Popforms Leader Of The Week is a brand new feature on our blog, where we highlight an outstanding leader and share their insights on leadership, career, and being awesome at your job.
Dr. Timothy M. Chester is Vice President for Information Technology at the University of Georgia. Dr. Chester has published and advocates in the areas of leadership strategy and promotion of organizational change for information technology organizations in higher education.
He also has extensive experience with application integration in complex enterprise environments and in the implementation of technology services for international campuses and emergency operations. His writings and commentary are numerous and have been published by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, CIO Magazine, Campus Technology, and EDUCAUSE Quarterly.
What’s your job title?
Vice President for Information Technology
What do you actually do every day?
My job is very much like the conductor of an orchestra. I either convene or participate in meetings around how we can better take advantage of technology services at the University of Georgia.
Sometimes those meetings are strategic, in the sense that we are talking about future transformation possibilities. Other times, they are more tactical, either focused on service delivery challenges or tasks related to project implementation.
My job is to make sure that all the parts – functional and technical – play beautiful music together. It takes a lot of practice, which is to say, that it requires us to collaborate together constantly to that end.
In ten words or less, what is your leadership philosophy?
Service delivery is the most important thing we do.
What company besides your own has an amazing culture? What do you like about it?
My early career as a programmer was in IT at Texas A&M University, where there is an incredible IT organization full of great leaders like Pierce Cantrell (VP for IT) and at one time a gentleman named Tom Putnam was his deputy.
They are inclusive when it comes to leadership, transformative in their thinking about what technology can do – especially high speed connectivity – and they run a very tight ship operationally. Since I left TAMU ten years ago I have strived to build the same type of IT organizations that we had there. They are the model for what we are trying to do at UGA.
What are the key qualities (in order of importance) that you look for in a great hire?
Teachable, people oriented, service oriented, and a little bit hungry. I like to give those who are sometimes overlooked by others a chance, much like someone once did for me.
If you had to give career advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would you say?
Sit back and enjoy your accomplishments and the accomplishments of your organizations a bit more; don’t always run and look for the next challenge so quickly. Be a bit more patient with life – careers are a very long thing.
What was the last thing that inspired you?
My mother retired early so she could be primary caregiver for her ninety-year mother. Mother refused to let her mother spend her last years under the care of strangers, and insisted on being there for her every day, every moment, for several years until she passed away. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anther gift of love and sacrifice quite like what my mother did.
Any favorite books or articles related to career and business?
Two of my current favorites are The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim and “In Business and in Life, You Don’t Get what you Deserve, you Get What you Negotiate” by Chester Karrass. I’ve come to the realization that almost every conversation I have with anyone, on either a personal or professional basis, is a negotiation of some sort; and I have learned a lot from reading Karrass’s work.
What is the best team gift that you’ve received or given?
I try to write every employee in my organization a birthday card each year, and in turn the entire organization always signs a big card for me. I keep those and have them going back for several years.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Credibility comes from making the trains run on time; and your seat at the table is earned based on your reputation for doing so. Credibility, authority, and influence are earned by how you do your day job and not where your position is on the org chart.
More Timothy Chester:
Where do you live/work?
Where is the best place for people to learn more about you?
Where can people connect with you?
Twitter at @accidentalcio