Profile on MARA Student Edward Sumcad

Published: March 29, 2017 by Anna Maloney

For the past two years, I have worked as Dr. Franks’ student research assistant. For the first few months of the fall semester, I spend much of my time working on the jobs analysis, a task which exposes me to the language and trends of archives and records management job postings and from which I have learned one thing: motivated self-starters with a passion and dedication for records management are in high demand. Luckily for recruiters, many of the MARA students I have worked in and out of the classroom demonstrate these qualities. But I propose a new trait be added to this list: Sumcadiness, a word which here means “an unabashed zeal for RIM and a full-throttle dedication to the profession” and whose origins can be traced to Edward Sumcad, MARA student and manager of the Countywide Records Management and Archives Program at the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

Sumcad’s zest for success can be traced to his time as an undergraduate at the University of California Irvine, where he double majored in biology (“I really thought I was going to become a physician”) and English (“I felt like the creative side of me was beginning to wane”). While completing what he considers the requisite internship for those who study humanities (a barista gig at Starbucks), Sumcad did a lot of self-reflecting: “During this time, I analyzed my motivations and did a lot of writing, goal setting, and coffee drinking. I determined that my underlying motivations in whatever I did were that I really wanted to help people, make a difference in the world, and find a way to serve others.” When the recession threatened his cushy green apron gig, Sumcad applied for every open position that seemed to align with his motivations. “I applied to the FBI, CIA, Google, [California] University system, police department, Peace Corps, Teach for America, and the County of Los Angeles.” The County of Los Angeles was the first to call and offer Sumcad a position as an administrative assistant in the administration of federal, state, and local elections. His fellow public servants proved to be excellent mentors, inspiring him to pursue a Masters of Public Administration.

How exactly Sumcad became responsible for the countywide records management and archives program is a story that echoes themes I’ve heard from many students—and experienced in my own professional life. In 2009, he was assigned a side project: to identify types of documents stored throughout the building and to decide how long to keep them. Always quick to quip, Sumcad admits “It was called records management and, prior to beginning the project, I had thought it involved organizing the County’s LP collection.” But he rapidly came to understand the nature of records management and the scope of the project—eventually he became responsible for not just the records in his department, but for the records of all 37 County departments “spread out among 800 facilities within 4000mi,” serving 10 million residents and 88 cities.

Research revealed that a records management program was first proposed in Los Angeles County in 1941—but it wasn’t until 2012 that a records manager position was formally established. After relying on vendors, contractors, and consultants to piece together a records management program, Sumcad was the first county employee to be fully devoted to the subject. Considered the “new kid on the block”, Sumcad has worked to define records management in relationship to established, tangential departments and programs, including the County Counsel, Chief Information Office, IT Security, and Risk Management, among others. “In my short time within the County, I have recommended updates to our General Record Retention Schedule and 36 Departmental Record Retention Schedule, established an Information Governance Committee, and lead the development of an electronic records management system.” Sumcad has grown the Los Angeles County Records Management and Archives program to a variety of key services: records management, archives management, data analytics, process improvement, policy creation, and outreach. While this is a lot of ground to cover in five short years, it is the soft skill activities that have proved the most challenging. “The hardest part has been establishing credibility, change management, preaching standards, introducing concepts that would change how entire departments would handle information, and creating a program specific to the needs of our internal customers, stakeholders, and constituents.” Sumcad attributes some of this challenge to the tendency of government agencies to hesitate when the cost of an initial failure is perceived to be greater than the value of eventual success. Thankfully, Sumcad is no longer going it alone. Since 2012, four colleagues have “trickled in” to help him implement the program. But despite being the titular manager, Sumcad insists that “I’m not a big fan of managing. I like leading…it’s the combination of all our strengths that have gotten us here.”

A self-described “accidental archivist and records manager,” Sumcad is seeking to add formal instruction to his self study and work experience. He is an active participant in training provided by the Society of California Archivists, the California State Archives, and the Association of Records Managers and Administrators, and from 2013 to 2014, he served as a program coordinator for the Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter of ARMA International. His decision making is also guided by a fundamental appreciation for the relationship between the Information Governance Reference Model, records and information management, and big data.

One of Sumcad’s most impressive qualifications is his commitment to professional certification. He holds a black belt in Lean Six Sigma process improvement, is a Certified Information Governance Professional, and, as of March 2017, a Certified Records Manager. He shared a few exam prep pro-tips: “I prepared by taking a few RIM text books, converted them to PDF, and used an app to have it read to me on commutes. I’ve read [Dr. Pat Franks’ Records and Information Management] three times.” He also relied on his on-the-job collaborations with different departments. “It takes a village to raise a records management program in the digital age. Collaboration is a must.”

In 2018, Sumcad’s impressive résumé will include two more line items: a Masters of Archives and Records Administration and an Advanced Certificate in Digital Assets: Information Assurance, Information Governance, and Cyber Security. To date, Sumcad credits the MARA program with giving him new insight into trending technologies, providing him a platform to discuss strategies with fellow information management professionals, and affording him a depth of understanding about the complexity of the use of technology in a globalized world. He is also “thrilled to have Dr. Pat Franks, [an] authority in the records and information management field, [as] the coordinator of this program. Her insight and mentorship [in to] building a records and information management program in the digital age has been invaluable.”

As a chronic student, tinkerer, and fixer of broken things, Sumcad’s biggest takeaway from the MARA program is that records and information management isn’t a problem to be solved with a single solution. “What excites me about the program overall is now I have more questions that can only be answered with time, further study, and the right mix of individuals.” 

Whether you are graduating this May, starting the program this August, or still contemplating a future as an archivist or records manager, there is something we can all take from Edward Sumcad’s approach to information management: fearlessness, humor, dedication, and an unassuageable desire to leave things better than we find them.

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