Sunday, August 12, 2007

The institutional layer cake

I was thinking a few days ago that the most rewarding part of my position, to me, is assisting students learning. They are, after all, the customers, without which we would not have a job. And our youth provide us with the hope and opportunity that someday the world will be a better place to live in. My second most rewarding activity, in general, is to assist faculty in using appropriate technology to meet teaching goals. I now saw two "layers" to my job:

Then, I must admit, I got a bit carried away. I started thinking of the other layers, or major aspects, of my job and came up with the idea of a "layer cake" of major forces that affect me. This provided a more interesting visual than a stack of bricks or a pie chart, and I cooked up a rudimentary cake after an hour in Illustrator:

Each layer is a major factor affecting my position. The "Icing on the cake" consists of all the little perks one might like: an office with a nice view, monthly ice cream socials, a convenient parking spot, etc.

While I was putting my cake together, I thought of adding a "Rating" scale next to each variable (from 0 for poor to 5 for great), as a prototype for an interactive Flash project. Then, as each slider is moved back and forth in its scale, the total average at the bottom would dynamically update. If one wanted to leave a scale out of the average, "Don't count" can be selected.

I'm not sure how useful this tool would be, for someone searching for a position in this line of work, to use to compare different job situations. One way to improve it may be to include a "weight" function for each attribute, say from 0 to 10. Then, if the referenced feature, say "Salary and Benefits," was considered very important, it would be assigned a 9 or 10, and this would be appropriately factored in the total average. Each scale descriptor could also be left blank, for use as a general evaluation tool, allowing one to enter their own major job factors.

When I created my illustration late at night, I put a wedding cake topper on top of the above cake! I thought if all the layers "tasted great" it was a prediction of a successful match between employer and employee.

In the cold reality of this morning, I took the topper off. It was just a bit too cute. But one can decorate their own cake. I'm sure a smart alek will ask if you can have your cake and eat it too. The answer is yes, for what good is a cake if you can't eat it.

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