If you have not arrived here from a link in a recent email list post, the impetus for this blog entry is that I have left my position at Dartmouth College effective November 22, 2009 to become a member of the Product Management team at Blackboard, Inc. as their Technical Product Manager. In this role I will be responsible for product management around developer infrastructure and APIs, System Administration features, standards implementation, and the technology stack.
Over the past twelve and a half years at Dartmouth I have had the privilege to work with many talented and forward thinking individuals. During that time I grew as a developer and system administrator. I also realized in myself a passion for pragmatic and deliberate application of technology in education. For those opportunities I am eternally grateful.
So what does the future hold for me at Blackboard? Can anyone predict the future with certainty? No. What I do know for certain is that while working for Blackboard, just as when I was working for Dartmouth, I will be working with the same great folks from .EDU and Blackboard whom I have met during 12+ years of meetings, conferences, phone calls, and emails. Nice.
As the Technical Product Manager I will be the champion for our community of Blackboard developers within Blackboard Product Development by actively engaging and building relationships with the Blackboard developer community through client visits, user group meetings, and conferences. I'll oversee and execute programs designed to engage Blackboard developers throughout all aspects of the development life-cycle to ensure our new product releases meet or exceed client expectations (BTW: suggestions welcome!).
Over the past couple years I have watched Blackboard as an organization, through changes in the product and involvement on standards committees, deepen its commitment to openness and standards. To me this shows that Blackboard is responding to the challenges of making the Learn platform better for the developer community. Additionally, it has become apparent to me over the last several months that Blackboard is keen to improve the quality and transparency of communication with this important audience. Finally, it is my (and Blackboard's) hope that through my experience and direct involvement with the product, and developer and administrator communities, I can help channel the needs and priorities of the technical community to enable the best possible product that meets the needs of the community.
Well... having never previously worked in the corporate world I am certain I will have some adjustments to make. But the following pretty much sketches out my philosophy:
I am a fan of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. Considering their ideals and what they accomplished with their relatively humble beginnings in Dave's garage on Addison Avenue in Palo Alto California, it is hard to not be impressed. One of my take-aways from their early startup story is the list of rules (according to legend) that they had posted in that garage:
Rules of the Garage
Believe you can change the world.
Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
Know when to work alone and when to work together.
Share tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
No Politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage).
The customer defines a job well done.
Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
Invent different ways of working.
Make a contribution every day. If it doesn’t contribute, it doesn’t leave the garage.
Believe that together we can do anything.
When one considers these “rules” it becomes apparent that they may be applied to many things: Hardware startups, software development, and even life. But, it is their application to our efforts in creating innovative solutions for educational technology that I feel they carry immediate significance. For it is when we as a community pull together in conversation and collaboration as colleagues sharing a vision for the betterment of educational technology that these rules carry more meaning than just words on a page; they serve as goals and guide posts.
There is currently a great deal of conversation taking place in the educational technology space which places our community in conflict. I believe firmly that while perhaps uncomfortable as these discussions may be at times, we are better for them as a community and therein lay solution and opportunity for improving the use of technology in education. I believe this because I believe in the 'rules' and because I believe we share a common bond. Specifically that the bounds of teaching and learning can be expanded with technology; that prudent and deliberate use of technology can enable the art of education and that we all share a passion for this art.
I am thrilled to say that I will be able to continue to play a small role in this community, for these are exciting times of change in education and the future hints at being even more exciting.
So, I extend a hearty “Thank You!” from me in my new role at Blackboard to everyone who participates in improving educational technology, and especially to all who participate in the “Garage”.