Re-defining myself

Today’s “ah-ha” moment isn’t about my academic learning so much as it is a learning about myself.

At dinner last night, I was chatting with my husband about the current iteration of my thesis idea. I’m developing various components to a program that supports iPad adoption among higher education instructors. In talking about the various components, I often wonder why no one else has thought about the ideas that I have. They seem so simple to me, so why hasn’t someone else done it?

I’ve spend the last three weeks delving deeply into the literature on technology adoption and faculty development. Reading the literature feeds my understanding, giving it more depth, and helping to explain why some of the things others do don’t work, but the core idea doesn’t come out of the literature, it comes from someplace deep inside of me.

I mentioned to my husband that I had a real intuition for this work (technology adoption that is). It was then that my husband pointed out, that I should by now, I’ve been doing it for 20-years! It was this comment that sparked a real “ah-ha” moment for me. He was right of course. In my early career at Nortel, I quickly became known for giving product demonstrations and as someone who could make the network work and describe it to anyone. I worked with customers, helping them understand what they needed to do to integrate our product into their networks. We called it “new product introduction”, but in academia, the same concept is technology adoption.

After Nortel, I re-established my identity as an instructional designer. In that capacity, I designed and developed training programs on pretty much any topic, but I always found that I was drawn to the technology projects. I’ve done several projects in other areas (mostly medical education), but I was never quite as satisfied with doing that work. On the other hand, ask me to write training on a new technology (or even an old technology), and I’m happy to explore how to use it, and build something that will help others use it too. I always excelled at (and had a passion for) writing training material for new technologies.

In making the career change to instructional design, I always felt that it wasn’t quite enough. The training program is only a piece of the puzzle. Technology adoption is much more complex than just learning how the product works in context – you also need to figure out the additional complexities around organizational influences that play a role in adoption. A successful adoption program involves a lot more that just building an awesome training course (although that is an important piece of the puzzle).

I knew that the PhD process was going to re-establish my identity (from instructional designer to university professor/researcher), but I didn’t expect this transition. As of today, I shall now identify myself as a technology adoption catalyst and instructional designer – with the technology adoption catalyst as the primary descriptor of what I do. I work with organizations to help them adopt new technologies.

Time to go out and design some new business cards!

2 Comments on Re-defining myself

  1. Love to see this evolution of self-knowledge/understanding! Though I must say that I disgaree with your first line: Self knowledge is academic, in my mind at least!!
    N.

  2. Hi Becky,
    I enjoyed this because I actually had my ah-ha moment as to why I was doing a Ph.D. when I was developing the little intro I had to give before my dissertation defense.  I did it for the learning, of course, but also because all my grad work had been an investigation of what I did when I was writing: why I used certain words, structures, etc. The Ph.D. finalized that for me.

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