The second annual Women in Technology (WIT) virtual conference, “Leadership in a Culture of Constant Change,” sponsored by the Big Ten Academic Alliance WIT peer group took place on Friday, February 7. In addition to five local watch party locations, the free virtual conference was available via Zoom. The video recording of the virtual conference can be viewed on the Zoom website.
A diverse panel of five women leaders in education technology began the day with an exploration of the topic, “Disruption as an Opportunity.” The group members’ varying backgrounds, ethnicities, and ages provided unique perspectives on how to handle the challenges presented by changes in their personal and professional lives.
Featured panelists included Liv Gjestvang at Ohio State, Maggie Jesse at the University of Iowa Stacy Morrone at Indiana University, Jennifer Sparrow at Penn State, and Sherri Braxton at the University of Maryland. Each woman shared a personal story of disruption that has shaped their life – caring for children and older parents, marriage, divorce, illness, career relocations – and how they overcame the challenge by prioritizing, assessing work-life balance, and making decisions that led them to their current leadership positions.
Morrone, associate vice president with Learning Technology at Indiana University reflected on a time early in her career when she oversaw the transition from one learning management system to another at the university. It was her first IT leadership task in a new position. The night before the semester began, the management system failed. After a hectic couple of days trying to get the system back up and running, Morrone reflected on the experience. The next time she was faced with a similar challenge, she would be prepared. She highlighted the importance of developing a tough skin early on and making sure your team is made up of the right people to support you when issues arise.
Sparrow, associate vice president for Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State, shared a sudden career change. After landing her current position and settling down in State College, Sparrow reflected on the experience and emphasized a few key leadership lessons:
- Words matter. What you say can profoundly impact people.
- Nurture your network.
- Ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t show weakness; it shows strength.
- Even in the darkest of times, what you learn will shape how you lead in the future. Sometimes it hurts, and sometimes those lessons stink, but they are extremely valuable.
Following the panel conversation, Lois Brooks, vice provost for Information Technology and chief information officer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Michele Norin, senior vice president and chief information officer at Rutgers led a discussion on leadership superpowers, the impact of personal style and successfully using your voice in leadership roles. Playing on their experiences as CIOs, they focused on the impact of company culture, being a team player and the importance of being adaptable in new jobs and environments.
The stories told by these women emphasized that disruptions happen to most of us and that we need to learn how to use those disruptions as an opportunity for reflection and growth, helping us to succeed. Join the LinkedIn BTAA WIT group to continue these kinds of conversations.