Au Revoir

December 9, 2011

The Only Thing Constant is Change

[Photo: arial view of Stanford University - superimposed text: Au Revoir]

This is a somewhat personal blog post – both sad and yet exciting.

After 5 1/2 years of managing the Stanford Online Accessibility Program – a program that I was brought on board to create and develop – I am leaving Stanford in pursuit of new opportunities. My last day on campus will be Friday, December 16th, 2011.

I came to Stanford in the summer of 2006. Like many before me who have come to California, I loaded all of my worldly possessions into my car and a small trailer, and drove the 2900 miles (4500 Kilometers) from Perth Ontario (a small community about an hour west of Ottawa) to take on what was at the time an 18 month term contract. In many ways, I had no idea what I was coming to; I had zero experience in the academic setting, and here I was starting at one of the most prestigious Universities in not only the United States, but in fact the world. Plus, it was located in the heart of Silicon Valley – the epicenter of the web as we know it today. I still remember driving by buildings with logos from Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Apple and thinking to myself “holy sh*t…”

I arrived, a web-accessibility specialist, to set up a program that had a title and a blank sheet of paper attached to the title. The job? Figure it out and get it done. Learn the art of herding cats, and establish web accessibility as a thing on campus. Be an evangelist, a technologist, a salesman, a politician. Make it happen. I was surrounded by a group of supportive if sometimes skeptical technology people, who were always gracious in their generosity of time to me, and for the most part openly receptive to what I was trying to do. They remain so even today, and I look back on the many successes we’ve accomplished together, and the path forward we have charted together too, and I wish you all continued success. I am thankful for the opportunities that Stanford has afforded me as well, most significantly their understanding support of Open Web Camp (that crazy idea of mine that mixing web accessibility into a larger, yet intimate web developer conference, and then making it free might just be a cool idea), and the opportunity to develop the video captioning work-flow tool we established (that has caught the eye and interest of many other higher-ed peers). They got it, they supported it, and they encouraged me to make it happen. Now, today, I have been touched by the number of supportive emails I’ve gotten from the colleagues and friends I’ve made on campus over these past years, all sad to see me go, but each one excited and happy for me and the next chapter in my career. To all of you – thank you, and farewell, not goodbye. And to the institution of Stanford University – The Farm – thank you too. I may not have been one of your students, but I learned a lot anyway, and I appreciate that more than you might know.

[Logo: JPMorgan Chase]Starting January 3rd, 2012, I will be going to work for the JPMorgan Chase’s User Experience Research Team, in their San Francisco office. I will be part of a team that they have assembled to tackle the on-line accessibility challenges facing an organization the size and scope of their company, and efforts aimed at delivering accessible apps and content on mobile platforms. During the interview process, each of their current team members convinced me they get it, and they want to do it – badly. They have the resources and the mandate to do just that, and I look forward to being part of their team. As they said to me, “…we want to out-distance the competition and vastly improve the experience people with disabilities have when they do business with us…” – and they wanted me to be a part of that effort.

I can’t wait!

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 The Only Thing Constant is Change by John Foliot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Posted by John

I am a 16 year veteran of Web Accessibility, living and working in Austin, Texas. Currently Principal Accessibility Strategist at Deque Systems Inc., I have previously held accessibility related positions at JPMorgan Chase and Stanford University. I am also actively involved with the W3C - the international internet standards body - where I attempt to stir the pot, fight hard for accessibility on the web, and am currently co-chairing a subcommittee on the accessibility of media elements in HTML5.

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