Jerome Hall has taken on a big challenge, expanding the infrastructure for distance learning in Nigeria, a country with frequent electrical blackouts, unreliable phone service, and narrow bandwidth.
Hall, who will graduate from the Executive Master of Science in the Management of Technology program in December, says his Georgia Tech education prepared him to recently take the job as chief technology officer for the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). "Prior to this, I don't think I would have been ready to take the challenge," says Hall, who previously worked as infrastructure services director for ACS.
Now he's finding out for himself what it's like to experience distance learning. While he'll return to Atlanta for some weekend classes during the fall semester and embark on the European study tour that concludes the Executive Master's program, the College of Management has been flexible in allowing Hall to finish a lot of the work from Nigeria, watching lectures online, e-mailing professors, and conference calling with his classmates.
As the thirty-seven-year-old Alabama native continues to adjust to a fair amount of culture shock living and working in a developing nation, he's employing a lot of what he learned in his organizational change class. "It's helped me be able to walk in and take charge," says Hall, whose staff of thirty continues to grow.
Grateful for the background he's gained at Tech in number crunching and forecasting, Halls says the Executive Master's program has taught him that "business is business whether it's domestic or international and technology is used to augment that regardless of what industry you're in."
Known as the "MBA for the age of technology," the Executive Master's program is designed for rising professionals who want to enhance their skills without disrupting their careers. Over seventeen months, participants gain the skills necessary to manage technology innovation and implementation as well as understand global business issues.
Hall, who earned a bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of South Alabama, was recruited for his new job by NOUN's vice chancellor whom he met through consulting projects several years earlier. Based in Lagos, NOUN operates twenty-seven study centers throughout Nigeria for 40,000 distance-learning students. As CTO, Hall oversees the entire infrastructure connecting these centers, which (like much of Nigeria ) rely on diesel-fueled power generators when electricity fails. He is exploring solar power as a more cost-effective long-term solution as well as forging strategic partnerships with big players like Cisco Systems, Dell, and Microsoft.
Though Hall regularly works ten- to twelve-hour days, he says he finds it satisfying to know that his efforts are making a difference for Nigeria, "providing education to the masses."
To help the country, Hall has had to make some big sacrifices beyond reliable access to modern conveniences. During his two-year commitment to NOUN, he has to live apart from his wife, Carol, and three-year-old son, William, who remain in Atlanta , though Hall sees them on frequent visits. Relocating them to Nigeria will not be an option until his son is a year or so older and better prepared to handle the environmental conditions found in most developing countries, Hall says. "I talk to them every day, so my phone bills are astronomical."