Last year, Bennett Parsons took a just-the-facts approach to Harvard’s aging my.harvard student information system: He did what he had to do and got out.“As a freshman, I was fairly confused about all the different things that the old system had,” Parsons said. “Basically, whenever I had to perform a task that was in the system, I’d have to refer to the latest email that would walk you through a few steps. I’d just log in and do that one thing and then log out because I had no idea what was going on.”It’s different this fall, Parsons said, because the new my.harvard system and Web portal — which replaces and combines the functions of about 40 older systems and paper-based processes — went live on Aug. 17 after two years of development. The new system streamlines and digitizes much of the registration and enrollment process, as well as management of student information for faculty, staff, and advisers. College students can now browse and add courses to an electronic study card, access their advising network, and complete the enrollment-approval process with faculty and advisers, all in one place. While these changes are mostly logistical, the new system makes it easier and quicker for students, faculty, advisers, and staff to complete simple tasks.The old systems “were difficult, and it wasn’t all right there in front of you. I probably could have figured it out, but at the time I had other things to worry about,” Parsons said. “The good thing about the new system is that it is really very simple. Aesthetically, it’s really clear.”The ease of using the new student-information system is due in part to the focused effort and testing by students like Parsons, who interned at the Student Information System Office this summer. Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar Michael Burke said that hundreds of people — including many students, faculty, and advisers — collaborated on the project throughout the two-year planning and development process to create a system to fit Harvard’s needs.“We’ve brought it all under one portal,” Burke said of the older systems my.harvard replaced. “I’m pretty thrilled, honestly.”Burke said new functionality will continue to be added through the semester, as different phases of the academic year unfold, including shopping period, course registration, declaring concentrations, and student advising.More changes on the wayMy.harvard is just part of a significant revamp of the University’s academic and administrative IT systems launching this fall, starting in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The University also has replaced its course website platforms with Canvas, an open-source learning-management system. In November, HarvardKey will come online, allowing Harvard community members to access email, applications, and resources across the University with a single login name and password, instead of the multiple login combinations required today.Jim Waldo, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science and Harvard’s chief technology officer, echoed Parsons’ enthusiasm when talking about Canvas. Waldo, who has been using the platform for several years, said it streamlines the administrative side of running a class, allowing more focus on actual teaching.Waldo said Canvas is much more than an application that builds course websites. He said it is a learning-management system that, among other things, allows faculty members to upload course materials, post videos, set up quizzes and course modules, record attendance, grade assignments, set up course calendars, and even conduct online chats and forums. Functions are interlinked so that, for example, a change made to the syllabus automatically shows up on the calendar.“It is a course-site platform and a lot more,” Waldo said. “Once you get used to it, you’re not going to go back.”Waldo said he’s taken advantage of new Canvas functionality each year he’s used it, and every time he wonders why he didn’t do it sooner.Harvard Vice President and Chief Information Officer Anne Margulies said the new systems are part of a dramatic, University-wide technology renewal whose aim is to enhance security even as it allows students and faculty to spend less time on administrative tasks and more on their core goal at Harvard: teaching and learning.“Those three — Canvas, my.harvard, and HarvardKey — all together will have a dramatic impact on the entire community in a positive way,” Margulies said. “They’re going to ultimately make it easier for faculty and students to manage their academic life here and make it more secure.”The older systems being replaced often were written specifically for Harvard, and had limited interoperability, Margulies said. The new systems were created through the efforts of thousands of people, from registrars to IT staffers to faculty members and students. The technology renewal, an initiative by Harvard’s council of chief information officers, also will be more secure, an important factor as hackers become increasingly sophisticated and aggressive.“All three of those major systems are seriously old. Each system is made up of multiple patchwork systems. We’ve been on borrowed time,” Margulies said. “The most dramatic is the old my.harvard … We’ve gotten our money’s worth.”Better information securityIn addition to bringing efficiency to day-to-day operations, each of the new technologies will provide significantly better information-security protection, which is critical, Margulies said, because of the increasing volume of attacks against Harvard’s websites and computer systems. Higher education, she said, has become the field most frequently targeted by hackers. With Harvard’s name so prominent in higher education, Margulies said it’s not a stretch to think that the University is among the most targeted places in the most targeted industry. Harvard takes seriously its obligation to guard the personal data of students, faculty, and staff, she said.Bumps in the roadThough the new systems have been designed for ease of use, some adjustment is inevitable. Margulies acknowledged that there will be a learning curve as users get used to the new applications, and as developers continue to work out bugs in the service. She said there are several ways for the Harvard community to get help and report problems — from expanded IT help desk coverage, to mobile IT support teams stationed around campus, to personal help from local experts.“We’re trying to use every tool in the toolkit to help them use these new systems,” Margulies said. “Simple things were hard to do [with the old systems]. We’re trying to make simple things simple to do, and even hard things simple to do.”
Always Bring a Potato SaladLet’s say you got invited to a party, and you want to impress whoever is there. Everybody agreed to bring something to the party so when you enter, the others logically ask what you brought with you. And you just stand there and think oh no, I brought nothing with me. Not even a good joke to at least make them laugh.Not a really good impression, right?This example actually has a very important lesson in it that you can apply at work, and even in your private life: one of the lessons I’ve learned at Dell EMC in my first four months.Last October I started working for Dell EMC as an EMEA Sales Graduate in The Netherlands. During my first few months I had the privilege to follow specific sales training together with sales graduates from countries all over the EMEA region, work with my local group of 10 graduates in Amsterdam on several on-site activities (e.g. the annual Christmas drinks with a charitable event) and get to know an organization that is totally different from what I expected.That’s why I want to share a few key insights I got at Dell EMC. Insights that not only helped me see Dell EMC in a totally different way but also changed my perception about what sales is or should be.1. Dell is much more than just computers I made an assumption about Dell before applying for my role and it couldn’t have been further from the truth: I thought Dell only sells computers. After graduating I wanted to move into the IT sector because of its quickly changing landscape and its huge potential (think of IoT, Big Data, VR, AI, Machine Learning, etc.). I thought of Dell mainly as a computer selling organization. I mean, as many of us might have, I purchased my first computer at Dell. Turns out that Dell is actually also investing in IoT, Big Data, VR, and so much more.Yet it doesn’t stop there. When I applied I found out that I didn’t apply for Dell but for Dell EMC, a name that I mentioned a few times before in this article. Dell EMC is part of a family of organizations under the umbrella of Dell Technologies. Like me before I applied, most of my family and friends didn’t have a clue what Dell EMC actually does. But as part of Dell Technologies it helps organizations modernize, automate and transform their data center infrastructures. Sounds different than only selling laptops and desktops right?Next to Dell EMC, Dell Technologies consists of:RSA and Secureworks to address cyber threats and other security issues that organizations can encounter;Pivotal to transform how organizations build and run any application, at every cloud, in one platform to innovate at start-up speedVirtustream to build cloud solutions to run complex and critical applications;VMware to use software and services that let organizations run, manage, secure and connect all of their applications across clouds and devicesSo as you can tell I made a very wrong assumption about what Dell actually does, and I’m very happy that I looked past this assumption.2. Sales is great skill to master early in your careerA second lesson I learned during my first few months at Dell was that many of us (including me a few years ago) associate sales with something negative. But you know what: I think that mastering how to do proper sales will teach you so much for your professional career and your personal life. Let me tell you why.Sales is everywhereThe first time I actually read about sales being everywhere was in a blog on LinkedIn from Somen Mondal about why sales is the best first job and it made me realize how sales is an important part of most organizations. In my opinion he is absolutely right: sales comes back in every aspect of your life. Whether it is convincing people about your ideas, when you are looking for a new job (and you basically need to “brand yourself”), when you’re selling products to customers or when you want to sell your vision to your employees as a manager. Think about that for a moment. Sales generates direct value to organizationsWhen an organization is going to invest in you it will expect a return on investment in the long run. What will your value to the organization be after many training-hours? After looking around at different departments, and drinking coffee with managers to understand the business? In sales you can directly generate revenue (=value) for your organization, which will give the organization a reason to invest more in you and gives you the opportunity to grow faster in an organization than any other position. No sales, no customers, no money, no existence. And this example doesn’t limit to only profit organizations: for non-profit organizations to exist sales is also of paramount importance.Sales gets lots of people out of their comfort zone because you need to deal with rejections – which makes you strongerGetting rejected is something nobody likes, including me. I have learned that it is not about being rejected but how you learn to deal with it, how other people see you dealing with rejection and how you stay focused on your goal. In work and in life rejection will evidently happen – for example riding a bike: the more you ‘practice’, the better you become and the faster you can grow. Just like Michael Dell, who started his business in his college dorm room and now runs a global organization.3. You should always bring a potato salad to a party One specific lesson I have learned already at Dell EMC is from one of our sales trainers, and I found it ties everything that I have mentioned nicely together. It is that you should always bring a potato salad to a party. Meaning that when you call a customer or when you enter a meeting with your colleagues, always think in advance how you will be able to contribute to the other(s). How you will be of value? What will be your ‘potato salad’ that you bring to the party?For me, part of learning and slowly mastering sales is being able to deliver true value to customers. Working for Dell EMC and subsequently, Dell Technologies makes it so much easier to have that talk with these customers. To have that potato salad ready during every customer meeting.Thinking in advance about that potato salad in whatever situation you are is for me one of the most important lessons I have learned so far. It will help me to avert awkward situations in which everybody expects me to bring some kind of value to the table and that I actually have thought this through in advance. And that I will never think oh no, I brought nothing with me.So what do you think about my experiences after reading this piece? Did you have a similar assumption about sales, and has it changed since you have experienced it? Please let us know in the comment box! (And if you are interested in reading more about our graduate program make sure to read this blog post about the experiences of graduates last year!)
By Dialogo September 28, 2010 Colombia’s FARC guerrillas on September 24 said they wanted a chance for peace negotiations a day after troops killed their top military chief in one of the worst blows to Latin America’s oldest surviving insurgency. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have often called for talks since the government began a U.S.-backed security crackdown in 2002 but the two sides have never been close to agreeing on conditions for negotiations. Top guerrilla commander Mono Jojoy was killed on September 23 in an air strike and ground raid on his jungle camp, delivering a blow to the FARC’s leadership and its military capacity. “We continue to call for an opportunity for peace,” the FARC said in a statement posted on Anncol website that carries rebel communiques. “It is not through the extermination of opponents that Colombia will find peace and reconciliation.” Battered by the government’s offensive, the FARC is at its weakest in decades. Rebels have lost several top commanders in the past three years and its ranks have been thinned by desertions as fighters flee under military pressure. Guerrillas are still a force in rural areas and over the last month have stepped up attacks, killing 22 police officers in two recent attacks. But negotiations are unlikely unless rebel commanders met government conditions: cease hostilities, release soldiers and police officers held hostage and halt criminal activity such as cocaine trafficking. President Juan Manuel Santos, who took office in August, has vowed to keep up his predecessors hard-line security approach, which has driven down bombings and kidnappings from the war and helped foreign investment grow five-fold in the past eight years. Still, according to new information published on September 28, the FARC has urged its members to redouble efforts in the fight against the Colombian government. Following the death of its No. 2 leader ‘Mono Jojoy’, the guerrilla announced it replaced the fallen leader with Felix Antonio Muñoz, known as Pastor Alape, who had led a faction of the group in the northwest region of Magdalena Medio.