15
July
2021

Let’s Build Some IAM Momentum: Internet2’s Paul Caskey on a Community-Based Approach

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By Amber Rasche, Senior Communications Specialist

Paul Caskey is one of several instructors and subject matter experts who facilitate the InCommon Collaboration Success Program (CSP). Offering a modular professional development approach with just-in-time help from just-the-right people, the program helps higher education and research organizations overcome obstacles to reach their identity and access management (IAM) goals. In this Q&A, Paul talks about the rewards of sharing his IAM and Shibboleth expertise while learning directly from the CSP community about their challenges, and he invites you to join the 2021-22 CSP cohort.

Paul Caskey

Tell us more about yourself and your role at Internet2, along with your involvement in the Collaboration Success Program.

I joined Internet2’s Trust and Identity (T&I) team in 2015. Prior to that, I had been involved with the T&I community while working at the University of Texas System for 13 years.

Currently, I’m an Internet2 IAM architect and InCommon Certificate Service program manager. My role includes serving as an instructor for the InCommon Academy’s Shibboleth training classes and as a subject matter expert for IAM and Shibboleth for the InCommon Collaboration Success Program.

How would you describe the CSP in comparison to other professional development programs? What can participants expect to get out of the experience?

One thing is for sure: CSP participants aren’t looking for generic training offered by someone who has read the manual on a couple of standard use cases. Instead, they want to brainstorm and bounce ideas off of peers who are facing similar challenges in other higher education environments. On top of that, they want to do so in the presence of subject matter experts who can help frame a specific project and share insights that lead to implemented solutions. 

One of the more subtle benefits of the program is that, collectively, we get the community moving forward with IAM—doing IAM better and reaching their goals more quickly. Participating organizations invest in their people and services by opting into the CSP. In return, those organizations get scoped project objectives, deadlines, and deliverables to which they have an agreed-upon commitment. This all helps with momentum at the organization level and across the broader community. 

To date, 22 organizations have participated in the CSP. What are some examples of the  “aha” moments and big takeaways you have observed among the CSP community?

Lacey Vickery and the team at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) are a great success story. From the outset, Lacey asked questions that didn’t have immediate, easy answers. The questions were technical, involved, and way down into the weeds of UNCC’s use cases for implementing Grouper. That kind of engagement is always great to see because it sets the stage for the cohort to band together as they work through difficult problems.

Anytime we see a cohort member taking time to help their colleagues or share their knowledge with another participant is a great moment as well. Majeed Abu-Qulbain from the University of Illinois is one example of a rockstar CSP participant who was new to InCommon last fall and has already established himself as a subject matter expert less than a year later. He is now sharing that expertise back with the community, presenting at this week’s BaseCAMP.

What do you enjoy about being a CSP instructor?

What I enjoy most about being a CSP instructor is hearing directly from our community about new issues they are facing and how they plan to use our Trusted Access Platform solutions—Shibboleth, Grouper, midPoint, and COmanage—to overcome obstacles.

I also appreciate how each year’s CSP experience is unique, in part because we are evolving the program based on feedback, and also because each cohort brings new challenges and perspectives to the table. We have some bigger schools joining the program that kicks off this September, and we anticipate they will have complex problems to solve. At that scale, organizations cannot use manual workarounds, so we have to come up with automated solutions. The CSP offers a blank slate for those discussions. Sometimes a participant will chime in with an approach already in use in their own environment, and other times participants will collectively devise new ways to solve shared problems.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about enrolling in this year’s CSP, but hasn’t yet? 

Do it! It’s rare to have the opportunity to participate in this kind of professional development cohort. This isn’t the typical training class you can purchase online. This is a unique opportunity to participate with your peers and come together to discuss common issues, needs, and solutions. 

I would also add that to get the most out of the CSP, you should think up-front about what you want to accomplish. If you come into the program ready to dig deeper into problems and available solutions, the CSP is absolutely the right way to move your project forward and reach your IAM goals.

Interested in learning more to find out if the CSP is right for your organization? There’s still time to join the 2021-22 Collaboration Success Program. Complete this form by July 23 to express your interest, and the InCommon training team will follow up with you about your plans and fit for the program.

Questions? Please visit our website for more details or email training@incommon.org.