Get to know: Ian McKenzie

Ian McKenzie, Head of IT and Educational Technology, Emirates College for Advanced Education

Tags: EducationOpen sourceVirtualisation
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Get to know: Ian McKenzie Working in the education sector gives an opportunity to guide how technology can be integrated into education, says McKenzie. (ITP Images)
By  Andrew Seymour Published  January 18, 2011

The top IT personalities reveal their secrets for success.

Ian McKenzie, Head of IT and Educational Technology, Emirates College for Advanced Education.

What is your career history?

I originally started out as a teacher and then moved into school administration. At that time, IT was starting to become prominent in the schooling system and I had an interest in it so I started to take on some of those responsibilities. As time went on I enjoyed the IT side more and more, so I moved into an IT manager role, first at the campus level and then at the regional level. In moving to the UAE, I moved more into the e-learning field, managing e-learning at the Higher Colleges of Technology. My most recent role at Emirates College for Advanced Education (ECAE) is one that I enjoy greatly as it involves the leadership of not just the IT side of things, but also the educational technology area where we look at how technologies can be made integral to effective teaching and learning.

What do you regard as your finest achievement so far?

Probably from a technology standpoint it would be the integrated digital campus concept we have built here at ECAE. However, what I probably take more pride in is building collaborative relationships at the organisations I have worked in, and building this into functional and inclusive governance structures where the business is driving the technology decisions rather than the other way around.

What drives you towards excellence in IT?

It is about making a difference. I have no desire to work in a Fortune 500 company with a focus on profit-driven results. For me, it is about seeing how IT contributes to a social cause like education. This is particularly satisfying as you see the benefit for teachers and students. It is a whole ‘circle of life’ thing where the influence you have can impact dozens of people over several decades.

What technology will make the biggest impact in 2011?

For me, it is not so much about the technology but how it is used for effective teaching and learning. However, if I had to name a few that are on our horizon in education they would be desktop and server virtualisation, virtual reality and virtual learning worlds. I believe we are also probably going to see a massive shift to open source in the learning management system space in the coming years.

What is your advice  for young professionals seeking to become the CIO one day?

As much as knowledge of IT is important, I don’t believe it is what makes a CIO. I would say focus on one industry and learn it backwards: serve in as many positions as you can in your early career, so you understand as many issues as you can and really get to see what makes that industry tick. Try and land your first IT management job by the time you are 30, and by 40 (if you have changed industries) you will probably have to absolutely choose which industry you are going to spend the remainder of your career in and start working towards the CIO role. On the way there engage others as much as you can. Set up governance structures to inform your decision making. You are only half as smart as the combination of the other two people standing beside you!

Outside of the office, what is your foremost passion?

My wife and I love to travel, and apart from the professional challenges, this was one of the main reasons we moved here. Australia is a long way from anywhere and being in Abu Dhabi allows us to travel a lot more frequently. We have also adopted four street cats who drift in and out of our backyard. We are also quite active with the Feline Friends organisation and run a trap-neuter-release programme on our block to help keep the population of stray cats in the area down.

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