Email account ✓
Logged into systems ✓
Parking permit ✓
ID card in hand ✓
Located morning commute coffee ✓
Found several ‘family favorite’ places already ✓
It’s official! I’m two weeks in as the Vice President for IT and CIO at a new institution. For context, after ten years in roles of increasing responsibility within business/industry, I embarked on the perpetual journey that is higher education. As this isn’t my first rodeo entering as tech top dog and ’tis the season for deliberating career moves, I’ve noticed my personal entry tactics refined a bit so thought I’d share.
Top Tips for First Two Weeks
- Prior to arrival, prepare. Study up on this new-to-you environment. Externally, re-review rankings, social media presence and dialogue, news, identify local ‘cast of characters’, set Google Alerts to keep learning. Re-review? Surely you did this prior to or at a minimum during the application process. Do it all again. Also, now that the interview process is firmly planted in your rearview, reflect again on what you heard (and sensed!) as you most likely met with a large pool of leadership and campus team members. Read between the lines on the treasure trove of knowledge that has already been shared with you. Somewhere in the middle of what your heard and what you sensed is the sweet spot. Start mapping out your path, recognizing it will certainly morph over time. This is called continuously learning your business.
Walk in day one with a plan of action, an initial optimum organizational mockup, a woefully premature strategy on how to align IT with the overarching mission and vision. Note: you will endlessly revamp this roadmap over the course of your tenure to remain lockstep with institutional goals.
- Pace yourself. There’s neither benefit nor reward for self-imposed exhaustion. If you meet twenty critical players in one day, you’re not building authentic, sustainable relationships. Rather, you’re setting unrealistic expectations and coming across as frenzied and, frankly, disconnected. Marathon calendaring, while possibly self-satisfying (whew look at how much coverage I accomplished!) is largely ineffective and short-sighted. My first ‘official’ two weeks ends within the next 48 hours, however within my first ten work days I have been privileged enough to meet with my leadership team, my boss, meet/great with campus IT, Admissions, Diversity/Inclusion, 1-2 Deans, Apple (to pursue diversification of campus tech support with a quickness), HR, Marketing/Communications, General Counsel, Campus Security, Dean of Students office, the ‘Queen Bees’ and Faculty Senate and committee leadership. I’ve also squeezed in 101-style training sessions on budget and procurement. That sounds like quite a bit, however each meeting was limited to 30 minutes (very few ran over) and no more than 2-3 meetings a day, nicely padded with time for deliberation and introspection.
Me: Marathon calendaring upon new job entry is ineffective and short-sighted.
Also me: 100% been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.
- Execute on quick wins, prioritize everything else and fortheloveofgod document everything. Thanks to my arts and science-y liberal arts core, technology leadership is owning the privilege of crafting a story. The most fun part of the job for me is telling the story. Be the leader that wants the campus to truly understand ‘the why’. With understanding comes support and advocacy. In technology, possibly more than any other industry, what we can do makes a difference. We have the power to deliver, remove boundaries, improve inclusion, eliminate gaps, reduce duplication of efforts, rapidly hone efficiency. Our story is important to tell. The role we play is critical in delivery. The identification of what needs to be done is only outweighed in importance by the plan on how to get there. If a task-level improvement can be accomplished quickly, knock it out. Otherwise, make it part of your plan. Both are critical to your story.
Your master plan begins…whoops! It’s already started.
- Find your fuel and use it. Things that can be stressful: starting a new job, developing a plan to address concerns big and small, moving your family, selling a home, making sense of the nonsensical, being kind and gracious throughout change. Everything that comes with a new opportunity, regardless of its level of amazing and your personal degree of thankful, every step has its challenges. Find the fuel that drives your inner momentum. Great example and my latest favorite moment, this was posted after leaving my last institution as I started my new one:This propelled me through my first two weeks, bolstered my resolve and helped me find clarity and focus. A simple, unexpected expression of appreciation. My fuel. I know what to do. I’ve done it. And I’ve done it well. I also know that fuel is fleeting. Soon I will make a misstep and be on the lookout for my next catalyst. But for now, my velocity is level: go time.
In closing, not a tip but a forever directive: enjoy your moments. Every new everything is a learning experience – new job, new friend, new peer, new project, new timeline, new burger joint, everything. If you can’t find the learning opportunity, look deeper. You will mess up. Own those moments, be accountable and learn from it. Do something right? Own those moments too and learn from them. Don’t rest on any laurels; use those laurels instead for the fuel they can be.
For those wondering how I’m doing? I share with a tone of surprise-slash-abandonment, this move just feels right. I’m always enthused to experience a new environment. It’s exciting, unexpected and full of new challenges. This time, however, within my first two weeks I’ve experienced a complete denouement where experiential puzzle pieces are simply falling into place. Moments of hyper-awareness: WOW, I experienced that for this. So how am I? Deep down I feel like this very well may be my last ‘first two weeks’ for a long time. Unfamiliar internal vibe, but I think I’ll embrace it! Will also try to follow-up with my first 30-, 60-, then 90- days.