FAQ for Managers
It is an annual conference. It is meant for ongoing training. Every year we have some areas of training which are “the next step” from the previous year. If they learned something from one year, they should learn more the next year.
Most technologists learn through “discovery learning.” That is, we understand some of the theory behind something, but it is not until we immerse ourselves in a project using that technology that we truly understand it. And, with the Internet, we tend to use “just-in-time” learning, which means that we do the final research just prior to implementing things. These forms of learning are very important to the technologist, since technology changes on a monthly, if not daily, basis.
At the same time, technologists do need to have a lot of theory for making initial decisions.
ICCM has some time where we teach the “basics”, or foundational learning, which we feel all technologists need to serve well in missions. These topics are usually things like networking, infrastructure, communicating with management, and working with users. And then we have a lot of sessions to introduce various technologies, how they are working for us in missions, and technologies we have found not to work well (what to avoid).
Every year, the attendees get to decide which sessions are most important to them, which technologies they want to get an overview of, and which foundational skills they want to improve upon.11
Yes, but a lot more. ICCM is not simply geared towards teaching someone how to fish. It is all about also introducing them to all the other fishermen in their waters. It is all good to learn how to fish, but when you are a part of the fisherman’s guild, you have a bunch of people to discuss the weather, where to get new nets, etc. ICCM brings techies into a techie family; not only for learning one topic, but for giving you friends with which to discuss ongoing topics. Even if it looks like there are no topics that meet your current techie’s needs, you will find that they will get a LOT out of ICCM.
Most techies are introverts and are not too good at expressing themselves. Start by asking them if they would like to attend again. This is usually a yes/no question, and one they can answer. Then, ask them if it was beneficial. They may not be able to answer “how” it helped, but they can usually answer to say that it did. Finally, you can tell them, “It cost the department [put the amount here], which is about the cost of [put some useful cool techie toy here]. Do you think the benefit of your attending ICCM is worth that amount?” You may not understand “Why”, but you will usually find that they do believe it is worth it. Many ICCM attendees have come for many, many years. It is like attending a church or small-group. It becomes a part of you as you become a part of it. The benefits are not always visible, but when a problem comes up, it is usually that long-established group that steps in to help.
You probably will not see instant growth, the same way one often does not see instant change when someone becomes a Christian. But it certainly does affect them. You will most likely see the change when a big issue comes up. That is often when they will need to ask for advice, and when their access to this amazing community really reaps the longer-term benefit. Sending someone to ICCM is an investment into your techie. They are getting involved in a community as well as learning something. Please do not think that the only thing they will get from the conference is from the teaching or workshops; most of the benefit comes from the long-term connections.
The ICCM body is international. We have people from most continents, and many countries who are part of our email lists. We have experts in most types of technologies as part of our group. From electrical specialists to obscure facets of servers. Most technologies you can think about are things that others in missions have done something with. And, if you stumble across something that is truly novel, there are a bunch of people who would love to hear how you managed to get it to impact the Kingdom. The people present at any given ICCM might actually be all from one country. But they will have responsibilities and connections internationally. And the ICCM email lists and other community connections cross international and cultural boundaries.
A true story: One ministry needed to send their techie to an international meeting (not ICCM), and they found the “most techie” person from within the organization to staff the tech-department while the techie was out. She was a data-entry person who knew how to click buttons, even though she did not entirely understand what those buttons did, but she got a little training from the techie. Before the techie left, the power was going up and down, the server was misbehaving, and life was scary. The data entry person was terrified when the techie left, but she went and sat in the server-room waiting for something to crash that she was supposed to fix. One of her data entry friends came to her and said, “We are working two-people down in the data entry department. You are gone, and they have designated one of us to be praying for you each hour while you work on the server.” The funny thing was that, with the techie gone, the organization had no techie problems whatsoever. The increased prayer-support for the system cleared up even the weather problems, but only for that week. The techie came back, and the troubles came back. Just a FYI. God can smite your system dead, whether or not your techie is there to protect it. And, God can keep that system up, whether or not your techie is there. Every year we have techies who need to remote in to fix something at their home office. But we have NEVER had a mission close down and go belly-up because their techie was at ICCM. It might be inconvenient to have them go, but you can survive.
FAQ for Techies
The reasons to attend ICCM are myriad. Every person who attends ICCM comes away with something they need. It might be the answer to some pressing techie questions, it might be the confidence to answer someone else’s questions, it might be fellowship, it might be encouragement, it might be some other area of growth. ICCM meets you where you are at. It is a place where you can safely communicate with other techies. You can ask your questions, share perspectives, and participate in a group of like-minded people. Techies often feel alone in what they do. Attending ICCM gives you a bunch of people you can discuss your problems with; not just during the conference, but for years afterwards.
That is up to you. You will get as much out of it as you put into it. It is hard for an introvert to get out there and ask questions, but most people can find the answers they are looking for. If you feel there are areas in your knowledge that you want to grow, you can usually find someone there who will answer some questions for you. Be willing to step a little bit out of your comfort zone and make some new friends. Come expecting to learn. Come expecting to ask some questions. And, come expecting to answer some questions that others will ask. What surprises many people is that they actually have something to offer during ICCM.
Make a list of things in your office that you do not understand. Take some screen-shots or photos with your cellphone. Come with questions. Bring your favorite board-game (you cannot spend all your time talking technology), bring a soccer-ball, or something you can share with others. Come expecting the best kind of friends; ones who have similar hearts for missions, similar interests, similar skills, and similar problems.
Pray a lot. Prepare to not get a lot of sleep. Realize you will end up stepping outside your comfort-zone. It actually takes a lot of work, but you will find that it will be some of the most enjoyable work you can do.
Most of the major questions about your network or system can be answered while at ICCM, and you will be able to learn a lot about new technologies. The big thing, which you will not realize you are bringing back, are the friendships. When you have a major techie catastrophe, you will have a bunch of friends you can contact to walk with you down that road. Sometimes ICCM gives you the knowledge in advance, but often ICCM helps by giving you the contacts who can help.
Actually, yes. ICCM has been around for over 25 years, and we have never had a ministry collapse because the techie was not there to solve a techie problem. Some home-office staff do have to go through a little bit of inconvenience, but inconvenience is a part of life. It is why patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Patience is something we need, because life happens.
One of the hardest things for the techie to deal with is that he is not critical. We have a very important role in life, but, if every last techie died, God could still complete His plan. God’s plan will succeed, with or without you. If your mission is a part of that plan, then He can keep it going, with or without you. Your role is important, there is no question about that. It is very inconvenient for people when you are not around. But there is a vast difference between something being inconvenient and God’s plan going belly-up.
Most married couples ask this. For the techie, ICCM is one of the most encouraging and building-up thing you can do. Most supporting spouses, in an attempt to understand their techie, think to themselves, “Maybe I should attend.” Seriously, most spouses do not get much out of ICCM unless they are a techie. Many of those who have attended have said that they are glad they had the opportunity to see their spouse in their element, but it was a one-time thing. It is a great opportunity for the spouse to visit with extended family in the area, or see the sights. But, unless there is a real reason the spouse needs to attend, we recommend against it. The techie, if they get the chance, will spend most of their time hanging out, asking questions, answering questions, and geeking. If they have a spouse there, they feel torn with their “free time,” and usually do not get as much out of the conference themselves.