Cloud Superhero Damian Doyle’s Superpower? Commitment to Community
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
By Heather Berry, Writer, Internet2
Cloud Superhero Spotlight
Editor’s Note: This conversation concludes our 2023 series of interviews spotlighting the wonderful contributions that research and higher ed community members make to the NET+ Program.
Be on the lookout for additional interviews next year, and email email@example.com if there’s a Cloud Superhero you would like us to spotlight in the future. We’re grateful for all our volunteers and appreciate all they do to move our work forward.
—Sean O’Brien – Associate Vice President, NET+, Internet2
As the deputy CIO, senior associate vice president and interim CISO at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), Damian Doyle knows a thing or two about managing IT operations, developing solutions to meet both research and administrative needs, working with people who have a variety of expertise, storing large amounts of data, and keeping up with the challenges associated with the pace of cloud development. Yet, somehow, despite his vast experience and commitment to the NET+ community, Doyle still manages to retain humility and encourages others to set pride aside when the answers to their questions aren’t obvious.
Doyle has spent the last two years working in the deputy CIO position but has been with UMBC since 1999 when he started as a network engineer.
“In my current role, I oversee IT operations and work with campus researchers and stakeholders to help connect them to resources and design solutions, so they can be successful,” Doyle explained. Doyle’s role includes overseeing the direction and pathways for enterprise cloud and on-premise infrastructure. In addition, Doyle looks for new ways to use cloud in relation to teaching support, learning, and research.
“Being in this role has allowed me to work with and be exposed to a large variety of solutions, ideas, and possibilities around the cloud that I can bring back to the university to try and nudge us further forward,” he said.
Opportunities All Around
Shortening research time and responding to student needs are two areas where Doyle sees huge opportunities for improvement through the cloud.
Fun Facts About Damian
What You Like Most About Your Job:
The opportunity I have to build community and increase the advocacy for higher education in the IT management role. Plus, sharing solutions, making allies, and helping people grow.
Favorite Song and Book:
Song, that’s tough, probably Billy Joel’s “We didn’t start the fire.” As for a book, Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation,” although almost anything sci-fi or fantasy would work.
Best Advice About the Cloud You Ever Received (& from whom):
Don’t be afraid to ask questions that you don’t know the answer to. It seems simple enough, but so often, technical folks don’t want to appear clueless. We just assume the issue is that we don’t know something everyone else knows. More often than not, half the room has the same question. Even if they don’t, pride is never helpful and just gets in the way of knowledge. I learned that from NET+ Program Manager Bob Flynn, who always encouraged me to ask and was insatiable in his pursuit of understanding.
Currently, researchers requiring more on-premise computing power have a long series of hoops to jump through, including funding, quote creation, procurement, wait for delivery, power, networking, and configurations. This process takes months even when it’s running smoothly. In the cloud, the same process can take minutes. Doyle reflected on what researchers needed in the past and what they require today.
“Recently, we looked at a very old set of recommendations from the 90s for research on our campus, and it said every researcher should be given a computer with a dedicated network connection, he said. “That was the big ask to shorten their time to get their research moving.”
Today, according to Doyle, these same researchers should receive the equivalent of a dedicated network connection by immediately receiving a cloud account. “Cloud is the best tool right now,” he said.
From a teaching standpoint, cloud has meant UMBC is more responsive to students’ needs. “Two years ago, we had a faculty member recognize a need in our IS program to expand data science outside of CS and IS into the physical sciences,” Doyle explained. “We were able to spin up resources for students in the cloud a week or two before classes started and enable that curriculum.”
Without cloud, this same work would have been next to impossible, according to Doyle, or very time consuming on-premise, because of the lack of automation and tools available.
Looking Back and Forward at the NET+ Community
When Doyle started looking at the cloud, Internet2 was partnering with EDUCAUSE to host community sessions around cloud computing. “Internet2 has been a steady and consistent partner in this space longer than I’ve been working in it,” Doyle explained, “and I can’t say enough about the support they have provided.”
Early on, according to Doyle, NET+ programs helped higher education get into the cloud with better terms, conditions, and discounting. From this point, service advisory boards helped build a community where new products could be tested and evaluated. The feedback given to providers helped adjust programs to better meet the needs of higher education.
“In recent years, Internet2 has gone further, building out resources to really help drive community engagement, partnerships, best practices, and more,” he said, citing examples like assisting with the Cloud Forum, coordinating logistics around monthly cloud community calls and town halls, and helpling to get the first cloud track at the Internet2 Technology Exchange off the ground.
“Internet2 and NET+ have really provided a lot of the anchors and stabilization for this community and given us a great voice back to the providers,” Doyle said.
“Our students, researchers, educators, and staff provide the basis of the workforce and much of the innovation of tomorrow. Advocating for that as a community has power,” he continued. “We also get to be better since we don’t all keep making the same mistakes. We can share, learn, be honest about the failures, and help the entire community. From those just starting to those with a decade behind them, we all benefit from each other’s knowledge. This only happens with a vibrant cloud community.”
Set Pride Aside and Learn
During his years of involvement with Internet2 and NET+, Doyle watched his own teams and others leverage the cloud’s innovative tools.
“I began to realize the transformational power the cloud could offer to developers and infrastructure teams,” Doyle said, “and I owe all of that to the volunteer community.”
Doyle highlights the collaborative spirit in higher education as his favorite part of his job, especially when groups come together to create something impossible to create individually. “I’ve tried to take what opportunities I can to give back,” he said, “and it has benefitted me by making me better at my job and giving me access to an incredible community of peers and friends.”
When asked how his commitment to volunteering within the cloud community has helped him, personally, Doyle responded with some insight into his particular brand of success. “I’ve learned so many things, been exposed to amazing ideas, witnessed incredibly creative solutions, and been privileged enough to be around some of the smartest people in this field for a start,” Doyle said.
Doyle is a firm believer in asking questions, listening, and stretching yourself past your comfort zone: “It’s also humbling because I’m confident I’m not the smartest person in the room. Yet, I love knowing I can learn and push myself to speak up, ask questions, and do things that aren’t always comfortable for me, but always make me better for having done them.”
Damian Doyle serves on the 2024 Cloud Forum Organizing Committee. Doyle will be a speaker at the Internet2 2024 Community Exchange, taking place March 4-7 in Chicago. He is a member of the NET+ CSTAAC – Cloud Services Technology Architecture Advisory Committee as well as the service advisory boards for NET+ AWS and NET+ GCP. He participated in the service evaluation for NET+ DryvIQ.