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November 22nd Newsletter


Welcome to the SIMCAC Weekly Newsletter....
....Where each week, we'll share SIMCAC announcements, member spotlights, local/national industry news, upcoming events, and recaps of past ones! 

SIM Celebrates the Season – Annual Holiday Reception

Have you signed up yet?  If not, what are you waiting for?
Join us on December 10th from 6pm - 8pm for a casual reception, full of holiday cheer, delicious food and great company!   For the first time, we are headed to The National Press Club in Washington DC.  Perched atop the National Press Building, within sight of the White House and just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S. Capitol, the National Press Club is the meeting place in Washington for newsmakers and journalists. Through its doors have come presidents, premiers, kings and queens, Cabinet secretaries, senators and House members, movie stars and sports heroes, titans of business and finance – a who’s who of the 20th and the 21st centuries - eager to share their views on current events with the media and the public.

Our annual holiday reception is a perfect opportunity to get to know your fellow SIMCAC members in a social setting, as well as being a great way to recruit eligible prospective members.  As such, we are opening up registration to eligible prospective members and we are asking (and strongly encouraging) all SIMCAC members to invite up to 2 of your eligible directs, peers, or contacts to join you (member guests can attend for free, simply register them as your guests with the “Prospective Member (Member Guest)” ticket type after logging in). 

Sign Up Now!
Spotlight on SIMCAC Member: Fara Francis

Fara Francis is currently the CIO for ASCD, an Alexandria based education organization in the K-12 space which focuses on advancing student achievement by supporting the whole child, and seeks to develop programs, products, and services essential to the way educators learn, teach, and lead.  Fara also serves as the membership chair for SIMCAC.  We wanted to get her thoughts on the CIO role and her recent experience moving from one firm to another. 

1)  After a 12 1/2 year run with AGC, you recently took the CIO role with ACSD.  12 1/2 years is a long tenure for CIOs in any industry.  To what do you attribute the long run to? 
A very strong, cohesive team, great industry connections, and the challenge to collaborate with key stakeholders to debunk the skepticism that “construction is slow to embrace technology”.  I decided to become involved in understanding the construction environment and the technology used to deploy projects. This was a very exciting and interesting journey.  Construction projects can be complex and highly technical. The construction industry is a unique one – low margins with a heavy focus on cost.  It was wonderful to see how the application of technology on projects had been embraced as construction IT leaders tapped into sophisticated, best-in-class technology to add value to their organizations and projects.
Connecting with IT leaders in the industry birthed the idea of a technology forum/conference to provide networking, learning and information sharing.  I presided over this conference for 10 successful years.  What fun!  I met the best and brightest minds enthusiastic about construction technology.  This made my tenure at AGC so interesting and enjoyable.  The conference brought together IT leaders from all over the country to discuss trends and share knowledge and socialize.
2)  As mentioned above, you are almost a year into your role as the CIO of the ASCD.  One of your initial goals there is to sharpen IT's understanding of the business.  How is that going?  What recommendations do you have for CIOs that are trying to accomplish the same? 
ASCD is a great organization that focuses on educators in the K-12 space.  ASCD empowers educators to achieve excellence in learning, teaching and leading so that every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.  ASCD serves 113,00 members throughout the US including educators outside the US.
Things are going quite well – lots to do and accomplish.  I kicked off my tenure based on a 90-day plan built on the framework of Understand>>Evaluate>> Optimize.  I have conducted key stakeholder interviews, deployed technology roadmaps, and developed a current state vs future state journey for the IT organization.  Based on this, I created a 4-prong focus for the IT department to serve the organization: (1) Risk Mitigation (Security); (2) Technology Modernization; (3) Communication and (4) Training
Since my arrival we have ramped up the organization’s security posture – conducted cybersecurity audits and addressing remediations; upgraded VoIP telephony; created avenues for training of IT team members; procured new hardware, software and equipment for the organization’s staff.
For CIOs trying to accomplish the same, I recommend:
* Learn the business (the key stakeholder interviews were helpful for me)
* Develop partnerships
* Create an environment of trust
* Instill the spirit of excellence in your team, thereby consistently demonstrating high work performance to the organization
* Communicate often and as needed
* Smile – enjoy the journey (don’t beat up on yourself for mistakes – self correct and keep moving along)  

3)   From a technology perspective, what are some key differences between the construction and education industries?  What are some key similarities?  
Both industries have similarities in their demand for best of breed technology solutions, platforms to support training and education and overall, using technology as a key strategic driver to improve the business or schools or districts, and heavy data analyzing to make informed business decisions.  In addition, understanding how content should be delivered and how our constituents consume content are both similar needs of education and construction industry professionals.
For the ASCD – impact is critical.  The impact on the educators we serve so that they can in-turn successfully support the children in the K-12 space.  Education industry trends for the K-12 space are unique.  We focus on professional development for educators from the time they start their careers through retirement.  The technology to support educators must reflect the kids they serve and support.  Online professional training, in-person training, ASCD owns a very large library of content: books, webinars, newsletter articles and so on. Impact is important to us.
4) You’ve been a member and board member of SIMCAC for a few years now.  What do you like best about SIM and what would you say to your peers that are considering joining our chapter?  
SIMCAC is the DC area’s most prestigious professional association for senior IT Leaders.  One will find the brightest minds at SIMCAC.  Membership has been a great benefit to me.  Even before I joined the board, I found the monthly meetings informative and of great value to my CIO career.  It is an honor to serve on the board as we bring about opportunities for fellow IT leaders to connect, learn and give back.  In addition, I have made great friendships and beneficial career connections from my membership and engagement in SIMCAC.

Registration is open for the 2020 Mid-Atlantic RLF program

For more information on 2020 curriculum, sessions, facilitators, and registration, visit the program page here.
Industry-Related News and Content

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Attention SIMCAC members! Since our members are the lifeblood of this great chapter, the success of this newsletter depends on our ability to share the happenings within it! So we're going to ask for your help in making this newsletter the best it can be. If you or fellow SIMCAC members have announcements, articles, pictures, videos, or any other content you'd like to share (and please do!), email to