Skill: Critical Thinking
Critical thinking and problem solving are at the heart of any IT position. In fact, they are vital to just about any position and situation. Problems, or opportunities to learn as I lake to rebrand them, come in every imaginable form and fashion and sometimes in ways that I never could have imagined. They can present themselves as hardware or software failures, other times they are simply a need to rethink a process or configuration.
Whether it's reconfiguring the employee structure to better provide technical support or completely rebuilding the solar power system for a time lapse camera system or building a deck on my house, critical thinking and problem solving are skills often employed.
Every day I collaborate with any number of people: my tech team, other IT and Tech Directors across Colorado and particularly in the northwest region, and the teams at Platte Basin Timelapse and the Headwaters Center. I also collaborate with companies on various projects here in the district. There is no way to be productive in this world anymore without collaborative work.
I recently teamed with a networking company to initiate and complete a 100% rip-and-replace of the wired and wireless networks. Although I was told it would take a team of people more than two weeks to complete, two of us managed to finish the majority of the work in a little more than three days. Critical systems were up and running for the staff on Monday morning. Few even realized that such an extensive change had even taken place.
Few things on this earth change as rapidly or frequently as technology. The standard one day is obsolete the next.
When I started with the district, we had a very large inventory of desktop computers and some 23 servers. There were two wireless access points in one building and six employees used laptops.
Today, very little that we do is the same. There are fewer than 50 desktops with over 1500 laptops (including over 1300 Chromebooks) and a single server. SaaS has replaced in-house and server-based applications. The movement of data between services is automated and there is still change on the horizon. My tech team has made technology and information productive, reliable and indispensable: as it should be.
In fourteen years as the IT Director, one aspect has remained constant: tech is an island unto itself. We are rarely consulted or involved in any decision making processes, yet we are relied upon in some way by every user; every student, every staff, many parents. As a result, we have been forced to, and been allowed to forge our own path.
My team and I have been consistent as well in taking the initiative and being prepared with systems in place before they are deemed needed or necessary by others in the district. The wireless network was ready before we went 1:1. Automated data populations, online forms, security systems, and so many other systems and processes were envisioned and implemented before most users even saw the need.
Of all of the skills that I use daily, communication is far and away the most utilized and probably the most important. I have guesstimated that some 70% of the role of IT Director is politics and at least 70% percent of that is communication.
I communicate with the team and with "customers" through the ticketing system, phone, IM, and email. I craft letters, articles, and emails to the entire staff and the community. I present to the school board, staffs, the community, and other entities. I've spoken on the radio and television.
My office is a hub of constant communication that has to be effective. Communication is a skill that I wield confidently, yet consistently work to improve.
I once worked in a fishing lodge in western Colorado and learned to fly fish there. I spent quite a lot of time on the White River and became very familiar with its seasonal rhythms. A few years later I bought a raft and spent many days over many seasons on the upper Colorado River and noticed that it wasn't as predictable as the White. I wondered why.
My curiosity led me upriver to the Colorado Big Thompson and Denver Water projects. I learned all about water diversions, not only in Grand County but all over the state.
A few years after that I met Mike Forsberg and Mike Ferrell, the founders of the Platte Basin Timelapse project. I explained to them what I had learned about water diversions and was soon after offered a position on the PBT team.