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Community IT Voices: Norwin Herrera, IT Business Manager
Join us for our series featuring interviews with Community IT employees. In this series, we will talk about nonprofit technology career paths, career resources, skills, and certifications. We will also touch on mentoring opportunities as you start out on your career and ways to give back if you are further along.
Today Carolyn talks with Norwin Herrera, IT Business Manager (ITBM), who fills a relatively recent role at Community IT and in the outsourced IT sector.
The Community IT ITBM service provides an outsourced IT manager to clients at a reduced cost to hiring and having an IT manager on staff. This manager is a resource dedicated to matching technology solutions to clients’ business needs. To do this well requires an ongoing conversation with the client to continually understand their business needs, and then effective communication with client staff and leadership about the ways specific technology solutions can meet those business needs.
The ITBM makes recommendations on IT investments, training programs, maintenance, and licenses. They help the client be forward-looking, and act as a vendor-agnostic, trusted advisor with deep knowledge of the nonprofit IT software and platforms available. Because Community IT works in partnership with clients to manage IT needs longterm, sometimes the advice is to make an investment, but the advice does not always involve investing in more, or more expensive, IT tools at all. The ITBM relationship with the client makes them a true asset.
In this interview, Norwin talks about life advice he would give students to be in a career where they can work from the heart, his background as an immigrant from El Salvador, and the best aspects of this ITBM role for him.
“We do a little bit of everything. We do budget, project management, and analysis. We analyze how your organization is at this moment and what is the best way to go. It’s a pretty interesting position, never boring. It’s always a new challenge, every single day. Because every single organization where we provide support is different.”
Norwin joined Community IT Innovators in November 2019 as an IT Business Manager. Bringing over 25 years of experience working with technology to his role, Norwin knows how to help clients achieve their organizational missions by managing IT tools wisely.
Norwin has a strong history of providing direct services in Spanish and English to nonprofit organizations in the Washington DC area. Prior to joining CIT, he worked at Casa de Maryland as a computer teacher and created a technology handbook with popular education techniques. At La Clinica del Pueblo he was Manager of Technology.
Biking, hiking, camping, reading, tennis, soccer and squash are some of the activities that Norwin enjoys the most in his free time.
Carolyn Woodard has served many roles at Community IT Innovators, from client to project manager to marketing. With over twenty years of experience in the nonprofit world and marketing, including as a nonprofit technology project manager and Director of IT, Carolyn knows the frustrations and delights of working with technology professionals, accidental techies, executives, and staff to deliver your organization’s mission, keep your IT infrastructure operating, and your website live.
Carolyn is excited to help manage Marketing at Community IT Innovators and is always looking for new ways to tell stories and reach people. She has a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Johns Hopkins University and received her undergraduate degree in English Literature from Williams College. She thinks the best thing about being with Community IT Innovators is the people.
Carolyn: Hello, welcome to Community IT Voices. My name is Carolyn and today I’m going to be interviewing Norwin [Herrera], who is an IT Business Manager (ITBM).
Norwin, would you like to introduce yourself and tell us how long you’ve been at Community IT?
Norwin: Thank you, Carolyn, for the opportunity. I’m Norwin Herrera and I’ve been at Community IT for two years.
Carolyn: And what is your job description? What do you do? What does an IT Business Manager do?
Norwin: You know, IT Business Manager is a new term. Information Technology Business Manager combines something like an IT manager with an IT director. I basically manage technology at our clients, I would call it. I think it’s a new term introduced in this world of managed service providers.
Carolyn: On a typical day, what sort of things do you do for the clients?
Norwin: My daily routine usually starts with a check up of all my clients’ tickets. I have a dashboard to see everything that is going on with my clients.
Then, with today’s connected world, I read or write emails. I’m very detail oriented about that. I check every email. I don’t like to have unread emails.
If I get 10 new emails, I want to go over every single one of them. I classify them. I don’t keep any in my inbox. If I have an email, I reply to it, if I need to. If I need to do something, I flag it until it is done, and then I move it.
Then I provide solutions to my clients, using all the resources that we have available.
IT Business Manager is a very interesting position in the organization, because you are like a magician. You have help from projects, you have help from the helpdesk. You have help from engineers, top engineers. You talk to sales, and then you have to coordinate with senior leadership. So basically you’re playing with everybody, every single day.
That’s what my day is like. Every single day is about talking, coordinating, and providing solutions to clients.
Carolyn: Do you have an IT background?
Norwin: I do. I studied computer engineering in El Salvador. Originally I am from El Salvador and I studied that in my country. Basically, I have studied that since college. I have been employed in technology for about 24 years. In technology per se, I have been about 30 years.
Carolyn: It sounds like the IT Business Manager role is slightly different from a typical tech admin role. So, can you talk a little bit more about that and the fact that it’s a new position at Community IT and I think in the industry as well?
Norwin: New in the industry, yes. It is a combination, as I said before, between an IT director and IT manager, if you want to call it an IT specialist.
We do a little bit of everything. We do budget, project management, and analysis. We analyze how your organization is at this moment and what is the best way to go. So we are giving you advice; we are like advisors to our clients.
It’s a pretty interesting position, never boring. It’s always a new challenge, every single day. For me that is key. As a person, I cannot be in a position where I’m going to be doing the same thing, over and over.
So even though it’s technology, even though we provide advice, it’s never the same. Because every single organization where we provide support is different.
Carolyn: You just kind of answered my question about what are the best things about your job. Did you apply for the role of IT Business Manager, and do you remember why you applied and what made you think that was a good fit?
Norwin: Yes, 10 years ago, I was working at La Clinica del Pueblo. La Clinica del Pueblo is one of Community IT’s clients. I was the IT manager, so I was interacting with Community IT.
Then I quit La Clinica, and 2 years ago, I saw a post in Idealist, I think. I saw Community IT was looking for an IT Business Manager. I thought that I was exactly the person for that position, so I applied and here I am.
One of the things that I like about Community IT is their ethics at work in how they approach technology. So, I would say Community IT is like the good side of The Force. If you want to speak about that.
“They are doing the best thing possible for clients in this crazy world where you can find people who are not trying to give you the best advice, but just trying to get your money, or to get some piece of you. In this case, it’s not like that.”
Carolyn: So many employees say that joining Community IT was a kind of serendipity moment. Many people changed careers. It sounds like you have had quite a career in IT that has supported you in being able to do what you do as the IT Business Manager.
Do you have any advice for students if they are planning on pursuing a career in IT? What would you tell them to develop or do?
Norwin: When I prepared for this question, I wrote down that I don’t believe in miracles. So everything that I have done in the past, prepared me to be here today. So here I am, and I am enjoying this phase of my life, and Community IT is like a reward for me, from life.
For students, the only thing I can say is first, find something that brings your heart into it. You have to make sure you are enjoying every single day of what you do. In this case, it’s technology.
Technology is a very broad term. You can be a graphic designer, you can be a web developer, you can be a developer itself. You can be a helpdesk support, you can be an engineer, you can be a network engineer, you can be an ITBM. It’s a broad environment.
You have to find exactly what your passion is and stay there. Personally, I never work for money. I work for what I like, because otherwise, I’m going to be suffering every single day trying to accomplish a goal that in real life, is nothing.
“Money helps, but it’s not the main thing that makes you happy every day. So find what makes you happy every day, and then go for it. The money will come. That will come. Then try to find the place that makes you happy.”
Carolyn: That’s a great segue into another question I have. If you knew someone who was in a technology job, or a nonprofit job, who wasn’t feeling supported, or was having some difficulty finding their passion, finding what made them happy, do you have some advice for them, of where to go for support or mentoring?
Norwin: It’s kind of a tricky question. Since it’s a tricky question it’s not a simple answer. If you are in a technology field and you are not feeling well, you are not feeling that you are advancing. If the company you are working for is not giving you the opportunity to grow, for example, that’s what happens sometimes in this field. Like, you enter as helpdesk and you stay forever in helpdesk.
Not only Community IT, there are other organizations that help you grow. You can be in helpdesk for 2 years, 3 years, get all the experience and knowledge, then move on to the next level.
You can end up as a CEO of a technology company, or you can be a manager at another company. You will basically have all the experience that you acquire and then you can use it all in one place.
“A life wisdom that I have to share is to speak out; say what you feel. Say what you have in your head and in your heart. Don’t keep it to yourself. That will lead you to the way.”
Carolyn: I love it! That’s great wisdom. I know that in technology careers there are lots of different certifications and degrees that you can get. And while we’re talking about careers and advancing, do you have any advice on ways that you can build your career in technology?
Norwin: University is one of them. University can give you the basics in everything, then you can choose. Right now, in this world there are hundreds, thousands, millions of training courses online. Then it depends on how focused you are and what you want.
My advice is, set the goal of where you want to be and go for it. Do not get frustrated on the way.
Life is not in a straight line. Life is a curve sometimes. Sometimes you are going up, sometimes you are going down. It’s the way life goes. It’s the same thing in your career.
You say you want to be a doctor, or you want to be a master in something. It’s not like suddenly today or the next day you are going to be a master. Just because you studied for a master’s degree, it makes you a master? That’s not true.
If you get a master’s degree, you just get the fundamentals to be a master. The same thing in technology. Think about what you want, set the goals. Don’t get frustrated on the way and just keep going, keep moving.
You only have one life so just keep going, that’s what I can say. The pandemic should have taught us something. We need to learn there is nothing more important than life. That’s basic.
“For me, every day working at Community IT is like that. Let’s open the computer and see what it has today and let’s see how we can help. Usually, we end up being helpers to people. We provide a service. And sometimes it’s not a technological solution, it’s more like moral support for our clients.”
Let me tell you something. This is a really funny story. A friend of mine said, “I have a computer.” Because, when you say you are in IT, everybody asks you, “Can you fix my computer?” I was going to say that at the end but this is a good opportunity to say it now.
He said, “My computer isn’t working, it’s too slow, it’s too slow and I keep clicking and clicking.” I said, “My friend, stop clicking! Every single click you do is stored in the memory of the computer. The more clicks you do the more it is going to take the computer to react.”
“So my advice to you is when the computer is frozen, step out. Go get a coffee, talk to your colleagues, and come back. The computer will be fine.”
I don’t know if I’m crazy, but our equipment works differently based on our energy. I might be crazy, but after 30 years working with computers, I know you can give the same computer to me and to somebody else, and the computer will work differently. Why is that? Our energy. Our energy impacts the way this equipment works.
Carolyn: I totally believe that, and you know on our social media we have a campaign to reboot on the first of every month. Some people like to do it every night. But at least once a month you should be turning everything all the way off, and turn everything all the way back on. It just makes a huge difference in the energy, like you said.
Norwin: That’s why we have the weekend.
Carolyn: That’s why we have the weekend, that’s right!
Norwin: The weekend is a reboot for yourself. Reboot your spirit, reboot your energy, come back on Monday fresh, to start work again.
Carolyn: I know that you are a Spanish speaker, and we’ve talked previously about having Spanish language materials for our clients and on our website. I wondered if you could talk a little about that, and you said earlier that we are helping our clients.
Do you find that speaking two languages fluently is helpful to you? Are there clients where it is easier for them to tell you what the problem is in Spanish?
Norwin: Honestly if I have a client that is a Spanish speaker, I try to approach them in Spanish.
For some reason, learning a language is like learning a new world. The entire society works in this language. We have to learn how to behave and how to engage with the community with the language. If I find somebody who speaks Spanish, I try to address them in Spanish, because I feel more comfortable.
And for some reason that does trigger something. I don’t know what it is, but it triggers something. It triggers like, “I know this guy for forever!” Just speaking the language helps a lot.
I feel very comfortable speaking English with everybody, though. When I came here to the United States, I didn’t speak English. So I studied and I went to school, and I learned the way to communicate.
Carolyn: I think if you think about a client who is having an incredibly stressful experience to begin with, something’s not working the way it is supposed to. Then you put an extra layer of trying to explain it in a different language, even one they may speak very well, there are so many technical terms. Just the way you think about it is different.
So being able to take that layer of stress off and be able to communicate clearly, I think is an advantage if someone is already under stress.
Norwin: That is so true. When I talk to my clients, I don’t only talk about technology. I like to talk about food, I like to talk about the entire world. I like to talk about sports, because otherwise, we are becoming robots, and I’m not a robot. I like to talk to my clients about different things, like how they are feeling.
My first question is always, “How are you feeling? Are you doing ok, is everything good?” That’s my first question. I never go straight to technology.
My very first question is how are YOU doing? And then after that, let’s see what’s going on and see what we can fix for you.
“We don’t have the magic tool to fix your problems, but we’re going to do our best to solve them. There’s always a way to find a solution, that’s for sure.”
Carolyn: When people ask you what you do, like you said earlier, when people find out you’re in IT they are always like, “My computer has a problem,” or, “My iPad isn’t working quite right.” When people ask you what Community IT does, what do you tell them? What’s your short speech of what Community IT does?
Norwin: I explain to them that Community IT is a managed service provider. That’s kind of complicated for people to understand. What I say is, “We’re a bunch of IT guys [and gals!]” Sometimes, I say IT geeks, because some people have been in this company for over 20 years. We’re not talking about people who don’t know what they are doing. Here at Community IT, you have, I would say, some of the top-level people who know technology.
I’m not joking, I’m not bragging about it. It’s because I know them that I know it is true. I tell them it is a group of people who know technology and that we provide services to nonprofits. And in addition to that, I explain to them that we don’t do coding, we don’t develop anything. We provide services.
We do helpdesk, we implement projects, we migrate email accounts, files. Of the top things that we do here, SharePoint is one of the biggest. Autopilot, because of the pandemic, we started doing two years ago, for me it is a complete success.
Security is one of our top layers here, we are enforcing multi-factor authentication.
We know exactly where to go. We know how to advise your company and the best solution to your problems. We do know and we are not going to lie to you.
Sometimes clients want to hear what they want to hear, but in reality, it’s not the answer. If you want to stay the way that you are, it’s fine. We’re always going to provide support, but it might be easier if you do a little switch, you know, a little tweak.
As ITBMs, one main responsibility is to help you have good financing of your IT resources, so you can operate better. Sometimes people forget that they need to have a line in the budget for technology improvements.
“Technology is not a luxury. Technology is an asset in your company.”
Carolyn: Norwin, thank you so much for talking with me today. I really enjoyed our interview.
Carolyn: Thank you!
Norwin: You’re welcome!
We hope you enjoyed this Community IT Voices interview with Norwin Herrera, IT Business Manager. Community IT is the right place for you if you find fulfillment in helping others succeed and love mastering new technologies.
Our employees stay and grow with us, and over half of our staff have been with us for over a decade. Community IT is an employee-owned company with a positive, sustainable workplace that promotes professional development and a healthy work/life balance. We have been 100% employee-owned since 2012. Check out careers with us here.