Skip to Main Content

New ESS Director: ‘It’s about Doing Right by Customers’

January 28, 2022

Michael Rajkumar Thathuvaswamy, Director of Enabling Services and Support, California Community Colleges Technology CenterStepping into a leadership role within an organization that is undergoing sweeping executive-level changes might make some people nervous but not Michael Rajkumar Thathuvaswamy, who was recently named Director of Enabling Services and Support (ESS) at the California Community Colleges Technology Center.

Thathuvaswamy, better known to Tech Center colleagues as Michael RT, sees this time of transition — including a new vice chancellor, executive director and, recently, chief technology officer — as an opportunity to bring forward a new vision for an expanded ESS role in helping colleges and students realize the full potential of Tech Center products.

As the son of a medical doctor, Thathuvaswamy learned early on that helping people and “doing right by customers” was the way to make a positive impact. “It was not about the money but about what we can do for others,” he said.

Extending that philosophy to the Tech Center, Thathuvaswamy ultimately aims to reorient the ESS group as a two-way pipeline between product development and colleges to better serve the needs of colleges and students. ESS would continue to provide implementation and user support for Tech Center products but also feed usage data and user feedback to product teams in the early stages of development, rather than at the end.

“Something I’m very excited about is focusing on building the team to a point where we are collaborating tightly with product development teams to be the voice for the colleges, but also take the data we have and make it productive for us,” he said.

“Right now, my energy and focus is on understanding what others are needing and looking at how we change what we do within ESS or add something to provide value to others.”

Plans include working with the product teams and management to provide a better view of the roadmap and what the colleges can expect. Additionally, he hopes to leverage the College Relationship Managers and product partners to develop case studies to help colleges make data-driven decisions about product adoption.

“One of the things I hear at CISOA and elsewhere is, whether schools are large or small, most think they are different and what works for another school may not work for them,” Thathuvaswamy said. “But when you start talking to administrators you realize they are more alike than different.”

On the support side, Thathuvaswamy hopes to more fully utilize the staff and student online communities by building out a comprehensive “self-serve” knowledge base that enables users to access information in multiple ways, including short instructional videos, user-to-user support, and a chat-bot component. But ensuring any technology elements are accessible is a priority, he noted.

“We are looking at developing partnerships with vendors that would work with us to constantly improve the accessibility of the tools we deploy because we want to make sure anyone and everyone who needs the help can get it and not be underserved because of any challenges they might have,” Thathuvaswamy said.

Looking out to the coming grant year, Thathuvaswamy is optimistic about the opportunity to explore avenues that were previously left behind due to budget cuts.

“It’s a great time to be in this position,” Thathuvaswamy said. “Both with having Jennifer Coleman as the new Executive Director who is trying to do a lot of things differently, and Valerie Lundy-Wagner as Vice Chancellor, again with a new set of ideas, it gives me the space I need and the freedom to pitch ideas that will be heard and evaluated.”