Ulla de Stricker’s name may sound familiar to iSchool faculty, staff, and students – her name is often plastered on posters for resume help and various workshops offered here. However, what you may not know about Ulla is she is the founder and President of de Stricker Associates, a consulting business which serves a variety of clients in addressing “challenges in intellectual capital, corporate memory,
business and scientific intelligence, library services, and communication”, as stated on her website. She is also an accomplished public speaker and writer, having penned Business Cases for Info Pros: Here’s Why, Here’s How (2008), and Is Consulting For You? A Primer for Information Professionals (2008).
Please describe your current position.
De Stricker Associates works with organizations facing challenges of information management of any kind. In tailored projects, Ulla and her associates work with clients in private and public sector organizations to address the interplay of people, tools, content, and organizational practices in a wide range of typical information and knowledge related scenarios.
She explains that many organizations may be reluctant to invest in the resources needed to better manage their information, possibly leaning to solutions that are on the surface less costly (as in having no system at all), not knowing that they may “pay” dearly later through loss of productivity, risk of error, and so on. She emphasizes that the cost of uncoordinated practices or workarounds – invented by creative knowledge workers – may be many times the cost of “getting it right” in the first place. That said, “getting information right” does not mean buying expensive software (as an example). There is no one correct approach – appropriate information strategies require an understanding of what will work best for an organization depending on the information related needs of its employees.
How did you get your start in the information profession?
You could say that Ulla is an “accidental” librarian. After having completed her Masters in Jewish American Literature, she contemplated the giant hill she’d have to walk up to the nursing school in the icy Montreal winters and compared that option to the across-the-street library school. This easy choice put her into an area of studies she became very passionate about.
After completing her MLS at McGill University and working there for two years as the Assistant to the Director of the School of Library Science, she was hired by Micromedia/DIALOG (Toronto) when she called and told the manager “you can’t do this without me” (Ulla laughs and attributes that phone call to youth & inexperience). Through the 1980s, she ran DIALOG’s Canadian operations and held other posts at Micromedia; she was then headhunted to work for a Canadian unit of Thomson, building electronic publications. In 1992 she made another decisive move, walking into her boss’s office to quit her job, but promising to finish the current projects and offering to come back the next day as a consultant. With her employer’s support, that’s exactly what she did – and thus her consulting career began.
What are some helpful lessons have you learned during the span of your career?
Ulla explains that at the time she had started her own consulting business in 1992, her name was already known. How? Ulla notes that she has always made a point of contributing; her article writing and involvement in professional associations and conferences allowed her to establish herself and show people what she was capable of doing. Going the extra mile – for example offering talks to local groups when she was traveling across Canada anyway – gained her the essential credibility that turned out to be so helpful for being an independent consultant. She stresses “it was not deliberate – it’s in my nature to be generous with my time for my colleagues – but it worked out to my great favor that for 16 years as an employed person, I worked in my spare time too. As an example, I set up a program of courses at Ryerson, wrote a book with a US colleague, and so on. To this day I continue – I am active in several professional associations and speak regularly at the U of T Faculty of Information!”
What advice do you have for new graduates?
Ulla explains that our profession is unlike the “well understood” ones. Let’s say your cat is sick – you automatically understand that you must go to a vet. There is no equivalent “oh, I need an Info Pro to help with …” understanding in society – information professionals’ skills are a mystery to many. That’s why it is so important for us to be on a continual mission to shed light for others about what our profession can offer.
Ulla encourages Information students and new graduates to start thinking about themselves outside the traditional “librarian” box. With the way the field is changing today, it is crucial to focus on how the skill set we have achieved through our education here can lead us to opportunities we may have overlooked.
Bottom line: Join the appropriate associations and get yourself noticed. Volunteer galore! Write for a local bulletin! Offer tutorials in something you know well! You may start by holding the registrar function, taking signups, handling payments, and handing out name tags at an event, but in the end, every exposure counts.
For More Info:
Through her Information & Knowledge Management blog, Ulla shares – in substantive posts – her commentary and insight. Check out http://destrickerblog.typepad.com/ to discover aspects of your profession you may not have come upon until now.
Please visit http://www.destricker.com/ for more information on de Stricker Associates.