The next alumni in our Interview with a Professional series is iSchool alum and everyone’s favorite Database Management instructor, the one and only, Stan Gunn! For that past eight years, Stan has been the Chief Information Officer and Vice President of Information Technology at Austin Community College. He is also the adjunct instructor of the ever popular Database Management course.
What are your job responsibilities?
Providing leadership and vision for the use of information technology as a critical component for the administrative and academic goals of the college and of our students. Promoting innovative, efficient, and effective information technology solutions across the college.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Being able to work across a wide variety of academic departments and seeing all the amazing ways our faculty harness technology to teach our students.
What have you learned from your job?
I think one of the lessons that any CIO learns quickly is that technology for its own sake doesn’t benefit anyone. You need staff and faculty who are engaged with and enthusiastic about the tools you provide.
What skills, knowledge, or experience would a student need to excel in a similar position?
In addition to a solid understanding of different technologies, managing an IT department also means having a good grounding in project management and being comfortable communicating with a wide variety of customers.
What iSchool courses were most helpful to developing the skills for your job?
I have trouble singling out a particular class or instructor. For me, success in a graduate program is about taking advantage of all the great opportunities, both inside the classroom and out, to expose yourself to new ideas and learn new things. I was fortunate enough to be on hand when we set up the department’s first web server. That was definitely a formative experience in my career.
What are some other resources outside of school that you would recommend to students or have used yourself to develop skills?
Build a network of people you like and respect; classmates, faculty, anyone with whom you share interests. Stay in contact with them and you’ll continue to be exposed to the elements that made graduate school a great experience for you.
What are some ways that students could begin networking in the information profession?
Attend conferences! Find out what organizations exist in your area of interest and start attending their events. Participate and present papers if you can, but just by attending you’ll get a chance to meet people and make friends in your profession.
What advice do you have for students in regard to careers as well as making the most out of their time at the iSchool?
Be flexible. Be open to opportunities as they come along. I started out as an architecture major at UT and finished my undergraduate work with a degree in journalism. It was a long and tangential path that lead me to running the technology department for a large college. But the iSchool definitely gave me a new set of skills that I could bring to bear.
Why do you think it’s important to invest your time and expertise into future information professionals’ education through teaching, training, or mentoring?
Two years ago I participated in a “Cool Jobs” panel at the Texas Library Association conference. Three of the other panelists turned out to be former students of mine. When it came time to introduce ourselves all three said that they were there in part because my class had taught them programming and database skills, but also that they could build a career in a technology profession. As a professor, you always hope that you are making a difference in the lives of your students. With the exception of the day I got married and the day my kids were born I can think of very few events in my life that stand out like that moment.
What did you do before attending the iSchool?
When I left college I started out doing layout and design work for a state agency. I transitioned over to be a software trainer after a year or so. I was in charge of computer training for the University of Texas system office when I started at the iSchool.
Thank you so much for your time and being an amazing instructor Stan! It’s always fun to hear from alumni who became adjunct instructors.