Interviews by Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P.
Ken Poorman: 2005 NPA International "Professional Excellence and Innovation Award in Education" Recipient; University of Phoenix Chair for IS & IT, San Diego Campus
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Ken Poorman, recipient of the 2005 NPA International Professional Excellence and Innovation Award – Education, given out at the world’s largest networking industry conference, Networld+Interop Las Vegas. The Award is sponsored by the Network Professional Association with cooperation and support including from Networld+Interop, Microsoft, Que/SAMS (Pearson Technology Publishing), Network Computing Magazine, Network World Magazine, Novell Canada, …
Mr. Poorman grew up in Western Pennsylvania and attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, completing his B.S. in Education with a concentration in Mathematics and Computer Science.
Poorman joined the U.S. Navy where he served as an engineer on various ships and as a Material Professional (IS in service terminology). He completed a MSCIS at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey Ca. while teaching computer science courses there. Later, after a tour as Commanding Officer of a ship in San Diego, Ken was fortunate to be the Project Manager for several large military projects. These included the World Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS), Tactical Flag Command Center (TFCC), and the Automatic Carrier Landing System (ACLS). Following Naval service, he worked in systems design creating information systems for various corporations. He also worked on developing operating systems and techniques which are in use today. Ken became a faculty member of the University of Phoenix, San Diego Campus in 1995. His full time position since March of 2000 is as Campus College Chair for Information Science and Technology. He has been teaching on-ground classes for more than ten years primarily in the College of Information Science & Technology (IS&T).
Q: Ken: Congratulations on your fine achievement as the recipient of one of the networking industry's highest international awards, the 2005 NPA Professional Excellence and Innovation in Education Award. How does it feel to receive this honour? What are the comments and thoughts from your associates and family?
A: I am quite proud to be selected for this award. There are so many outstanding schools and programs that contribute to the field of technology so to be chosen by the NPA for this award is a fantastic experience. In the University of Phoenix alone there are more than a 1000 personnel involved in facilitating and teaching within the College of Information Science and Technology. My fellow College Chairs in San Diego also took pride in this award because we work as a team to ensure the quality in the classroom in all of the seven colleges.
Q: Which areas of your work are you most proud of and for what reasons?
A: I take the most pride in the quality of the body of knowledge presented in the classroom. It is through the efforts of outstanding faculty who remain current in various fields of IT that facilitate up-to-date instruction and curriculum in the classroom. Faculty spend numerous hours writing and maintaining class guidelines and materials that are top notch for classroom use. With the vast majority being associate faculty, it is a pleasure to work with people who make it happen in the technical environment and then come to our classrooms and teach and explain how the real world works outside the ivy covered halls.
Q: How do you plan to make a difference in your workplace and community, and in academia, industry, and government?
A: I feel that by orchestrating and assisting in the continual upgrade and change of the material presented to the student, I can make the biggest difference in the workplace whether the workplace is business, academia, or government. Our future is determined by our students. In the case of the University of Phoenix our students may be a little more mature and experienced than the typical student. Many will be contributing immediately as they are already in the workforce and striving to improve themselves and their working environment.
Q: Describe your responsibilities: day-to-day, tactically, and strategically. What ten lessons can you share with others?
A: My responsibilities are actually very simply described. My job is to maintain and improve quality in the classroom. Whatever it takes to accomplish that goal is my responsibility. It may mean faculty hiring, training, or dismissal or curriculum change. It means I must ensure the proper and current materials are covered in the duration of the course to instill the best, most current, and most extensive learning environment possible.
My best ten lessons learned would probably include:
Q: Can you bring us up-to-date on the solutions you are implementing at the University of Phoenix (UoP)? What are the five biggest challenges and how will they be resolved? How does this extend into education organizations in general? What are the applications in industry and business?
A: We are presenting using multiple modalities of instruction at the University of Phoenix and we try to focus the type of modality to the best fit of the student in regards to his or her learning desires, abilities, and time.
The University of Phoenix has online classes which can be done by students on an ongoing basis with the course meeting completely online. Online suits the student who is too distant or has such a schedule that can never accommodate a set time for a classroom environment. We also have the traditional on-ground class that provides a face to face meeting between the student and a faculty member. We have a newer modality that is a combination of the previous two, called Flexnet.
In Flexnet the student meets the faculty member in an on-ground classroom to start the course, does most of the course online, and then completes the course in the classroom on the last night of class. This provides the opportunity for the student that wants a face-to-face meeting with faculty, but just doesn't have a flexible schedule that allows a weekly meeting in the classroom. One of the challenges we face with diverse modalities is ensuring quality of instruction is maintained in the classroom whether on-ground, online or Flexnet.
Another concept institutionalized with the University of Phoenix is the concept of teamwork. Every course requires classmates to form Learning Teams of three to six members, who will work together on various team projects. We have seen that this technique has helped the student to develop teamwork abilities and techniques that serve the student well in the working environment. I often hear students and alumni tell me how much this teamwork training has helped them in the work environment. Many contemporaries in the business world have commented that the University of Phoenix student seems to have a much better understanding of working in the team environment of today's society.
Q: What three case studies can you share from your days with the Military which are still useful today in providing "best practices"?
A: To me, without a doubt, the most important aspect of work in the military that should be applied to best practices is "attention to detail". No matter whether we are looking at the business environment, government related issues, or academia; if the details are not correct the conclusion will never be complete and accurate. This carries into the classroom as a wrong information byte could lead a student down the wrong path in the future. In the business world a misspoken fact could cause business failure, and in government work it could waste millions of tax dollars.
There seemed to be a tendency in my military work to underestimate the individuals' abilities, and overestimate available assets. This has caused problems, or at least reduced the final culmination of a project. So much more could have been done by correctly evaluating the abilities of personnel and the potential of the involved parties. Many times this unused potential counteracted the overestimation of available assets. We need to be very judicious in determining the availability of both personnel abilities and assets available.
Most of my projects in the military tied to communications. I have discovered over time that communications is the key to everything in government, business, and academia. If you cannot communicate, you cannot succeed. Many times an IT student will ask why the faculty is so critical of writing skills, because after all, they are going to be a "techie". That is precisely why the writing ability is so important. The IT person will very likely be the bridge between the business or operational side of an organization and the technical or analytical side of the organization. The IT person must be able to communicate in both worlds to succeed in their career.
Q: What are your specific short, medium, and long-term objectives for UoP?
A: My objectives (though not necessarily those of the University), are quite simple. In short term, I want to see that the ongoing classes are staffed and maintained by the best faculty available. Medium objectives include the continual review of new faculty to ensure the flow of current and well qualified personnel are in position to continue quality in the classroom. My long-term objectives include the addition of new degrees or new coursework that continues to reflect the timeframe during which the material will be presented. We are now in a wireless environment; therefore we should be teaching and using the technology that is in the world. In the future we need to stay with the leading edge of technology both in content and in use.
Q: Illustrate by using a case study approach, what will education look like in 2007, 2010, 2015?
A: Looking at what a student will see in the class in the future, I think you will see many different aspects in education. In 2007, the student will see a time of choice and multiple modality opportunities. A student will be able to use whatever modality will best fit the ability and time available for the student. In 2010, the student will still have the choice of modality but will be using all electronic sourcing of materials and resources. We are using electronic texts, libraries and searches now, but I believe within 5 years we will see education entirely electronic in resources. By 2015, I believe it is possible we might be looking at the opportunity of self paced learning to a much larger scale than is envisioned now. There may no longer be a faculty member or teacher in direct contact with the student. The faculty member or teacher will be creating the documentation that the student will be using, while the student will determine the pace of the education.
Q: What have been your top five challenges since your graduation from university? Why are they included on your list and how did you resolve them?
A: 1) Determining what I wanted to do with my life.
2) Becoming a Chief Engineer of a Naval ship.
3) Learning to balance life.
4) Training Office for the Naval Third Fleet
5) Campus College Chair for the San Diego Campus
Q: Provide a history of your career milestones and important lessons you learned.
A: I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania having worked my way through college in a local steel mill. This was the start for learning the value of an education which is a lesson I continue to learn on a daily basis.
I enlisted in the Navy and then Commissioned an Ensign four years after enlisting. This provided a better insight as to the thinking of the junior enlisted man in the service and started me down the path to learn how to lead and manage.
Assigned to work on the design and implementation of the World Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS). I was assigned to train the military personnel in the hardware construction, operating system, and assembly language used in the WWMCCS system. This was the foundation and basis for both my IT career and my educational career.
Assigned to assist in the Program Management of the Automated Carrier Landing System (ACLS), I provided some good experience in the program management arena.
I was appointed Project Manager for the Tactical Flag Command Center (TFCC). This system was developed and used in all Fleets of the Navy to provide Command input to Operational Forces. This was my first role in leading a project and getting me started in the management role.
I assumed duties of Commanding Officer of Naval Frigate. It provided the first big opportunity for a position of responsibility and leadership.
I worked as a Consultant in the IT field gaining valuable experience in the intricacies of business operations in the IT world of retail business.
Selected as Campus College Chair for the College of IS&T in San Diego has provided me the opportunity to blend the IT technical world with the for-profit business world of academia.
Q: Ken, can you comment of what it is to be an IT Professional?
A: As an IT professional, I feel it is my responsibility to stay current in the field as much as possible. I need to maintain a knowledge base of what is going on in IT in order to provide adequate direction and guidance in the classroom environment. To be an IT Professional means the need to do continual research to maintain currency and the determination to ensure IT systems are designed with efficiency, currency, security, and correctness while ensuring that they meet the prime of objective of providing what the user needs. An IT Professional will also make every attempt to provide an understanding to the users of the system on why it works, and how it works, while instilling in the user the confidence to use the system.
Q: Which has proved to be the most valuable: undergraduate studies, graduate studies, work experience, teaching, leading; and why? Rank them…
A: The most valuable to me is work experience. Work experience shows how something will work in the real world and not just how the design says it should work. Leading is second because good leadership requires continual training and a natural ability to listen. I believe every successful leader listens appropriately. When leading you must know where you are going and why or you will not succeed. From my perspective, teaching is simply a subset of leading so no need to list it anywhere but here. Graduate studies were my next most valuable experience, because they provided some information and direction in the area I wanted to develop for my career. Undergraduate studies were of value because they started me on the path of desiring more knowledge and a continual desire for more additional knowledge and information.
Q: Choose five topics of your choosing and providing commentary.
A: 1) Topic 1: Teamwork:
2) Topic 2: IT management:
3) Topic 3: Internet Security:
4) Topic 4: Myth: There is no point in working towards a career in the IT industry as most of the jobs are moving overseas or offshore.
5) Topic 5: Hackers: It is hard to combat hackers.
Q: If you were doing this interview, what three questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
A: Q1) With the opportunity to make much more money in the IT business world why choose the educational environment of IT?
Q2) Why the University of Phoenix?
Q3) Do you feel there is a need for some kind of standardization in the qualities expected of someone that advertises themselves as a network specialist?
Q: Ken, thank you for taking the time to do this interview and sharing your deeply considered insights with our audience.
A: You're welcome.