Diane Dagefoerde: Women in Tech @ OSU

Diane Dagefoerde has nearly twenty years experience utilizing technology as a catalyst to enhance the Ohio State community. As the deputy Chief Information Officer, she manages the people and ideas that drive the tech achievements at Ohio State.

We had a chance to speak with Dagefoerde about how she began her career, what you can do to get involved in technology at Ohio State, and why she is passionate about her career.

Can you describe your day-to-day job? 

As Deputy Chief Information Officer(link is external) for the Office of the CIO(link is external), I am responsible for a portfolio of projects and services that support the daily operations of the university’s core IT systems.  Five Senior Directors report to me who lead activities in the following areas:

  • Service Management
  • Relationship Management
  • Infrastructure - core network, osuwireless, WiFi@OSU, phone system, data center, service desk (8-HELP and BuckeyeBar), and other services
  • Enterprise Applications - finance, HR, SIS systems, web and mobile applications (including eRequest and The Ohio State App), data feeds and batch processes, and other customized applications
  • Business Intelligence/Analytics - data warehouse, eReports, and BuckIQ

My role gives me the opportunity to collaborate with people across the university and I use what I learn from them to focus OCIO’s projects and services in ways that hopefully make things better for students, faculty and staff. 

What I love most about my job is the high caliber of people I work with on a daily basis!  My mission is to help my colleagues be successful in their roles, which means everything from setting an overall direction and securing resources to giving coaching and feedback, opening doors, leading from the front, being a servant leader, it just depends on the situation.  Having A+ players to work with makes even routine work so much more rewarding! 

Every day brings new challenges that require meeting new people and learning new things about the research, teaching, and outreach underway at Ohio State.  Even after 20+ years I am still surprised by things I never knew existed at the university! 

When (and how) did you decide to work in the technology field? 

I had two decision points, one where I decided I wanted to work with technology, and the other where I decided what I wanted to do with technology.  While pursuing my undergraduate degree at Ohio State, I worked on campus in an office where I had the opportunity to work with technology. I realized, ‘Wow, technology comes easily to me.’ I could see my peers struggling, but for me it came naturally.  At that point I knew I wanted to do something with technology, but what?  My second decision point was when I met a woman named Ibtissam who was developing software for Arabic language learning.  She became my mentor and helped me decide to pursue a graduate degree in Instructional Design and Technology with a focus on computer-assisted learning. The first part of my career was spent developing software, modules, testing, web sites, etc., for foreign language and culture learning.

What advice can you give young women who would like to take on a position in the technology field? 

It sounds corny, but just go for it. Don’t say no to yourself. Don’t say I can’t do this. Just find what you like to do, and go do it. Make things.  If you like movies, make a short film.  If you like to play games, design a game.  Participate in a hackathon(link is external).  3D print(link is external) something.  Partner with others who have complementary skills.  You don’t have to be a computer scientist to work in technology. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t belong in the tech world, because you do, you just have to put on your thick skin and go for it!

How do you stay up-to-date with new trends in the technology world? 

Of course, social media is useful.  Twitter, in particular, helps me get a bird’s eye view very quickly of things that are happening in different areas.  Another source is the group of vendor partners I work with on a daily basis.  It’s their job to know what is new.  In many cases they are developing what is new.  Finally, my own personal network of peers at other universities and in the private sector provide perhaps the most valuable information by sharing what they are learning with the new trends they are adopting.  It is important to remember that you can always learn things from others, and there is always something they can learn from you.  Be curious.  Be open. Read.  Ask questions.  Share information.

Is there any technology that you are particularly excited about right now? Why? 

I am fascinated by what we can do with mobile devices today, but I am even more excited about where we’re headed with the convergence of mobile/Big Data/Internet of Things/and alternative interfaces.  I hope readers of this will be encouraged to attend a make-a-thon(link is external) and create new apps or devices that leverage the power we now hold in our hands to do good for the world.  

What has been your favorite moment/experience from working in the technology field? 

Generally, my favorite experiences are when I’m able to help someone advance in their career or give someone a job.  In fact, my best days are when I get to hire someone or promote someone!  I love helping people grow which is something this position enables me to do. 

As for specific achievements, here are some of my favorite experiences:

  • Watching students learn from a computer program I developed
  • Learning Agile(link is external) and observing how it helped our team be significantly more productive
  • Developing a web application called Media Manager, which was a combination of Flickr(link is external), YouTube and DropBox(link is external), before any of those apps ever existed
  • Implementing Electronic Signatures university-wide after 3 years of effort!

What has been the hardest part of working in the technology? 

I think the hardest part of working in technology is keeping yourself from getting lost in it or distracted by it (Squirrel!), something that is very easy to do.  Each day I ask myself if I delivered value for teaching and research at Ohio State.  Did I make the place 1% better today or did I just do busy work?  Technology investments are large at a place like Ohio State.  It is important that every dollar we invest delivers value.

Another challenge that often impacts women in technology is carving out the opportunity to engage in highly visible projects that deliver big results.  After all, these are the coveted roles.  Women tend to wait to be invited to join such projects.  Don’t wait.  Figure out how you can contribute and make a pitch to the team.  More often than not people will be thankful you stepped up and they will welcome the help.   

This feature blog post is part of our #OSUWomenInTech campaign. Hear more stories from female leaders involved in technology at Ohio State by following us on Twitter @TechHubOSU(link is external) and stopping in store to see our digital signage features. Are you interested in getting involved with technology? Don’t forget to check out our Student Developer Kit(link is external) and student project development grant opportunities.