I’m often told that I ask lots of (too many?) questions, but don’t volunteer answers easily.
So, I thought I would be the one giving answers for a change to celebrate this blog’s 100th (yep, 100 posts since February 12, 2005) post on this blog. If you’re a regular, you probably know that I have a series called “Higher Ed Web Pro Files” featuring interesting web professionals working in universities and colleges all over the country – well, actually the world. As of today, 12 very talented web pros have accepted to answer my questions, the same questions I’ve decided to ask myself for this special blog post.
1) What’s your background? What did you do before becoming a higher ed web pro?
I have a Master’s in Communications with a minor in Public Relations from La Sorbonne in Paris – not the one in Texas. I started my career as a journalist and worked for several radio stations, newspapers and magazines. After 6 years of journalism, in 1999, I realized I really needed a change of medium and got a Webmaster Certificate at Rutgers University, NJ in 2000.
Thanks to my background in journalism and my newly acquired technical skills, I was able to get my share of the dotcom boom at About.com in NYC. And, yes, I got the total dotcom experience with free soda, candy bars, breakfasts and even lunches – sometimes – as well as the worthless stock-options. I actually learned a great deal and met amazing people while working as a Web editor back then.
In 2002, I started to work as my college’s Web editor. This is a part-time position (and, some of you thought it’s tough to be a Web team of one person…), which has allowed me to keep consulting for small businesses as well as a couple of other higher ed institutions.
2) What’s your biggest achievement as a higher ed web pro?
I’ve survived a content management system (CMS) implementation and migration.
When I came on board, my college had just signed a 2-year contract with an external vendor. The whole website was outsourced. In early 2004 the decision not to renew this contract was made. In the spring, the college’s chief technology officer decided that the best solution was to go with the very powerful yet flexible free open-source CMS, typo3.
During the following summer with a team composed of a business analyst/designer and a programmer – both independent contractors -, we completed this 3-month project on schedule, on budget and ahead of time – well, just by one week, but still.
The project scope included the CMS migration of about 300 web pages (about 150 were just moved to the new server) as well as the design and the programming of 7 modules to replicate on typo3 the existing functionality. Let me tell you that I didn’t sleep too much that summer…
3) What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Sometimes, things don’t go as fast as I would like. I’ve been blogging about some very interesting initiatives in universities and colleges for the past 9 months. I wish we could implement all of them at my college, but it can take time to get people on board. Since I started to work in higher ed, I’ve learned a great deal of patience.
4) In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge we face as web pros in our industry?
I think it all comes down to the fact that we have to be crossover pros. I always feel very lucky to have a background in communication/marketing along with good technical skills. With all the new Web 2.0 user-friendly applications such as blogs and wikis, the Web is slowly opening up to regular users such as PR or admission folks. So, our role might soon involve more training on the non-technical part of the Web.
5) Any good advice to share with your fellow higher ed web pros?
Don’t forget the end user: that’s sometimes very easy to do while dealing with demanding stakeholders. Get a good RSS reader and put it to work: information truly is power. So, get it and share it. By becoming a good information source for your stakeholders, you’ll make friends – especially precious at budget time.
6) What about a couple of good links?
Since I started my online exploration of the higher ed world last February, I’ve come across a lot of very good blogs. The following are the ones who made it to the top of my 125 RSS feeds for the information or the insights they provide. These bloggers post on a regular basis which is very important for the RSS-addict I’ve become:
- Dan Karleen’s Syndication for Higher Ed – for news and great tips from the higher ed RSS guru
- Georgina Hibberd‘s Templatedata – for a look at what’s going on down under
- Andrea Schwandt-Arbogast‘s Interllectual – for a unique mix of professional ideas and personal views
- Dean Dad’s Confessions of a Community College Dean – to get into a Dean’s head
This blog’s readers don’t usually comment a lot about my posts — but I know YOU’re reading, well at least viewing them, and I have my web stats to prove it ;-) I’ve just answered a bunch of questions, so why don’t YOU take the time to post a comment for a change? Hey, it’s my 100th post after all!