Resourceful Records Managers!

And, now for our much awaited series: Resourceful Records Managers! This month we meet George Despres, the Program Director for University Records Management at Brandeis University. If you would like to be included in this feature please contact Jessika Drmacich,  jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu.George Despres

What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?

After re-establishing an archives program at a prior company, I was promoted to head up the archives and records management team. The engagement and breadth of the records management program increasingly drew my interest.   

What is your educational background?

A BA and some graduate school studies in History and a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science, with an Archival Management concentration. I also received my records management certification (CRM).

Do you or did you have a mentor who has helped you in the Records Management field?

I’ve been lucky to have several mentors. An undergrad professor encouraged me to work as a library intern, and that started my “info pro” career. Another mentor taught me how to work with stakeholders from across an organization – a critical skill for records management success. There are also many brilliant RM thought leaders who help keep me keep current with their social media and professional conference contributions.

How did you first become interested in Records Management?

As I first assumed RM responsibilities, I sat in on a conference talk by a leader in the field, who cited a news headline on records mismanagement and dissected it with great enthusiasm. As I realized that records implications are everywhere, the massiveness (and potential massiveness) of the profession made an impression on me. I also realized that RM would force me to keep up with technological changes that affect digital records. I was hooked.

What is your role at your institution?

I’m Program Director for a university-wide RM program that is almost four years old. I manage one professional assistant and have some part time student assistant support. Having established foundational paper records services (storage, shredding, scanning) I’m leading my program to new initiatives like retention schedule expansion; electronic file and data retention management; continued outreach and engagement, and guidance in RM and knowledge management best practices for Brandeis employees.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I work with every department in the organization and apply a comprehensive view of Brandeis, and information management in general. You get really dialed in to the processes that happen across the organization and learn something new about different professional roles and viewpoints every day. Sitting down with employees to discuss their particular records and info habits and needs is something that I could do all day long. Also, RM is difficult to socialize across an organization, and I love that challenge.  

What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success?

I’ve had the opportunity to establish archives and records programs essentially from scratch. Putting these programs on the organizational map, with much help from others, has provided a deep sense of satisfaction. That said, there’s always room for program improvement.

What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ?

My first RM job was at a non-profit corporation, which ran several federally funded R&D centers (FFRDCs). The IT literacy bar was high, and the corporate feel was fast paced and results-oriented, which I liked. However, the environment was very confidential, so sharing my professional thoughts and experiences outside the company was difficult. This is different in academia, where I’ve been able to establish a blog and reputation among my RM peers by openly sharing professional views and experiences. Universities can also share their retention policies for benchmarking, which is very useful. The pace in academia has been a little slower than in corporate, and program funding can be comparatively modest, as well. In both cases, having at least some senior leadership support has been critical to program success.

What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?

Information mismanagement is everywhere. There’s guaranteed to be at least one example in today’s (fake and real) news. This has serious ethical, financial, reputational, legal, and personal implications. We need an army of conscientious, passionate records professionals to bring this epidemic under control. It’s a very difficult battle in today’s world of digital records, with proliferation and flow of data everywhere. It’s also an exciting time for info managers. If you have the heart and a bit of a chip on your shoulder, join the fight and bring your best.  

Do you belong to any professional organizations?

I was a member of SAA and NEA, and currently belong to ARMA. I’m serving as Education Director for the ARMA Boston chapter, planning a Certified Records Manager training event. I also chair a small group of academic archivists and records managers (Boston Area Archives and Records Committee/BAARC) that meets quarterly to share professional experiences.

Thoughts on the future of records management?

There has been speculation that artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain technology will replace and/or redefine much of our work. While I see this taking at least a few years to happen, the future records manager will need to follow industry and technical developments carefully and be agile and open-minded to midstream change. We will probably assume less of a custodial role and more of an analytics and rule-making one, automating record and data retention management on the back end and creating a new generation of control guidelines for a world of apps and devices in the Internet of Things.

What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?

Rapid technology change is increasingly a challenge. We must be continually learning. Getting RM in a place where we can work side-by-side with IT and gaining senior leadership support will be critical and probably won’t be easy in many institutions. Finally, imposing control over digital records that go anywhere and everywhere, and overcoming organizational and civic cultures that accept this, will probably be the biggest challenges.  
Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?

I enjoy playing piano, keyboards and composing music, exercising, writing, reading, and travel.  

Do you have a quote you live by?

I have five on my office wall that I try to live by:

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.  

It’s better to attempt something great and fail than to do nothing and succeed.

Don’t bring problems, bring solutions.

Chance favors the prepared mind.

Just do it.

 

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Resourceful Records Managers

Our third Resourceful Records Manager! If you want to be included contact Jessika Drmacich at jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu!

Alex Toner, University of Pittsburgh, University Records Manager

VP_PR

1. What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?

I was serving as the archives and records manager in the Office of the University Registrar when my current position became available. It was an exciting opportunity to expand my records management interest while at the same time not straying further from my archival roots. At Pitt, the University Records Management Program is part of the University Library System, based out of the Archives Service Center. It’s been a good fit.

2. What is your educational background?

I earned my MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. Prior to that I received a Bachelor’s in history and political science from Kent State University in 2008. I’ve been tiptoeing around professional certifications like the CRA or CRM, I just haven’t yet committed.

3. Do you or did you have a mentor who has helped you in the Records Management field?

There isn’t one particular person I can point to, however I would not be in the position I’m in now without the advice and support of many peers and colleagues along the way.

4. How did you first become interested in Records Management?

During my graduate work I thoroughly enjoyed the records management course offered within our MLIS track. I was drawn to the legal dynamic of records management, along with characteristics necessary for success such as relationship building, policy creation, project management, and direct collaboration with archives.

5. What is your role at your institution?

I am the University Records Manager, charged with managing our contractual services with the University’s storage vendor, as well as providing guidance, training, and consultations concerning records management best practices and relevant policies and regulations. I’m still able to don my archival hat from time-to-time and provide reference services, process materials, and explore the stacks!

6. What do you enjoy most about your job?

Records management has afforded me the opportunity to build relationships and partnerships across campus, which in turn as led to a wider understanding of the University and it’s mechanisms. This context is necessary for success in such a large institution. It’s these personal interactions that I find the most fulfilling.

7. What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success?

Last year I successfully navigated the University’s Records Management program through the international divestment and acquisition of our off-site storage vendor’s business operation. While there were scream-out-loud difficult periods, the URM program is in a stronger place after undergoing that process. My current priorities involve initiating a strategic overhaul of URM policy and procedures to strengthen the institution, which when completed, will be a definite highlight.

As a processing archivist in a prior position I processed over 100 collections during a two-year period. Exhausting, but a highlight nevertheless.

8. What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ?

Prior to moving into higher education, I worked for a regional, non-profit history museum.

9. What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?

Don’t underestimate the skill set acquired through internships, graduate work, and even certification in traditional archival preparation, which can be leveraged into records management roles quite effectively. Conversely, don’t underestimate the value of working in a records management position as opposed to a archival setting. Skills honed as a records manager can only make you a more well-rounded records professional overall. The network you build is often more important than a single position. Plus, you get to meet scores of great people and explore offices and buildings otherwise inaccessible!

10. Do you belong to any professional organizations (SAA, ARMA…)?

I’m a member of SAA and MARAC. Similarly to professional certifications, I’ve been contemplating joining ARMA and attending their national conference, but it’s just so darn expensive! However, I have engaged with Pittsburgh’s ARMA chapter.

11. Thoughts on the future of records management?

At our core, records manager and archivists are information managers, or information curators. Some of that information may be primary, direct, and historically important and significant. Some of it may be actively used and functionally vital at present, only to be destroyed in several years. Regardless, information is ubiquitous in nearly all facets of professional and personal life. As records professionals we need to continue to leverage our experience and expertise as stakeholders in information management, beyond the confines of traditional roles. Records, and the information they contain, are everywhere, connecting everything. As records professional, we must advocate that we play a important role in managing information now and for the future, and remain connected ourselves as record management roles evolve.

12. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?

One of the biggest challenges that I encounter is one of perception. To me, there is a intangible difference between corporate-orientated records management positions, and those in higher education or non-profits. In order to attract younger professionals, we need to adjust what could be perceived as a starchy, compliance-oriented profession to that of a role of true records and information professional. We’re managing the information that makes organizations flow, businesses run, cities function, and people succeed. The field should strive to evoke a perception of engagement, dynamism, and fun! This isn’t your father’s records management. That, and the proliferation of electronic records and email. Big challenge.

13. Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?

My wife and I just bought our first home, so I’ve been totally consumed by a kitchen renovation of late. Otherwise, I enjoying running regularly and playing guitar, checking box scores, reading non-fiction, playing 18, keeping up with my friends and family, and traveling with my wife.

14. Do you have a quote you live by?

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

Resourceful Records Managers

Her is our second post in the Resourceful Records Managers series!

If you are interested in sharing your journey as a Records Manager please contact me at jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu.

Name: 

Fred Grevin

Institution and Job Title: 

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). Vice-President, Records Management.

1. What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?

I didn’t really choose Records and Information Management (RIM), I drifted into it. My academic degree is in archaeology and art history. I ended up working in micrographics, one of the leading edge technologies of the 1970s and 1980s. In the early 1990s, almost by accident, I took on a new technology challenge: organisation-wide deployment and support of personal computer systems (whilst still working in micrographics). That’s when the drift to RIM began, as large-scale programs in both micrographics and computer systems accumulated vast quantities of records. I had been a member of micrographics and photographic professional societies since the late 1970s, so now I joined ARMA and, eventually, the IEEE Computer Society, and thus began the trek to RIM.

2. What is your educational background?

I have a “licence ès lettres” (the equivalent of a BA) in Classical and Gallo-Roman Archaeology and Medieval Art History from the University of Dijon (France). I began coursework for an MLS at Columbia University in the early 1980s, but moved to West Germany before i completed the degree program.

3. What is your role at your institution?

I preside over the 4 full-time staff of the RM Department, which means I try to give them what they need and then get out of their way.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

“Satisfied customers” but, really, watching my staff thrill NYCEDC with their sleuthing work. They are truly amazing!

5. What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success?

Bringing together people who share common needs, in any profession.

6. What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ?

Primarily government and quasi-governmental, but also academic (teaching). RIM in government is often an exercise in frustration, but can also be tremendously effective when it works. Teaching is really a two-way street: the teacher learns as much as she/he teaches.

7. What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?

RIM is always about people and institutions. And no educational, working or life experience is EVER wasted; learn to use them all.

8. Do you belong to any professional organizations (SAA, ARMA…)

ARMA, ART, IEEE Computer Society, IS&T, and SAA.

9. Thoughts on the future of records management?

Whether you call it RIM or Information Governance, it has a HUGE future (and a decently-paid one, at that). And it’s FUN!

10. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?

Convincing Executive Management and IT that it’s about more than shuffling boxes of paper…..

11. Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?

I have an amazing (2E) son and a wonderful wife who is a freelance classical musician. All three of us love reading (HUGE book collection!). Watching interesting movies (recently: “The Queen of Katwe” and “Arrival”).

12. Do you have a quote you live by?

“Who will watch the guards?” (“quis custodiet ipsos custodes” Juvenal, Satires 6.347-48)

 

 

 

 

Resourceful Records Managers #1: Laurence Brewer

Below is the inaugural interview in our new monthly RMS series Resourceful Records Managers.  If you are interested in sharing your journey as a Records Manager please contact me at jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu.

Laurence Brewer, Chief Records Officer of the United States1. What led you to choose your current career in Records Management? Like many of us career records managers, it kind of chose me! My education and first jobs out of school were in the political science field; however, being a political science major in DC is not easy! I learned very quickly that I could not put food on the table at $5/hour with no benefits. So when I accepted that reality, the first company that hired me was a RIM organization.

2. What is your educational background? I have two degrees now in Political Science that I am not using at all. My parents are not very proud of that, especially since I have not been successful explaining to them what it is I actually do!

3. Do you or did you have a mentor who has helped you in the Records Management field? Actually the person I have to give credit to is Laura McHale, who when I worked for her at EPA, she encouraged me to learn more about RIM, and in particular advised me to study for and obtain my CRM designation.

4. How did you first become interested in Records Management? In my first jobs at EPA as a contractor, I developed an appreciation for the business-centric orientation of RM, especially when compared to archival practice. I enjoyed consulting, advising staff, and helping people with solutions to their RM problems.

5. What is your role at your institution? Currently, as Chief Records Officer, I lead an office of talented records managers and archivists who work with all federal agencies to advocate for and improve records management across the Government. Central to this charge is promoting electronic records management and modernizing recordkeeping practices in all agencies.

6. What do you enjoy most about your job? I enjoy the challenge of our core mission, but more than that, I enjoy the people who work with me to make these changes in the Government happen. We enjoy what we do and we have many smart, dedicated professionals who are responsible for our success.

7. What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success? Ask me when I retire in 20 years! I feel like the best is still to come!

8. What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ? My records management career started in the private sector as a federal contractor at EPA, then I took a position in RM at the state level in Virginia before joining NARA, where I have been in several positions since 1999.

9. What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career? It’s a challenging and rewarding field, but more than anything success today requires learning about more than just RM. Knowledge of many other disciplines is important to be successful and add value to your organization. Truly, an information governance approach is critical today – one that focuses on coordination and partnerships with IT, Legal, HR, security, privacy and so on. The world has gotten more complex, and so has the profession.

10. Do you belong to any professional organizations (SAA, ARMA…)? No, I do not….need to find the time, though I do attend many events sponsored by these organizations.

11. Thoughts on the future of records management? See #9

12. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field? Keeping abreast of technology and the implications for RM for many of the emerging issues. Spotting trends and interpreting the impact on RM for our organizations is going to continue to be a challenge.

13. Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies? Outside of work, I enjoy live music so you may run into me one night at the 930 Club!

14. Do you have a quote you live by? None at all. However, I do have a tattoo that reminds me to stay balanced and calm in how I approach life.