A farewell from Mike Roch

IT Services intend to have a regular news item from the Director of IT Services and as such, where better to start this, than with a valedictory comment from the outgoing Director. Mike has very kindly supplied his notes from his leaving speech, which have been adapted slightly to suit an electronic audience.

“I arrived at Reading in 1992 at the tender age of 36, as Annette Haworth’s Deputy Director of Computer Services. I wasn’t sure what a Computer Centre was for, and gave it five years, tops. Well, as we know, universities today need IT services more than ever – practically nothing happens without IT being involved.

Two years later Annette was elected Pro-Vice-Chancellor; at that time there was only one. She popped out of the office – for four years. During that time she harvested most of the University’s technology services – Management Information, Audio Visual, Telephones, Photographic, Language Labs and Education’s IT Centre – and I merged them into the Computer Services Centre.

In 1998 the University entrusted me with leading its new IT Services department. Being a university IT Director is the best IT job there is. You work with the whole spectrum of technologies, from lamps to lasers, iPhones to Bladecenters, from payroll processing to grid computing, but by far the best thing about being a university IT Director is working with the brightest, most creative and most committed colleagues in the business.

By 2007, I obviously looked at home in the job, because a (short-lived) newcomer to the University asked me whether I was ‘another lifer’ – well clearly not – I’m getting out a year early! I leave the department in good order; the University enjoys high quality IT infrastructure, professional services possess reliable information systems and our services are comprehensive and applauded, most recently in the National Student Survey. This is an auspicious time and the University has the opportunity to choose both a new VC and a new Director of IT Services to help meet tomorrow’s challenges.

I’m moving to the new post of Director of Information Services at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, with responsibility for IT and Library services. My mission is to develop unified services to enhance teaching, learning, research and administration across the University. Heriot-Watt has many similarities to Reading; born in Victorian times as the Edinburgh School of Arts, the world’s first mechanics’ institute, it is now located on the outskirts in the landscaped grounds of a former stately home. They have no lake – but they do have a loch!

Thank you all for your support over the years. I’d like to offer some very special thank-yous. To Annette, for recognising my potential and giving me the opportunities to grow, and to Hilary Vines, for developing that potential by insisting on rigour and teaching me not to assume – because to assume is to make an ass of u and me! To Steve Gough, in whose capable hands I leave you; his expertise, wisdom and patience will carry you forward.

I have here a yellowed document I was given on the day I arrived by my predecessor, Andrew Gosling. We’ve all heard the expression ‘monkey on the back’ – well, here’s where it came from, an article in the Harvard Business Review about management time; why are managers so often run-ragged when some of their staff can manage a game of chess, a crossword or a beer at lunchtime? http://tinyurl.com/3eou7ua

Steve, they’re all your monkeys now; look after these people and they will support you as they have me.

Thank you all very much!”

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