I attended the Pilipino Graduation Ceremony at UC Santa Barbara last Friday. It was an intimate ceremony which provided the 21 graduating seniors, both Filipino-Americans and students involved with the Filipino-American community at UCSB, opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments and to recognize the contributions of their families.  Even those who are stoic in nature would have been moved by the tributes and gratitude expressed by the students.  Listening to the heartfelt speeches and watching the pride by their families were exactly what I needed to remind myself of why I chose to come back to higher education.  It was also a reminder of what really gets me excited and passionate about my job, which is supporting students. In my 16 years since turning professional, I have been able to develop relationships as a mentor to several students. These relationships have lasted even after they graduated.

Working in IT where I don’t always have direct interactions with students, it’s so easy to lose sight of the purpose of my job, which is to support the mission of our university in serving our students.  Our servers, networks and the codes we produce are not the ends of what we do.  They are just means to the purpose.  There are times when compromises need to be made between building the perfect software that takes months and months to perfect against delivering them in a timely manner so our customers can use them when they need them. Sometimes, the processes we try to perfect to make sure our server environments remain pristine, our need to adhere to the most rigid software development standards do not always align the needs of our users. It is during these times that I, as an IT professional, must not lose proper perspective of why my position exists and weigh my priorities accordingly. Sometimes, I have to ask, whose needs am I trying to meet? What may be trivial to us may mean the world to those we serve.

One of the reasons why I actively seek out opportunities to work with students, in addition to the fact that I do find enjoyment working with them, is because I do feel that for me to be able to do my job effectively; I need to be reminded of who I serve. These are students who have come to the university for different reasons, with different aspirations.  For many of them, attending UCSB required their families to sacrifice. These are students who must find ways to succeed at the university against increasing tuition and declining resources.

Listening to the students share their stories last Friday night gave me the extra motivation to continue doing what I can do to support our students in ways within my capabilities. It reminded me of the true meaning of my job.