Welcome to The Higher Edge Podcast!
March 7, 2023

The Accidental IT Leader

Some in higher ed assume that colleges and university information technology departments are simply tasked with fixing computer glitches and resetting passwords. But IT does far more than just “keep the lights running.” IT leaders are pioneering innova...

Some in higher ed assume that colleges and university information technology departments are simply tasked with fixing computer glitches and resetting passwords. But IT does far more than just “keep the lights running.” IT leaders are pioneering innovation in real-time, even if it means ruffling a few feathers along the way.

In this episode, we’re joined by Dave Johnston, Director of Information Technology at Mendocino College, and Andy Specht, Director of Information Technology Services at Allen Hancock College.

Dave and Andy talk about their first 90 days in IT leadership roles, keeping the human connection in technology, and their upcoming presentation at the CISOA 2023 Technology Summit.

Join us as we discuss:


- Becoming an accidental IT leader through attrition (2:22)

- Getting colleagues and cabinet members on board in innovation (20:06)

- An intentional focus on advancing projects with “10% time” (23:21)

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:


- CISOA 2023 Technology Summit

- Dave Johnston

- djohnston@mendocino.edu

- Mendocino College

- Andy Specht

- aspecht@hancockcollege.edu

- Allen Hancock College

To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website or search for The Higher Edge in your favorite podcast player.


[00:00:08] Announcer: Welcome to The Higher Edge, a podcast for the brightest minds in higher education. Hear from the change makers and rule breaks that are driving meaningful, impactful change for colleges and universities across the country. From improving operations to supporting student success. These are the stories that give you The Higher Edge.

[00:00:29] And now your host, Brendan Aldrich. 

[00:00:33] Brendan Aldrich: Hey everyone, and welcome to The Higher Edge. I'm Brendan Aldrich and I'm here today with Andy Spect and Dave Johnston. Andy is the Director of Information Technology Services at Allen Hancock College, located in the amazing city of Santa Maria, California. Located in Northern Santa Barbara County along California Central coast region.

[00:00:53] This is an area that is home to an increasing number of vineyards and wineries and winemakers. In fact, [00:01:00] Allen Hancock College operates one of the very few bonded wineries on a California college campus. It's a facility that operates both as a commercial enterprise and an important educational platform for students in the industry and not to let fans of Yellowstone down.

[00:01:16] I can confirm there are in fact also a number of cattle ranchers that call Santa Maria home now, Dave Johns. Is the Director of Information Technology for Mendocino College in Ukiah, California, located north of San Francisco Ukiah, which I believe means Deep Valley in Hocon. The language spoken by the Pomo people of the Russian River Valley is located within Rancho Ukiah, one of the several Spanish colonial land grants in what they're colonists originally called Alta ca.

[00:01:46] The Mendocino Lake Community College District was formed in September of 1972, and for 50 years now, has been serving a rich and vibrant community of 51 towns and cities, along with 14 federally recognized Native [00:02:00] American ranch areas and reservations. Andy and Dave are working within the California Community Colleges to build information technology organizations that serve their institutions and communi.

[00:02:11] Even if their path to doing so may have taken some interesting turns. In fact, they are co-presenting this week at the California Community College's Annual Tech Conference with a session entitled The Accidental IT Leader, Andy. Dave, welcome and thanks for joining us here on the Higher Edge. Thank you, Brendan.

[00:02:31] Thanks 

[00:02:31] Dave Johnston: for 

[00:02:31] Brendan Aldrich: having us, guys. First of all the title of your session, the Accidental IT Leader tell us how that came. 

[00:02:39] Andy Specht: So this title came to mind when I decided I wanted to do a presentation on IT leadership and I was reflecting on my own path and I thought of a book I read back in the day when I was first learning SQL and database work called the Accidental dba.[00:03:00] 

[00:03:00] And you know, it's inspired by the situation that a lot of people in the database world find themselves in. , they start with a job as a developer or something else. And then one day someone retires, someone quits, someone discovers a database, and you're suddenly a dba. You're in charge of this database that you never intended to be in charge of, but it's your baby.

[00:03:24] And it's something for you to manage from that point forward. So, I was thinking my own path to it, leadership. Similarly accidental where, you know, I didn't set out to become an A, a CSO CTO in the California Community College system, but one day it happened. Very nice. 

[00:03:45] Brendan Aldrich: And cso, which has a double meaning a lot of people think of it as Chief Information Security Officer, both in the California Community Colleges, that's the chief information systems.

[00:03:56] Andy Specht: Yeah, it's really weird. I honestly don't know why we do it. I'll just say c [00:04:00] t o and go from there. Oh maybe we can get that changed to 

[00:04:03] Brendan Aldrich: happen. And Andy, as the chief Technology officer for Allen Hancock you do report to the president, so you are in those conversations? That's 

[00:04:11] Andy Specht: correct.

[00:04:12] In at Hancock, I'm a cabinet member and, you know, I have weekly meetings with the president and really it's an interesting relat. , it's one thing like Dave mentioned. You don't wanna, you don't wanna surprise your boss and you wanna keep your boss informed. And that certainly holds true when your boss is a president.

[00:04:32] So making sure that they are aware of anything that might cause issues, that will cause someone to leap frog up to the president and start having conversations. So those kinds of things are important to discuss and keep the president. 

[00:04:47] Brendan Aldrich: and then mention if you could a little something about what it's like in your role when you're in the cabinet meeting that you are you're hearing what these other areas like the provost and student success and enrollment management are doing.

[00:04:58] And I imagine that does give you an opportunity to [00:05:00] think about how does technology play in supporting that. 

[00:05:04] Andy Specht: Yeah. It is nice to be in the cabinet meetings cuz I, we often hear. surprise technology initiatives where some part of the college found a bunch of funding and then show up one day with a software for you to implement or hardware for you to set up some, you know?

[00:05:21] But it still happens here. It still happens here even when you are at these meetings and there's no way to to avoid avoided entirely, but it does help to know what kinds of things are the priorities at the college and make sure. You get everyone else on board with key IT infrastructure, operational priorities, but also you find a way to integrate it into the strategic in strategic initiatives of the college.

[00:05:51] Perfect. And Dave? 

[00:05:53] Dave Johnston: Yeah, so for me it was, it's not as much accidental as it was. It took a long time. So I applied for this [00:06:00] position about 25 years ago, or actually I applied for this position about 28 years. And I was selected, and unfortunately at the time, the salary was very poor. And so I turned down the position.

[00:06:11] They brought in one of their internal candidates. And of course, you know, irony I'm a big fan of I r d. Six months later they did a salary reclass and the salary went up $25,000 a year. So I had to wait 25 years for that person to retire. And so I got a chance to apply again. And fortunately this time I was I was selected.

[00:06:30] And the salary looked better. So I was able to accept the position and it was a nice change for me because I had been working in San Jose during the week and coming home on the weekend, so I got a chance to sleep in my own bed every night. 

[00:06:40] Brendan Aldrich: Well, and both of your institutions are also a little bit different from each other is that right?

[00:06:46] Dave Johnston: Absolutely. I'm a small rural college. We're, you know, two hours away from San Francisco up in the Redwoods. And so it's a, you know, I have a small IT team, about nine people, right. A lot, probably different picture than what Andy sees on his side. [00:07:00] 

[00:07:00] Andy Specht: Yeah. We're also a single college district at Allen Hancock College.

[00:07:04] It's sort of medium sized and you know, as far as our staffing goes we have around 20 its employees and our campus, you know, it's sort of rural, sort of not, it's in, it's one of those interesting areas of California. , you know, one block you have strawberries, another block you have cattle, and then you have urban environments right next to it.

[00:07:29] Brendan Aldrich: And Allen Hancock is located because of that in kind of an interesting area where you're right between Northern Santa Barbara County and San Lu Obispo, for example. 

[00:07:37] Andy Specht: Yeah. And if you like trivia it's important to know that Santa Maria is the largest city in Santa Barbara. Don't tell that to S B C

[00:07:48] Brendan Aldrich: And I love that you're gonna be talking about the Accidental IT leader at the SISA conference that's happening this week. And I really love that difference. And regardless of whether or not this is a role you [00:08:00] suddenly found yourself in like in your case Andy or Dave, a role that you were coming back to a couple of decades later, that you then find yourself in this role and needing to sort of figure out how you're going to move forward in a way that's beneficial for the institu.

[00:08:12] Now when you both found yourselves in that role I know when you start a role, it's not uncommon for people to talk about the first 90 days. In fact I know that there's a number of books and articles on that subject. As professionals finding yourself in a new role, what were your first 90 days like?

[00:08:28] Andy Specht: When I was starting, it was in, it was July 1st, 2018, and it was also the same day that we were launching a new hr, payroll and finance. and I found out that I was going to be the Interim IT director on a maybe a Thursday, and then I was starting on a Monday in that position. So for me, I think I had the advantage of very low expectations coming into that [00:09:00] position.

[00:09:01] You know, there's a lot of other things going. . My job at that point was really just to keep the lights on, keep things moving, keep the projects in progress, going, make sure bills get paid. And the other thing that I found very valuable in those first 90 days was taking the time to assess where things were at.

[00:09:22] You know, have conversations with people both inside my department and outside my department, figure out where we need to. Directing resources in the future where we need to start planning new projects and really take those first 90 days to get oriented and plan things out from there. And Dave, so I 

[00:09:40] Dave Johnston: actually had a long history with the college.

[00:09:42] I was a student here in the eighties and adjunct faculty in the nineties, but I was coming in, you know, after not having been here for quite a while. So for me I focused a lot of my time initially like Andy, on having those conversations. I met with each of my. individually, kind of interviewed them to find out where they felt things were, [00:10:00] where our, you know, where the positive things were, where the things were that we needed to pay more attention on.

[00:10:04] And so I thought that was a really valuable process. And through that I came out of that with a number of stories. My team was glad to tell me their stories, one of which was that when we were looking, I guess in e r p back in about 2000 in California, most of the colleges either have Ellucian Banner or Ellucian colleague.

[00:10:23] And so they were looking at both of those solutions. At the time, they were focused really on Ellucian banner, but then the HR and fiscal teams came forward and said, well, if you switched and go with would go with Ban with Colleague, then we will come with you. They have been on separate systems previously, and so when that decision was made and they decided to move forward with colleague, then the fiscal and HR decided not to go after.

[00:10:46] And so that is still a pain point here in the college. I heard that story many times. Coming in my first day was really interesting too because my boss was, at the time, the interim president, and so she had also been the interim or acting c [00:11:00] chief Information Systems officer. So she had a stack of things to hand me.

[00:11:04] So we were going through an accreditation. So there was a document that I had to do the tech, the technology part of. She handed me our expired tech plan. That was had been expired, I think about three years. So wanted to get a copy, get that updated before the accreditation. And so there were a number of things that she handed me that first day.

[00:11:21] She was very happy to pass 

[00:11:22] Brendan Aldrich: off . I could imagine. Now, in your first 90 days I always think about how, you know, as you mentioned you're getting the stories from your team. You're hearing a little bit about it, but they're also getting to know you as well. And I know that sometimes people can be more reactionary or sometimes try to interpret like the worst interpretation.

[00:11:40] Like, I wonder if they mean this because you know, they don't know you that well. So how much of those first 90 days is also. Your team getting to know you and the rest of the college. I think for me 

[00:11:51] Dave Johnston: that was very important because I was coming in from the outside and although they may have heard rumors about me or may have heard stories they really didn't know me.

[00:11:59] And so I [00:12:00] thought it was important to really spend meeting with each person individually helping them through some of those challenges they were having. And certainly to get out in the rest of the community in the college community. And we put my peers and with the leader. So I spent a lot of that 90 days definitely out there having those conversations in kitty, letting people get to know me and know what I was thinking and where my, where I was 

[00:12:22] Andy Specht: hoping to go.

[00:12:23] It's always interesting moving from being coworkers or colleagues with people to then being their direct supervisor. And that was the situation that I was in, and I think overall it, it went well. I think in that kind of situation, you just recognize it's gonna. You're gonna definitely be uncomfortable with it, and it might be a little uncomfortable to the people you worked with, but it's less uncomfortable for them than you might think.

[00:12:52] Just give it some time to feel out what your role is and how they relate to you and how they interact with [00:13:00] you, and it'll sort of level out again in the end and you'll find it equilibrium. 

[00:13:06] Brendan Aldrich: So you've spent the first 90 days you've gotta know your teams, they've gotta know you, the people that you're going to be interacting with, your constituents around the college, and now you're getting past your first 90 days.

[00:13:16] So I know there's the idea of understanding the institution and the needs in order to drive value, but I wonder if I might ask you both about the idea of ruffling feathers. You know, on one side is the idea that, especially in it, you deliver what's needed and sometimes really desperately needed.

[00:13:32] And on the other is the idea that what's needed might not be what people are quite ready for. So what are your perspectives on the idea of ruffling feathers? 

[00:13:43] Andy Specht: I would say that's where having these convers. In those first 90 days is really valuable, and especially conversations with your own boss, whoever that is, the college president, VP of admin, or finance.

[00:13:56] It's common for these kinds of positions. In my case, I report directly to the [00:14:00] president, but if you see a need for important technical change, and you know it will ruffle some feathers. You want to have a conversation with your boss, explain what the change is, why we're making that change. And make sure that your boss is on board with that.

[00:14:19] One thing that happened for us here is that we started rolling out and requiring multifactor authentication for employees. And it was a gradual process and we knew that there was a chorus, be some people would have concerns about this and have questions, but my boss understood the importance of this.

[00:14:43] Keeping the institution running and secure and having that support was really important for feeling like we could go forward with making these important changes. 

[00:14:53] Dave Johnston: Yeah, and I'm, I ended up looking for some quick wins. I felt like I wanted, especially to show my team that I had listened to the [00:15:00] things that they had told me about.

[00:15:01] And so for example, one of those was there was a keypad on the front door of our office that nobody knew the combination to, and so you couldn't even come in and talk to the, it. You had to go to the door and kind of knock, and hopefully they'll let you in. And so one of the first things I did was I got rid of that keypad.

[00:15:17] So now people can come into the office and can talk to us and people, in fact, three years later, people are still surprised that the door is open. They'll come to the door, they'll still knock just because we've trained them over the pre preceding years to do that. And we did a number of other things like a help desk system and some of the little things that, that I think.

[00:15:34] Let people see, you know, some changes in the beginning. Saw some progress without, you know, going into those areas where we're gonna ruffle feathers. 

[00:15:42] Andy Specht: It's funny, Dave mentioned the the keypad issue cuz that's something we've ran into here just in the last few months. It seems such like, it's such a basic thing to keep your help desk open and accessible and welcoming and ultimately we moved our help desk to the library.[00:16:00] 

[00:16:00] So that was another way to tackle. 

[00:16:03] Brendan Aldrich: Well, and I think, and what you're getting to is really opening the teams up to the organization because I, I think we all agree the politics of an organization are a real thing When you want to introduce change I remember I got some advice I received from my dad about working with people who are or may seem to be real adversaries to your plan, which was to try and bring them into the conversation and make them part of the programs you're leading.

[00:16:25] What has your experience been? I think having 

[00:16:28] Dave Johnston: some, you know, those individual conversations to gather the issues up front are really helpful. And then, you know, getting them outta the open before you end up, you know, going into a meeting or being surprised with things and so kind of finding out that history.

[00:16:41] My boss, fortunately, has been with the college a long time, and so she has perspectives that, you know, they're really valuable to me in knowing, okay, this is where the skeletons are buried. This is where, you know, 10 years ago this was a big issue. Getting that information and having that, those discussions up front with the people involved I think is helpful.[00:17:00] 

[00:17:00] Hey, 

[00:17:00] Brendan Aldrich: for everyone listening, hang tight. We're gonna take a quick break to hear from our sponsor and we'll be back in just one minute.

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[00:18:10] Brendan Aldrich: Thanks so much for listening to our sponsor. Let's get back to the show. 

[00:18:14] Andy Specht: Definitely do your work upfront. Have those convers. Sort of informally to start with test the waters.

[00:18:21] And I've found that sometimes when we've been bringing technical changes or technical projects and that there were concerns, the concerns ultimately weren't technical in nature. It was something about process or like Dave mentioned, knowing the history, there might be some sort of adjacent conflict that happened.

[00:18:43] 20 years ago could be before you were born even, who knows? And it's still, there's still people at the institution that wanna make sure it doesn't happen again. So, know the history and then look, try to find the real root cause for, you know, where these concerns are. And more [00:19:00] often than not, I think it's a processor people issue.

[00:19:05] Dave Johnston: I think two people, they want to feel involved, and I think sometimes we make decisions that are good technical decisions, but we forget about the people that are gonna be impacted by it. And so I think having people feel that they were involved in the process, I think is really helpful too. 

[00:19:21] Brendan Aldrich: You know, and I love that you mentioned it gets us into something else that we had been talking about before, which was meetings sometimes seen as the bane of all existence.

[00:19:28] I remember my stepdad actually was the one telling me that if I were walking into a meeting where a decision was going to made and I hadn't put in the work ahead of that meeting to know what the outcome was going to be, then it probably wasn't going to be a decision that I liked. It was his way of saying that real work.

[00:19:43] and I know this can be controversial to some people, but the real work happens outside of those meetings, and those meetings are a way to make sure that we've all shared the consensus or to work out different problems as opposed to work out every detail from the beginning. What do you think? [00:20:00] 

[00:20:00] Andy Specht: Yeah I think that's I've heard that advice too, and it's something that I've thought about and often tried to implement, making sure I'm coming prepared to meetings.

[00:20:10] that I'm in a position to guide things in the direction that, that will make sense. But I've also sort of run into the opposite phenomenon, where if you're too prepared, then sometimes that's suspicious. People say, oh, you know, this was decided in cabinet or decided by some secret meeting that we weren't a part of.

[00:20:31] So it, it's tricky. A, and it's something where I found just communicating as much as possible in as many venues as possible and having as many conversations as possible is really the best way. When you have anything that's an important or sensitive project, just take it to every council or committee that will have you take it to the students, take it to the unions, whoever, and just make sure that everyone has a [00:21:00] chance to talk it out with.

[00:21:02] Kind 

[00:21:02] Brendan Aldrich: of like, in the early video gaming days, we used to say save early, save. Often it's communicate early, communicate often. 

[00:21:10] Dave Johnston: Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree. I think that, you know, doing that legwork before you get into those meetings is really valuable so that you know what those issues are gonna be and be prepared to address them.

[00:21:21] Have the answers to those questions. As much as you can know before you go to a meeting, cuz there's always something new comes up at the last moment. I think also laying the groundwork early in the meeting. So as you come in to present the issue to kind of fit into your initial discussions some of the solutions you have to some of those issues so that people are kind of, Feeling like, okay, you did think about the things I was concerned about and you have those incorporated into what you're proposing, 

[00:21:48] Brendan Aldrich: especially when the people that you're engaging those conversations with come from a lot of different perspectives and backgrounds, including which can take on an entirely new dimension in higher education when you talk about unions and working with [00:22:00] collective bargaining agreements.

[00:22:03] Yeah, and 

[00:22:03] Andy Specht: I think sometimes our colleagues will view unions as. The, these forces that will stop you from doing anything that will stop you from managing. And I don't think that's correct. I think one, it's key to know the relevant collective bargaining agreements, read through 'em every part of it that seems like it's not important.

[00:22:25] We'll eventually be important sometime. So just know roughly what's in there. Know where to find things and, you know, work through, know the processes and work through them. So if you. Employees on your team that aren't working up at the level that you're expecting and you need to work through the disciplinary process or work through a process to improve their performance.

[00:22:49] Your union contract probably has a method to do that. Just make sure you understand it. You have the discipline and patience to follow it and go from. 

[00:22:59] Brendan Aldrich: I love [00:23:00] that perspective. That's the idea that you're right, that so many people can see unions as the, you know, let's fight the machine. Let's stop management from doing anything.

[00:23:06] And it's not really that it, I like the way that you described as a collective set of agreed upon rules about how we're going to work together is really what that is. 

[00:23:15] Andy Specht: Yeah. I mean, ultimately it's a collective bargaining agreement and the district agreed to these terms. So it's not a bunch of rules that your employees made up.

[00:23:25] A bunch of rules agreed to by everyone at the district. 

[00:23:28] Dave Johnston: I think it's important too that you you involve your human resources team because they know those contracts better than you ever will and they're really, you know, good advisors on going through anything like that. They have some good resources 

[00:23:40] Brendan Aldrich: to support you.

[00:23:41] And then Dave, you and I have also talked about there's something that, that they do at Google, which I call the 10% Time, which I know you've always been a fan of, and you've talked about with your team. Can you describe a little bit, Sure. 

[00:23:52] Dave Johnston: Absolutely. I think at it, we all have a list of projects that we will never get to, or at least it seems like we'll never get to.

[00:23:59] And [00:24:00] typically those are things that would either save us time or save other people time, make processes more efficient. And so one of the things that I did is I came in after having met with my team, was we talked about that idea of Google 10% time where you take four hours out of your 40 hour week and you try to work on those projects you work.

[00:24:17] Things that will make your life easier, make other people's lives easier and I'll be the first to admit, I have not been super successful at that. It's a goal that we're striving to, but we continue to work on that because typically you're in the firefighting mode. You're always dealing with, you know, the flaming bowling balls or whatever else you're dealing with.

[00:24:34] And it, so it's difficult to curve out that time. But when I keep pushing for that, that if you can carve out that time, you can make some incredible things. 

[00:24:43] Brendan Aldrich: and I believe over at Google, it was some of their biggest projects have absolutely were created by their employees and engineers that were working on those kind of special passion projects during that 10% time.

[00:24:55] Absolutely. Hey guys, one of the big topics in [00:25:00] information technology centers around the role of it within the institution. There are some institutions that feel that it is a more of a service organization that supports the really critical activity. So keeping the lights on the network, running the data secure.

[00:25:14] and there are others that treat it as more of a innovation partner asking how technology supports the other strategic initiatives without the, within the institution. What has been your experience and what are your thoughts on those ideas? 

[00:25:29] Dave Johnston: Yeah. I think the other challenge in it is reporting. I know in my case, I report to a vice president of administrative services, so I am not in those cabinet meetings when those kind of conversations happen.

[00:25:39] Typical. . So I appreciate that she is there and I'm sharing with her the projects we're working on so that she's not surprised with anything that comes up for her. And then she's also keeping me in the loop on things that are potentially happening as an institution that haven't quite made their way to it yet.

[00:25:55] You know, typ very frequently we end up, you know, hearing on the day something is supposed to [00:26:00] launch. Oh, by the way, we're doing this new thing and we didn't talk to you about it, but but fortunately I have been, I have a really good boss. Helps to take care of me and project our team. The other thing that I really have focused on is I share cybersecurity horror stories anytime that any of our other institutions or either in our system or outside our system end up with a cybersecurity incident.

[00:26:22] I'm quick to let my boss know who lets the rest of leadership know that this thing happened and it's, for me, it's been important to just keep them as nervous as I am. All this, all these things going on, making sure that as they're making decisions that they have in mind the security aspects of it.

[00:26:39] And so I've been fortunate to get some resources, to do some things to improve our security posture, but I think it's also helpful to have them with that in the back of their mind as they're making decisions. . 

[00:26:49] Brendan Aldrich: Well, and it's important to highlight that it's not scared for just the sake of being scared, but that these were real breaches and incidents that happened that have put information at risk and you wanna make sure that [00:27:00] you're keeping your institution's data protected.

[00:27:02] Dave Johnston: Right? And when it affects a college nearby you that looks sort of like you, it makes it much more 

[00:27:07] Andy Specht: real across the state. We're all having conversations with our bosses and really anyone who will listen to us. Cybersecurity and the, all the threats there and the problems that the institution may run into.

[00:27:19] We recently did a ransomware table tabletop exercise that was sort of the institution walking through what it would be like if all of our systems went down for a couple weeks, how would we manage instruction? How would. Pay employees, things like that. So it was a good reminder that these are things that affect a lot of our colleagues across the state and, you know, we need to prepare for it as well.

[00:27:44] You know, it's 

[00:27:45] Brendan Aldrich: interesting, when I was in college or just in the midst of college, I actually worked front desk operations for the Los Angeles airport Hilton. And it was a 1200 room hotel with computers for check-in, checkout, and all those different processes. And you're right, you don't even think about those [00:28:00] things until all of a sudden the computers go down one day and you're like, oh my gosh, how the heck are we gonna check in people or check them out or take money.

[00:28:06] And then all of a sudden the manager walks out with, okay, here's all the protocols for what we're going to do today. And you're like, okay, well let's new let's see these. But the idea that somebody had worked that. so you could actually manage, you know, the guests at a 1200 room hotel without a computer system, with something that you don't realize you need until all of a sudden you need them.

[00:28:23] Yeah, 

[00:28:24] Andy Specht: and I will say, I think that right now, basic IT operations are really underrated in some circles. Like we sometimes like to make this distinction between, you know, operational stuff, keeping the lights on, networking, security, and then there's the innovative stuff. You know, you can go talk to, you can go talk at Edika about it and impress all your peers.

[00:28:46] But from the perspective of a community college, if you don't have reliable internet, if you don't have function in classrooms, if your systems aren't secure, you know, you can't, you don't really have the [00:29:00] foundation for going on and doing anything strategic or innovative. So, you know, I always look for opportunities to see where it.

[00:29:09] Can get involved with our institutions priorities and projects. Things like Guided Pathways has been driving a lot of what the school's been doing, so finding ways for it to enhance those initiatives. But I think it's okay to really keep your eye on the ball, focus on keeping things running smoothly and keeping data secure.

[00:29:30] And if you do that, you're already in really good. 

[00:29:36] Brendan Aldrich: Great. Hey, Andy. Dave, I called the show the Higher Edge because our guests, like both of you have a valuable experience and perspective that you've gained over your careers. I'm wondering, hoping that you might each have a story that you can share with our listeners, something that, that helped you and might give them the higher edge.

[00:29:55] Andy Specht: Sure. I'll go first. So one thing I was just thinking about is that over, [00:30:00] you know, these last few minutes during our convers. We've talked a lot about people, not really that much about technology, and I think that's one of the takeaways from this job is it really is about people more so than anything else.

[00:30:15] And one thing that really changed my perspective is I was working with a help desk technician who had been at this college for a long time, and they were a very valuable member of our team, and they were coming up close to retirement and one. that they brought up was that we've been doing a lot of work to automate setting up accounts, account recovery, that whole process, and I thought this was great.

[00:30:43] You know, it's terrible to have to do password recess for anyone. No one should have to come into it and talk to us to do basic account management, but they pointed out, that was a part of their job that they really liked. They really liked it when people came by the help desk to set up [00:31:00] their account.

[00:31:00] They got to meet every new employee at the college, and that's something that they no longer got to do. And there's sort of a stereotype that a lot of our employees don't always wanna talk to people, and we certainly. We have some like that. But it's important to remember that so much of our job does involve human connection and keeping that in mind I think makes the job more, more fun.

[00:31:26] And also you do a better job for your institution. 

[00:31:30] Brendan Aldrich: You know, I know that in the world of it, we've always talked about the fact that there's it and there's people. And often the technology is the easiest part of the job. 

[00:31:39] Dave Johnston: Yeah, it. That totally resonates with me. Absolutely. I think for me, like most educational institutions, in March of 2020, we went completely online in about three weeks and it was just a crazy time.

[00:31:53] It seemed like an insurmountable problem. I didn't see any way we were gonna accomplish that, but as I reflected back [00:32:00] on it, it's really made me rethink what is possible and what isn't. Because we did it and we did it as a college, as a department, as as students. We did it together, we're able to do it.

[00:32:13] It was an amazing thing. And I think that it really is maybe reflect on what we can do if we can do it all together as a ins, as an institution, as a community. I think there's a lot of those things we originally thought were impossible are really just a matter of getting the buy-in as a, as an organiz.

[00:32:31] And working on it together and we can accomplish them. 

[00:32:34] Brendan Aldrich: Nice. Hey guys, thanks so much for coming on the show. Thanks. It's been great to be here. Thanks for having us. Hey guys. If listeners would like to reach out to you with questions about today's episode or to continue the conversation, what's the best way for them to contact you?

[00:32:47] Andy Specht: LinkedIn. I'm on LinkedIn like everyone else, so, just Google my name. It's rare enough that you'll find me, Andy Speck. And you also, if you want to email me, it's on Hancock College's website, 

[00:32:58] Dave Johnston: and for me, I'm on LinkedIn [00:33:00] also, or you can just email djohnston@mendocino.edu and I'd be glad to 

[00:33:04] Brendan Aldrich: talk more.

[00:33:05] Perfect. And I know that if anybody would like to learn more about either of your colleges, they can go to www.hancockcollege.edu and also at www.mendocino.edu. Hey, absolutely, Andy. Dave, it's been amazing to have you both on the show. Thanks for coming on and being a guest with us here on the Higher Edge.

[00:33:22] And for everybody listening, I'm Brendan Aldrich and we'll talk soon. 

[00:33:26] Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Higher Edge. For more, subscribe to us on your favorite podcast platform. Leave us a review if you loved the show, and be sure to connect with Brendan on LinkedIn. Know someone who's making big changes at their higher ed institution that belongs on this podcast.

[00:33:42] Drop us a line at podcasts@thehigheredge.com. The Higher Edge is sponsored by Invoke Learning in partnership with Westport Studios. Views and opinions expressed by individuals during the podcast are their own. See how Invoke Learning is empowering higher [00:34:00] education@invokelearning.com.