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Speak Up

Katherine GraysonThis month, while I was editing our "Your Career" column, something rather interesting occurred to me. The piece focuses on San Jose State (CA) Associate VP of Academic Technology Mary Jo Gorney-Moreno, a terrific communicator as well as a talented campus tech executive. As I was working on it, I mused about the fact that a large percentage of the most effective campus technology leaders I know are notably adept communicators. And then I realized something curious: The personality type that tends to the technical and technological is frequently communication-averse.

Of course, generalizations are often just that-- generalizations. But certain personality traits do seem linked to particular occupations. Editors and writers, for instance, frequently fear "live" communication: On paper, they can take all the time they need to mold perfect thoughts; but pushed to communicate on the fly, they might misspeak and appear (horrors!) unscholarly. That's why they become writers and not broadcast journalists. And look at sales folk, politicians, and real estate agents, all famously "talkers." Yet, scientists, researchers, and technologists-- so caught up in the endless, minute nuances of their work-- ordinarily cannot make much time for the more human forms of communication.

But on today's campuses, no innovative or impactful technology change can come about without a great communicator behind it-- to champion the cause, "sell" the idea upstairs, nudge the funding from every resource possible, evangelize to resisters, keep campus stakeholders informed of progress, and generally smooth the way for great things to happen. In next month's issue, when we reveal the 2008 Campus Technology Innovator award winners, it will become clear at a glance that most, if not all, of the project leads behind the winning initiatives spent a great deal of time involved in just this kind of communication. In fact, Gorney-Moreno herself, in this month's career column, puts it quite succinctly when she says that a powerful campus technology leader must know how to create perfect "elevator" speeches to move projects forward and sell them internally. "Wherever I move about the campus," she readily admits, "I recite the same mantra until people really understand what I'm about and what I want to do."

Are the Innovator winners all natural communicators? I doubt it. Was Gorney- Moreno born with the ability to quickly fashion the kinds of messages that drive her campus tech initiatives? No; she readily admits that she picked up that particular skill at a leadership conference, as she has been building her toolbox of tech leader skills throughout her career.

So, if you've been wondering what's holding back your ability to make those projects soar as you have envisioned them, maybe it's time for an honest assessment of your communication skills. Yes-- even if you went into technology so you'd never have to make a speech, deliver a presentation, pen a blog, put out a newsletter, or work your way through an administration cocktail event. The business of technology use on US campuses has grown bigger than anyone may ever have imagined, and so has your need to communicate.

-Katherine Grayson, Editor-In-Chief
What have you seen and heard? Send to: [email protected].

About the Author

Katherine Grayson is is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering technology, education, and business issues.

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