“It is such an exciting field. You are never bored,” says Marcia Berkey, D.B.A., faculty member and chair of Information Technology at South University, Online Programs. “Information systems and technology touches upon every single field. Whether someone works in healthcare or entertainment or any field, organizations have to have IT knowledge.”
Two of Many Possible Career Paths
When you talk to Dr. Berkey and her colleague, Dr. Mourad Oulid-Aissa, their passion for—and knowledge of—the field is immediately apparent, and their two different stories perfectly exemplify the diversity of the field and our faculty.
While he’s only been at South University a little over 3 years, faculty member Dr. Oulid-Aissa has over 3 decades of professional experience in technical fields and holds 7 software design patents in the U.S. and Europe.
Early in his career, Dr. Oulid-Aissa worked in telecommunications and later with real-time database systems, holding manager, director, and vice president roles at several large corporations. Over the last 10 years, Dr. Oulid-Aissa has transitioned to teaching and consulting, focusing on information systems and technology.
“You can draw a link between large communication systems and large real-time database systems and the field of information systems,” he says. “It was kind of a logical progression.”
Dr. Berkey, on the other hand, describes her career path as “a wandering around kind of story” that involved changing jobs as she and her husband moved from place to place. In one job selling sewing machines, her curiosity was piqued as she noticed both the machines and her work processes becoming increasingly electronic. She recalls, “That’s when I really started delving into this field.”
In her next position, Dr. Berkey had a chance to get involved with database development. As time passed, she continued building her expertise at every opportunity, eventually becoming a corporate trainer teaching others the technical skills she’d learned. “I was just fascinated with technology and how every business manages information in some form,” she explains.
Driven by this fascination, Dr. Berkey earned her bachelor’s degree before going on for her master’s and then a doctorate degree. In 2004, after teaching at various universities, Dr. Berkey joined South University, Online Programs and later became a full-time faculty member.
Looking into the Future of Information Systems
Since her first ventures into information technology, Dr. Berkey has witnessed constant technological evolution. “Everything is faster, devices are smaller, but the influence of technology is larger,” she says.
For Dr. Oulid-Aissa, how these advances enable organizational innovation is what’s most exciting—for example, how the convergence of once separate networks has allowed for multimedia access and interactivity among multitudes of users, applications and devices.
“This convergence of technology and of networks enables what we refer to as full services, these blended services where you can initiate a service from your mobile phone and complete it on your computer,” he explains. This type of connectivity, he predicts, will continue spreading to many more devices.
According to Dr. Oulid-Aissa, real-time data analysis and automation are also growing in popularity and being utilized to impact more aspects of business and industries. “I see more automation used in systems to capture, store and represent knowledge, and also enabling our systems to learn from that knowledge. We’re getting into ideas of artificial intelligence and how to better use information to make effective business decisions.”
“All of this,” he explains, “involves the notion of information systems and how we manage and organize data to create information which can then generate knowledge. From knowledge hopefully can come wisdom.”
How to Lead Amidst Constant Change
According to Dr. Berkey, South University’s new Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) can help students to keep up with and implement new technologies as they arise.
“This degree will help them to manage all of these technologies, to manage the process, the programmers, the vision, and all of those things together,” she says. “We can’t teach what is going to be new technology in 6 months, but we can give students a great foundation to build upon and teach them how to stay current.”
Having management acumen is extremely valuable in all positions, says Dr. Oulid-Aissa. “Even if you're an individual contributor tasked to do very specific things, organizations like to see people who have a sense of leadership and initiative and who work well in teams—people who can help others as leaders, who can make decisions without being told what to do. Of course, if you look into leadership positions, what we focus on in MSIS should especially help students target such positions.”
Dr. Berkey adds, “Once students are exposed to different courses in the program—on data management, risk analysis, security, all of the areas that we focus on—it helps them to be a broader-based manager or leader, because if they’re never been exposed to these concepts, they don’t know the importance of them. Every company needs to be concerned about these areas and in tune with how technology can help them address these concerns.”
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