Community Conversations: Bella Abrams and Phil Ventimiglia on the 2022 Top 10 IT Issues [video]

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John O'Brien, EDUCAUSE CEO and President, welcomes two of the 2022 Top 10 IT Issues panelists: Bella Abrams, Director of IT for the University of Sheffield, and Phil Ventimiglia, Chief Innovation Officer for the Georgia State University, about the increasing relevance of the Chief Information Security Officer role.

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Bella Abrams
Director of Information Technology
The University of Sheffield

Phil Ventimiglia
Chief Innovation Officer
Georgia State University

John O'Brien
President and CEO

John O'Brien: Well, welcome to another Community Conversation. And I'm really excited today to have two members of the Top 10 IT panel for 2022. We just released the Top 10 of 2022 at our conference, and so the time is right to ask these two panel members to come today. Welcome Bella, welcome Phil. As you look over at the top 10 issues themselves, are there other themes you see woven throughout all 10 or most of the 10, other than the theme of students, of course?

Bella Abrams: When I was thinking about themes, they feel like the kind of exit pandemic themes anyway. So I think the top 10 kind of reflects that, but also reflects wider society. So we are coping with increased threat of all kinds to kind of normal operations. And demand for change is across all of those in the top 10 as well. And I think the really interesting part of the things that are woven in, and they're the things that I think we all struggle with is how we respond to those two things by building up the right skill set across our teams and our wider institutions. And the bigger challenge is how you create the right culture, a fertile culture, to be able to respond to all of those things.

Phil Ventimiglia: Yeah, for me the themes that are really pervading throughout the top 10 this year is really what is the future of higher education? And these themes actually precluded a pandemic that's just been accelerated, right? We've now accelerated what the 21st century looks like and the future of work, the future of learning. And now we're reacting to that, you know, very, very quickly. And we're seeing, you know, that across all these themes of the future being, you know, much more hybrid. Creativity and other skills beyond just digital skills for this 21st century economy are very critical. And we're seeing that important to the IT leaders, right, to help enable that. And then, of course, cybersecurity, because everything is digital, right? This new future is a completely digitally-enabled university in everything that we do. And so not only are we ourselves and our teams much more critical, but the protection of all that digital technology and data, because it is extremely data-driven as well, is critical. And so that's exciting for me, right? Because we're really enabling, especially at scale, for large universities like Georgia State and others, to be able to deliver a really amazing student experience. And hopefully at a very affordable cost, as well.

John O'Brien: So when I think of the two of you on the IT panel, I always think it's all about the panelists sort of, you know, unloading their amazing insights. Maybe you can tell when I say that, but I've never been on the panel. But I'm curious, I imagine that it goes both ways, and that the process of really doing what we tend not to do is to sit and reflect on these things. Normally you're so busy just doing what you're doing, you wouldn't make the time to sit and reflect. Do you find that you learn a lot from the process of developing the top 10 IT issues?

Phil Ventimiglia: Definitely learn a lot, and steal a lot from the top 10 issues. And just this year, as an example, you know, I personally and the university, we've been talking a lot about skills, and digital literacy, and new skills that are needed for the future for our students. And this year, you know, one of the questions that actually I responded on, was the skill of creativity. And that wasn't specifically called out in a lot of the things that I talked about previously. And so that's something I've incorporated directly into, you know, the skills that we talk about preparing digital skills, that creativity is really critical. And is important because more and more of the routine skills are becoming driven by AI, whatever it may be, right? And so not only digital literacy in terms of computational thinking is important, but these other skills such as creativity are extremely important. So, yes, to add that to your point, John, that time to step back and have that sort of 360 feedback loop and say, okay, yeah, that's really interesting, that's really manifesting itself into creativity being really critical as an example.

Bella Abrams: One of the real benefits about being on a panel like this is sharing experience and thinking about how that would work in your own institution. And I'm kind of hearing people's stories about what's worked well, what didn't. Someone said to me a couple of weeks ago that, you know, you guys are a couple of months ahead of us, over the Atlantic. So kind of knowing that things that are going to come down the line as well, which is really useful as well. So it was a really great learning experience for me as well, and something I'd love to do again.

John O'Brien: Okay. Well, nice to see you both. Thanks for making time to be with me.

Bella Abrams: It's great.

Phil Ventimiglia: Nice seeing you.