“UC Tech Exec” is a new series to give blog readers the opportunity to hear from executives from throughout the UC Tech community. The series is being launched with a heartfelt Thanksgiving message from Van Williams, the vice president for Information Technology.
As a kid growing up in the Bahamas we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Although spending time at the beach in 82℉ weather at the end of November wasn’t a bad way to spend a childhood, as an adult I realize what a missed opportunity it was. Thanksgiving has always seemed to me to be about three things:
I’ve been incredibly lucky my entire life to have been welcomed into so many amazing communities of family, friends, and colleagues. These communities have been ones that have challenged me, supported me, and inspired me.
Over the last eight weeks, I have discovered some incredible new communities. I’ve been welcomed, challenged, supported, and above all else inspired by my colleagues in UCOP ITS, at UCOP, and across UC. The sheer breadth of impact that each of you are making every day is outstanding. I don’t just see it through emails and conversations, I also hear it from your colleagues and partners. It is not just about the systems, services, and infrastructure you are supporting; it also is about the sheer number of lives our community helps to improve, whether by helping to support the best education in the world, outstanding patient care, or world-changing research.
This year was the first year that my son, who is in first grade, got to play organized soccer. It has been an incredible year of learning for him. My son is tall, muscular, athletic, and a highly energetic guy. In one of his games, he had the opportunity to take a corner kick. I was surprised by how much he wanted to take the kick and the look of determination in his eyes when he got the chance. Well, he lined the kick up, ran into the kick, and put just about as much effort and energy into that kick as I’ve ever seen him give anything. He also totally and completely missed the ball and fell flat on his bum in front of everyone.
My wife and I were shocked and more than a little embarrassed for him. But you know what, he bounced right back up with a smile on his face and, less than a minute later, he was lobbying to take the next corner kick again. When I asked him about it after the game, he said how cool it was that he got to try two corner kicks in a game. He didn’t care about the missed kick. All he cared about was the opportunity to learn and get better. I believe the same is true for most of us. I know I feel like I miss a ball or two every day. But…I am grateful to have this opportunity to learn so much from this fantastic community that is doing such incredible things.
I’ve had an opportunity to meet a whole host of folks in the last two months, and in the next two months there are even more people for me to meet. What’s struck me about the conversations that I’ve had is that they’ve usually centered on two things: The person’s story so far and what we hope the story will be. I believe the strength of the bonds between each of us as human beings is centered on our ability to connect with each other’s past and to share collectively in the hopes for our futures.
During my first Thanksgiving in California, I didn’t yet have very many friends. One of my colleagues was kind enough to invite me and my family to a Thanksgiving party at their place. It was there I met their grandfather, a 90+ year old distinguished alumnus from UC Berkeley Law. He and I talked for almost an hour about the books we had read recently and why we liked them, and also about the ones we wanted to read and why we wanted to read them. In those moments of sharing there was a connection that made me feel not so alone 3,000 miles from home. Whether it is with strangers, friends, colleagues, or family, I wish for you those moments of connection during this Thanksgiving break.
I hope to have the opportunity to meet many of you over the next year. It is a privilege to be part of the UC Tech community and I look forward to supporting and building deeper connections together.
I wish you and yours a healthy, safe, and happy Thanksgiving!
Van Williams is vice president of IT for the University of California.