David Lassner and Garret Yoshimi on Working with Your President

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The Integrative CIO | Season 2, Episode 5

Hosts Cynthia and Jack welcome University of Hawaii President David Lassner, as well as his Chief Information Officer, Garret Yoshimi. They discuss the relationship between President and CIO.

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Jack Suess: Welcome to the EDUCAUSE Integrative CIO podcast. I'm Jack Suess, vice president of IT and CIO at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Cynthia Golden: And I'm Cynthia Golden, associate provost at the University of Pittsburgh. Each episode we welcome a guest from in or around higher education technology as we talk about repositioning or reinforcing the role of IT leadership as an integral strategic partner in support of the institutional mission.

Cynthia Golden: Today we are really pleased to have with us David Lassner. David is the 15th president of the University of Hawaii, and in that capacity he simultaneously leads the 10-campus UH system, which is the state's sole provider of public post-secondary education, and he leads Hawaii's flagship research University, UH Manoa. David has a long history with EDUCAUSE that he will tell us about in his introduction.

Jack Suess: And also joining us is Garrett Yoshima. Garrett is the Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer. He's actively represented the University of Hawaii in state national venues as a member of EDUCAUSE, Internet2, and the Association for College and University Technology Advancement. Garrett has spent many years in government and private sector before coming to the University of Hawaii CIO role.

Cynthia Golden: So David, why don't you start by introducing yourself to our audience?

David Lassner: Okay. Aloha, audience. I have been at the University of Hawaii about 45 years, all except the last nine in technology roles, from entry level contractor, staff member, user support, manager, into executive roles and eventually becoming the first Chief Information Officer, or first VP for IT. And then a little over nine years ago, I took an unusual career twist and became President.

During my years in IT, I was active locally, nationally and internationally with EDUCAUSE. I chaired a couple of committees, moved on conference committees, I was on the board. I actually chaired the board. I was on the faculty of the EDUCAUSE Management Institute and the counterpart serving Australia and New Zealand with [inaudible 00:02:14]. Their management institute. But I was also involved in Internet2, did time on the board there, and chaired a council and some committees. I was active in what is now called the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. Pretty active and helped co-found the Kuali Foundation, working in administrative software and community source. And then a number of global organizations, some here and some beyond; Pacific Telecommunications Council, APAN, and things locally, if you're in a small place. I was on the board of Hawaii Public Television. I chaired a Hawaii broadband task force and Hawaii High Technology Development Corporation. So that's probably enough.

Jack Suess: So Garrett, could you introduce yourself and talk about what led you to the CIO position at the University of Hawaii?

Garrett Yoshimi: Thanks Jack. Appreciate it. So as an engineer by training, so double E, in those years, which was 44 years ago, almost as long as David, there was no such thing as computer engineering, there was no such thing as software engineering. It was called something completely different. So I stuck what amounted to a computer engineering curriculum into a [inaudible 00:03:46] program, which was super interesting at the time. And I thought, "Why not?" In those days you paid a flat fee for four years of education, or actually in my case three and a half years of education. And we got what we could out of the program, including a bunch of time on the pre-PC platform chips, the stuff that Bell Labs was working on in the units operating system environment at a time when the introduction to units was a sheaf of Xerox ... actually mimeographed, at that point, papers with Dennis Richie's name on the front of it.

So it was quite an interesting career over a long period of time. I would actually call it a fairly twisted path, leading to a number of different both job opportunities as well as institutions and companies that I've worked for a number of years. Probably a dozen or so different companies over a number of different job opportunities that span software, that span network engineering, some different types of sales and marketing opportunities, consulting opportunities. At least four different gigs as a CIO or CIO-equivalent. Finally moving to the position here at the university.

And I will say, and I'm not trying to kiss up to my boss just because he's on this podcast, but worked for the best boss twice. Interestingly enough, the first time I left the university was one of the saddest job changes I had to make. And interestingly enough, I made it to be able to pay for some private university tuition some place else in the country, not naming Southern California as the place that we had to send our money to. But fortunately ended up coming back to the university as the CIO position opened up here at the University of Hawaii, and currently enjoying the gig here, and hopefully with at least a few more years to be able to contribute to the industry.

Cynthia Golden: Well, it's great to hear about both of your backgrounds. And David, we're happy to have you here today, because one of the things we wanted to talk about is the fact that you're one of the very few IT leaders who's gone on to serve as a university President. And I'm sure that our listeners would really like to hear about your journey. You talked about how you've really been part of the IT community, and do you want to talk a little bit about your move to the President's office? I think people would be interested in knowing some of the experiences you had in the IT roles and how they prepared you, and maybe where you might have wanted more preparation.

David Lassner: Okay. So the short version of the story, I was a very happy Vice President for IT and CIO. This is 2013. By then, the position had been institutionalized, and most research universities had something equivalent. I was part of the President's cabinet. President announced she was stepping down. The board of regents decided they wanted to spend about a year figuring out what they wanted in the next President and doing a search. So they were looking for somebody who would be interim while they did the search after my predecessor stepped down. And so I got a call, along with a couple other Vice Presidents and I think some others, asking if I was interested in being interim President for perhaps a year. True story; I told them I was my third choice. And anyway, they picked me. So I started doing the job, they started the search, and probably six or so months later they said, "Oh, can we consider you for the non-interim position?" I said, "Oh, well I said I wasn't going to apply." They said, "Well, you don't have to apply, but can we consider you?" And three or four months later, they took the interim off and here I am.

David Lassner: So I had never really wanted to be a President. I really liked my IT job. I've joked that my salary went up, but my hourly rate went down. The three things I'd say that I knew the least about as a CIO that have turned out to be really important as a President, one was high-end fundraising. It's not something that CIOs typically get really involved in, other than with some IT-specific gifts. A second one is real estate. Most universities own land and are trying to figure out what to do with it, whether it's maximize revenue or understand public-private partnerships, things like that. And the third one is intercollegiate athletics. And I won't say anything else about that.

Jack Suess: So Garrett, you have the unique situation of working for your predecessor. How has that helped in making this transition to higher education play out?

Garrett Yoshimi: The transition has been pretty interesting, and I will say that one of the first either questions or comments that I got, first stepping into the CIO role, was, "Wow, isn't it scary to have a boss that was in your job before?" And I would say, without some of the other career collisions, if you will, that happened previous to stepping into the job, it might be, to have a job that your current boss did for a very long period of time, did very well for a very long period of time, and then now has ascended to the role of the President of the institution and has all these other responsibilities. Plus having the ability to, in some cases, maybe second guess, maybe know more about what you know when you're doing the job.

I have to say though, that in the part of my twisted career that we talked about previously, I did have the opportunity to work with David on a number of different occasions. First and foremost as a member of the community that works with the university, and additionally as a consultant, working for David in his role as CIO, then as one of his directors while he was still in the CIO role. So you can see a pattern evolving. You can see the ability to have been brought up to speed in the higher education environment over a number of different roles and a number of different years, that I think some other folks wouldn't have the benefit of being able to come into a job having that previous history there.

So that long history has in fact made the transition for me relatively easy, I would say, going into the role. Not saying that I didn't have to learn a lot of stuff after I got here, because I did and I still do. It's a fantastic learning opportunity. But really having the long number of years almost as a slow ramp into the CIO role has been a really good learning experience for me. And again, I still have the opportunity to learn a lot more, some of which includes participation not just at a state level, but at a regional, at a national, at an international level that I have the benefit of riding the coat tails of David throughout this entire process because of his long history in the role of CIO here.

David Lassner: And I'll add, I didn't know how I would do, giving up a job that I had worked toward and literally created over 30 years or 30-plus years. And it turned out to be really easy. I'll just say that IT is one of the things I worry about the least in my current job, and I enjoy catching up with Garrett and talking with him and then going on to whatever burning fires I have.

Garrett Yoshimi: So one of the good strategies in this particular relationship is that we can take the opportunity every once in a while to interrupt the President's calendar to give him some deep therapy. To makes sure he still gets the opportunity to enjoy some of the things that he's always enjoyed to do.

Cynthia Golden: It sounds like this relationship has been terrific.

Jack Suess: So just a quick followup. So for both of you, I had the opportunity to work reporting to Dr. Hrabowski for 20 years at my institution. And I would say that more than half of the time when we were meeting, we were never talking about IT. We were talking about whatever is going on in the President's life, which is always changing. And I'm just curious, David, are you and Garrett often talking about things outside of IT, and looking at him as an informal advisor like you do others, I'm sure, around the university? Or are you mostly staying within the IT sector when you're meeting with Garrett on things?

David Lassner: I'm going to say both. Yeah. Yeah. I know we'll get into this in a bit, but I think one of the messages for IT leaders who want to be more involved in the institution is they need to understand everything that's going on. And I think the reason that the board of regents asked me to stay on and do this job is that over my years at the university, I had been involved in injecting IT into everything we do. So helping start the first distance learning program at the beginnings of online learning, replacing all of the administrative systems at least once, if not twice. I don't think any of them three times yet.

Cynthia Golden: Probably wireless networking?

David Lassner: Wireless. The beginnings of wireless. Making the decision that TCPIP was going to replace all of those other SNA, DECnet and AppleTalk things we all fooled around with. But I think a lot of it was more the permeating into the institution, and around research and the importance of technology and research through work with Internet2, high performance computing, and other things that I had a pretty good insight into all the parts of the university, except some of those things that we hadn't really injected IT into in a significant way. And I think I benefit from that with Garrett and our other Vice Presidents, who have insights from what they know, finance, HR, administration, construction, legal affairs; all of that helps shape me in understanding my job. And the more they know about what I'm doing, the more they can help the university.

Jack Suess: Perfect.

Cynthia Golden: Great. So we thought we might frame some of the rest of this conversation around the EDUCAUSE top 10 issues IT issues for 2023. And the way EDUCAUSE is talking about this, they've grouped the top 10 issues into three foundational models. So the first one is about leadership, and they call it Leading with Wisdom. The second one about data, or the Ultra Intelligent Institution. And the third one about work and learning, which is Everything is Anywhere. And the idea, I think, of Everything is Anywhere that forms the foundation models really acknowledges the effect of the pandemic. And so campuses now consist of both physical and digital entities, and teaching and working are happening in classrooms and in dorm rooms and in offices and in conference rooms and in people's houses. And institutional data is stored and transmitted and accessed on campus computers, home computers, portable devices, cloud servers. So essentially we're seeing this idea that everything can be anywhere. And that's a little bit of what we wanted to talk about. Jack?

Jack Suess: Yeah, no. David, I think you mentioned it earlier, but as someone that was faculty, and you've taught in different modalities, how does Everything is Anywhere align with your strategic vision of the University of Hawaii?

David Lassner: Well, I'll say the pandemic really did change, I think, everyone's understanding of what can be done. And I think what we now have is a period of settling into knowing what can be done, what should be done. And to my mind, what is really important is that we not believe that any one approach is the best solution in all cases.

So let's just say online learning. I've been doing online learning a really long time. That's what got me started in IT, was working on an old computer system called Plato, one of the first computer-based education systems. I worked in the lab at Illinois when I was a student there. And so now we get this, "Oh, we made it through the pandemic. Everything should be online." And leaving aside the very obvious reality, which I think anybody in the business knows, which is that what we did for the pandemic to pivot to Zoom was not really online learning. It was like emergency remote learning. But we also know that even the best online designs aren't the solution for everything. So campuses aren't going to go away, but they will be doing different things, and we'll be able to do a lot more online than we used to. And now we have the chance to be thoughtful about returning adults, people who are place-bound, people who are time-bound, certain kinds of students that really do benefit from really creative, highly interactive online learning. Absolutely, let's go forward. 100%. But there are a bunch of kids who are coming out of high school at age 18 who aren't ready for that, for whom a college experience is really part of growing up. And I think campuses will be there for that.

Same story when it comes to work. A lot of people thrive working from home. They don't want to come back to the office. And we had plenty of people who did not. There's all kinds of reasons to not work from home. You could have a crowded, multi-generational household. You might not have adequate broadband. Yay, everybody in the world knows broadband is essential. Finally. You might not have the right devices. You might have too many people trying to share broadband connection and devices. There are certain kinds of work that can't be done from home. So now, how do we take all that we have learned, figure out how to move forward, and most importantly, keep learning? Because we don't know the answers yet to when we should be and must be working from home, when we should be and must be learning from remote locations, whether home or workplace or something else. And it's a really exciting time. I did a local public access TV show called Silver Linings, and we talked about the silver linings of the pandemic and the opportunities for everyone to understand the possibilities for a future that's different than our pre-pandemic past.

Cynthia Golden: Well, and there have been some great conversations going on on campuses about all of that. Garrett, what do you think the impacts have been for you from a technology standpoint?

Garrett Yoshimi: It's definitely something that keeps us on our toes. The interesting things about technology in general in this space is the pandemic in particular required us to be amazingly agile and responsive. I think we've been lucky, absolutely lucky to have the right kind of resources and people in particular to be able to respond when we had to respond. I will not make up something that said we were ready for this and we knew we had to do something at some point in time and we just executed. No, that's not what happened. It's not even close to what happened. There was an amazing response from staff, from our vendors, from our community at large to make the agility, to make the response happen in a timely manner, in a way that we could support the changing needs of the institution over a relatively short period of time.

And as David indicated, we now see not necessarily a snap back to what was before. It's not, "We'll go back to the way we used to do it three years ago and just go merrily on our way." No. It's never going to be like that anymore. And in fact, what the result for us has been is the need to continually be agile and responsive. So this is the trick; try to anticipate what some of those needs might be on a going forward basis so that the technology infrastructure and organization can respond when the needs come up. Does that mean we'll be able to handle any permutation of the different things and different styles and different learning styles, different work styles that are in our future? Absolutely not. We'll do the best that we can, and I think we'll be able to respond to 70, 80, 90% of what we need to do. And the perception might be, "Well, we're pretty close to 100%," but we are scrambling all around the edges.

Cynthia Golden: Sure.

Garrett Yoshimi: And I think that's going to be the way things are, in particular for technology organizations on a going forward basis, because people have gotten used to the idea that this stuff mostly just works. For those of us behind the scenes, we know there's a lot of effort to go into 'just works.' I've always said, if we do our job really, really well, we'll be invisible. The technology will be invisible to the institution and the learning environment and the working environment. The realities are that we're not quite invisible, but we have to make sure that we're as close to that as possible.

So if you go back to some of the old plays and the old live concert presenters, all the individuals running around the stage dressed in black and trying to hide behind the shadows, that's the technology organization in many cases. And the need to really be responsive and not get in the way of the business of the institution, I think is critically important for us going forward. It's challenging. Absolutely. Does it require some new skills? Absolutely. And we will continue to learn with the rest of the organization.

Jack Suess: So the second model is the Ultra Intelligent Institution, working with data and analytics to aspire to provide institutional decision-makers with ongoing, useful and increasingly sophisticated insights. So David, how does this theme of Ultra Intelligent Institution align with your strategic goals? And how is Hawaii using technology and data to improve student success and advance the mission of the institution?

David Lassner: So we look at our student data pretty carefully around the standard metrics; graduation rates, retention rates. Now I think an area we're much more interested in is pushing it down to faculty. So we think we understand at the institutional level what kinds of things we need to do and how to measure whether or not we are successful. But we're doing a lot of work now around course-level data, instructor-level data. And in particular, like most institutions now, we're pretty committed to an equity agenda that looks at what are the gaps in student outcomes for various populations. For us, we always look at native Hawaiians. That's our indigenous community here. Pacific Islanders tend to not do well. We're looking at our Filipino students, we're looking at our Pell eligible students for economically disadvantaged marker. We're looking at our first-gen students. We're looking at our rural students.

So we want to understand, what do we have to do to help them succeed? Because they tend not to have outcomes that are matching the rest of our population. And some of that is about programs. And I think most of us have a center for the success of X students, where X is whatever equity group a particular campus is looking at; African-American, black, Hispanic, American-Indian, however you look at those. But I think we also need to look into our teaching to understand how our teaching needs to be responsive to the needs of student populations. And that's been super interesting, working with some organizations that I hadn't worked with before, like AQ, which focuses on teaching and helping faculty teach in responsive manners.

Cynthia Golden: Yeah, we've done a lot of work at Pitt on equitable and inclusive teaching in the past few years. And it has really, I think, had an impact.

David Lassner: And you have to have the data to understand what are the gaps in what disciplines and in what kinds of specific courses, maybe down to the instructor level. And then you have to be able to parse it down to know your student body and be able to track them as well. I think a lot of the rest of what we do is similar to most other kinds of institutions.

The student success agenda. When I was on the EDUCAUSE board and I would talk about things like the completion agenda, so this is, say, more than 10 years ago, this was not an agenda that most of my CIO colleagues were really engaged with at their institutions. And I think that's part of, again, what helped me end up in this position, was my engagement as a CIO with the total university agenda, not just the things that were commonly thought of as the CIO's agenda or the technology agenda. And I was just curious about all these things, and I had colleagues and mentors who invited me in to help and participate.

Jack Suess: So Garrett, one thing that usually is part of the CIO's agenda is cybersecurity and privacy, which are always front and center for every CIO. I know you have a wonderful Chief Information Security Officer in Jodi Ito. As CIO, how are you working with your CISO to protect your community, recognizing that no one's immune from attacks?

Garrett Yoshimi: So first and foremost, every single CIO should listen to everything their CISO tells them and say, "Yes, ma'am. Yes, sir. What else do you need for me to do so you can do your job?" And also, critically important for us, Jodi's not going anywhere. We've held her captive, we put chains around her wrists and ankles, and she's not allowed to take phone calls from anyone, period.

So, some of that joking aside, and it's not all joking, by the way, it's really absolutely critical to make sure that the institution makes the necessary investments. The resources are not endless and they're not bottomless, so it's very important to make sure that we make the right decisions on investment choices, that we make the right decisions on outreach and educating the institution, all of the institution; students, faculty, staff, researchers, our partners, our vendors, to make sure that everybody is onboard with the cybersecurity of the program, the initiatives and the requirements of the space. Requirements, they're literally getting piled on us all over the place, from a statutory compliance point of view, and then from a threat perspective. We face a number of challenges that if you roll the clock back even 10 years, nobody ever thought we would have to deal with this level of threat and potential harm to the institution that we have to deal with on a regular basis now.

Just like the rest of the technology workforce, if things are going really, really well in cybersecurity, you also don't hear about us at all. It's something that it's just you don't want to be the latest news article or the current news announcement or the latest exposure announcement. You want to be ahead of that as much as you can. It's really hard to stay ahead of all of it, by the way. And really make the right investments from the standpoint of the institution, not just in dollars, but also in people, and making sure that the CISO has the voice that she needs to have to make the job work.

We are absolutely blessed to have Jodi as our CISO here. She's not only highly valued at the institution, but also on a state and regional and national and international basis. So we're also benefiting from the reach that our CISO has to talk to other communities and to bring together resources from outside the state to make sure that we can really help to put our best defenses forward and really have the opportunity to continue to operate in an environment that is reasonably safe, reasonably sound, and absolutely diligent to make sure that we're eyes open, ears open, and can see the threats coming as best we can.

Cynthia Golden: So David, in regard to all of this, as President, your actions really help to, I think, both spotlight what's important and to set a tone for what is expected of the community. What kinds of things do you do to highlight the importance of cybersecurity and privacy for everyone?

David Lassner: So it's interesting; as I was listening to Garrett ... so Jodi, who I know some of your listeners will know, because she's very visible nationally in security circles, this is the only place she's worked since she was a student help. When I first came to work here, she was an undergraduate, and then she got full-time staff positions. And it was before we had security people. It wasn't a job in the '70s and early '80s. And I found myself in a situation, this was my very early days as CIO, and I was, like many of us, creating the organizations of merging academic and administrative computing, as we used to call those things. And Jodi was in a role that she wasn't enjoying much, but she had a lot of interest in security. And I just said, "What the heck? Why don't you be in charge of security?" And she's never left that role. So sometimes you just get it right.

But Garrett has taken it much farther, I would say, in terms of the complexities of what we have to do and the number of people, the number of tools. So for me, I have to do what Garrett said, which is when Garrett or Jodi say to me, "We need to do X," I say, "Yes, sir, yes, ma'am." And we can't really make it about the money. The cost of not investing in security far exceed the cost of almost any investment any reasonable CIO or CISO will ask for.

But I also have to stand both internally and externally and really articulate the importance of privacy, of personal information. Explain to people, an angry parent. It's interesting, because now I get it less on the technology side and more on the privacy side, that when a parent calls and is angry, I have to say, "Sorry, I can't talk to you about your student. Her information is protected by FERPA, even from you. Bring us a waiver, or sorry." It's that kind of thing, that really, literally, Presidents have to say that stuff sometimes when you get sufficiently angry people. Or when we have to impose some new restriction or inconvenient process for security, President has got to be there lockstep with the CIO and the CISO to explain to angry faculty, angry administrators, angry staff, why you can't just do anything you want to as easily as you can shop on Amazon.

Jack Suess: So one of the things we wanted to talk about is the foundational model of Leading with Wisdom. Our title of this podcast is The Integrative CIO, and it strives to share insights on how others are doing this Leading with Wisdom. And I can't think of two better examples than the two of you. So David, as President, how are you and your leadership team helping to shape the institutional culture to make University of Hawaii a place that people want to be? And where that takes hold in the pandemic, how do you hope to keep it moving forward post-pandemic?

David Lassner: So it's very easy for people inside universities to get very focused on me. Whoever me is. And that's whether it's faculty or a student or a parent or a staff member or an administrator in a silo. And I think for me, the biggest insight, and it was really amplified after the pandemic, but I understood this before, I think, but I didn't say it as much, is, "Sorry, it is not about you. It is about our students. And we're a public university. We are the sole provider of public higher education in our state, including community colleges. So we have to do everything that this state needs. And if you're not signed up for that, you might not be a good fit for this institution." Because that's what we will fall back to, is what is this going to mean for helping our students succeed? And what does this mean for helping our communities succeed?

And that is inclusive of our research mission, that is grounded very much in what our state needs and what are our competitive advantages as a state. Obviously oceans, astronomy, atmospheric sciences, conservation, conservation biology, evolutionary biology. These are all things that we have really an unfair competitive advantage over many other places. And we better get good at it to help drive our economy. And I think the pandemic helped us; besides seeing what we had to do for our students, we understood what a fragile economy we had. We went from the lowest unemployment rate in the country to the highest unemployment rate in the country. Maybe first or second and 49th, 50th, but you get the idea. When tourism shut down, we lost our biggest economic sector. And this time, I think, maybe for the first time since I've been here, we seemed serious as a community and as a state in talking about how will we diversify our economy so that we're not so dependent on something that is so out of our control? And so I think the wisdom is about outcomes and thinking about others and what we have to do for others.

Cynthia Golden: And so Garrett, you talked earlier about one of the lessons of the pandemic being that we have to evolve and adapt. And one of the consequences of not doing that is losing talent. What kinds of workplace initiatives do you think are important to future success in this area?

Garrett Yoshimi: Really good question. And the loss of talent, I would say we were already facing it pre-pandemic, and it has simply been magnified a couple of degrees as we've gone through the pandemic. Silver linings; the great thing about the pandemic and having everybody in the same boat, literally, is that in particular for where we seek talent and where we have concerns over losing talent, it is exactly the same position, and I'll speak to technology organizations, that every other technology organization is sitting in. We're equally desperate. We're all facing a similar situation.

Hawaii, I think it would be fair to classify it as a mid-market style economy, or sized economy, where we cannot directly compete with the tech hubs that are sitting on the West Coast. Or across the nation, for that matter. So San Francisco, LA, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, New York City. There's just not a way for us to directly compete head-to-head in the spaces. So what we have to do is compete in a way that does two things. We're looking at making sure we enlarge and we deepen the candidate pool. So it's all about workforce development. We get more people into the pipeline that are qualified in the pipeline, because we know we're going to lose some of them along the way. As a public university, we know we're going to lose some of our best and brightest to the sparkly things that the private industry can often dangle in front of them. Hopefully we'll get them back at some point. But the important thing for us is to make sure that we create a pool that's totally viable to support our local industries and our own university so that we can have and we can grow the talent over some period of time.

This is a long run strategy. This isn't something that will fix our immediate vacancy needs today, tomorrow, next year, even the year after that. But it is a longterm strategy, long run strategy that I think we have now in common with all of our employers across the Hawaii community at least, so that we can all invest together to make sure that we can have that talent to draw on.

From the standpoint of an employer, we also have to make sure we make that investment in our management and executive staff so we understand how to nurture and develop and manage this workforce that is changing right in front of us. This is not something that you can manage with 19th or 18th century principles and skills. You have to roll it forward, and you have to be able to figure out how to deal with the folks that are coming out of college now, the folks that are reentering the employment marketplace, and try and figure out how we're going to deal with and manage effectively a set of technologists and engineers and personnel that maybe are not all sitting in rows of tables in front of us that we can see showed up to work at 7:30 or 7:45 and worked until 4:30 or five o'clock. But really be able to manage based on work output, on outcomes, on measures that we can see without seeing them in front of us. A totally different environment than maybe some of the previous generations have grown up in.

So lots of changes along the way, and we have to be able to respond to those changes.

Jack Suess: So David, when you were a CIO for me, you were a model for what I didn't know at the time would be called the integrative CIO. You were a person that between your work at Hawaii, but also your national and international, you were bringing together people and you were finding ways to do things that were interesting. I'm curious, do you like the term integrative CIO? And how do you think it relates to this idea of leading with wisdom?

David Lassner: Yeah, I do like the term, and I think the thing that's interesting about it is it's integrative. I think about it within the institution. So as I mentioned, I always tried to make sure I understood what was going on, best practices nationally or wherever, around the key areas that we talk about; teaching and learning, administration, research, networking. Those were all really important to everything that the institution had to do. But it was also integrative as I grew up in my job in the community, in these different organizations that offered me different opportunities to see how do I engage with other people to try to solve problems? Because I remember the day I was frustrated over a major ERP project that had not succeeded, and I wrote to a few people in the community inclusive of EDUCAUSE. And I said, "You know what, if we got 100 institutions to put in $100,000, we could all just write an ERP and be done with these darn vendors."

So my mindset was integrative about collaboration, I think going back many, many years as well. And I still believe, whatever job any of us are in, those opportunities for networking, collaboration, and taking that to integration, to doing things together, are really interesting. I had a boss who was a challenge for me, and when we were working on a student information system project one time, he said to me, "Why can't we just have one student information system for the whole country?" And my first thought was, "Oh my God, this guy doesn't understand anything." And now I think about it and I think, "Huh, what an interesting idea. What an interesting idea."

Cynthia Golden: So David, as President we will give you the last word. And any final comments, anything you want to say to our audience?

David Lassner: Well, I mentioned earlier I didn't really aspire to this role, but I know that there are people who do. And so what I would say is take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn everything you can about everything the university does. Make friends everywhere, because you will need them to be able to succeed and help other people succeed. And they will support you. And for these niche areas that most CIOs don't get involved in, lots of us sit in the room ... So the first challenge, and I remember being around with Jack a lot, and the question is, "Are you in the room?" The Hamiltonian question. And if you're not in the cabinet, it's really hard to understand what's really going on. And finding your way there is probably really important.

Jack Suess: Well, thank you both. This has been fabulous. We really appreciate you taking the time, and we look forward to watching what you two both continue to do out in Hawaii.

Cynthia Golden: Absolutely. Aloha.

David Lassner: Thank you. Aloha.

Jack Suess: Aloha.

This episode features:

David Lassner
University of Hawaii

Garret Yoshimi
Vice President for IT and CIO
University of Hawaii

Cynthia Golden
Associate Provost
University of Pittsburgh

Jack Suess
Vice President of IT & CIO
University of Maryland, Baltimore County