Interview with Ulla de Stricker, co-author of The Information and Knowledge Professional’s Career Handbook Monday, Nov 14 2011
Ulla De Stricker, co-author of The Information and Knowledge Professional’s Career Handbook: Define and Create your Success with Jill Hurst-Wahl, shares some of her views about the book and the information profession with us. Ulla is a Knowledge Management Consultant on projects associated with information acquisition, knowledge worker support, and institutional memory. Kim Dority at Infonista compared reading this book to “hanging out with two really smart, experienced, and wise mentors,” so we’re lucky to get to spend more time with the author.
· What were some key reasons making you and Jill feel the book had to be written?
Jill and I consider ourselves “natural mentors” in that we have offered support to professional colleagues for our entire careers. It was a natural evolution for us to co-author The Information and Knowledge Professional’s Career Handbook: Define and Create Your Success. In it, we boil down the advice we have shared though the years with colleagues at any stage of their careers. The profession of librarianship—in all its modern variants—is changing ever faster, and the career opportunities go far beyond the standard ones in academic, corporate/government, and public/school libraries. However, it is obvious that many newly minted holders of the Master’s Degree in Library and Information Studies/Science, as well as mid-career professionals, may not have had opportunities to think carefully through such questions as “What is my best professional role?” and “What type of work environment would enable me to maximize my education and abilities?”. Similarly, matters such as navigating corporate politics, succeeding in a managerial role, and developing a professional brand may not have been covered in any depth during graduate school. The book is intended to raise a number of questions for readers to stimulate their thinking and encourage them to plan – but give chance a chance when it comes to their careers.
· What have readers’ reactions been?
It delights me to hear how the book is experienced as refreshingly direct and practical. It is gratifying to find out that it is valuable for others to read about “the way it really is.” Indeed, Jill and I made it a point to speak frankly about our own experiences in order to offer our hard-earned insights. A second feature readers appreciate is the fact that the book has relevance throughout a career—some chapters will be very apropos for students and recent graduates while other chapters will resonate more once some experience has been accumulated. We did intend the book as a permanent career companion as well as a perfect graduation gift!
· How did you like writing this book, and do you have a favorite chapter or section?
I enjoyed every bit of the writing, yet if I were to point out two areas particularly close to my heart they would be knowing who you are and developing your brand. I’m passionate about encouraging colleagues to shed any shyness and get busy promoting their skills to potential employers—and that is not at all straightforward (quite apart from the fact that some members of our profession express a reluctance to toot their horns). At the same time, I’m down to earth about the need for information professionals to project a polished image commensurate with their competencies and to build a reputation through association work and similar profile-raising activity. Here, I always stress the good news that giving to the profession through volunteering returns benefits many times over… it pays to get involved.
· If you could achieve one small miracle for the information profession today, what would it be?
I would dearly love to see in my lifetime a dramatic lift in the overall societal understanding of what information professionals do. In some professions, practitioners—say, veterinarians and accountants—do not need to explain their work because their value and functions are well understood by most people. Information professionals, however, very much need to explain to potential employers how their qualifications are applicable to a gamut of roles, for example in client relations, marketing, policy analysis, and more. It would be a major career boost for our profession if private sector managers, government officials, and policy makers were clear on the wisdom of investing in the skills of an information professional. The challenges of information overload, knowledge worker silos, loss of intellectual capital through retirement and attrition, and similar phenomena will not go away… and information professionals can do a lot to ameliorate them. We information professionals must address collectively the challenge of raising awareness about our potential contributions.
Learn more about The Information and Knowledge Professional’s Career Handbook: Define and Create your Success on the book’s Web page, and be sure to keep up with Ulla on her professional blog www.destricker.com, which she updates with recent articles and seminars.