Managing your technology career; it's not an entitlement

What are you doing to manage your career?

What are your professional goals and what are you doing to make them become a reality?

How will you avoid career obsolescence?

Sometimes these questions provoke a defensive response among IT professionals. What do I mean? Are there plans to outsource us? Is this a veiled 'Dear John' message?

No, but given the rising costs of technology in an ever-changing field, I strongly suggest that you have an ongoing career plan. Just because you currently have a job, benefits and a fair amount of job security does not mean things can't happen down the road. Higher education is entering a period of much greater accountability. The cost of college is too great not to. Constituents will challenge us to prove our value, to cut our costs, to look at outsourcing and other possibilities. Computing is becoming commoditized and more and more there will be options for outsourcing. We cannot rest on laurels or succumb to a sense of entitlement. We must continually reinvent ourselves and be ready for what's coming.

Don't panic. Be realistic. There are many career strategies you can implement to keep yourself current. First, start reading the writing on the walls. Professional trade journals are ripe with trends emerging in our technology. Engage in discussions and career listservs. Become aware of and look for new opportunities to add value in your organization.

Make a plan. Set goals and start taking steps in that direction.

Consider what type of training you need. Often times technology workers tend to focus on, well, technology training. That's important. So, too, are developing some of the 'softer' skills, like writing and communication, project management and team development. We will also need leaders for tomorrow. How many of you would be willing to take a management role? MBA?

Never assume that your career plan is your employer's responsibility. While we have an interest and will do what we can, it would be a grave mistake to assume that the organization will carry you through to age 65. Leadership and management are more transient, hence you can never depend on anything over a period of time.

It's YOUR career. If you don't take charge of it, you'll end up where it takes you, for better or worse.


A book you might find useful is JobShift. It'll help you think of yourself as your own business.

Technology Update: Fall 2007

Welcome back to campus everyone. And new faculty and instructors, welcome to PSU! Here’s what you need to know about computers, information and accountability. Please take a few minutes to review.


1. Where do I get information?
2. What’s new?
3. How does PSU communicate in case of emergencies?

4. Are we still using WebCT?
5. Why so many upgrades and systems unavailable?
6. Are there times we can expect the systems to be down?

7. What is the best way to look up students, faculty and staff?
8. Where do I go for help using technology in the classroom?
9. What are my rights to privacy?

10. Which Windows operating systems are supported? (Vista?)
11. May I bring my own laptop to the PSU network?
12. How do I get software loaded on computer clusters?

13. How may PSU classes are online?
14. What are the technology goals for this year?
15. How are decisions about technology made at PSU?

16. What technologies should we be paying attention to?
17. Where can I get computer help?

Where do I get information? The best source of campus information and communications is myPlymouth. This web application underwent a major upgrade this summer, along with the overall PSU web site. These two sites comprise our INTERNAL and EXTERNAL communications strategy. myPlymouth is where students, employees and constituents will get most of their information and online services. More and more communications will be posted to myPlymouth. The main PSU web pages now target prospective students, parents and everyone else outside of our organization.

What's new? Over the summer, upgrades occurred to Banner, WebCT and myPlymouth. The first two were relatively minor, but myPlymouth got a major facelift. Check it out and customize your myPlymouth page so it works for you. myPlymouth is your primary source of campus information and services. There is also a new email program called myMail. It is designed to work primarily as a web application, helping you communicate, schedule, maintain contacts, and share documents and calendars. Many new computers are being installed with Windows Vista. Also new is our emergency communications system (below).

How does PSU communicate in case of emergencies? PSU has partnered with e2Campus, an online service that students and employees may opt into. e2Campus allows PSU to send emergency alerts, snow cancellations, flood warnings and other critical information as text messages to cell phones, alternate email addresses and/or in customized home pages in Google and Yahoo. These are the communication tools of students and, increasingly, PSU employees. . You’ll hear more soon on how to sign up. This is all part of an upgraded emergency communication plan that distributes communication via multiple channels. PSU will continue to use email and the Web as primary communication tools, too.

Are we still using WebCT as our primary learning management system? Yes. WebCT has been in operation at PSU for the past 6 years. In 2006, Blackboard, an industry competitor, acquired WebCT and plans to support it several more years. Eventually, WebCT and Blackboard will not be separate products. For now, we continue to run WebCT from the Blackboard company. More and more, it will be call Blackboard CE and Vista. See

Why so many upgrades and systems unavailable? Software upgrades have become a way of life. The technology industry is highly competitive and new, updated software versions come frequently. We avoid the bleeding edge, but we keep pace with the changes. That often results in impact to users. Our goal is always to keep you informed, minimize the down times and look for periods during the year that are least disruptive to your work. We plan most of our upgrades during semester breaks. We also have a weekly maintenance window every Sunday morning, 6-10am.

Are there times we can expect systems to be down? Sunday mornings, 6-10am is a weekly time when systems or network maintenance will occur. Not all weekends, and not without advance notice to myPlymouth and the community.

What is the best way to look up students, faculty and staff? PSU publishes a student and faculty/staff directory each year. Like most types of phone books, they're going away. The advertising model that always supported them is no longer effective. The most current directory information will always be online through our main web page directory or within myPlymouth. You can also dial 3333 on any campus extension and speak the person or department’s name in our voice-activated directory.

Where do I go for help using technology in the classroom? Multimedia support is available through the Learning Commons and/or by seeking Equipment Reservations in myPlymouth (left column, see Services). The Learning Commons is available 7 days a week for your support in any number of ways. Stop in, call 2929 or email them at

What are my rights to privacy? The email system, PSU-issued computers and the network all belong to the University. Within that framework you have a high degree of academic and personal freedom. No one tracks your surfing or email. You do, however, leave tracks everywhere you go. And since 9/11, there have been numerous changes in laws that have reduced the degree of privacy. Still, privacy and personal responsibility remain core PSU values. Please read the PSU Acceptable Use Policy. We are all accountable to it.

Which Windows operating system is supported? PSU is rolling out Windows Vista on computer labs and many new computers. Students will also be bringing new computers with Vista to campus. We will continue to support Windows XP, too, for quite a while yet.

May I bring my own laptop to the PSU network? Yes. Like students, PSU employees may log on to the PSU wireless network with an appropriate username and password. They may also plug in to network ports in the library. Your computer needs to be current with Windows security updates and have MacAfee Anti-virus software installed. Personal computers cannot, however, plug in to office ports unless their computers have loaded several more PSU network and security components. This is designed for security and network protection. Those who choose this option should have a fair amount of computer savvy and troubleshooting skills. ITS desktop support for individual employee computers is limited. Service is available through the University Computer Store.

How do I get software loaded onto the computer clusters? Faculty and instructors receive notice every April and December alerting them to submit requests for software to be installed on our network and in computer labs. Because there are so many software applications already loaded, new requests have to be tested for compatibility. If it passes muster, the new software is loaded and made available the following semester. This delicate process constricts ITS's ability to load any software at the beginning or other times during the semester. It poses risk to the stability of other applications.

How many PSU classes are online? This past year, there were 104 classes offered online. That's almost double the number from the year before (61). Most online classes are offered in the summer, followed closely by winterim. More and more classes, however, are offered during the fall and spring semesters. If you would like to explore options for online courses, contact the Frost School.

What are technology goals for this year?

  1. Improve Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans
  2. Enhance academic technologies in the classroom and ensure that PSU has a learning management system to meet the needs of students and faculty
  3. Implement New Email and Content Management Systems
  4. Explore Overall Communication tools for Telephony and Unified Messaging
  5. Manage Online Relations with Varied Constituents: Prospective Students, Parents and alums
  6. Improve Identity Management System: Required to address security, regulatory compliance and campus interoperability
  7. Improve Institutional Reporting
  8. Expand Wireless Access Points across Campus

How are decisions about technology made at PSU? The Technology Advisory Committee (TAG, see myPlymouth Groups for documents and agendas the past several years) meets monthly during the academic year. Made up of faculty and staff (and occasionally students), TAG tackles a variety of technology issues that impact students and faculty. It also creates ad hoc groups and reviews policy recommendations. TAG is led by the senior technology officers: The CIO, Dwight Fischer, and the Director of the Library, David Beronä. TAG recommendations on major PSU decisions flow up to the President's Cabinet. In addition to TAG, there is an Executive Steering Committee for Information Systems (ESC). The ESC includes vice presidents, TAG leaders, Graduate Studies and others as needed. ESC has purview over all aspects of information systems, project priorities, data and network security, major system upgrades or replacements, and regulatory compliance.

What technologies should we be paying attention to? Think about trends more than specific technologies. More and more software is made available as web applications. Email is a good example. Microsoft Outlook, an application that resides on your computer, used to reign. Now our email, calendar and documents can all be on the web with our new myMail system. This practice is far more prevalent with students arriving at our doors. There is, however, a trade-off in your control and local storage. You're good as long as you’re connected. (Good if you live around Internet connections, not so good if you live in the sticks.)

Where can I get computer help? The ITS Help Desk is located in the Information Desk of the Learning Commons in Lamson Library. You may walk in, call x2929 or send a note to The Learning Commons is staffed by students and experienced IT professionals. They work closely with library personnel to integrate our services around information, research, multimedia and support. Don't hesitate to contact them first if you are experiencing difficulties. Chances are you may not be the only one with a problem. And if you are, they can escalate the issues to appropriate ITS staff to get it resolved. The Help Desk, like the library, is open seven days a week.

Best of luck in the new semester. We're here to help.

Dwight Fischer, CIO
Information Technology Services

ext. 2443

Schools outsource email to Google Apps

"40 ,000 [Arizona State] Students Leap to Google Apps"

"Initially offering new e-mail accounts based on Google's Gmail service (but retaining the "" domain) on an opt-in basis, [CIO] Sannier and his team found that students were making the switch at the rate of around 300 per hour. Today, more than 40,000 ASU students and faculty have made the switch, and he expects to shut down the University's in-house mail servers near the end of this term." (

Aquinas College outsourced student and employee email to Google.

What does this mean for PSU? Nothing yet, but as we look at how we spend our valuable technology resources and time, it begs the question of whether we should continue to provide what is fast becoming a commodity service on the web.

There are no easy answers. Google may not provide you the level of service and support you get from ITS staff now, particularly when it comes to retrieving lost emails or important backups. Then again, we all deal with that reality anyway as we use our ISP providers for personal email. Does this change the liability of the University in regard to maintaining records? New laws are emerging that might indicate otherwise.

The core question is this: what is the value of a PSU-provided email, for students and employees? And what does it cost in terms of servers, licensing, and staff time and effort?

Regardless, we need to watch how these new ventures fare.

Trade in Microsoft Office for Google Apps?

An interesting trend is emerging in how basic computer software is delivered. Google has introduced new programs--Google Apps--for word processing and spreadsheets. These new programs are designed to work with several other online Google applications; email, calendars, web documents and photo management. All are types of software we've traditionally installed on our personal computers. Google is offering them as an online service. Your computer doesn't host anything, it connects you to a Google-hosted space of your own.


This piece was written in Google Docs, an online word processing program. It has all the basic formatting, editing and proofing tools, yet it's a lot less sophisticated than the ubiquitous Microsoft Word. And while I've been weaned, trained and reliant on Word for almost two decades, this is an interesting challenge to my habitual self.


Google Apps is 'software as a service.' You don't buy the software as you would with Microsoft Office, you connect to Google's applications online. You save your documents on Google servers. You'll never have to upgrade the software, Google takes care of all that. You just use the application. Log in and write. The same with spreadsheets. The interface is designed with an emphasis on simplicity.


Documents created with Google Apps are sharable. Simply invite others via an email link to join in. The document can be open by several users simultaneously so they can collaborate in its development. That alone is worth the cost of admission.


Ah, but it's free.


This is a shift from software delivery of yore. We used to install and host software on our personal computers. Microsoft was the most common application with their Office suite of products. Veteran users of these products--Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook--have come to rely heavily on them.


Yet here comes Google with their free apps. Software as a service. They want to entice you to use their services. For Google, everything is about getting us to use their search function.


Here are some significant differences in using Google apps.


  1. The applications are only available online. You have to have an Internet connection to access them.
  2. You store your documents (and ideas) on Google servers.
  3. The applications are far less sophisticated than those in Microsoft Office.

For many of us, those trade-offs are too high a price to pay. We prefer to keep our documents on our computers and local servers. Yet Google is playing to a new generation for which instant messaging, mySpace and web-based applications are second nature. They're innate googlers.


The question for mature and sage users of Office: Would we change our personal computer paradigm?


  • Would we buck the Microsoft empire to go with the emerging Google empire?
  • Will we continue to pay a hefty annual sum to Microsoft so that all of our employees can use Microsoft Office?
  • And, the question I hear most, would we store our precious and confidential documents on Google servers?

Ask your own questions. Anyone can google 'Google Apps' and start the process by signing up for a personalized Google account.


I'm thinking about what I want to say to new PSU students at orientation this spring. Many ask about computers and software to buy. I think the best advice is to get a good laptop and hold off the purchase Microsoft Office. Rather, sign up for a Google account. Unless they're writing super-sensitive, personal documents, storage of their work on Google servers isn't an issue. A student could keep all their materials online. Man, would they be dialed in. Drop in at any computer connected to internet and access all their documents.


If I was 18, that's what I'd be thinking.


Your thoughts?

Dear PSU Faculty...

In addition to a recent update to the campus, I wanted to provide you, faculty and instructors, with a few more updates.

First, if you are new to the PSU community, a warm welcome from ITS. Information Technology Services is comprised of telephones, network, central information systems (Banner, myPlymouth, email, web, etc.), WebCT, and classroom and academic technology support. You can always reach any of us through or 535-2929.

WebCT has evolved and we have a new support team. John Martin, formerly the manager of the Help Desk and the Learning Center, is now leading up the academic technology support team in the Learning Commons (Lamson Library). John's expanded role in this area reflects the growing need for more support for instructors using WebCT and looking at new methods of instruction using the latest technologies. If you have any questions about WebCT, contact John at

Dan Bramer, who managed the WebCT support last year, is shifting his role to help more with back room tasks. WebCT has a significant amount of integration points with myPlymouth, Banner, Library systems and more. He'll be working closely with the Systems folks in Hyde Hall.

Did you hear that the Help Desk is now located in the Library's new Information Desk? Seven days a week, call, write or stop in. Jo-Ann Guilmett, who headed multimedia support to the classroom the past few years, is managing the new Learning Commons Information Desk. In addition to multimedia (now managed by Brad Hachez), Jo-Ann oversees the Help Desk staff cross-trained in library and IT services. Stop in and see.

I've been hacking away at some campus technology issues online. If so inclined, take a click. Comments welcome, but no obligation.

Dwight Fischer, CIO


>>> Back to Campus Update, Fall 2006 (

Living in an online world.1 (

Living in an online world.2

Security is Everyone's Business (

File Sharing, Cut it out!

Allemp (Changes to email list to all employees) (


Back to Campus, Fall 2007

As we prepare for fall 2007, here’s what you need to know about computing and technology.

Acceptable Use Policy: All PSU computer users are responsible for knowing and operating within the guidelines of the Acceptable Use Policy. If you’ve never seen it, or not in a while, take a look. It was updated by TAG (Technical Advisory Group) this past year. See for this and other computing policies. Also, Security is everyone's business!

File Sharing on the network: If you’re sharing files for legitimate reasons, carry on. That’s what our network is for. If you are sharing or downloading copyrighted music or movie files, cut it out! The network police are watching… more

Voice Directory: We now have a voice activated directory that will allow anyone to call 535-3333 anytime and speak the name of the person you wish to reach. Try it. The more we use the system, the better the response rate. This works for all employees and students.

There will also be changes to the Print Directory. Because of the timing of the directory publication, employee listings are less-than-accurate when it goes to print. Consequently, and because of the new Voice Directory, employee listings will not be in the PSU directory. Instead, users will be directed to the Web directory in myPlymouth and For those that still feel the need for a print copy, one will be available for download in the Staff Resources tab of myPlymouth .

ITS Annual Report: Want to know the priorities of ITS in the upcoming year? Are you familiar with the ITS governance structure? Want to see some interesting facts and statistics on technology use and the challenges we face in the upcoming year? See the ITS Annual online at (see Computing Resources Channel).

Changes to Allemp: The allemp (all employee) email list has undergone some changes this summer. Individuals may continue to send allemp messages updating the campus on events and programs. However, it will be collected and disseminated in a daily digest at 10 a.m.. The guidelines of use will not change: no selling, no proselytizing and no politicking. Also, messages to allemp must be embedded in the message itself—no attachments, please. Allemp is a good way to share information with your colleagues, but remember, overuse will lessen the impact. More…

PSU-Announce: A new employee email list has been created for official and emergency notices. Emails to PSU-Announce may only be sent by senior administrative offices.

Web Redux: The PSU Web team is engaged in a project to renovate the look and design of our campus Web pages. The emphasis of the PSU web has shifted to be our primary means of communication to external viewers and, more specifically, prospective students. Grad Studies has also revamped their Web pages. Expect to hear more about this as the semester progresses. As part of this project, more and more Web pages for internal PSU business have been shifted to\Groups\. There you will find many areas for storage and dissemination of committee and meeting minutes. Check it out. Log on to myPlymouth and click on the Groups icon in the upper right.

Technical Advisory Group (TAG): This group of representatives from various campus constituents meets monthly during the academic year. The role of the group is advisory to the CIO as we grapple with the fast changing technology environment. The TAG also is responsible for allocation of the funding from the student technology fee. Each month we discuss critical issues facing the campus and form recommendations for either implementation by ITS or the President's Cabinet. To get a sense of where we've been and what has been discussed, please see the Technical Advisory Group in myPlymouth groups . Feedback is always welcome.

The IT professionals who add value today and tomorrow

Tim Goral, the editor of University Business, attended a Campus of the Future conference recently held in Hawaii. There was a lot written about themes. Goral was inspired by Thomas Friedman, author of the book 'The World is Flat.' Here's what he took away. It builds on the concept of the versatilist...

"Key to that strategy is the emergence of new "middle jobs," or jobs that can't be outsourced. But how do we prepare today's students for those jobs? "We don't just need more education, we need the right education," he said.

That education must satisfy the unique needs of the future job market. It will encourage and build upon skills that define the types of jobs that will encompass the global economy. It will involve new ways of teaching. It will also likely involve combining two or more disciplines to create a new area of study specifically geared to accommodate "flat world" economy.

Friedman outlined eight new middle jobs for which educators must prepare their students. The new middle jobs will be held by people who are:

Great collaborators. Those who have learned to work effectively with others whether in the same office or on other continents via internet technology.

Great "leveragers." People who have learned to do the job of 20 people using technology will always be in demand.

Great synthesizers. This is a person who can take two different products or ideas to create something new that enhances the value of both.

Great explainers. Friedman's "flat world" is so complex it will need new "guides" to lead the way for the rest of us.

Great localizers. The internet has made every small business a potential global player.

Green adapters. "Deriving alternatives to fossil fuels and sustainable societies will always be in demand," he said.

Passionate people. Those who have the ability to bring a unique personal touch to "vanilla" jobs will keep them safe from the threat of outsourcing.

Great adapters. Friedman said the winners in the future job market will be those who make quick changes. He said it's like training for the Olympics without knowing what sport you'll compete in.

Once the unquestioned leader in technology, he said, America won't win this race by default, only by understanding the new flat world and becoming part of it.”

Security is everyone's business

Security is everyone’s business.

In this era of online information, every one of us who has a responsibility to work student, employee, alumni and donor information has an ethical standard to meet. We must protect that data from those who might want to steal it. We need to establish good software security to ensure that only those who have a legitimate need to see that information can. We need to train people on the latest schemes of digital pick-pocketing.

Here’s the rub. Those of us in the technology field can establish pretty strong security around data and information. The weak link tends to be with individuals. Cases in point.

A student registers for class on a public cluster computer. They forget to log out. Their academic and personal record is there for the next person to see.

A faculty member posts grades to the wall with SSNs matched with grades. The paper is stolen.

A staff person in a student service office travels to a conference. Their laptop computer is stolen. It turns out that laptop has hundreds of reports in Excel pertaining to student financial aid and family incomes.

I don’t need to go on, there are headlines every week about new types of security and information breaches.

But now that you know, it is incumbent upon you to heed the warning. Be smart, do not travel or store private data on anything mobile. You have our peoples’ trust in your hands.

Grace under pressure

You learn a lot about people when they have to perform under pressure. I see this periodically in IT. We recently had a power outage in our main data center and workspace. When power is lost, we have only so much time to make a determination as to whether or not to bring our systems down slowly. Backup power comes on immediately, but it is only good for an hour.

Our people know the drill. They work under pressure often, mostly helping with small disasters, like lost files, a bad disk drive or corrupted data. This is good training for when the big events occur. Those who shine keep their wits about them, gathering information, contributing information and knowing what to do without asking.

Our people did very well in this recent event. Three electricians were flash burned in the basement as they were attempting to assess the problem. Our guys were first on the scene and were very helpful. Everyone seemed to know what to do.

And then the Plymouth Fire & Rescue arrived. We watched them take over the scene and followed their lead.

No one likes to have to work under duress, but knowing that we, and our precious information systems, are surrounded by capable experts should be a comfort to us all.

More on the future of IT Professionals

We in the field need to have our feelers out on where our careers are going. We need to continually earn our keep in this environment. This week's ComputerWorld has a Special Report on the IT Profession: 2010. It's worth a read. Here are some summary points I pulled from these and other articles.

· The IT worker of the future will be more of a versatilist. They'll need to know more and more about the business context. They'll need skills more than just those at the keyboard. They'll need to be able to develop relationships with business units, develop and communicate ideas, maybe present. They'll need to be active problem-solvers, individually and in groups. They will need to be perpetual learners. This isn't a career for wallflowers. We need movers and shakers. ITS students, heed notice. You, my friends, will be leading us in another decade or two.

Here's another quip:

Line Between Business and IT Blurs.

"The IT department will still exist, but the sharpest tech workers will move effortlessly between IT and business units.

As more CIOs move toward business and IT alignment over the next several years, the makeup and structure of IT will change. IT and business unit employees will work more closely together -- and in some cases, interchangeably.

But today's technology leaders say this trend doesn't signal an end to the independent IT department, which still plays a critical role in companies by providing the structure, expertise and continuity needed to build and maintain a strong infrastructure." ComputerWorld July 17, 2006