Working in an academic environment has been a big change for me after 20 years in IT in industry. And being the lead techie for our campus ERP system means that I get the calls that no one else knows what to do with.
One day the registrar turned over to me a call from one of our sociology professors, "Dr. X," who had a reputation of being very anti-technology. It was a well-known fact that his email box had been full for years, since he refused to ever get on a computer.
[ Do the 8 classic IT personality types remind you of a wacky boss or coworker? Send your memorable tale to email@example.com. If we publish it, we'll send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. | Get a new tech tale delivered to your inbox every week in InfoWorld's Off the Record newsletter. ]
Dr. X's way of dealing with the campus' shifts to technology were to make departments such as HR do whatever he needed or send his assistant to deal with it. Other staff members on campus would usually just do what he asked out of sheer exasperation. The IT staff had tried on occasion to help him learn even a few basic skills or to interest him in technology, all to no avail.
Even though I was already aware of all of this, my first conversation with him still amazed me. It went something like this:
Me: How can I help you, Dr. X?
Dr. X: I'm trying to register one of my advisees, and "Susie" in the registrar's office is telling me that I have to "release" him first. What is that all about?
Me: You are supposed to log on to the system, enter the student's ID to bring up his record, then click on the "Release to Register" button. He'll then be able to go online and register.
Dr. X: I've never done that before. I always just fill out the paper form and give it to Susie. Is this something new?
Me: We've been doing it this way for 2 years now.
Dr. X: Well, I've been doing it on paper for 30 years, the way that universities have been doing it for centuries.
Me: You mean like they did back before they had computers?