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Career Trajectory Paper

EDLD 7430: American Higher Education
Dr. Barry Dotson
Jeff Patty
Georgia Southern University


Career Trajectory

The purpose of this career trajectory paper is to identify our career aspirations and
corresponding steps necessary to propel us towards this desired career outcome. For many
people, this is likely a very crystalized vision of where they are now and where they want to get.
Many students in programs such as this are younger and possibly at an earlier stage of their
career. They still have many hurdles to overcome to get to the ultimate position they envision
themselves occupying at some point in their career. Certainly, this is not the case for every
student. We all come from different walks of life and are likely at different stages in our careers.
For me, I am much further along in my career path. There is likely only one position above my
current position of Chief Information Officer that I truly have a desire to achieve. This is not to
say that I have no career aspirations or desire to improve, but simply I have already achieved a
great deal of growth that satisfies me at this point in my personal and professional life. There is
always the need to grow, improve, and learn more about life and our current profession. In order
to remain current, one has to constantly pursue professional developmental opportunities, keep
your skill set current, and maintain knowledge in the field by reading and studying relevant
professional literature.
College Years
As I departed high school many years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life
or career. I was not particularly interested in college actually. My parents had always insisted
this would be my next course of action, so I did not really question it. I ended up at Georgia
Southern because of my girlfriend. After a shaky first quarter and nearly flunking out, she
helped me gain some valuable study habits and methods for dealing with college academics. I
completed all of my core classes and soon needed to decide which direction I was going to


pursue next. I thought I would probably want to do something in the area of business, so I
started taking the business core classes. Towards the end of my college career I finally needed to
pick an actual major. Having absolutely no idea, I asked my dad who encouraged me to consider
majoring in something to do with computers. I had always liked playing video games and
tinkered around a little with some basic programming in high school. With no other contender in
sight, I embarked on the Management of Information Systems degree through the School of
Business. After stumbling through the Cobol programming class and having to basically teach
myself the course, I finally finished my undergraduate degree. I was ready to embark on a career
in the computer field, in any area that excluded the Cobol programming language.
Early Years
After moving back to my birth town, one I hadnt lived at since I was four years old, and
after much job searching I ended up taking a job at Floyd Junior College as a Junior Programmer.
Of course, my main duties were working with Cobol programs. I spent the first several years
learning everything there was about all of the systems, programming, and really what it meant to
work in a computing field. I had several women from both the Enrollment Management Office
and Business Office that took me under their wings and helped me learn the art of support and
customer service. I also had four different bosses during this time, all of which I attempted to
train and who ultimately left because they could not handle the stress and work. Eventually I
was promoted to the Coordinator of Computer Services, the first official and centralized
computer department on campus. I hired several staff to start building this department and
handle the growth over the next several years. At some point I was promoted to the Director of
Computer Services and then Information Technology, as the name changed to reflect the new
information technology age. A few years later, as information technology expanded, the


department grew, and we hired new staff, I was promoted to Chief Information Officer (CIO).
This move also placed me reporting to the President of the college and a member of the
Presidents Cabinet. This was a huge achievement for technology to finally have a seat at the
table where so many important strategic decisions were made for the institution.
Current Position
Over the years, my position as CIO has grown as my duties, responsibilities, and the
complexities of Information Technology Services (ITS) has expanded both at the college and in
our technology-driven world. Along with some very talented staff, over the years I have created
all of the job descriptions for all 26 current staff positions, the four units operating under the ITS
division, built a robust technology infrastructure at six campus locations, and expanded the role
technology now plays at Georgia Highlands College (GHC). Over the years, I have had to learn
an enormous amount of technology-related skills. In addition to the technology requirements, I
have also had to learn to greatly expand in a number of other management related areas such as:
management of employees, budgeting, planning, assessment, research, and communication
skills. All of these are extremely important factors in being a successful leader in any area of an
organization. As a senior member of the executive team and member on the Cabinet, I must
interface with other institutional leaders and help coordinate all aspects of the institution. In my
role as CIO, I must effectively communicate the needs of technology in an understandable
manner to the other leaders. In addition to my role as CIO and as a senior member of the
institution, I must also be able to assist in many other areas of planning and oversight outside the
area of technology. This has certainly required me to grow professionally to understand the other
areas of the institution in order to be able to effectively participate in many high-level decisions
through the years. During this span, I have worked for all of the four college presidents, the four


interim presidents, and many different configurations of administration leadership. There has
always been one consistent theme I learned through my parents and those women that gave me
advice early in my career. I insist this is at the forefront of ITS and something I tell each
employee I hire, always do our very best and put customer service at the center of everything
we do. This has served me well I believe so far.
Short-Term Goals
My short-term goals are pretty straightforward I believe. I have already advanced up
through the ranks of my profession and achieved one of the highest positions in IT, the Chief
Information Officer. The only other position that I would consider and some organizations have
is that of Vice President of Information Technology. While the duties are basically the same and
some would argue that these are the same position, for many people the difference of those two
initials, VP in the front of the title, makes all the difference in the world. I have had supervisors
that included me in vice presidential level group meetings and those that have not. You will find
some other VPs that think of Chief Information Officers, Chief Human Resources Officers, and
any of the other C level titles as equivalent, and then some that do not consider them
equivalent. Looking further down the faculty and staff ranks, you end up with that same type of
thinking. Some will respect your position and authority and others will question you at every
turn. I have looked at job titles for both positions many times, and indeed you will not find many
differences in duties. My short-term goals are to formalize my education by achieving the
Masters of Higher Education Administration. This is probably not a typical degree for someone
in the technology area and really not necessary for ultimate advancement. So much weight in the
technology arena is placed on technical experience, years of experience in particular areas, and


certifications. In order to receive the respect of some in academia, however, I think achieving
this M. Ed in Higher Education Administration will offer me expertise in more areas outside of
IT. I think this will help me be a more effective leader and contributor overall for the institution.
Long-Term Goals
My long-term goals are also not very complicated. At 24 years at GHC, I am not
interested in pursuing any higher level jobs at other locations, outside of the possibility of some
day being able to be a Vice President of Information Technology / CIO for the institution. Some
might see this as short sided, but at this point in my career that is where I am. Who knows what
the future will hold, but for now I would like to complete this degree and possibly achieve the
VP designation. I do think that this would gain further respect for Information Technology and
could benefit my division, which ultimately helps technology grow overall at the institution. If
you are not at the table when important decisions are getting made, then often the technology
component is forgotten or left out. This can cause huge issues for all concerned, since
technology usually has an impact on just about everything we do.
In addition to completing the degree and achieving the level of VP, there are a number of
other technology related skills, networking certification, and other areas of professional
development within technology that I believe will also benefit the institution and myself. These
will be important considerations for continuing in my role as CIO and the possibility of
becoming a VP for the institution. In technology, there is always so much more one can learn
and needs to understand in order to continue being an effective leader of an ever-changing
environment that technology represents.
Job Qualifications
There are many attributes that make up the perfect CIO. If you analyze a number of job


descriptions you will find some very common themes, with local differences that are important to
a particular employer. The current job summary for my CIO position is:
The Chief Information Officer serves as the senior IT leader and oversees the central IT
organization Information Technology Services. This position is responsible for
overseeing the technology operations of the college and directing the Information
Technology Services Division, including the provision of Client Technology Services,
Information Security & Network Services, Web Services, Enterprise Application
Services, and Audio Visual Services. (Patty, 2014)
There is a need for a mix of very high-level technical knowledge, coupled with
experience in other managerial areas. This mix of skill requirements allows the right individual
to not only have the answers for all the technology-related items, but also to be able to
effectively manage the non-technical aspects of a division/department and contribute to
executive-level responsibilities and interactions within the institution. Some of the qualifications
for a CIO or VP of Information Technology are the following:

Provide vision and leadership in the development and implementation of an enterprisewide information technology program.

Lead the college in planning and implementation of enterprise information systems.

Interfaces with all levels of campus personnel and supervises computer professionals.

Strong interpersonal communication skills and track record of proven leadership.

Chief strategist and visionary for comprehensive IT planning and implementation.

Defines overall technology architecture policies, procedures, and services for the college.

Advises on all policies and investment decisions related to technology.

Builds an excellent customer service organization within IT.


Manages daily IT operations and all corresponding resources.

Maintains collaborative relationships and partnerships with other IT professionals and


Maintains integrity of college systems, resources, and data.

Develops strategic plans, budgets, and appropriate spending levels required to support
technology for the institution.

Requires at least five years of progressively responsible experience in a CIO or

equivalent level management position.

Masters degree in Higher Education Administration, Computer Science, Business

Administration, or related field. (College of Costal Georgia, 2014)
These are some of the typical duties and responsibilities required for the position of CIO

or VP of Information Technology. It is unlikely any applicant will possess all of these abilities,
but the more one has, the likelier they will be in getting the job and being successful.
Career Resources
On the topic of mentoring, while I think this is a very useful component of a persons
career portfolio and can without a doubt aid one greatly in steering their career through countless
hurdles, this is not something I have really ever had in my own career. I have never really had
anyone take me under his or her wing and show me the ropes, make career suggestions, or help
me not make silly mistakes. Instead, I have relied on other colleagues in my own department for
advice on difficult decisions or my own intuition. I find it extremely valuable, however, to rely
on my top senior IT leaders to assist me in planning and management decisions. I do not assume
that I have all the right answers all the time. These staff have been with me for years and helped


navigate so many challenges and difficulties over the course of our careers together. I would
loved to have had a leader ahead of me that offered some of this insight along the way, but
perhaps due to the technical challenges my position offers, that aspect just never presented itself
in previous supervisors. I will say that our recent Interim President did encourage me to
continue my pursuit of this masters degree once she learned I was enrolled.
Professional Organizations, Collaboration, and Networking
One of the methods that can help you overcome the lack of a mentor in your professional
life is to become active in professional organizations and make sure you have good collaboration
and networking opportunities to rely on. There are a number of professional organizations
available in most disciplines. Information Technology is no exception. Some require invitations,
while others one simply needs to pay the dues to attend. Educause offers a wealth of information
and networking possibilities. Their goal is to help those who lead, manage, and use information
technology to shape strategic IT decisions at every level within higher education (Educause,
2014). I am a member of this organization. In addition to the many resources you can pull from
their website, I also participate on their CIO Listserv, where other CIOs offer valuable insight
into similar issues and concerns or one can ask for assistance on whatever topic necessary.
Likewise, I am also a member of the CIO Council for the University System of Georgia. This is
a leadership organization of fellow CIOs, Vice Presidents of Technology, and Directors.
Together we share common concerns and experiences that we encounter across our respective
institutions, meeting at least quarterly in person to network, exchange ideas, and collaboratively
share in planning technology-related issues for the system and our institutions (University
System of Georgia, 2014).
It is also important to participate locally in your own community. I serve on the Rome



Chambers Technology Squaretable. This is a similar group to other professional organizations,

but open to chamber community members that are interested in technology-related issues.
Although most that serve on this advisory panel are IT professionals, there are some other
members that are simply interested in how technology impacts our community. This group
attempts to share information each of us find in our jobs, offers tours and exchange of ideas at
each of our respective organizations, and overall attempts to foster technology into all aspects of
our community. I learned in the last year, as I participated in the Leadership Rome program
through the Chamber, that it truly takes all parts of a community coming together to not only
keep the community going, but also to effectively grow the community in the areas of economic
growth, business and industry attraction, proper government, health and educational
opportunities, and overall community enrichment for its citizens.
I also participated in an executive leadership retreat with other community leaders on an
intercity leadership trip to view other cities outside of our state and how they are growing these
similar areas of their communities. This was an excellent opportunity to participate in this
planning and educational trip. Not only did I get the opportunity to learn and network with the
countys most influential, but also I was also able to offer some valuable insight along the way.
One of the main objectives of this trip was for the county and city schools to explore the
possibility of different scenarios relating to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) technology and
how these school systems might implement a similar program that the two cities we were visiting
had done. Earlier in my career we had a similar laptop program at GHC, so I was able to offer
some experience and advice to others on the trip.
It will be vital to continue pursuing these types of opportunities, seeking professional
development opportunities, and finding resources that expand and stretch my knowledge, both in



the technology field and other areas of higher education.

There are many elements that have to come together for an effective career. There are
those who will go to work and perform their jobs to the best of their ability. There is nothing
wrong with this path. There are also those who will aggressively pursue every angle of
advancing their careers as outlined here. To really move up through your career path, it takes all
of these elements coming together in order to accomplish your goals. Having access to
professional development and extended educational opportunities; having a mentor who can help
steer you in the right direction; joining professional organizations, networking, collaborating
with other professionals both inside and outside of your area of expertise, all of these are vital in
shaping this career trajectory.



College of Costal Georgia. (2014, September 2). Chief Information Officer. Retrieved September
23, 2014, from
Educause. (2014). About Educause. Retrieved September 24, 2014, from
Patty, J. (2014, June 18). Chief Information Officer. Retrieved September 23, 2014, from
id=/its/operations/Area of CIO/Personnel/Positions/Chief Information
University System of Georgia. (2014, January 1). Chief Information Officers Advisory Council.
Retrieved September 23, 2014, from