Category Archives: Professional Development

Six Ways to Build Confidence In the Workplace

I believe that as a manager/leader, one of our most important responsibilities is to build leaders and to build productive colleagues by providing them the environment to think for themselves and grow. The confidence to pursue ideas and actions beyond their comfort zones is a big part of this process towards leadership and towards our co-workers’ ability to do their job as well. I also believe having an environment where a person can confidently do their jobs is part of having an engaged staff. Engagement to me means a staff feels maximum personal satisfaction with the work they do and secondly, they are also contributing to organization to the best of their willingness and ability. From experience, here are some ways we can build the confidence of others:

  1. Communicate goals clearly but leave room for staff to find ways to accomplish them. Basically, do not micro-manage, especially when working with talented and creative folks. Unless we work in an environment where it doesn’t require much thinking, providing our co-workers room to explore ideas and come up with their own ways to accomplishing goals you’ve given them is the way to go. However, those goals and expectations must be clearly communicated to save those assigned with the tasks from having to spend emotional energy and wasted time and effort.
  2. Allow room for “failure” as it’s part of the learning/growth process. The world is changing rapidly and we encounter new experiences/ideas everyday and we may not necessarily know how to always respond to them in the right ways. Personally, the biggest moments of growth I’ve experienced have been through my mistakes. These mistakes encouraged me to re-evaluate my approach and certainly, these mistakes helped me improve the quality of my work. Luckily, I had bosses in the past who understood that making mistakes is all part of the learning process and so while they helped me understand how to eliminate those mistakes, they also did not admonish me to a point I stopped trying new ideas. Don’t rob your co-workers with these opportunities to grow by not allowing them to make mistakes.
  3. Set higher expectations and standards beyond their comfort zones and abilities. This requires that you are intimately familiar with your co-workers’ skills, knowledge, and interests. Understand their areas of strengths and weaknesses and challenge them to further utilize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. You may encounter some resistance as this will require more work from them and they may not understand why you are challenging them, but growth isn’t always comfortable.
  4. Praise in public and criticize in private. How demoralizing is it to have your ideas interrupted by your boss in public settings because he/she just happens to believe their ways are better and do it in a way you look incompetent. There are situations when a manager does need to intervene because the information is incorrect. But even then, there’s a diplomatic method to pointing out the error and/or to suggest different ideas. This point relates to point 1 above in that as leaders.managers, we need to be clear about our expectations and goals. If our colleagues don’t understand what they are, they may share their own ideas that are contrary to what we have in mind. In these cases of confusion, it’s best to speak with your colleagues behind closed doors and clarify your expectations as well as to understand their perspectives so you are both on the same page. As I wrote on this blog post, as a manager, your words matter. You can use them to “praise or curse” your colleagues.
  5. Lead via influence, not command and control. Treat your colleagues as human beings and not machines or resources. Build relationships with them so they feel they matter. While ordering your colleagues to perform tasks may yield short-term results, the command and control approach can result in a work force that will not go above and beyond what is expected of them. This type of approach could also lead to unhappy employees and worse, lead to emotional and physical ailments. However, by leading through influence, you can build a work environment that is more positive and more sustainable in the long run. You have a workforce that will go above and beyond what is asked from them because they feel a sense of autonomy, growth, and a sense that they are respected.
  6. Model confidence. As a leader/manager, your co-workers watch your actions and your words. You play the role of the victim/complainer and soon, they will adapt your attitudes and behaviors. Work is not always ideal and we are all presented with challenges from time to time. While I’m not suggesting that we always look and feel invincible, it is important that we display the attitude of solution seekers and optimism, even in the lowest moments.

What other methods have you used to build the confidence of your colleagues?

Year in Review – Professional/Memorable Moments of 2013-2014

Academic year 2013-2014 was a year filled with accomplishments and memorable events that impacted me professionally and personally. It was a year of connecting and working with new students, UCSB colleagues, as well as professionals from all over the country I met via social media. It was a year I committed myself to learning as much as possible about student affairs, IT, and higher education through books and my personal learning networks. Below are some highlights as well as memorable moments that impacted me personally and professionally.

Student Information Systems & Technology (SIS&T):

Our student affairs division and my department started working on several major projects this year as part of a comprehensive suite of technology initiatives we will be working on for the next few years. Amongst those projects I directed/managed include:

  • Student Financial Systems Project – a redesign/migration of our existing undergraduate/graduate financial aid and scholarships system.
  • Adoption/implementation of communication/collaboration applications:
        • Emma (mass e-mailing solution)
        • BaseCamp (project management)
        • Google Analytics
        • Sitefinity (web content management system)
        • Sharepoint
        • Intelliresponse (knowledge base system)
        • Policy & Procedure Management (PPM) – document workflow approval system
  • Communication Collaborative (CommCollab) – a divisional communication initiative aimed to advance the mission of our division using the network of staff from within our division using the tools mentioned above.
  • Cloud Services Usage Guidelines
  • Data Retention/Destruction Guidelines

We are indeed busy with projects, but our department likes to have fun as well. Our department retreat last December was one of the most fun events I’ve had with my colleagues. Check out this youtube video of our team having fun –


UCSB STEP Program (August 2013)

I was a Transitions course facilitator for this one-week summer bridge program for under-represented and first generation students.  Just like the previous three years, it was a very enjoyable and satisfying experience, personally and professionally. This one week in August is my probably my favorite week of the year because I get to meet new students. These are students who are eager to learn and who are in a major transition in their lives. It’s amazing to watch the transformation that happens in a week. Personally, my interactions with the students are reminders of why I work in student affairs.


Foundations – New Student Affairs Professional Development Program (October 2013 – June 2014)

Foundations is a cohort-based program professional development program for new student affairs professionals at UCSB. It’s a new program intended to introduce new staff about theories and issues applicable to their roles. The program started with a three half-day “New Professional Institute” in October to introduce the participants to professional competencies, student affair structures, and overview of topics to be discussed during the year. Each month, we had a session devoted to topics including work/life balance, workplace communication, creating change, technology, shared governance/student leadership, and budget/salaries. After each session, a survey was conducted to assess the effectiveness of  the event. I was fortunate enough to have been one of the program’s coordinators. I enjoyed working with the coordinating team and our cohort members.


Gaucho U Learning and Leadership Program (October 2013 – May 2014)

I was a mentor for a team of 12 staff (cohort G) for this university-wide professional development program. It’s a cohort-based training and development program founded on the UC Core Competency Model. I was a participant two years ago and that experience provided me with some perspective on how to serve as a mentor effectively. Our project was to implement a prototype of a mobile version of our campus homepage. Part of the effort included research by the members on what other UC campuses have already in place, as well as soliciting feedback from our campus via a survey of mobile use and preferences. From what I know, this is the first campus-wide survey regarding mobile usage that’s ever been done at UCSB. What I loved about this program was the opportunity to work and mentor staff from other parts of the campus I would never have had the chance to interact with if it was not for this program. The best part of the experience for me is watching the members develop as leaders. There was one staff in particular who was very shy at the beginning of the program but I had the hunch she could serve as an effective leader for our group, based on the initial interactions I had with her. I selected her as one of the team leaders and it was amazing watching her come out of her shell and show her leadership skills.


NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) (October 2013 – June 2014)

NUFP is a program designed to provide mentorship to underrepresented students interested in pursuing careers in higher education and student affairs. Students are provided with opportunities to learn more about student affairs via activities and discussions, including a trip to the NASPA national conference. I was a mentor this year and it was an amazing experience working with the highly motivated, smart, and very involved students. Some of the highlights include a trip to the Western Regional Careers in Student Affairs Day in November at CSU Long Beach. It is during this trip that I had the opportunity to interact with some of our NUFP fellows and talk about their interests and issues. It was also during this conference where I met a few student affairs colleagues I met through social media for the first time face-to-face.


The trip to the NASPA national conference in Baltimore last March was a fun experience for the mentors and our fellows. The trip provided our team to get to know more about each other. It was an educational experience for all of us, learning more about issues/trends in student affairs and networking with other graduate students and professionals outside our campus.


The year ended with the fellows presenting their research topics to the campus. The topics included the use of resource center towards student success, multiracial identities, and LGBTQIA. The event was attended by our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, other senior student affairs officers, staff, and students. Watching the fellows present, including my mentee, Navkira (Navi) Kaur, was a moment of pride and joy.


External Review of Texas A&M University (TAMU) Student Affairs IT Department (September 2013 – December 2013)

I had the honor and privilege of leading an external review team to examine the IT department as part of TAMU Division of Student Affairs’ assessment efforts. I consider it a privilege because I was recommended by their IT Director for my online reputation as one who is experienced in student affairs technology. I learned a lot from this experience. For one, I was able to get a glimpse of another student affairs IT department and compare it with my own IT department. In addition, I read many IT and technology-related books, including ITIL framework, governance, and funding models. It was one of the most intense project I’ve experienced professionally. As the team leader, I had to quickly develop rapport with the other members (TAMU staff) virtually (web conference calls), and plan the three day on-site visit. As soon as I arrived on the campus and got my luggage in my room, the work immediately started with a meeting with some of their student affairs senior leadership to outline the expectations during the visit. For the next three days, it was back-to-back meetings all day, interviewing different constituencies including the IT group, the divisional customers, and the division’s senior student affairs officers (Vice Presidents). The days ended with a team meeting in the evening to review our notes. The on-site visit ended with a presentation of our findings to the directors and IT staff. My work was not done after the visit as I still had to produce a report of our findings and recommendations, with input from the other team members. In the end, it was one of the most satisfying experiences of my career. What I remember from this experience are the friendly TAMU staff and the very polite student leaders. The student representative on our team was the student body Vice-President and he wore his cadet uniform the whole time I was there. He was very formal and very respectful, addressing me and other staff with “yes, sir/yes, ma’am.” He had very thoughtful input and added a very important perspective to the process.


NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) – (October 2013 – June 2014)

NASPA is one of the two major student affairs professionals organization. I became more involved with NASPA this year through NUFP as well as through their technology initiatives. I attended the national conference for the first time and I was very impressed with the programming and the size of attendance. I was honored to be asked to participate in a two-day technology summit in Washington, DC to talk about issues and trends related to student affair technology. The group represented different constituencies in higher education and student affairs. One of the many highlights of the tech summit was meeting other colleagues I met via twitter for the first time face-to-face. While we’ve only interacted virtually before the tech summit, it was as if we’ve known each other and have been friends for a while.

NASPA Tech Summit (February 28th – March 1st) – Washington, DC


NASPA National Conference (March 14th – 19th)

The trip to the national conference in Baltimore was a very memorable experience. Spending time with our NUFP team, meeting and spending time with someone from Scotland, learning about student affairs issues/trends all contributed to a week I will never forget. In addition, I also had the opportunity to meet other Asian-Americans and Filipino-American colleagues. We also had a #sachat meetup. This is a get together of folks who are part of the #sachat twitter community.

naspa_national naspa_national_lisa naspa_national_miles_danielle naspa_national_opening naspa_national_pinoys

Kapatirang Pilipino (KP) – (Spring 2014)

KP is the Filipin@-American student organization at UCSB. As an undergraduate student, I was very involved as a member and a leader. I was also KP’s staff advisor for years. A few years ago, KP leaders decided to go with a new staff advisor, and so I gradually became less-involved with the organization to a point where I did not know many Filipin@-American students. I was invited to attend an event during Spring quarter this year and I was more than glad to attend. What a wonderful feeling it was to be able to meet the students, including a group of them, who are part of my “KP family” lineage. One of KP’s long running tradition/program is the Kuya/Ate (big brother/sister) program that promotes the idea of mentoring by more experienced members to new members. As years had gone by, these “family lines” continued.


I also attended KP’s 35th anniversary celebration. I met additional students and reunited with some alums. One highlight of this celebration was getting to serve a lechon – a whole roasted pig.

kp_35th kp_35th_reunion_30thlechon

Isla Vista Shooting Tragedy (May 23rd)

The tragedy that happened in Isla Vista on May 23rd when we lost some of our students really impacted me personally. UCSB/Isla Vista is a community I’ve been a part of since 1991 when I entered UCSB as a freshman. While I didn’t know the students we lost, I felt angry, lost, and confused. At the same time, in the midst of this horrible tragedy was a display of community I have never seen before. From my colleagues volunteering their time to counsel and provide any needed services, moments after the shooting, to the candlelight vigil attended by 5,000 students and community members, to the 22,000+ who attended the memorial at our stadium, these actions/events really confirmed why I love my job and while I’m still at UCSB.


Commencement Ceremonies (June 12, 2014)

I volunteered to be part of the commencement ceremonies for the first time this year and what a fun experience that was. Helping students inside our gym as they line up and watching them find their friends so they can march together was a really satisfying moment for me. I also got to work with my wife, who helped coordinate the College of Engineering and Sciences Commencement Ceremony.


STEP Program in August started the year for me and I ended this year by saying goodbye to one of the students, Ange, I met three years ago via this program. I am very honored for her to consider me as a mentor. Ange will be spending the next three years in China pursuing her Masters Degree.


I also received a very nice “thank you note” from a student I just recently met through KP. The note was particularly significant to me because it showed that as a student affairs professional, I can be a difference in students lives the first days they arrive on campus, like at STEP Program, or during their last months here at UCSB.


I’m excited and the same time anxious to what the next academic year brings. There are significant changes in our division with the retirement of our senior leadership and the change in leadership will provide opportunities and challenges.

Self-Reliance and Career Development

I have had several mentors and sponsors who have guided and advocated for me throughout my career. For this, I am very grateful. There is no way I would have advanced in my career without the help of many.   However, at times, I also fell into the trap of relying on others for my career advancement and lost a sense of self-accountability in terms of proactively planning for my future, learning new skills, and promoting myself along the way. Somehow, because I had gotten help from my mentors/sponsors, I took for granted that they may not always be able to help me all the time. In some cases, I assumed they knew the direction and opportunities I wanted but as I later found out, they had no clue.  I came to realize even when they did want to provide opportunities for me within the organization, there are other factors in play that prevented them from doing so. Organizational politics, personalities, and my career interests not aligning with organizational priorities are just some factors that prevented me from moving on to areas I wanted to progress into. I can recall key moments in my career when I was disappointed when opportunities came and passed me by and I unfairly expected others to come and advocate for me. I fell into the victim mentality, blaming others for my missed opportunities. Gradually, I came to the realization that I may just be relying on others too much, failing to take ownership of my career development. This shift in attitude, taking personal accountability, has become more empowering and has provided me with a sense of control when it comes to my career.

One constant message I share with others with regards to career development is that they have to “own their career”. One should not have to wait for others to learn new skills and knowledge. I firmly believe professional development is a personal choice and a commitment. One should create professional networks and develop relationships before they are needed.

It is conference season in student affairs and one of the topics discussed during this time is how to network online and at the conferences. I personally make the effort to provide opportunities for others to connect via introductions and I also take it upon myself to make the first step. I tweeted this a few days ago as part of a conversation about this topic:

My point about the tweet above is that, if we rely on others to help us out, that help may never come. We must take it upon ourselves to make the first move or we end up watching others while we sit on the sideline. Do you want that opportunity? Prepare yourself then take steps for your interests, skills, and accomplishments to be known. I grew up in a household and a culture that discourage talking about ourselves and our accomplishments. But, I realized at some point in my career, this was not always helpful. There’s a fine line between self-promotion for the sake of ego and advocating for ourselves because we need to. But, there are times when we do have to talk about ourselves or no one else will. Others will interpret this several ways based on their perspectives of us, some positive and some negative, even with our best intention.

I sometimes hear others complain about their jobs feeling as if they have no their choices but to stay where they are. Frankly, I think there are always choices, some choices harder than other. Does it take time and effort to make a change? Absolutely! I do believe life is too short to be in a job without joy and satisfaction. When one’s not happy at work, it does impact our personal lives and the folks we care about.

Ultimately, we have to be accountable for our own career development and be our biggest cheerleader.


Reframing Technology in Student Affairs

Technology can be scary for some. The prospect of technology potentially replacing one’s position in an organization is even more scary. This is one of the reasons as to why advances brought upon by technology are not always embraced by all. From my experience working in student affairs IT for more than fifteen years, obstacles to implementing new systems are not always about the shortcomings of the technology themselves but rather, the bigger challenge lie with the resistance of those impacted by the new systems based on fear, unwillingness to embrace change, refusal to learn new skills, or the belief their current practices are superior to what technology can offer. When implementing new systems, as a project manager, a few of the questions from staff I know I have to address are “what’s in it for me?”, “will it replace me?”, and “how do I fit in?” The reality is that technology has changed manual processes that may have existed in the past. Technology has made certain processes more efficient through automation. In some cases, this has led to elimination of positions that used to perform these manual operations. For folks in these positions, they had to  learn and adapt to the new ways of doing things, moved to new positions, or leave.

One of the concerns about using technology in student affairs, particularly when dealing with students/customers, is that certain services requiring face-to-face communication should not be replaced with technology. I generally agree with this sentiment. Not every process can be replaced with technology. If that is the case, there would be no need for staff at all. However, consider the idea that technology may just provide staff with more operational efficiency and effectiveness so they can devote more face-to-face interaction and provide more time to students who need extra attention? Given the global nature and increasing online presence of our students in higher education, physical face-to-face may not be an option. Here are some examples on how technology complements and improves our work:

– Knowledge base systems like Intelliresponse that can answer most commonly asked questions can minimize the number of phone calls and emails to staff thereby providing more time to dealing with special scenarios.

– Electronic medical records and case management systems provide student affairs practitioners with relevant student information from different parts of the campus they can use to assist students. Institutions without these systems probably still need to gather the information on paper format from different places. Imagine students having to wait during an appointment as the counselor must wade through files, which may contain outdated information, and synthesize the information in front of them?

– Web-based self-service systems can delegate some of the tasks to students themselves. For example, disabled students could register for services provided by disabled students programs by providing their health information and requesting services (proctoring, notetaking, etc) online. Given some business validation to ensure all required documentations are provided, these self-service systems save both student and staff the unnecessary steps and time of going over required documents.

– Virtual conferencing tools such as Adobe Connect to provide webinars to incoming students who may not be able to visit the campus (international students, out-of-state, etc) are saving institutions time and money for travel. They can also accommodate the different time zones when students are available. I know colleagues who have held web conferences at 2 am to students in China.

– Digital x-ray systems in student health centers have significantly reduced the amount of time required to diagnose a patient. In the past, the process would have involved a couple of days to send these x-rays to facilities outside the university. Student health centers with digital x-ray capabilities can now do the same process in minutes.

– Automated degree audit systems can assist students and advisors with information to monitor academic progress. The efficiency and accuracy provided by these systems are tremendous compared to manual processes which require staff to enter and process volumes of student academic records.

With the topics I introduced above including staff’s attitude to change and looking at technology as a tool towards efficiency and effectiveness, we must also look at the subject of technology competency. What does technology competency mean? As I wrote on this blog post, I define student affairs technology competency as:

“Technology competency includes the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to use, design, evaluate and implement technology to support the goals of functional units and towards one’s work.”

Competency is not solely about the mechanics of using the technology itself but rather, how technology is applied in intentional ways. Technology competency involves technical and business aptitudes as well as the right attitudes. As an analogy, one does not develop competency with money, but rather, how money is used.

How do we then develop staff’s technology competency? Graduate programs must include technology as part of their curriculum, either as a component in other courses offered, or as a course on its own. Not all student affairs professionals have a degree in student affairs and so opportunities to develop technology competency must be available to all staff. One such opportunity, which is also applicable to graduate programs, is a course on technology in student affairs. This would be in addition to any training provided by institutions such as as well as by sites available to individuals including codecademy and I also think our profession could encourage and promote discussions about effective technology use in student affairs by bringing the topic to the forefront and not just as an underlying component of other competencies. Perhaps, the next version of Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Professionals by NASPA/ACPA could include technology as a competency area and not as a thread.

For anyone to deny the idea that technology is an integral component of student affairs today has not worked in student affairs and/or they have not spent the time reflecting on how technology impacts our work and our students. The question is no longer about whether technology should be a part of how we perform our jobs but rather how can we best use technology in whatever capacity we contribute towards our mission of supporting student success. Student affairs professionals do not have the choice of accepting technology as part of their job.  This article, “You 3.0: The Most Important Evolving Technology“, says it quite aptly:

“The focus will be on the relationship between the evolving technology and the user—that is, on You 3.0.”

To be successful at what we do in providing service require our willingness to adapt, not react, to the realities of the world of our students.

What are your thoughts on how we should frame technology in student affairs? Do you agree/disagree with my assertion that technology is a critical component of student affairs?

Note: Products mentioned in this post should be considered as references only and not an endorsement by the author.

My Professional Reading List for 2013

kindle_joe_listThis year has been an intense learning experience for me. It was a year of learning driven by curiosity, the need for background information for projects with folks I met via social media, and in preparation for major projects at work. In addition, a significant portion of my learning came through reading, mostly on my iphone and kindle app. The topics I read include the following:

For the most part, I went through these books by skimming and scanning them. I then went back and deep read those I found really interesting and/or those requiring more analysis. There are some books who could have been better written, but I always start a book with an open mind so I try to find new ideas from them. However, there have been some books I have had to return (Amazon allows electronic refund within a couple of days after purchase) as I either found them to be too hard to read (author uses too many big words I don’t understand and I fall asleep/get headaches), or ideas are not well thought out, or just not very interesting. I found that in reading enough books of similar topics, I came to find themes. It is during times when I could combine themes from across disciplines/industries and analyze them as they relate to my current work and future of higher education that I find myself thinking about possibilities of where my world could be heading.

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