Scott Brown Tells Us to Lean On Our Skills

Career Blog

Published: November 11, 2016 by Kate M. Spaulding

Scott Brown thinks people will continue to need information and will continue to need guidance around finding and using the best and most relevant, reliable information available. Here’s how to prepare.

Today I bring you insight from Scott Brown, who keeps himself busy not only with a full-time job, but with various side gigs and projects. He has a lot of good things to say about his internship experience as well as smart ways to think about your skills. Thank you, Scott, for taking the time to do this!

Hi, Scott! Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do and how you got to this place in your career?

My name is Scott Brown – I’m currently a “Cybrarian” with Oracle, Inc., based in Portland, Oregon. I’m also an adjunct professor for the SJSU School of Information, teaching INFO 281-10, “Marketing Your LIS Skills in a Networked and Changing World”. 

In my current role with Oracle, I work with my colleague Christy Confetti Higgins (featured recently on this blog). Along with Christy, I have two main areas of responsibility. One is to manage enterprise-wide information assets for Oracle – making sure people know about the resources and can access and use them easily –  and making sure they are incorporated throughout the company to build skills and help everyone at Oracle make better decisions. 

My other role is to provide research, synthesis and analysis for the learning and development group, for HR, and for strategic groups across Oracle. I’ve been providing research services in one way or another for over 15 years. 

I started working in research right out of San José State – I graduated from the SJSU program in December 1999 and began working at Sun Microsystems as a researcher in January 2000. It honestly wasn’t something I was thinking about at all as I was going through my master’s program; however, my manager and colleagues saw something in me that seemed like a good fit for research, and I’ve been doing that work pretty regularly ever since. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean it was a clear and direct path to my present position with Oracle. I left Sun in January 2009 in order to complete a second Masters in Community Counseling, with the aim of becoming a therapist. While I was doing that, I ran my own information business. For four years, I built my skills in new and different ways: writing, editing, speaking, conducting workshops, doing more competitive intelligence, and career coaching, among other things. While running one’s own business is definitely more uncertain than being an employee, it was a great experience – I learned a lot, and I still have my business entity. 

What do you think most helped you get your current job(s)? Your education? Your network? Specific skills? Extracurricular activities, like presenting or publishing papers, volunteering, or something else?

I’ve done all of these things in building my career! I think all of these help build a strong career. I did a practicum with Sun Microsystems at the end of my SJSU MLIS program, and the two key components in getting that practicum, and eventually in getting my job with Sun Microsystems, were doing informational interviews with Sun and knowing HTML (thank you, Linda Main and her HTML class). 

As I’ve progressed in my career, the thing that really stands out to me is the power of having a professional network. I really only started building that network after graduating from SJSU, through the encouragement of my manager Cindy Hill at Sun. I got involved with the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SLA and started volunteering in 2002. That was beneficial in a couple of ways: I gained skills that I wouldn’t have been able to get any other way (event planning, for example), and I also got to connect with people I would have not been able to meet any other way. I got to talk with and understand what others were doing in special libraries, and I gained a lot of good friends as well. I continue to volunteer with SLA. 

When I look back, I can attribute almost every position, job and gig that I’ve had to people in my network. It’s quite remarkable, and I’m so grateful for all of my colleagues and friends. 

Given the current state of the LIS profession and all its different potential career paths, what skills do you think will be most in demand in the next 5-10 years?

I have no idea what specific skills will be in demand or needed, even three years from now. I do firmly believe that going forward people will continue to need information and will continue to need guidance around finding and using the best and most relevant, reliable information available. That’s becoming more difficult, and so I think information professionals have a great opportunity in many different ways in the future, as long as we continue to look for those openings. They likely will not look quite like “traditional” librarianship, so those paths may be hard to spot. 

What career advice do you have for students?

Stay open to all the possibilities for information work. I think LIS students have VERY transferable skills – the information “perspective” can be applied to almost any setting and any industry. That’s what’s so cool about it, and that’s why we still have librarians and information professionals, even when so many have predicted that the role would die out. But it’s clear that our profession has shifted. There are fewer library and information jobs that look like they did 10 or 20 years ago and more people competing for those jobs. If you are open to other ways to use your skills and are willing to take on roles and positions that don’t exactly “look” like traditional roles, you’ll be surprised at how many different ways you can apply your amazing LIS skills. 

Top photo courtesy WOCTechChat


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