On the Occasion of my Semianniversary

October 11, 2016 marked six months of working as AVP of IT and Deputy CIO at Baruch College.  Tl;dr:  It’s been the hardest I’ve ever worked, and overall it’s been incredibly rewarding.  And I’m just getting started.

Let’s go through some of the major points.  I mentioned some things in my post about my first month, and many of those are still true, but there’s more:

  • It’s impossible for me to talk about my time without talking about the challenges I’ve had with vacant positions.  I’m currently down two direct reports, and 5 additional staff members in my organization (at least one is a brand new position, however) and I’ve been covering as much as I can for their workloads.  It means though we’re in maintenance mode on those parts of the organizations instead of the expansion, revitalization, and growth I had planned.  The good news is people are patient, but as I fill those positions I will have to hit the ground running.  So I’m challenged to make good selections that will help me build the organization the way I want to.   I’m looking forward to filling the jobs soon however and hopefully, we’ll be in good shape moving forward.
  • For better or worse, it’s been clear to the community that I’m extremely busy and I haven’t been able to tackle everything.  The good news is that people have been helpful and accommodating.  Again, though, there’s a lot of pent-up demand I will have to address when positions are filled.
  • It’s clear to me the pace is different at a large university system as opposed to a small liberal arts college.  This is largely working to my advantage at the moment, but I can see how I’ll find it frustrating when I’m ready to move quickly.
  • The time has put into focus for me the things that I absolutely must address, and how soon.  Part of that will be the new strategic plan I write with my boss; part will be implementing things while writing the plan that will be congruent with the plan.
  • Some days, I feel like a superhero.  I direct my teams well, they work hard and accomplish great things, I provide high-level strategic input to the rest of the administration, and plans execute successfully.  I feel like I really can do this job and am impressed by how smart the people who hired me are.
  • Other days, everything’s a mess and I don’t know what I’m doing or how I got here.
  • Please comment if you’re someone who never feels the latter way.  I’m realizing if you don’t feel that way, at least sometimes, you’re probably delusional.  (Does no one talk about their impostor syndrome because they’re afraid of having their impostor syndrome discovered?)
  • I have to give a shout-out to my former colleagues.  We challenged each other, almost always constructively, and the skills we developed and the professional standard we held ourselves to has served me well in my new position.  I can tell you such an environment is rare, and some of my best days have been when I’ve been able to create some part of that in my new department.
  • Learning the ins and outs of a new place is fascinating to me.  I really appreciate how much I knew about Drew from being there over 25 years (including my time as a student).  I’ve learned a few things about Baruch but there’s so much to know.  It’s nearly every day I’m finding a new part of a building, or am having explained a policy or procedure explained to me.
  • And of course, I’m not just at Baruch, but part of CUNY.  Learning about the intersecting spheres of interaction between the College, CUNY, the state, and the city are fascinating.  There’s a lot of people involved with how we run things, and I’m not even sure if anyone really understands how it all fits together.
  • Baruch is a different school in many ways than Drew.  Urban versus suburban, large versus small.  The biggest school is a business school.  But in my department, we’re largely dealing with the same issues.
  • I’m impressed with the quality of the students I’ve worked with.
  • Most of the faculty, staff, and administrators I’ve worked with have also been really good.  The only challenge is perhaps we could use more people.  But asking for that at a public college, with the politics and such that come into play, is probably tilting at windmills.
  • So on one hand, the bureaucracy can be paralyzing.  On the other hand, it’s intricate enough to leave a lot of holes where people can thrive.
  • My sense of wonder about the City has largely faded.  Every once in a while, though, the light hits a building just right and I’m awestruck.
  • The change of so many aspects of what I do–being the new guy, being a high-level administrator, being seen as an “expert” from “outside the college”–that have given me the perspective to look at how I got to where I am, and where I’m going.  I have learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of in the last six months.
  • Most every day I can’t wait to find out what’s next–where we can take things to the next level.
  • I’m settling into a routine.  Still, though, sometimes I mix up my ride/walk to work, just to bring some variety to the routine.
  • I need to figure out how to get about one more hour of sleep a night.  And how to go to the gym (both might be ameliorated by getting my positions filled.)  At least my commute has exercise built in.  I did manage to train for a 67-mile bike ride in September, though.

Overall, it’s pretty clear that I made the right decision to make a change.  Six months isn’t long enough to have accomplished much, but I’m starting to see where the pieces fit.  Expect me to report again after the first year (which will come sooner than I think, no doubt.)

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Mike Richichi

I’m an inveterate geek who’s somehow become a leader in higher education information technology. These are some of my thoughts.