Humans of Parkland: Dr. Tom Ramage
“I happened to be in Ireland when I saw a job at Parkland College open up in 1998. They were looking for a Department Chair that could do three things: One, video production, two, interactive video conferencing and, three, online video courses. Perfect, this is exactly what I’ve been doing my entire career, so I applied. I interviewed with a committee on a phone sitting in a hotel in Bray, Ireland. I’ll never forget it. Trying to drink tea and not be nervous.
I had no intention of being in higher education. My life, in my head, was I’d be downtown Chicago editing videos or working for a production company making TV commercials or whatever. This is about as far from that as one would think but it’s worked extraordinarily well.
I think it was just luck. The things that I was interested in happened to be the beginnings of the Internet and video conferencing. That really set my path. If I didn’t get into those things, and I could have very easily not gotten into those things, none of this would’ve happened. I would be cleaning AV rolls or moving DVDs and flat panel TVs for a living.
Dive in and figure out what it is you enjoy doing, whatever aspect. Now, hopefully it’s not too narrow. Invest time and effort in doing it well, whatever it is. And find out who else appreciates that sort of work across the sector. If you never thought that you’d get into education or healthcare or the insurance business, whatever it is, it shouldn’t prevent you from meeting people in those areas. Networking. That’s how it worked for me. I knew nobody at Parkland when I applied here. Well, I knew one guy but I don’t think he was even working here at the time. It’s not always about whom you know. Your portfolio should speak for itself but that networking piece may take you in a direction you never expected. And, in my case, it happened to work out.
I always talk about this thing called the imposter syndrome, which somebody else wrote about very eloquently but I like the idea. My wife and I talk about it quite a bit. Our CFO and I talk about it a bit. You work yourself into a position of some level of responsibility and you begin wondering how you got there and if you are actually, really the right person to do that. If you knew how much I know about what I have to do here you’d be surprised by how little it actually is or how underprepared I feel inside to be the President of Parkland College or the superintendent at Rantoul city schools or the CFO of a sixty million dollar organization. That’s an interesting phenomenon but I think everybody in a leadership position, to a certain degree, probably has that feeling.
I’d like to break Zelema Harris’s record of sixteen years as president. I’m about half way there. We’ll see if that works. Another eight years. I don’t know, we’ll see what life brings.”