Ed Toner

Blog: A Badge of Honor

Working in public sector IT gives you the opportunity to provide important services to people, rather than focusing on profits alone. Our services benefit everyone equally. When we provide these services in an effective and efficient manner it has a direct impact on the lives of others.

I was sent a Dallas News article recently titled, Meet the Plano man keeping Blockbuster alive. It profiles someone from my distant past who continues to support the remaining Blockbuster stores on his own and now supports the last remaining Blockbuster store located in Bend, Oregon. The article describes the circa-1990s servers that were never upgraded and the outdated software now being patched together by this one man in Plano, TX. He doesn’t have to continue to support this last store, as his primary source of income comes from a full-time tech job in Texas. He describes his work supporting the last store as “a badge of honor.”

While I was working for Blockbuster Corporate IT my elementary school daughter was asked by her friends what I did for a job? My daughter replied that I “sell pagers.” I took her where I worked at the Blockbuster Data Center in McKinney, TX, often where she could pick out VHS tapes (remember it was the 90’s) and other Blockbuster products while I checked on how the weekend team was doing. There were movie posters everywhere and company logos on everything.

After her friends left, I asked her why she thought I sold pagers? She replied, “every time your pager goes off you get on the phone and usually you go to your office….so you work for the pager company.” I then tried to explain to a 7-year-old in a non-technical way what I did for work. I told her that I helped make it possible for people to rent movies from Blockbuster Video stores. She thought about it and said, it’s better that you help people, because pagers just make you work. I took away two things from our brief conversation: (1) it’s good to help people, and (2) maybe I needed a little work-life balance.

Working for the State of Nebraska I am fortunate that I can do the first thing: help people. The work-life balance will always be a personal struggle. However, the working atmosphere of the public sector has made improvements in that part of my life. There are still large demands on everyone’s time, but the work atmosphere is much more civil.

Every improvement we make through new technology or new service offerings enhances our customers’ ability to provide quality service to residents. When we improve our infrastructure, design, or implement new applications we are all agents of positive change. We have an abundance of opportunities as we know from our weekly Project Management Organizational meetings (PMO).

Regardless of what you do within the Office of the CIO you are part of that change, or you assist others in making the change through your support. It is truly a privilege to work in the public sector.

Keep up the great work and continue to search out better ways to serve.

Ed Toner