Friday, August 23, 2013

Jim Novak--quietly influential in my early career

About this time of the year 25 years ago, Jim Novak hired me to become a Microcomputer Specialist. I had just finished my Masters in Agricultural Economics. In 1987, there was a need for training, support, and direction is using computers but few people thought computers were worthwhile the effort and time. Most certainly discounted the importance of computing and technologies that linked us to each others. For instance, networking online and using Mozilla made little sense to most--few saw the value. In fact, I remember one Extension agent in a meeting vehemently declaring farmers would never use computers. We see how well his prediction held out. Farmers are some of the most technologically advanced small business owners around.

During the years, I have found lots of energy in helping others understand that the future does not look like the present. Over the last 25 years, technology has changed the way we work and how we communicate, collaborate, learn, and socialize. These advancements give us access and connections to people we would have never met before. Networking online serves as our gateway to diversity of thoughts.

Jim Novak and Gene Simpson understood the significance of connecting professionals and clientele. They provided a vision for Alabama Cooperative Extension System that set a stage and ignited our efforts in front of most Cooperative Extension services. An important piece of this vision was Gene's hiring Jonathan Davis to develop a wide area network for Alabama Cooperative Extension in 1987.

Jim Novak at his retirement reception in Comer Hall
I am very grateful that Jim saw something in my own talents and abilities that I did not. He gave me a great start in my career with a great organization--Cooperative Extension. Jim and Gene allowed us in the technology unit to use our own ideas in a constantly changing environment. That freedom was essential to my professional growth.

Though it was not clear at the time, Jim's faith in my talents gave me a confidence to keep rowing in uncharted waters throughout my career. I am still trying to convince people to see the future in way that does not look like that past or the present.

Thank you Jim for having faith in me as I was a young professional. And, thank you for your service to Alabama Cooperative Extension.

Enjoy your retirement!

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