A CIO Thanksgiving: Poopsies, Oopsies, and Technologies
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many people are pausing to give thanks for what they have. After I graduated from undergraduate school, my first job was Mathematician at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Today as the journey of my career through several Federal Agencies, 28 years later, brings me back to Goddard, it feels almost like another first harvest time for me. Thus, it seemed apt for me, a thankful CIO, to take time out to reflect.
These are people in my professional life, who in some form or fashion, have captured my heart and my gratitude. When I thought about it, I’ve had a good run lately.
A CIO’s role is to advise the head of the organization about IT stuff. My last two just “got it”. Rob Strain and Ed Weiler – I didn’t have to pull out crayons; I didn’t have to cry; and I didn’t have to take off my shoe and beat the table. IT is of strategic importance to an organization AND the tactical stuff still needs to work. I tried in vain to impress Rob, who has a reputation of a scratch golfer, with my 40 handicap. Mercifully, he overlooked my challenged short game and let me operate my long game strategically. Ed, who advised me that I had a horrible poker face and that I had a “type A” personality (I refrained from beating my shoe on the table) kept me from going all-in with a pair of eights. You have a better chance winning with a better hand.
The boss I had before I came to NASA, Skip Bailey was part of that good run too. He’s from
Some time late this summer, a couple of friends were lamenting, on distinct occasions, about how bad things were. I thought that it may actually be good to be thankful for bad times. The good thing about bad times, is that they always precede good times. Sometimes, bad things make good things good. You don’t need courage if there isn’t fear; you don’t need faith if there isn’t doubt. Early Thanksgivings were celebrated during times of unfavorable events being followed by favorable events.
I’m thankful for the worst job I ever had — cleaning out test tubes in an infectious diseases laboratory. And this was from age 15 to 19! This job was stinky – literally … and I had to learn fast to handle my duties appropriately … I always feared that the next thing I opened up would kill me. Though it sounds a lot like a CIO job, a CIO’s job is better. Mostly. This week, one of our Assistant Director’s was facilitating us through some problem-solving. She posed the possibility that she not in the right job. She was wrong of course, but I did offer the possibility of the CIO job. I think she said something like, “Oh, my goodness NO!” … and then she caught herself.
And then there’s the proverbial thorn in my side – for which I am thankful. I was once asked in an interview question what was the biggest mistake of my professional career. I made lots, but this one I sealed in my memory to make me better. I set the naming convention for email at Department of Justice. For the WHOLE Department – firstname.lastname@example.org. I liked it because it was easy to do for various technical reasons. My customers hated it because someone had to know your middle initial to guess your email address. And plus, most folks abbreviated Department of Justice “DOJ”. So, it wasn’t really that intuitive. But I did it for my own selfish technical reasons, not for customer fulfillment. Today, I still have colleagues there and every time a send an email to them, I’m reminded of my lack of duty to my customer and my selfishness. I don’t want to ever make that mistake again. A CIO should put her organization’s needs first – I’m thankful for that lesson. Thankfully, my side still hurts.
As stated in earlier posts, my Myers-Briggs type is an INTP. So, I’m an absent-minded professor. So, it’s not surprising that I am thankful for one of my favorite technologies — the keyless entry for my car. I used to always misplace car keys. Now, I just need to keep up with my purse – it’s bigger so I’m more successful.
I am thankful for my PDAs – all of them. I’m not apologizing! So, I was thankful when I was on a cruise and my Blackberry worked. It was just comforting to know what I was NOT doing! And I am thankful for my navigation system. I love knowing where I’m going. And how to get back.
Finally, I’m thankful for the whole Web 2.0 thing. This post was easy to bang out until I got to this sentence. I didn’t really understand fully why. Except to say, I had an opportunity to use the technology of blogging to express gratitude for a subset of the many things that I am thankful for. I’m being touched by new Poopsies, most I don’t even know – this is scary really. My European Poopsie that reminded me of humility; my Grouchy Poopsie who reminded me to draw on courage; and my RT Poopsie who just is.
The convergence of CIO leadership and this technology may seem a strange non sequitur to some – and it was certainly my going position when I started. But, it has added richness to my CIO life and taught me a little bit more about what this viral technology can do. For this, I am thankful.
Linda Cureton, The Grateful CIO of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center