Kian Colestock was promoted to UC Irvine chief information officer on May 1, 2021, having served as interim CIO since April 2019. He was UCI associate CIO since 2014, and prior to that was UC San Diego director of enterprise business systems and acting executive director in central campus IT. Below Colestock talks about the joys and challenges of being in IT at UC.
What attracted you to UC?
Working in a variety of industries over the years, you come to understand that every IT job is about people, process and technology. The organizational context is the only thing that changes, and so the organizational mission of your employer becomes the major point of differentiation. I was attracted to being part of a world class institution with a mission that benefits the advancement of the human condition, produces the leaders of tomorrow, and with a diversity of purpose that is unrivaled in any other employer.
What are your biggest challenges and priorities?
As every CIO will tell you, one of the biggest challenges is keeping up with demand for technology solutions. As a CIO you need to work on partnering with campus leadership on the known strategies, but also anticipate and forecast the future needs of IT services, which are driven by general changes in aggregate behavior on campus. Having technology solutions that are also easily accessible and consumable is critically important and keeping them all in alignment is a full-time job.
How are you building teams and promoting an inclusive work environment?
We recognized that our central IT department is really comprised of many micro-cultures that pre-dated having a central IT department. So to break down arbitrary silos and collaboration barriers, we embarked on what we call the OIT Culture initiative. The initiative is comprised of many different workstreams that approach unifying the OIT culture under a single set of common values. From this foundation we are making slow and steady progress in building a broader, more inclusive community that acknowledges we are all part of the larger organization, and yet maintains a small team feel around day-to-day interactions with colleagues who share our values.
Tell us about your career path – what led you to become a CIO?
I studied as an undergraduate following a pre-law path but after some exposure to IT, and already having a background in computer programming, I ended up pivoting my career into information technology. I guess I never set out to be CIO originally, I just loved working on complex problems and having the satisfaction of solving them with technology solutions. At some point it became less about the job I wanted and more about the journey.
What advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career?
Focus less energy on avoiding failure altogether and more on lessening the impact of failure, so it can be used like a productive experiment. Failing at something is just your first try, leading up to your next try.
Outside of work, what are your interests?
I like getting out on the water as much as possible—whether it be fishing, boating, diving, or water activities. After I’m done working, I plan to retire as a boat captain to keep my lifestyle close to the water.