Monday, June 23, 2014

Quaiser Absar: IC's Swashbuckling Captain

Captain Quaiser Absar looking majestic
One eye opened.
Then the other.
The smell of salt, and sounds of lapping water on wood were present as I began to come to.

I blinked a few times and strained to hold my eyes open. White-fuzz turned into shapes. Shapes mutated into a face, and then the face spoke to me: “Hi, I’m Quaiser Absar, and I’m the captain of this ship, welcome aboard.”

“What ship? How did I get here?” Is the only thing I could manage to say.

“You're on the S.U. Institutional Computing. We found you struggling in the waters of Low-Tech.” He said.

In the days that followed, Quaiser introduced me to the ship's crew. Despite having only 22 hands, Institutional Computing seemed as functional and capable a vessel as any in her class. By the captain's orders, and the crew’s execution, the ship navigated through difficult areas of tech with grace that could spell disaster for similar ships crewed by less experienced hands.

After a few days of speaking with the crew and observing their day-to-day labor, I began to understand the ship’s mission. IC sails between hard technology and the mainland end users. It is her job to provide critical technological services to users so that they can continue their own higher education journey without delay or disruption. In short, IC's mission is critical to the success of the users, and it is with that in mind that her captain and crew work diligently.

Throughout the journey, it was not uncommon for me to hear fantastic sea-shanties, as the crew labored about the vessel, one in particular sticks in my mind:

“As long as the job’s done right, users benefit with sweet delight. 
Support, Support, without retort!
Yo-ho and a bottle‘o Joe!”

On no special day in particular, Cpt. Absar invited me to eat at his table, and on that day I decided I would ask him questions which I had, in my curiosity, stored in the back of my mind since I came aboard. I wanted to know about his role on the S.U. Institutional Computing, and how he came to be the captain of such a fine ship. The conversation went as follows:

Q: Would you mind telling me a little about yourself.
A: That’s a big question. I am very driven. I have a type A personality. I came to the U.S. in ‘77. I was schooled in Malta, and then in England. I got my undergraduate degree in Indiana in accounting; then I worked with an auditor for a few years. Honestly, I didn't like accounting, and I ended up fixing the auditing company’s computer systems, and I thought it was interesting. With that experience in mind, I pursued  a masters degree in computer science.

Q: How did you end up at SU?
A: After the earthquake in 1994 out in California, I figured it best to start working on the East Coast. I applied at Shenandoah University, and I got an interview. The interview actually went from 8am-5pm, no kidding. I love being in Winchester, and it is great that it is located so close to DC. I still love it here, even though we recently found out that the East is not immune to earthquakes.

Q: Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies?
A: I am a photographer, a hobbyist, not a professional. I've actually had a few of my photos published in magazines. Hopefully, I’ll have a few shots published in the Winchester, VA coffee table book that should be coming out soon. Also, I love fishing.

Q: Do you have a favorite type of music?
A: Rock. I love Deep Purple.

Q: Do you have any nicknames?
A: I would tell you, but then people would start calling me that...

Q: What’s your most memorable experience at SU thus far?
A: I was able to make a big difference here at SU. The big difference that sticks in my mind is securing the domain. We actually had to fight some larger institutions for it, and we ended up winning. It was a pretty big deal for us.

Q: What does a typical work day in your life consist of?
A: I work all day long. I wake up at 4:30am, and go running for one hour. Then I check emails and plan out my day. There are no typical work days. I do a lot of checking, monitoring, and communicating to make sure the IC department is functioning at peek performance.

Q: Do you have any primary systems that you deal with on a day-to-day basis?
A: I primarily deal with the human brain and human management. The IC staff does the heavy lifting, and I encourage them, get them the tools they need to succeed, and make sure they are lifting the right things. If I do my job well, the IC staff will work to the best of their ability, and when they are working to the best of their ability, they make me look good!

Q: How does the product of your labor directly affect end users at SU?
A: It depends on how you look at it, from my perspective, everything depends on feedback. If I get positive feedback about how good of a job the IC staff are doing, it is a reflection that I am doing my job properly. Without the IC staff and my team, I am nothing, but together, we provide, hopefully, great services to the entire SU community.

Q: If you disappeared into an extra-dimensional pocket for an extended period of time, what would happen after six months?
A: Nothing. I have this department setup in such a way that it can run should something happen. We might have some hiccups, but ultimately, SU would be in good hands because the IC team consists of high quality employees.

Q: If you could give end users a quick pro-tip about technology, what would it be?
A: Don’t try to master everything all at once. Sometimes learning a new technology takes time, and often times, manuals fall short. Play, experiment, and learn the technology that you use on a day to day basis.

As Quaiser finished answering my final question, we both heard a bellowing, "Land-Ho!" from a forward crew member followed by the calamity of excited sailors. Those next few hours went by in a blur as the ship's crew readied to impart all of it's tech and support onto the mainland users.

No sooner had we landed when the crew said their goodbyes to me. Upon my departure, they supplied me with the same information and tech that they supply to all users: iMLearning devices, knowledge of how to use them and support them should something happen, network connectivity, servers that host critical systems for the university, learning management software that keeps education interactive and progressing forward, and many more things of which, for expediency's sake, I will not list here.

Months after the voyage, where the Captain of I.C. plucked me from the waters of Low-Tech, I was using technology to the best of my ability.  Had it not been for that journey, I would have continued to struggle to find my way with technology, but, like any user, I.C. and her crew, gave me the tools to succeed,
so that technology was an aid and not an obstacle with regards to my education.

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