IT Leadership Spotlight: Mark Beekhuizen, director for Educational Technology, College of Law
Where are you from originally?
I was born in a small town in Iowa and raised in Denver, Colorado. I have lived on both the West Coast (Sacramento, California) and the East Coast (Fairfax, Virginia).
What led you to the University of Utah?
I had been working for a large defense contractor in the Washington, D.C., area when a friend called and asked if I was interested in moving to Utah and working for University Hospital. I had recently taken over the network management role for the defense contractor, which involved establishing connectivity between the East Coast sites and West Coast headquarters and helping to establish the corporate email system. The idea of moving back West was enticing, and leaving defense contracting for health care was appealing as well. The opportunities with the University of Utah turned out to be more than I ever could have imagined.
Can you describe the path you took to IT leadership?
I first worked as a hospital network manager for my friend who was a director at the time. He soon left, and new leadership took over hospital IT and began driving IT in new and exciting directions. I had a team of incredible hardworking and innovative people, and our core task was to establish a cohesive network in preparation for supporting an electronic medical record-based health care environment. All we knew was that we had a mess on our hands, tons of old buildings and cabling to retrofit, and new network technologies to implement. We had to take a lot of risks, develop new departmental collaborations, and lean on emerging vendor products to drive innovation. As a team, we did this quite effectively (literally day and night) for about five years. Then the department, which at the time was called the Office of Information Resources (OIR), or as we jokingly called it, the Office of Infinite Reorganization, reorganized to have three main groups with a director assigned to each area. I was extremely privileged to be chosen to head the Network Operations area, which at the time included everything from help desk and desktop support to network, servers, and data center services. I had an incredible new team of managers in each of these areas who taught me most everything I needed to know about how to lead in IT — especially through mistakes. Positions and responsibilities have changed over the years mostly due to the ever-increasing complexity of IT systems today.
How would you describe your leadership style and/or philosophy?
Make certain the people who work for you are smarter than you — and let them know it. Trust them and be honest with them. Understand your role. Be excited about the work you are privileged to do. Connect what your team does to the purpose of the organization — we MUST exist for a reason — what is it? Then embrace it and make it the most important thing that happens every day at the U.
What do you enjoy most about your role at the U?
Collaboration and idea sharing. There are so many interesting and talented IT people across campus, and it is amazing when you get the opportunity to share what you have learned about a certain technology broadly with others on campus. The feedback you get is generally positive and supportive and allows for an environment for continuous learning and growth.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
Ironically, the same thing that I enjoy can be the most challenging — open collaboration and sharing. This can create cognitive overload at times and develop into “camps” of thought that do not promote a cohesive path forward. Generally, this is not a huge issue unless we are talking about how to get a particular IT service in line so that it can be effectively managed and delivered across the entire enterprise.
What are some of your hobbies?
Camping (actually RVing), flying personal video drones, and cycling (road cycling).
Is there anything else that you think our readers would like to know about you?
I have always considered every day that I get to do the work I do at the U as a complete privilege. The people I have met here, worked with, worked for, and learned from over the years have truly shaped my life in ways that if I had a traditional IT job at an IT focused company, I would have never developed the diversity of thought that I have today. I am very grateful for all of the opportunities I have been given.
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