What was your role while at Development Guild DDI?
I was at Development Guild for 5 years. I started as Bill Weber’s assistant, and by the time I left, I was a consultant. I worked mostly on strategic planning and program evaluation projects. I assisted Bill with his work with Partners Healthcare and Claire Reinelt, a former Senior Consultant, with her program evaluation work with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
What did you take away from your time at Development Guild that has served you well in your career?
It was my first job out of college and a great experience. I was very fortunate to have Bill as a mentor, as I learned so much from him about communications (both written and verbal), about strategic planning techniques, and about asking the right questions to get the information you need. I also spent time at Development Guild learning to create and use databases for data tracking and analysis (I recall an early database for tracking executive searches) and, since leaving the firm, every position I have held has involved data and analytics.
And on a funnier note, Bill is the reason for my preferred e-mail signature. He always signed his emails with “Regards” as opposed to “Sincerely”, and I still do that to this day.
What have you been up to since leaving?
My wife and I moved to Springfield a couple years into my time at Development Guild. Our two oldest children, who were born while I was at DG, are now 16 and 17 years old. We also had a third child, who is 6 years old. Our house is always lively!
For the past nine years, I have been at the Springfield Public Schools, where I am the Chief Information Officer. In this role, I am working to improve the city’s educational system by overseeing the school district’s technology and data initiatives.
Springfield is an under-resourced and high poverty community, and my wife and I commit much of our time to various efforts to improve the city and the residents’ quality of life.
Tell us more about your current role.
At the Information, Technology, and Accountability Office, we are working to leverage tech to change and improve teaching and learning. The stereotypical teaching method is a teacher standing at the front of the room and passing on knowledge, and students are expected to learn and repeat this information. We are trying to transform this model with technology so students will be more independent and have more control over their own education and learning experience.
One of our current initiatives is providing laptops to every student in the school district from 3rd to 12th grade. This is about 20,000 students in total and we are allowing more and more students to take the laptops home with them. 4 out of 5 of our students come from households receiving public assistance, so it is highly important that we provide them with the capabilities to continue their learning outside of the classroom. This initiative was borne out of a cost-benefit analysis we conducted. We found that providing laptops to every student and allowing them to bring the laptops home would cost the same as extending the school day by 22 minutes. It was a no-brainer.
Another one of our initiatives is a new project to expand computer science instruction. The computer science field is dominated by White and Asian-American men. Our students are almost entirely African-American and Hispanic/Latino, and of course, 50% of our students are female. Research shows that by middle school, many students are making decisions about what they like based on what they think they’re good at. For that reason, we are exposing our students to computer science and computational thinking in elementary school, in hopes of fostering an early interest.
Do you have any advice you would like to give to incoming employees?
Enjoy your time at Development Guild! I feel very grateful for my time there. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn and develop alongside people invested in me and in each other’s improvement. So, relish and take advantage of the opportunity to learn from some pretty exceptional people!