Over the past few months, I’ve worked with, spoke with, and visited with several different higher ed tech companies. Obviously I’ve worked in this space myself for the past nearly three years, but through this experience, I’ve garnered a unique perspective on our greater ecosystem in higher ed.
Coming up through traditional campus based student affairs, I had no idea what was out there. Learning more about all the different organizations that help support the mission of institutions was helpful to appreciate how important these partnerships are. Done right, they augment our work with students. They don’t replace it.
With that being said, there are other valuable lessons I took to heart as I met with various folks in higher ed tech that I hope can resonate with other campus based professionals.
Equipped with the Best Tools
I’ve found it to be far more ubiquitous in the ed tech world to have the best tools to support our work. It helps with everything from collaboration, communication, expenses, HR, analytics, and student support. It seems like it is just a different mindset for the most part. Nothing is preventing campuses from using most of these tools (I know privacy can be a big concern). A lot of them have catered to colleges, there just needs to be the willingness to invest the time and energy in implementing it. We can often experience a lot of inertia with our processes, especially in higher ed. Now more than ever with the disruptive demographic challenges and competitive marketplace for students, we need to make sure we’re doing the best work we can to recruit and retain students. We also need to be doing this in the most efficient way possible with modern tools on our side. Take a look at tools like Workday, Slack, Salesforce, Presence, Roompact, Zoom, and AdmitHub.
Remote, Flexible Work
Something else that is fairly fundamental to ed tech teams is a remote first policy. I currently work fully remote for a company that is mostly remote. It’s been a great perk to have this flexibility to work wherever and however will allow me to be the most productive. This is a topic I’ve written about before and it is even getting notice from places like Inside Higher Ed. I won’t belabor the point again here, but we really need to consider this more so that we can attract and keep high quality talent.
Job Landscape is Wide Open
The last point I’d like the emphasize is that for anyone looking to work in higher ed but having trouble finding a good fit, there is a wide array of different jobs out there now. So many organizations want people with formal campus based experience to bring that perspective to their team. Whether it is working directly with campuses for support, doing trainings, marketing, or back end admin support, there is a place for everyone in higher ed tech. I’ve greatly appreciated still being able to support student success while being able to work in a far more healthy environment for me.
I think about this topic a lot and have for a while. I wrote as a contributor to the Defectors series a few years ago which has been a great insight into the experiences of other folks in this space. Something else to note here is that just because you leave a campus based role doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t ever go back. I know of some people who have gone back and forth. You can certainly contribute valuable knowledge coming back that you perhaps may never been able to garner otherwise.
I hope that we can get to a place where the ed tech space is discussed in graduate programs. I hope we get rid of “vendor” as a dirty word at conferences. I hope we can aspire to be a more adaptable field that can measure up to the expectations our students have of us to be digital, nimble, accessible, and responsive. I hope everyone who wants to stay and work in higher ed can find environments that appreciate them and jobs that fulfill them.
I’m always happy to discuss this further with anyone interested. Please connect with me if you have questions!