So, What Do You Do?

Montana State’s Jake Dolan originally published this post on their blog. He was nice enough to let us cross post here. – Ed.

On the return flight from #heweb14, I had the opportunity to toy with a thought that had been nagging me throughout the conference. What do I do?

When asked this question, I have always struggled to find a confident answer that rolls off my tongue. To the non-Web person describing the complexities of being a higher education Web director is laborious and likely to make your audiences’ eyes gloss over. Nothing strikes up interesting conversation like that of bridging the gap between the technical nature of IT and the softer skills of marketing and public relations all while managing the complex relationships and diplomacy within a higher education institution.

So, what do you do? Well, I do a hundred things a day, sometimes more. Most have nothing to do with each other and many have little strategic value but need to be done.

Perhaps this was so difficult to describe when I was a team of one. As a team of one you really do everything. Unfortunately as a team of one doing everything means you are likely also not doing everything at the quality that you want to achieve, so you revel in getting the job done rather than doing the best job possible.

To another Web professional being a Web director means I likely don’t have any specialty. It is possible that I have my position by virtue of longevity and that I even get in the way, slowing down the creative process. If they have positive experiences with their own directors, they might start comparing me to them. Would I be a good or bad person to work for? Would they respect me enough to follow my lead even if they don’t see the whole picture? Am I a roadblock or bridge builder?

I choose to be a bridge builder. I believe this is reflected in the way I lead my team. Building a team of one into a team of seven professionals requires always approaching new challenges with an open mind. It requires not drawing from the experience of how I would have tackled the challenge as a team of one. This also requires continuously asking the question how can we become more effective or efficient while learning from what worked and what didn’t. It is necessary to approach our daily work with the view of how can we be better today than yesterday and how can I help grow my team professionally by giving them new challenges and learning opportunities.

Being a bridge builder also means that your successes are those achieved through the team not individually. I am successful as a Web director due to having built a team that is doing incredible things and I cannot wait to see what we will deliver tomorrow.

I know now in the future when asked, “What do you do?” I will confidently respond that I lead a team of awesome people.

So, what do you do?


Image courtey of Flickr user Matthew Fang via a CC license