Creating a Digital Signage Network (39. Dedication of this Blog)

Dedication of this Digital Signage Blog

The West Virginia University Information Stations initiative was a labor of love by many good people; people with great minds.  To be sure, there were moments of great elation, great excitement and great anxiety in the course of creating something very new; but something with great import.  In six short months we went from no idea what a digital sign was, to being a leader in the technology of digital signage in higher education entities and vital campus emergency messaging.

I have expressed on several occasions to members of our digital signage team that every worthwhile career should hold a pivotal moment that upon the day of their retirement can be looked back upon with fondness and a sense of a job well done.  It is something you can tell your children you were fortunate to be a part of with a respectful pride.  The WVU Information Stations initiative will be my career’s pivotal moment.  But I want to pay tribute to the wisdom and foresight of our administrators who held firm to the master vision of the initiative; and to the great minds that wrestled with complex challenges of new and unfamiliar technologies, who often created technology or married dissimilar technologies whether they wanted to be married, or not.

WVU Presidents Hardesty, Garrison, McGrawth and now President James P. Clements have supported the WVU Info Stations without question in the journey to fruition of the initial concept.  Vice President Christine Martin has been our biggest cheerleader and source of encouragement as we have tackled challenges far bigger than we thought could be vanquished, at the time.  Her Assistant Vice Presidents Tricia Petty, Becky Lofstead and Dana Coester kindly consulted with our team on many occasions and assisted us with certain decisions we feel need special insight and counsel.  These Vice Presidents have served as wonderful liaisons between many stakeholders within our large university community as we needed key communicators in all areas to assist the growth of this large digital signage network.

It has been my pleasure to serve under Dean Sue Day-Perroots (who hired me originally at WVU Extended Learning), Director of WVU Television Productions/Video John Duwall (who gave me a home in Television Productions) and Director of Web Services/Web Cathy Orndorff (who cheerfully and recently adopted me) this last decade.  They have each provided me with excellent guidance and sound leadership; more importantly they each provided me with the opportunities to be a part of something very special and to lead a team of professional technologists who are rabid about all things digital signage and epitomize a strong work ethic.

The Manager of Engineering for WVU Television Productions/Video, Fred Marstiller, was not only my boss when I was asked to become Manager of Operations of the WVU Interactive Video Network, he has been and is a great friend who is a joy to work with in all weathers.  A humble man with a tremendous intellect, I knew when he and I were asked to lead the initial efforts in creating a digital signage network and discover digital signage professional technologists at West Virginia University that the calculus for success increased exponentially with him at the helm.  Within days of being tasked, he and I were on our way to the first Digital Signage Expo in Chicago (literally being chased by a tornado in Illinois) to begin collecting our data about this thing called digital signage.

Research and buying the requisite equipment for a network is a timely task; discovering the talents and hiring the best people to make the magic work is the true and daunting challenge!  Director John Duwall, Fred Marstiller and I had our hands full in the selection process and we had some very sharp candidates for the two professional technologist positions of IT/Database and of Creative Designer.  Selecting Jennifer Gillum for the IT/Database position and George Cicci for the Creative Designer position have paid great dividends to the entire network.  Integrating beautifully creative, stunning designs with the intricate background technology to make those images dance in a coordinated ballet across nearly a hundred digital signs 24 hours a day for 365 days a year is no small feat.  Both Jen and George have grown professionally far beyond expectations and are able to viciously attack every problem or bug that is so unfortunate to show its ugly head.  They have been another joy to work with and are integral to every success.

Director John Duwall and Engineering Manager Fred Marstiller have been wise enough to surround themselves with a small group of engineers that exemplify a “can do” attitude when developing any unfamiliar technology.  Tim Cummins, Dave Fisher and Steve Andryzcik have come to our aid any time and every time we have sent up a flare for assistance.  I couldn’t begin to count the number of times Jen, George and I have been brainstorming a thorny concept or fussing over discovering a logical solution to a frustrating impediment.  Quite often one of us eventually says, “Let’s go talk to the engineers!”  These folks are ALL about cool and unique solutions to pesky problems.  They swarm an unruly challenge, beat it into submission and are great additions to our team.

Recently, our division within the university (University Relations), has integrated all the sister units with the goal of sharing a vast skill set and tool kit of ideas and knowledge as we market and promote the wonderful things West Virginia University has to offer the world.  Now, the digital signage team can call upon the decades of expertise from the staff of Television Productions (Video), Web Services (Web), Creative Design (Creative), Photography and News & Information Services (NIS); entire departments to efficiently and expeditiously cross platforms in media to get the good word out to our combined audiences.  Each of these sister units hold hands for a consistent marketing message and brand awareness.

Because of every one of these good Mountaineers mentioned above, I love coming to the office every day at West Virginia University.



About swgraham2

Mountain Mists is an opportunity to develop some thought processes individually as I journey through this wonderful world; as someone who values highly effective management techniques and the art of leading teams; and through my association with West Virginia University as a professional technologist and network manager specializing in digital signage.
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