How can you keep confidential case-related information secure when your staff connects to an unsecure Wi-Fi network? How can you keep student-athletes’ medical data or other personal information uncompromised when it must be transmitted to the right people?
Those and other issues were discussed Monday by NCAA Chief Information Officer Judd Williams, who holds undergraduate (2000) and graduate (2001) degrees in information systems from the Harbert College of Business. Williams visited Kelly Rainer’s Intro to Information Systems class, offering students pointers on their future and shedding light on the IT profession as a whole.
Williams earned both a master’s and MBA (Northwestern), but the Huntsville native encouraged students to earn real-world experience before returning to school for grad work.
“You can come back and draw on your real-world experience and bring more to the classroom,” he said. “The majority of learning in an MBA is interacting with other students (who have been professionals from a variety of industries).
“IT is important in every area of business. Every aspect of every job relies on IT. It’s one of the few majors where you can go in and actually touch everything.”
In his career, Williams has built HR data systems, tracked layoffs and severance packages, and “got thrown into new situations and came up with new solutions.”
Williams enjoyed a five-year career with the FBI, ascending to the role of Senior IT Manager in 2010. He told students that FBI agents needed more than “guns and notepads to do their jobs effectively.”
“You won’t catch a cyber-criminal with guns and notepads,” Williams said. “IT gives you data you can’t find in notepads. We combined all of the agents’ notepads together, which gave them better intelligence and better information.”
Williams transitioned to the NCAA, a non-profit agency, in 2012, where he combined two passions: sports and information technology. In his current role, transcripts must be managed, and the increasing number of international students participating in sports makes it more difficult to police.
“The NCAA and FBI are not as dissimilar as you might think,” he told students. “The NCAA investigates cases. The FBI investigates cases. There are also a lot of politics involved. Both have rules and bylaws.”
Williams said a big challenge is to provide service for 1,100 colleges and universities, and nearly a half-million student-athletes over 23 sports. Last weekend, Williams faced the challenge of providing the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee with the tools necessary to create a bracket. For 10 athletic directors housed on one hotel floor in Indianapolis, Williams’ staff outfitted a suite with multiple monitors enabling them to watch conference championship basketball games, and provided all the in-depth analytics they would need to determine the field for this NCAA Tournament.
“We run the software that they use to make selections,” Williams said. In other words, those brackets you filled out began as Big Data in the NCAA’s machine.