(CI)On-boarding: 90-Day Check-In

“What will your first 90 days look like?” The trusty ol’ standby interview question comes to life. Here we are. The typical answer involves learning the people, learning the campus, identifying what’s excellent through what needs work then prioritization, prioritization, prioritization. If you Google the timeframe, you’ll find it’s often called the Orientation and/or Evaluation period. And it is. For the employer, employee and overall workplace. How you introduce yourself matters.

So here I am. Slightly over 90 days in at the University of Tulsa. Yesterday mid-afternoon at work I had that unmistakable feeling of peace, ease and everything is falling into place. I even found a minute or two to open Twitter (@CIOPaige) and set up a tweet to that effect. I then started looking for a fun, applicable gif to add and then it struck me, “Don’t jinx this!” Let’s wait until everything actually falls into actual place to make such a bold statement. So I deleted. Closed it down. Moved on.

What gives me this sudden sense of peace? A few things and they tie in directly to the outcome of my first 90 days.

It’s a weird, yet wondrous time

I’m no longer a new hire. Meanwhile I’m not even close to being a veteran. For me pace-wise this means I can slow my roll and deliberately target my interactions. The first few months you’re out there – meeting, greeting, learning, listening. While the plan is to do that forever, now, if you’ve onboarded strongly, you can actually start planning to do ‘the big things’. You onboarding path has no doubt been littered with quick wins, meaningful interactions, advocating for others’ ideas that have been spinning and pushing others from behind. Now the theory will turn into planning, then practice. Never forget, however, I estimate a honeymoon period in a leadership position to be approximately two years. I’m already 12.5% through my honeymoon period. (insert panic noise)

Nice to meet you! and you! and you!

Apparently my predecessor was less vendor-receptive that I am. Trust me, I get it. But I also recognize the power of strong, reciprocal vendor-as-partner relationships, as showcased in a previous post. I feel like I have met every vendor in this hemisphere within the past 90 days, and I’m geared up to meet more. That’s not the accomplishment. The accomplishment is now knowing who to call external to the institution to get the services we need. There’s a feeling of helplessness when you join a new university. Your familiar contacts are gone. New folks don’t yet understand your language and requests. It can be debilitating even if your new landscape is in tip-top shape! Of course it never is. There’s always work to do, needed yesterday.


Not quite as monumental as the Houston problem announcement, but it feels good to have a written plan. A plan based on learning, matching IT strategy to university goals, alignment with faculty and students, a future with a strong team, stronger alliances and overarching excitement to significantly improve. The plan has been presented as a whole but scalable across fiscal years and it is relentlessly prioritized*. Always asterisk priorities, knowing they could (will) change over time especially if the plan spans more than a year. Mostly, the plan has been approved. In less than three days, folks! It’s entirely because I LISTENED. Remember that.

Everyone’s first 90 days in a new position is unique. As I left my previous institution, a co-worker gifted me with a book dedicated to those first 90 days. Naturally, given my general pace and engagement, I just reviewed the table of contents yesterday. (Sounds about right.) What I realized is that I started on and executed on the strategies listed within my first two weeks. And subsequently accomplished much more than ‘getting up to speed’. That doesn’t mean I’m an exceptional on-boarder. It simply means I molded to fit the needs of this particular institution, at this time, with the right drive. And seamless transition for me is like a great salsa – it’s a building heat. Each layer matters. And without a solid layer each time, what you build will inevitably crumble. Listen. Learn. Think. Build the plan. I may go faster but it’s only because I’ve now done this three times. Your pace is the exact right pace – otherwise, they wouldn’t have chosen it! Now enjoy the ride!