Things I’ll Miss After I Step Down From Being Department Head
It’s D-7 (including today). I’ll be stepping down from being the Head of the Department of Information Systems and Analytics (DISA) at NUS School of Computing. It’s been an exciting 6 years (actually 5 years, 11 months and 24 days, 15 hours, 10 minutes and about 20 seconds … but who’s counting?), where we’ve accomplished quite a lot but there are also so many initiatives that didn’t quite meet aspirations. (That might be a good topic for another post later.)
As I reflect on my tenure as Department Head, there are a couple of things I think I’ll miss dearly once I relinquish my duties. I thought I should document these here so that I don’t forget and can cherish these memories forever.
Frequent phone calls from IT solution vendors
As Head of the Information Systems and Analytics Department at NUS, I get a LOT of phone calls (many from overseas with masked numbers). Most of these calls (approx. 99.999% of them) are from IT solution vendors trying to sell me IT solution, network technologies, cloud services etc. to enhance the student experience, to streamline administrative workflow, to make the world a better place, to bring unicorns to roam the campus, yadiyadiyada. I felt so honored to be targeted for such immense responsibility and decisions that I didn’t actually think fall under the scope of responsibilities of an academic department head. But then I realized that because I was the Head of Information Systems and Analytics (actually, I was the Head of Information Systems before the department officially changed its name to Information Systems and Analytics in 2017), they thought I was the CIO of NUS (or Director of NUSIT). I had so much fun listening to their sales pitches, finding out about the total cost of ownership, etc. only to tell them that as the head of an “academic” department, I was actually not responsible for any of this.
Approving department expenses
The second most enjoyable activity was approving ALL department expenses. As the head of a department in a public institution, I had to be a fiscally prudent custodian of taxpayer money. What a responsibility!
Every time an expense occurred (e.g., a colleague buys research equipment, registers for a conference, buys books, subscribes to softwares, etc.), a kind system-generated email would alert me of my duties and I would have to login to the finance system to approve the expense. With the superduperuber-secure NUS IT systems, the login process required logging out of my regular academic account in order to log back in with my head account, trying to log back in using my head account but failing as the logout didn’t fully clear the cache or cookies in my browser, completely quitting the browser and clearing all cache and cookies, rebooting my computer to make sure the cache was deleted, logging back in using my head account by entering my password 3 times on 3 different login screens within a span of 1 minute, getting my 2-factor authentication (2FA) code from my phone, to finally find that I am approving an expense of 35 cents. (Yes, I did have to approve a 35 cent expense).
I think I’m going to miss being department head (NOT).