Associate Dean Cyndi Kaye Lambach of Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC), recently talked to the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) about her experiences as a teacher and administrator. This interview is part of the CTC’s ongoing series of discussions with professors and instructors in the Convergence College Network (CCN) community. The CCN is a select cohort of community colleges and universities from across the country that connects IT educators with a wealth of resources to enhance their programs.
Dr. Lambach has a Doctorate in Information Systems and Enterprise Resource Management and has served as an associate dean for five years, taught full time as well as was being an adjunct instructor for ten years. She talked to us about the importance of being a dean and a teacher; the challenges that comes with teaching IT and leading an IT faculty; and how she keeps up with the ongoing IT industry. Here are the highlights and they are worth the read:
Did you have a job in the industry before becoming a teacher or administrator? When you work as an adjunct here at WCTC and in most Wisconsin colleges, you are governed by the Higher Learning Commission to show that you have an advanced degree and industry experience. I still consult, but do not currently have a formal position in industry. I worked in industry in a variety of networking roles and IT training roles at small companies and extremely large companies. The largest company I was with in IT was Kohl’s Corporate. I managed all their education and training for the IT department, which had at the time about 4,000 employees in just IT. We had 1800 full-time employees and 2200 consultants.
What sparked your interest in teaching IT and transitioning to Dean? I really like giving back to our students and letting them know that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still fulfill your dreams. What keeps me going is that I can assist students in fulfilling those dreams. Also, staying in the classroom really keeps me connected with our current student body and what’s happening on campus. I’m currently teaching in an adjunct role in the graduate program at Ottawa University in their Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) and IT programs.
During COVID-19 like most community colleges, WCTC moved from physical to virtual classrooms in March 2020. Because she, too, is a teacher, Dr. Lambach – along with her faculty – endured the challenges of transitioning from physical to virtual.
I’m doing what I ask them [faculty] to do. I don’t ask them to do anything that I wouldn’t do either. I think staying in the classroom really keeps me informed on how we are using the technology in our classroom for both face to face and remote learning as well as what’s happening here on campus and the changes that we’re making to technology and to our school in general.
What is the secret to successfully teaching IT? One of the secrets is really listening to the direction of the IT industry. I truly enjoy your BILT (Business and Industry Leadership Team) meetings, and I enjoy also having our BILT meetings and our advisory board meetings because that keeps us directly in line with what industry is doing at the time. I believe that staying in the classroom helps me better understand the faculty, IT industry and the students we’re serving. If I wasn’t in the classroom, I don’t think that I’d be as successful in leading our IT faculty, because I wouldn’t really understand their pains and the issues that they are going through with their students.
Our students are not just 18-year-old kids, they are full-time workers; they have families and they’re juggling many things. My youngest student is 16; my oldest student is 83 with a Ph.D.
Advice to IT students about to graduate and enter the workforce?
• Network with others in the industry. It is about what you know, but it’s also about who you know.
• Keep your resume up to date even if you’re not looking for a job.
• Continue to interview – stay up on interviewing skills
Advice for newly appointed associate dean in IT? Keep the communication open to your team. Faculty are the experts in the field, trust them, work with them, and stand behind them.
How do you keep up with the ongoing evolution of IT?
• Working with WCTC advisory board
• I train with my faculty and encourage them to keep up their skills. Our faculty don’t teach during the summer, so we encourage them to go work in industry over the summer to continue keeping up with their skills.
• They partner with companies to maintain their industry hands-on experience during the school year as well.
How do you see the IT landscape in the next five years?
Expanding more into cybersecurity and doing more with less, remotely. I believe that working remotely is here to stay, which will open and expand where people can go, and where they can work from.
Student Success Story? In 2019-2020 school year, WCTC had a young lady in the Dual Enrollment Academy, this is where high school seniors attend WCTC for their senior year and earn both high school and college credits. She did very well. She finished the program and received a certificate. It was a college certificate, not an industry certificate. At 18 years of age, she placed this certificate on her resume and interviewed for an IT job. She was offered the job and accepted. While the company was collecting all her paperwork, they realized she was only 18 years old. They placed her in the position and after three months of working, other staff in the company learned of this young lady and begin fighting for her to work with them because of her skills and abilities.
She continued with WCTC to work toward her Associates degree; and by the time she graduates she will have two years of industry experience, and she will be 20 years old. Currently, she is finishing up two associate degrees and will be graduating in Cybersecurity and Networking.