all human beings love to talk about their passions. IT folks are not as fascinated by an IT professional like those of us who roll around in the computer muck. Even if you are scared of talking to IT professionals, go for it. As John Wayne said:
“Courage is being scared to death – and saddling up anyway.“
So saddle up pardner, burn the breeze and go meet some IT folks! The following are 4 bits to build your IT network byte.
Bit1: Join relevant tech-savvy listserves. Your campus likely has special interest listserves. Ask your international education (IE) colleagues which listserves they find useful. IE staff responsible for SEVIS Coordinator-like duties often serve as “middle men and women” between IE staff and IT staff. For this reason, they can be a great resource. Also, I have found that NAFSA’s knowledge community team is au courant and quick to respond. For International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) folks, you can find a contact at: http://www.nafsa.org/knowledge_community_network.sec/international_student_3/
What type of software do you want to learn more about? Find the listserve for your software. The two listserves that I follow religiously are Sungard Higher Ed Commons http://www.edu1world.org/CommonsIntStSclrMgmt for my immigration software fsaAtlas/eScholar, and my university’s IT professionals listserve. These listserves have saved me countless hours of recreating a wheel that has already been built! They are my security blanket (think Linus of the Peanuts.)
Bit2: Find and follow technology leaders (blogs, micro-blogs, and wikis). If you have been reading my blog, then you know that I highly recommend following Ruth Sylte’s blog http://www.manitouheights.com/ Another great blog is ReadWrite Enterprise http://www.readwriteweb.com/enterprise/ Recently posted is a fabulous article on Social Media Security http://www.readwriteweb.com/enterprise/2012/03/infographic-social-media-secur.php
Don’t have time? Tech Tip 1 is going to help you with this. That’s several weeks away though… So, until then, I highly recommend the following New York Times article: “When Office Technology Overwhelms, Get Organized http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/business/when-office-technology-overwhelms-get-organized.html?pagewanted=all
Bit3: Find and embrace an IT mentor. In case it is helpful, here are a few stories about how mentors have helped me. My long-time friend Lyena Solomon @lyena is an awesome mentor to me. I don’t think she’ll ever know how much she helped me jump off of the 21st century technology cliff. Her IT savvy has made me want to be a super ITwoman like her! She gave me her old Blackberry several years ago and walked me through the fine art of using a smart phone. One day she took me out to see the baby seals on California’s coast while she played with her personal wireless network that contained her five baby gadgets. Many years ago, she introduced me to Roku. Every time I talk to her she has fascinating new technology tales for me that expand my horizons.
At University of Illinois, I have learned the most amazing skills from IT wizards. Carol Livingstone, Chris Lehman and Dan Horlander have devoted time weekly to helping me. They teach and mentor me while I climb technology mountains. These folks are computer programmers extraordinaire at University of Illinois’ institutional research unit, Division of Management Information. Their guidance has encouraged me and helped me build my database and data security skills. I honestly do not know how I would have survived my first three years as a SEVIS coordinator without them. Network administrators Jon Gillen and Tom Dawson have contributed significantly to my network admin skills. Jon and Tom hail from our campus academic computing unit, CITES. Kathryn Majewski, my colleague at International Student and Scholar Services, has taught me some awesome MS excel tricks. And, she recommended a computer science class at University of Illinois, Dr, Thomas Gambill’s CS105, that enabled me to turbo charge my interactions with MS Excel and MS Access.
Do you know someone at your university who has IT savvy? Why not contact them and ask them to tell you about their skills. Do you have some skills that you can share with others? I guarantee you there are people out there suffering at their job due to lack of computer skills. Be one of the people who ameliorates suffering. Also, there are computer programmers out there who desperately need your functional business analyst knowledge. They can’t build good software if they don’t understand your field and associated software requirements.
“To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might just be the world.”
Bit4: Attend technology conferences, classes and seminars. Watch technology podcasts. Exhibit 1: Spend some time with the latest Technology in International Education http://intledtech.com Exhibit 2: Watch Jose Vazquez’ “Use Powerpoint for Good, Not for Evil” series at YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVyRCZiDqwY Exhibit 3: For a fun look at one techie’s contribution to our world, check out “jedi kittens strike back” youtube video by the finalcutking. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z3r9X8OahA
Now back to you. I’m 4 bits short of a byte. Or a nibble short of a byte. An astute friend let me know that 4 bits is also referred to as a nibble (this made me laugh.) Anyhoo, let me hear from y’all. What is your preferred method of networking with IT folks? Gotta saddle up now and ride off into the sunset. See ya’ again soon pardner.