One-On-One: Joanna Young, New UNH CIO
By Martin England, Computing and Information Services
July 8, 2009
Joanna Young is UNH’s new Chief Information Office (CIO). She is a UNH Graduate (Class of 1987) who has spent the last 20 years at Liberty Mutual, most recently as a vice president and manager for customer support services. Young is also a longtime Durham resident, UNH hockey season ticket holder, and occasional lecturer for the Whittemore School of Business and Economics. Signals spent a few minutes catching up with Joanna shortly after her arrival.
How did you get involved with technology?
I started out as a technical writer and just got gradually more involved and enamored with how technology could add value to organizations. In particular, how to design systems to be functional and highly performing so that technology is easy to use and responds appropriately.
How does your past experience as a technology leader inform your current role as UNH CIO? What are the differences between the two environments? What are the similarities?
I’ve been an individual contributor, manager and executive in application development, infrastructure, and operational support at a major property and casualty company for over two decades. Let’s start with similarities. Technology, ranging from data centers to networks to servers to application development, is not vastly different from enterprise to enterprise. I came from a heterogeneous, complex, large technology portfolio that evolved and grew over decades.
UNH and USNH have a technology portfolio that evolved and grew over decades. The vendor landscape is mainly familiar: Oracle, Dell, Microsoft, large ERP, security. What’s different is how the technology is prioritized, implemented and applied based on UNH’s mission of scholarship, learning and research. As UNH CIO, my goal is to apply technology in the way that is best for UNH and USNH, based on shared goals, priorities and partnership with administrative, faculty, and staff leadership.
How do you view technology’s role in higher education? Where does it fit in helping to achieve the university’s academic mission?
I have a very basic primary philosophy when it comes to technology. There are no technology projects; there are only business projects with technology components. And once the technology is implemented, it is part of a business operation. This is true of the basic functions such as E-mail and networks to complex systems like Blackboard and Banner.
There are two major buckets that IT spending falls into: Maintenance, which is the operation and support of what is already in place, and New Development. Maintenance needs to be optimized for maximum efficiency, so that we have as much as possible to invest in New Development. I’m very energized by contributing to both categories, particularly the New Development opportunities ahead of us - including Distance Learning, which we are piloting this summer with seven courses, and cyber-infrastructure to better enable research and learning across Northern New England and beyond. The UNH Strategic Plan will better inform which opportunities become priorities.
What changes do you see happening in the near future in terms of CIS’ responsibilities to the campus community and how our services and support are delivered?
I’ve been here only a few weeks and am not going to rush into changes until I am more educated and familiar with CIS, UNH, and USNH. However, there are some basic items which we are going to do immediately, including more structure around project and system portfolio management and resource management. CIS must know at all times what operations and projects are in process, their status, and the resource allocation. One major reason is that as requests are made and priorities shift, we will be able to respond more quickly if we understand the portfolio status. Another area is communications: a CIO blog and a redesign of the CIS website are in progress.
Another change is that this is the last paper-based communication you are likely to see from me. This newsletter is going paperless, and the default communication mechanism from CIS will be electronic, unless there is a compelling business need to use printed material.
What factors affected your decision to come aboard as CIO here at UNH?
There were many factors. My family’s affiliation with UNH, past and present, was one factor, certainly. But mainly it was my desire to contribute in a meaningful way to the higher education system in New Hampshire, which is an integral part of the success of our community, state, and region. We are in challenging economic times and a primary factor in helping this country out of this difficult situation is innovation. Innovation comes from educated, energized, collaborative people. People like the students, faculty, and staff at UNH and the other USNH institutions.
What are your outside interests?
Together with my family, I am a UNH football, ice hockey, and field hockey fan. I also follow professional football and hockey, so have been watching the Stanley Cup recently. Outside of sports, hiking, running, and going to the beach are favorite pastimes. I’m also working on a novel in any spare time outside of my family and my work.
What are the critical pieces of an organization’s success?
Open and honest dialog and collaboration are keys to success. I want to hear from both CIS and our customers regarding what’s working and not working. If you would like to connect regarding any ideas or concerns, E-mail is the best way to reach me.