This is my last night in Memphis, where the 2012 SIGUCCS Conference concluded earlier today. It’s been a really fascinating conference, and an especially satisfying experience since I am this year’s treasurer. It’s been 18 months of planning and the work of a lot of people that led to a great and productive event.
One theme came up repeatedly. More than simply sharing knowledge, a great number of the line staff – directly interacting with students, faculty and staff – and first tier managers demonstrated what I can only describe as an “intense thirst” for professional development guidance. The emphasis has always been on networking and sharing information. It has always been about building a community facing similar challenges and coming together to find meaningful solutions. But there was a twist this year, and it was distinct and pronounced.
One session in particular, by Lucas Friedrichsen from Oregon State and Mo Nishiyama (@synthcat) from Oregon Health and Science University, sparked a number of thoughts. Lucas and Mo, fundamentally, were discussing the challenges of remaining productive at one’s work, maintaining a healthy work/life balance, yet still obtaining and making use of the professional development opportunities needed to keep advancing in one’s career. At the core was, I think, the same topic I’d been seeing elsewhere – these are professionals that have done good work, have built up their portfolios/resumes/skills, and are wanting new challenges (whether that means a new job or a new set of responsibilities is different from person to person, but it’s still about growth). During the discussion and through the twitter backchannel the idea of a “personal strategic plan” occurred to me.
Most likely, there is a strategic plan for your institution. Usually, the “official,” public one is something along the lines of “we strive to be awesome, using many of the awesome traits we possess, and will also care about the environment.” In other words, fairly generic. At Menlo College, where we are drafting our next strategic plan, we have begun with an internal document that is much more specific. The section for the Office of Information Technology is broken into 7 sections, each of which has at least 10 specific goals, and every goal has a timeline. This is the kind of document that is actually useful and that translates into tactics. Every time we consider a technology or other solution, it must fit in with this plan. If it does conflict, then we will ask why and whether we should redesign our goals (because sometimes something out of band can in fact be a good idea and we should keep an open mind).
Why shouldn’t one have a personal one, as well? A strategic plan about how to get to various points in one’s career on a certain timeline. This would give us a sense of timing, a context for decision-making, and, most importantly, a path that one can keep an eye on and stay relatively close to over time. This path would then give us milestones for achieving specific goals.