Meet Joe Allen of PULSE!
TNotes: What is your “real” job title?
JA: Executive Director – Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE) www.pulsepittsburgh.org
TNotes: Why are you considered an accidental techie?
JA: I am the only employee so I have to coordinate all of the organization’s operational needs (including plumbing). I came to the position from a variety of technical in-house and consulting roles and quickly learned that without some technical innovation, we would have some organizational challenges down the road.
TNotes: What do you like best about dealing with your organization’s technology?
JA: With my technical background, I think most of it is fun and don’t think of it necessarily as work. For example, I had to learn a new programming language in order to develop an on-line application module for our web site. I spent way too much time on the application but didn’t realize it because I enjoyed the intellectual challenge.
We’ve been rather proactive with technology when it comes to our Board and program participants. We use web-based collaborative software called MOODLE (www.moodle.org) to post our consent agenda for Board meetings and to simplify communication and calendaring with our participants.
TNotes: What do you least like about dealing with your organization’s technology?
JA: The lack of integration between different software platforms. Given our small size, the ROI for purchasing and implementing enterprise software that would integrate accounting, fundraising and contact management is cost-prohibitive.
TNotes: What is your big dream for technology in your organization?
JA: A more robust public web site that would incorporate Web 2.0 components to facilitate greater constituent involvement and a content management system to ease the burden of content creation.
TNotes: How do you manage your role as an accidental techie?
JA: I see it as one of the more enjoyable aspects of my job, perhaps to the detriment of all of my other responsibilities. It comes down to time management and task prioritization.
TNotes: You are a regular attendee at one of the Bayer Center’s Bagels & Bytes group – what do you get from going to those meetings?
JA: I love the different solutions I get from the other members of the group. They say that if you’re a hammer, everything’s a nail and I sometimes take that approach to technical challenges. I may have come up with some elaborate idea (which would be too costly and difficult to implement) and then another member of the group says, “Here’s how we dealt with that issue.” Their ideas are usually more practical! These brainstorming sessions are great for exploring and testing best practices.
One of the hardest technology tasks is determining what to buy based on the organization’s needs because the sales literature for most products is so compelling. Thus, another advantage of B&B is learning about different software packages and the experiences with upgrading/integrating other participants encountered. These testimonials carry far more weight for me.
TNotes: Any words of advice or encouragement for other accidental techies out there?
JA: Try to keep current and have fun! There are plenty of resources in SW PA and on-line, so take advantage of other people’s technology trials.