SIGUCCS 2021 Conference Takeaway – Leadership

Almost 100 people tuned in for the March 23 session on Leadership which consisted of three sessions

  • Learning On and At the Edge: Enabling Remote Instructional Activities with Micro Controller and Microprocessor Devices with Owen McGrath
  • Leading Diverse Teams during Transitions to Remote Work with Laurie Fox & Shawn Plummer
  • Won’t You Be My Leader? With Tom Wilk

Learning On and At the Edge: Enabling Remote Instructional Activities with Micro Controller and Microprocessor Devices

The sudden shift to online / remote teaching in March 2020 was troublesome for performance, workshop and laboratory experiences at University of California, Berkeley. This presentation offered us a look into how three courses made adjustments through he use of microprocessors and microcontroller devices.

Case Study – Physics class (spring 2020)

This course was built around weekly lab activities in a specially outfitted facility. Moving to remote teaching with 7 weeks left in the term was a major problem as students would not be able to complete the assigned labs. However the instructor created kits of Arduino electronics to be shipped to students at home that offered them the same experiences as they would have had in this on-site facility.

Case Study – Design Innovation (summer 2020)

Summer classes were also offered only remote. Students in this design and innovation course normally spend both class time and outside time in a specialized facility for access to fabrication equipment and electronics. To continue to host this course, the instructor and staff created and shipped kits with Arduino, LED, electronics, and other components to each student in order to accomplish goals of the course. In one case the resulting student project was something that they could never have created on-site as they made use of their personal piano to supplement the equipment provided.

Case Study – Robotics (fall 2020)

Again, as fall approached, campus was still using remote instructional models. This course followed the same process as the others and shipped students the parts they would need and also offered an online simulation environment.

From this experience, it was learned that these microcontrollers and microprocessors provided an alternate experience to the fully functional labs. They were affordable, flexible and able to be shipped out.

For future, the IT department is considering how they can help supplement this process by planning for multiple uses, procuring these systems in bulk, and helping with distribution.

Read more in the ACM Digital Library

Leading Diverse Teams during Transitions to Remote Work

At the State University of New York, Geneseo, there was no formal work from home policy. A very recent policy allowed work from home on occasion with supervisor approval and a clear work plan. When the pandemic began and there was an order from the state to work remotely, all IT staff were required to produce daily reports from their ticketing system to show work productivity.

Come April, it was realized that this was not temporary. Staff began the process of setting up a home office and establishing a new routine. Many people had to adjust to child care needs and teams needed to determine how to stay connected.

One solution to this was morning meetings, sharing of productivity insights, regular check-ins, use of Slack for communication, and learning how to balance home and work.

Also, many project had been put on hold until we “returned to campus”. The original plan was that this was a two-week pause. Those projects had to come off hold and people needed to work through them remotely.

Now, some classes have returned to campus with social distancing and some staff have returned to work. But not all… this means that as leaders they needed to maintain daily connections and interactions, schedule and host game breaks, and fun activities, and maintain productivity but still have compassion.

While they have seen an increase in the number of meetings, they are learning to have shorter meetings. They are also learning to embrace remote work principles

What do they foresee in the future

  • More hybrid work
  • New meeting formats
  • Shared workspace

Additionally, we should be aware that “Return to Office” will be just as disruptive as moving remote because people’s habits have changed. We need to be prepared for that next disruption.

Read more in the ACM Digital Library

Won’t You Be My Leader?

Leadership is about the ability to lead or guide others. However, you cannot lead everyone in the same way. Who are the people you lead? There are three categories…

  • The Struggler – This is the person that struggles at work. To handle them you need to be direct (figure out where and why are they struggling). YOu should also ask them to help fix the problem (they will know better than you what works for them). YOu also need to be supportive and empathetic.
  • The Rock Star – This is your go-to person, the one that will take on additional work. Be sure to provide balance (don’t just give them the cool projects). Make sure that you provide them with focus (a priority list is helpful). And you need to provide guidance, including the ability to say no to new endeavors.
  • The Average Joe – These are the people that keep the team stable, you want a lot of these! Make sure that you give them the same attention as others. Listen to them (how are things really going, they’re the ones that will tell you). And you need to guide them.

What tools can we use to help with this leadership and guidance?

One-on-one meetings – Have an agenda – one that both you and the employee can see. Be aware that the location of you meeting is also important. Cover the following: Things to discuss this week, Action items, Parking lot items, Career development, And accomplishments.

SMART Goals – Make sure that your goals for your employees are SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

Performance Management – This is not a once a year task. It should be something covered every time you meet. 


  • HARD goals (heartfelt, animated, required, difficult)
  • DUMB goals (Dream-Driven, Uplifting, Method-friendly, Behavior-triggered)
  • WOOP goals (wish, outcome, obstacle, plan)

Read more in the ACM Digital Library

About SIGUCCS Editor

The Special Interest Group on University and College Computing Services (SIGUCCS) is an association of professionals who support and manage the diverse aspects of information technology services at higher education institutions. SIGUCCS is one of 36 special interest groups of ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, the world's largest educational and scientific computing society. SIGUCCS focuses on issues surrounding the support, delivery, and management of those services, and provides professional development opportunities for its members and the other individuals in the field.