This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an
exclusive interview with Ken Poorman, recipient of the 2005 NPA International Professional
Excellence and Innovation Award – Education, given out at the world’s largest
networking industry conference, Networld+Interop Las Vegas. The
Award is sponsored by the Network Professional Association with cooperation and
support including from Networld+Interop, Microsoft, Que/SAMS (Pearson
Technology Publishing), Network Computing Magazine, Network World Magazine,
Novell Canada, …
Mr. Poorman grew up in Western Pennsylvania and
attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, completing his B.S. in Education
with a concentration in Mathematics and Computer Science.
Poorman joined the U.S. Navy where he
served as an engineer on various ships and as a Material Professional (IS in
service terminology). He completed a MSCIS at Naval Postgraduate School in
Monterey Ca. while teaching computer science courses there. Later, after a tour
as Commanding Officer of a ship in San Diego, Ken was
fortunate to be the Project Manager for several large military projects. These
included the World Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS), Tactical
Flag Command Center (TFCC), and the Automatic Carrier Landing System (ACLS). Following
Naval service, he worked in systems design creating information systems for
various corporations. He also worked on developing operating systems and
techniques which are in use today. Ken became a faculty member of the University of Phoenix, San Diego
Campus in 1995. His full time position since March of 2000 is as Campus College
Chair for Information Science and Technology. He has been teaching on-ground
classes for more than ten years primarily in the College of Information Science
& Technology (IS&T).
Q: Ken: Congratulations on your fine
achievement as the recipient of one of the networking industry’s highest
international awards, the 2005 NPA Professional Excellence and Innovation in
Education Award. How does it feel to receive this honour? What are the comments
and thoughts from your associates and family?
am quite proud to be selected for this award. There are so many outstanding
schools and programs that contribute to the field of technology so to be chosen
by the NPA for this award is a fantastic experience. In the University of Phoenix alone there are
more than a 1000 personnel involved in facilitating and teaching within the College of Information Science and Technology. My fellow College Chairs in San Diego also took
pride in this award because we work as a team to ensure the quality in the
classroom in all of the seven colleges.
Q: Which areas of your work are you most
proud of and for what reasons?
take the most pride in the quality of the body of knowledge presented in the
classroom. It is through the efforts of outstanding faculty who remain current in
various fields of IT that facilitate up-to-date instruction and curriculum in
the classroom. Faculty spend numerous hours writing and maintaining class
guidelines and materials that are top notch for classroom use. With the vast
majority being associate faculty, it is a pleasure to work with people who make
it happen in the technical environment and then come to our classrooms and
teach and explain how the real world works outside the ivy covered halls.
Q: How do you plan to make a difference in
your workplace and community, and in academia, industry, and government?
feel that by orchestrating and assisting in the continual upgrade and change of
the material presented to the student, I can make the biggest difference in the
workplace whether the workplace is business, academia, or government. Our
future is determined by our students. In the case of the University of Phoenix our
students may be a little more mature and experienced than the typical student. Many
will be contributing immediately as they are already in the workforce and
striving to improve themselves and their working environment.
Q: Describe your responsibilities:
day-to-day, tactically, and strategically. What ten lessons can you share with
A: My responsibilities are actually very
simply described. My job is to maintain and improve quality in the classroom.
Whatever it takes to accomplish that goal is my responsibility. It may mean faculty
hiring, training, or dismissal or curriculum change. It means I must ensure the
proper and current materials are covered in the duration of the course to
instill the best, most current, and most extensive learning environment possible.
My best ten lessons learned would probably
- Be honest
- Remain current in your field
- Know the subject matter
- When the answer is unknown, admit it, and find the answer
- Take advantage of students experience and inputs. Many of the students work in the field and can share
- Trust in your experience. As associate faculty you were hired because of your experience and expertise.
- Use any and all information and resources available.
- Never take yourself too seriously.
- Make sure you challenge the students. Everyone can and should learn no matter the experience level upon entering the
- Respect time -- the student has very little time to spare and needs to be efficient in class. Be on time and
provide the full duration of the class with training or learning experiences.
Q: Can you bring us up-to-date on the
solutions you are implementing at the University of Phoenix (UoP)?
What are the five biggest challenges and how will they be resolved? How does
this extend into education organizations in general? What are the applications
in industry and business?
A: We are presenting using multiple modalities of instruction at the University of Phoenix and we
try to focus the type of modality to the best fit of the student in regards to
his or her learning desires, abilities, and time.
The University of Phoenix has online
classes which can be done by students on an ongoing basis with the course
meeting completely online. Online suits the student who is too distant or has
such a schedule that can never accommodate a set time for a classroom
environment. We also have the traditional on-ground class that provides a face
to face meeting between the student and a faculty member.
We have a newer modality
that is a combination of the previous two, called Flexnet. In Flexnet the student
meets the faculty member in an on-ground classroom to start the course, does
most of the course online, and then completes the course in the classroom on
the last night of class. This provides the opportunity for the student that wants
a face-to-face meeting with faculty, but just doesn’t have a flexible schedule
that allows a weekly meeting in the classroom. One of the challenges we face with
diverse modalities is ensuring quality of instruction is maintained in the
classroom whether on-ground, online or Flexnet.
Another concept institutionalized with the University of Phoenix is the
concept of teamwork. Every course requires classmates to form Learning Teams of
three to six members, who will work together on various team projects. We have
seen that this technique has helped the student to develop teamwork abilities
and techniques that serve the student well in the working environment. I often
hear students and alumni tell me how much this teamwork training has helped them
in the work environment. Many contemporaries in the business world have
commented that the University of Phoenix student seems to have a much better understanding
of working in the team environment of today’s society.
Q: What three case studies can you share
from your days with the Military which are still useful today in providing
me, without a doubt, the most important aspect of work in the military that should
be applied to best practices is “attention to detail”. No matter whether we are
looking at the business environment, government related issues, or academia; if
the details are not correct the conclusion will never be complete and accurate.
This carries into the classroom as a wrong information byte could lead a
student down the wrong path in the future. In the business world a misspoken
fact could cause business failure, and in government work it could waste
millions of tax dollars.
There seemed to be a tendency in my
military work to underestimate the individuals’ abilities, and overestimate
available assets. This has caused problems, or at least reduced the final
culmination of a project. So much more could have been done by correctly
evaluating the abilities of personnel and the potential of the involved
parties. Many times this unused potential counteracted the overestimation of
available assets. We need to be very judicious in determining the availability
of both personnel abilities and assets available.
Most of my projects in the military tied to
communications. I have discovered over time that communications is the key to
everything in government, business, and academia. If you cannot communicate,
you cannot succeed. Many times an IT student will ask why the faculty is so
critical of writing skills, because after all, they are going to be a “techie”.
That is precisely why the writing ability is so important. The IT person will
very likely be the bridge between the business or operational side of an
organization and the technical or analytical side of the organization. The IT person
must be able to communicate in both worlds to succeed in their career.
Q: What are your specific short, medium,
and long-term objectives for UoP?
objectives (though not necessarily those of the University), are quite simple. In
short term, I want to see that the ongoing classes are staffed and maintained
by the best faculty available. Medium objectives include the continual review
of new faculty to ensure the flow of current and well qualified personnel are
in position to continue quality in the classroom. My long-term objectives
include the addition of new degrees or new coursework that continues to reflect
the timeframe during which the material will be presented. We are now in a
wireless environment; therefore we should be teaching and using the technology
that is in the world. In the future we need to stay with the leading edge of
technology both in content and in use.
Q: Illustrate by using a case study
approach, what will education look like in 2007, 2010, 2015?
at what a student will see in the class in the future, I think you will see
many different aspects in education. In 2007, the student will see a time of
choice and multiple modality opportunities. A student will be able to use
whatever modality will best fit the ability and time available for the student.
In 2010, the student will still have the choice of modality but will be using
all electronic sourcing of materials and resources. We are using electronic texts, libraries and
searches now, but I believe within 5 years we will see education entirely electronic
in resources. By 2015, I believe it is possible we might be looking at the
opportunity of self paced learning to a much larger scale than is envisioned
now. There may no longer be a faculty member or teacher in direct contact with
the student. The faculty member or teacher will be creating the documentation
that the student will be using, while the student will determine the pace of
Q: What have been your top five challenges
since your graduation from university? Why are they included on your list and
how did you resolve them?
A: 1) Determining what I wanted to do
with my life.
I entered the military
after graduation since that was about my only choice in the day of the draft. I
quickly discovered that I liked the military regimen and it fit what I was
looking to do at the time. As retirement from the military approached, I knew I
enjoyed working with electronics and systems design. I decided to see what I
could do in that area. I also knew from doing some college teaching in the
military, that I liked being a teacher. I applied for an associate faculty
position and it worked for me at the University of Phoenix.
a Chief Engineer of a Naval ship.
Although, trained in computer systems, electronics, and electricity, I
had very little education in the world of steam plant engineering. This was
probably the hardest challenge for me technically. I decided the best approach
was to do my best in the military schools provided for engineering officers.
After completing the schools, I arrived in the ship and decided that the best
learning technique for me was hands on education. I went through every watch
station (job) in engineering to see if I could do the job. I felt that using
the idea for the engineer job could be sum of the parts plus more. I got the sum of the parts by doing
the jobs and the additional training came with my ears and eyes. I listened to
everything the professionals said and read every manual I could get my hands
on. This helped me to learn communications both in listening and speaking are
vital to success.
to balance life.
It is very easy to
become absorbed in the technical details surrounding a position and to lose
sight of what is involved in being a total individual. For years, I was blindly
doing the workaholic thing without realizing that I was missing life and that I
was not a complete person, or manager, for that matter. I did not understand
the people side of management for a long time. One day I realized I learned by
listening and reading and doing. What I discovered was that I learned as much
by listening as any other form of input. I discovered I had to learn where the
person was coming from so to speak. That is when I discovered that people need to
be involved in many aspects of life to include family, social, and every other
realm of human involvement. I started to discover that to manage, and then to
teach required I know people. I learned that people are more than their job and
need to be well rounded to best adjust and cope with the stress of the work
environment. I found that social life, family life and cultural activities also
contribute to the overall manager and allow for a better grasp and
understanding of how to manage. I also discovered life can be fun.
Office for the Naval Third Fleet
It was my job to ensure that all Naval and
Marine Forces deploying in the Pacific Theater were prepared to deal and handle
whatever they may be encounter during the deployment. The traditional battlefield
and ocean skirmishes could no longer be the sole focus of training. The
fighting men and women deploying needed to be capable of dealing with actions
like the Gulf War, terrorism, natural disasters, and relief operations for
famine, etc. It was a definite challenge and interesting to set up training
involving a scenario to free hostages from a bank take over or some other type
of activity not familiar to the regular training provided in the military.
Developing and doing this training for the more than 60,000 Naval and Marine
personnel deploying during my tenure as training officer was a definite
challenge as well as a learning opportunity.
5) Campus College Chair for
the San Diego Campus
It was a true challenge and learning
experience. The College Chairs for the seven colleges began together, and there
were no previous full time positions as Campus College Chair. The Director of
Academic Affairs told each of the College Chairs “your job is to maintain
quality in the classroom, make it happen.” Without a pattern to follow we
quickly developed a camaraderie and came up with plans and actions of how to
best do this job. It has been an ongoing and growing process, but seems to have
been very successful for the San Diego Campus.
Q: Provide a history of your career
milestones and important lessons you learned.
graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree from Indiana University of
Pennsylvania having worked my way through college in a local steel mill. This
was the start for learning the value of an education which is a lesson I
continue to learn on a daily basis.
I enlisted in the Navy and then
Commissioned an Ensign four years after enlisting. This provided a better
insight as to the thinking of the junior enlisted man in the service and started
me down the path to learn how to lead and manage.
Assigned to work on the design and
implementation of the World Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS). I
was assigned to train the military personnel in the hardware construction,
operating system, and assembly language used in the WWMCCS system. This was the
foundation and basis for both my IT career and my educational career.
Assigned to assist in the Program
Management of the Automated Carrier Landing System (ACLS), I provided some
good experience in the program management arena.
I was appointed Project Manager for the
Tactical Flag Command Center (TFCC). This system was developed and used in all
Fleets of the Navy to provide Command input to Operational Forces. This was my
first role in leading a project and getting me started in the management role.
I assumed duties of Commanding Officer of
Naval Frigate. It provided the first big opportunity for a position of
responsibility and leadership.
I worked as a Consultant in the IT field
gaining valuable experience in the intricacies of business operations in the IT
world of retail business.
Selected as Campus College Chair for the
College of IS&T in San Diego has provided me the opportunity to blend the IT technical world
with the for-profit business world of academia.
Q: Ken, can you comment of what it is to be
an IT Professional?
an IT professional, I feel it is my responsibility to stay current in the field
as much as possible. I need to maintain a knowledge base of what is going on in
IT in order to provide adequate direction and guidance in the classroom
environment. To be an IT Professional means the need to do continual research
to maintain currency and the determination to ensure IT systems are designed
with efficiency, currency, security, and correctness while ensuring that they
meet the prime of objective of providing what the user needs. An IT
Professional will also make every attempt to provide an understanding to the
users of the system on why it works, and how it works, while instilling in the
user the confidence to use the system.
Q: Which has proved to be the most valuable:
undergraduate studies, graduate studies, work experience, teaching, leading; and
why? Rank them…
A: The most valuable to me is work experience. Work experience shows how
something will work in the real world and not just how the design says it
should work. Leading is second because good leadership requires continual
training and a natural ability to listen. I believe every successful leader
listens appropriately. When leading you must know where you are going and why
or you will not succeed. From my perspective, teaching is simply a subset of
leading so no need to list it anywhere but here. Graduate studies were my next most
valuable experience, because they provided some information and direction in
the area I wanted to develop for my career. Undergraduate studies were of value
because they started me on the path of desiring more knowledge and a continual
desire for more additional knowledge and information.
Q: Choose five topics of your choosing and
A: 1) Topic 1: Teamwork:
I think one of the essential ingredients to a successful enterprise, be it
military, government, business or academia is the ability of the work force to
function as a team and work for the goals and objectives of the organization.
The Campus College Chairs at the San Diego Campus are an excellent example of a
group of personnel working together and achieving more because of their effort
than could ever be achieved as seven individuals.
2) Topic 2: IT management:
There is no
greater skill than the ability to communicate between the business side of the
house and the technical side of the business. Many times a company’s biggest
problem is trying to establish what it is that the users, or business side
needs, and then explaining it to the technical side in order for proper
development of the required solution. One of my objectives is to work on the
communications capability of our IT graduates to ensure that they can provide
this communications bridge between the business personnel and the technical
3) Topic 3: Internet Security:
Is a major problem and cannot be maintained. While there is no 100% guarantee that your
data and information will be safe on the Internet with proper procedures and
safeguards, there is reasonable certainty that your information will not be
compromised. With the use of hardware and software firewalls, encryption, login
requirements, passwords, proper use of DMZ zones there can be some sense of
security. Although there have been some cases of information security
violations recently, in most cases the problem can be traced to improper
procedures or a failure to use the appropriate security devices in the proper
manner. Again, attention to detail cannot be ignored in the area of security.
4) Topic 4: Myth: There is no point in working towards a career in the IT industry
as most of the jobs are moving overseas or offshore.
While the IT arena has
become a Global environment there is still a critical need for good educated IT
personnel in the United
Management is still a need that surfaces every graduation and if one of the
most referenced areas when companies contact me looking for employees.
5) Topic 5: Hackers: It is hard to combat hackers.
While this statement may be true,
many companies have discovered the solution to stopping or reducing the risk of
hackers may be use of hackers. More and more in today’s IT world we see
companies that have discovered that the best way to combat a hacker is to think
like a hacker. The best way to do this is to hire a hacker. The hacker can work
for you in determining your weaknesses to hackers and can also show you and
help you to develop techniques that will reduce the risk of hackers in your
Q: If you were doing this interview, what
three questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
A: Q1) With the opportunity to make much more money in the IT business world
why choose the educational environment of IT? A1) I
get asked this question a lot. For me, I enjoy the classroom environment,
conducting a class, and facilitating the learning of people in the area of IT.
There is a good deal of satisfaction in seeing someone’s face as they comprehend
a specific area of IT that was not understood or clear before the class. To me
that look of comprehension is worth as much as the money earned in the business
world. I confess it also helps that I did the money part of the career prior to
stepping into education.
Q2) Why the University of Phoenix?
I started with the University of Phoenix I was impressed by the typical student
being a more mature individual that brought real world experience into the
classroom along with a strong desire to achieve a better education. The
students were there because they wanted to learn, wanted to get involved in the
classroom, and share experiences with their peers. Facilitative learning
appealed much more to me than standard lecture classes.
you feel there is a need for some kind of standardization in the qualities
expected of someone that advertises themselves as a network specialist?