Saturday, January 16, 2010

Scott Gruber: Information Architect

by Juliana Espinosa

I wish I could claim I was motivated by my own sheer genius to write this article, but alas, credit goes to my coworker, Scott Gruber. My current place of employment is UCLA where I serve as the Assistant Director at a research center that specializes in scholarly work conducted on the region of South Asia. Being a Bruin certainly has its benefits, one of which is the opportunity to work with a myriad of talented folks. I will focus on one of these gifted colleagues, Scott Gruber. In one of our meetings, he mentioned his role as an information architect for UCLA that led me to investigate the inner workings of his job.

Scott’s official title of Web Designer and Producer only hints at the wide range of sectors within the Instructional Technology department in which he serves. The Instructional Technology department is comprised of four full time staff members who each head a specific facet, such as database management, technology support, and programming. In turn, they are supported by four part time staff members. Scott’s specialty is web producing and information and content design. Responsible for building websites for 18 various research centers, he also manages and designs how information is arranged and presented.

Scott attended the University of California Santa Barbara from 1985-89 for his undergraduate degree in Chinese language and culture. Upon graduation, he remained in Santa Barbara for two years where he worked as a Community Interdependent Living Skills Instructor for developmentally disabled adults. Enticed to return to Asia, where he studied abroad at Beijing University in 1987-1988, he moved to Taiwan and was the only foreigner in computer technical support at Taiwan Telecommunications Network-Service. This experience provided an introduction to the wonderful world of information technology. When he returned to the United States, he accepted a position as a program assistant for the UCLA Center for Pacific Rim Studies. This opened the doors to his present arrangement.

Our conversation then turned to what I think will be of most help to Library and Information Science students: how one maintains a successful job in information technology. Scott offered the following nuggets of wisdom:

1. Build strong communication skills
Scott talked at length about the asset of good communication skills. Having a degree in a foreign language as well as experience working in a foreign country helped him learn how to communicate on an individual level and as a team member (with and without a language barrier). Scott suggested LIS students have exposure in a working environment that forces one to collaborate and foster partnerships. Scott also stated the necessity of building an openly communicative team with professionals that mesh with your work style.

2. Practice in your personal life to improve in your professional life
As a self taught information architect, Scott stresses the need to apply acquired skills and encourages the development of new skills by practicing in your personal life. Since feedback is limited in determining what level one’s content management, design, and programming skills are, the best way to find out is to simply practice and stay current with new technology. For example, find a website’s style that appeals to you and try to incorporate aspects of it into your personal website. Practice will improve the rate of success in your professional life.

3. Know your strengths
What Scott likes most about his job is being able to provide instant service that is relevant and functional to the user. Knowing his strengths in customer service, he minimizes the risks in a project by conducting a reference interview, much like in library reference services. This question and answer session helps both him and the user determine the goal of the project and each person’s responsibility to achieve a satisfactory deliverable. As in reference services, many times the user is unsure of the exact information required. Scott not only handles the practical aspects of maintaining the various websites, but also serves as a reference point in information technology for the research centers.

4. Keeping people at the center of design
Working with Scott has been an enjoyable experience due to his approachability in both his personal demeanor and his professional style. Unlike many other IT personnel I have worked with in the past, Scott has a strong empathy for the users. Rather than just building a website, he stresses the importance of taking the time to think like a first time user to determine the value of added content (or lack thereof), the intuitive navigation of a site, and the architecture as a whole. All of this is done in layman’s terms with a pleasant disposition, which makes it easy to work as part of a successful team.

Prior to LIBR 200, Information and Society, I never heard of the term “information architecture” nor did I know it was a viable career option for Library and Information Science graduates. It was refreshing to discover a new vocation option with an LIS degree and reassuring to hear Scott speak fondly of his position. As my academic career progresses, I hope I can apply some of Scott’s wisdom in my future professional career. 

Juliana Espinosa is a wet behind the ears new LIS student with a B.A. in Anthropology and minor in Global Peace and Security from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She currently resides in Santa Monica, CA, and works at UCLA. This is her first article for LISSTEN's The Call Number. Please feel free to contact her at Juliana.espinosa@students.sjsu.edu.

4 comments:

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  3. It's good to know that information about web services architecture is greatly increasing. There are lots of people who are dedicating their careers as information architecture.

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  4. I think the skills you touched on are applicable for all fields. But definitely help working for any SEO Company. Great job, and sounds like you're fortunate to have a colleague like Scott!

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