A day in the life of a Director of IT

The below post was originally shared via the Association of Network Managers in Education (ANME) on 20th December 2021


Different schools use different job titles for the work that I do, and in addition, the specific tasks and requirements differ from school to school based on size, context, budgetary constraints and a variety of other factors. As such, I thought I would share a brief outline of a day in my life.

So, it’s Thursday, December 2nd and the day kicks off for me around 8:15 am when I arrive at the office and get set up for the day. My first port of call is to get email on screen plus my collection of daily web pages including my To-Do list, our help desk and other apps I need on a daily basis. One of the first things I look at is any alerts in relation to suspicious user account activity to see if there is anything that might merit my involvement plus also to make sure anything which requires logging is logged ready to be reported to SLT.

My next activity was a quick chat with our Network Manager in relation to some Wi-Fi usage data I had been looking at. We started gathering the data and analysing it in response to some general student complaints regarding Wi-Fi connectivity, however, the data doesn’t quite support the existence of a general issue, albeit individual students may have specific issues in relation to their devices, connectivity, or services which they are trying to access. Rather than requiring general action, these issues will require contact with the students to try and identify and resolve their specific, individual issues.

At 9:00 and my first meeting of the day, with our Director of Finance. There are a number of current projects which make up the agenda for our discussion plus a discussion of cyber security issues and some recent infrastructure challenges we had been facing.

As is generally the case, the meeting is a packed one and, in this case, even runs beyond the allocated one-hour slot. Immediately following the meeting, I spend a little bit of time digesting the discussion and noting down any actions, making sure these are added to my To-Do list as appropriate.

10:30 and I am working on our annual IT Services perception survey. This is basically 3 surveys that go out to staff, senior school students and prep school students to gauge their experience and perception of IT Services and of our devices, infrastructure, etc. We have been gathering this info now for around 5 years and it is the longitudinal nature of the data, rather than the in-year data which is most useful as it highlights trends over time. I spend a little time preparing the relevant surveys and the associated communications that go with them, plus make sure to keep a number of key staff aware of the planned release of the surveys.

Following this, my next task relates to phishing awareness. We recently ran several awareness tests on small groups of staff whereby we sent a fake phishing email to them to see if they identified the email as malicious or if they fell for the bait. I now need to write up a short report on the findings from the most recent test so this can be shared with SLT for their info. This process has been useful in identifying the type of phishing emails that staff tend to fall far, which then allows us to direct awareness training to this area.

My department weekly briefing is my final task before lunch. This is a weekly document rather than a face-to-face meeting and serves to share thoughts, notices, etc with the IT Services team hopefully also serving as a record of activities, etc and as a repository of useful info. It isn’t a long task to create these each week as I tend to follow a rough template. This week’s briefing turns out to be a slightly longer one, but this is mainly due to sharing some of the positive feedback I had received in relation to the team’s recent activities.

Following lunch, I have meetings with the Head of IT at our prep school and our Director of EdTech for our senior school. I work closely with both, where their focus is very much is on what happens in the classroom and the pedagogy, my focus is a little more on the technology, infrastructure, support services and cyber security. The key thing is together we are able to provide a guiding direction in terms of technology use within the school, each able to bring our different experiences and skillset to bear in discussions. Due to this, we make up a central part of the schools IT Management group which also includes SLT members and a number of teaching staff. This week’s discussions focus on the school’s technology strategy and expanding on it so staff have a clearer understanding of it, plus on the now-launched satisfaction surveys.

The end of the day (5pm) is now fast approaching so I spend a bit of time continuing to work on my end of term report. I try to provide a termly report which contains useful data in relation to our infrastructure, systems, user support, etc. The purpose of the data is very much about transparency and making sure that the SLT is always aware of all the work going on in IT Services even when everything is working fine. It also serves to identify trends, opportunities, and concerns. I find the report particularly useful in continuing to build awareness in relation to cyber security risks. As much as possible I try to use readily available data to avoid it taking too long to process however, the reports still do take a bit of time to produce. In my view, they are however well worth the effort in avoiding IT Services disappearing behind the curtain until the next issue arises.

Reflections

Looking back, it was a reasonably busy day with a number of reports being written. I suspect this was largely due to the fact we were fast approaching the end of term but also the end of the calendar year and therefore some of these reports needed to be in before everyone broke up for the winter break. Cyber security was certainly high on my order of thinking, however, this is increasingly the case. Our technology strategy, which we recently updated, was also high on the priority list.

I suspect, although Directors of IT, or those in similar roles at other schools, are all travelling in roughly similar directions in terms of technology use within their school or schools the route taken can differ significantly. As such my day may look totally different to your day, but that’s not a problem. The key is that we each know in which direction we wish to go, and are taking the necessary steps to get there.

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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