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DCE Magazine

Instructor Q&A: Brad Larkins

Strategic Communication Management

Fall 2020

“Strong communication skills have always been a business key success factor. One key challenge for business professionals today is that the world of communication is continuously expanding. The set of critical communication skills to be successful is also expanding. The communication of data is a significant example of an essential communication skill.”

Q. Why did you decide to become an instructor?

A. During my 30 years in Information Technology at Southern California Edison (SCE), one of the things that gave me the most amount of personal and professional satisfaction was mentoring and enabling people to move forward professionally — from inspiring and supporting the administrative assistant to pursue their college degree using the company’s educational assistant program, to providing challenging opportunities and projects to the young Information Technology women and men that had the potential of being future CIO’s. Being an instructor at UCI DCE gives me the ability to continue to mentor and enable a whole new set of business professionals in the exciting area of data and more specifically the visualization, analytics, and communication of data. It is very rewarding to me to observe each student learn and utilize these new skills and tools to grow in their careers.

Q. What's your favorite lesson to teach and why?

A. Presenting Powerful Business Analytics, designed for communication professionals, is a mashup of strategic communication presentation fundamentals, data visualization and business dashboard tools, and data analysis and design techniques. In the course, we study how to efficiently and effectively tell a data story to support business goals and strategies. The course acts as a bridge between the information technology and communication worlds. I personally enjoy sharing #MakeoverMonday with my students. #MakeoverMonday is an online data visualization community focused on exploring different perspectives and approaches to create more effective data visualizations using data visualization weekly projects.

Q. What's unique about your teaching style?

A. I work to bring constant communications, feedback, and flexibility to my students. I really do care about mentoring and supporting each of them. I bring a broad technology background to the Strategic Communication Management program. As a former principal manager at SCE, I had the opportunity to lead a variety of technology areas including business application development, internet and intranet development, program and project management, technology maintenance and operations, cyber security, and the program management office (PMO). Utilizing this broad knowledge, I create a bridge between the information technology and communication worlds. One of my strongest personal skills, and another aspect that makes my teaching style unique, is that I have always had the ability to communicate complex technical information in simple and powerful ways to a variety of audiences.

Q. What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?

A. Most of my students have communicated to me either directly or via feedback that they have learned much more than they originally anticipated in Presenting Powerful Business Analytics. They have also conveyed that the course was more challenging than many of their other online classes but that, ultimately, they learned useful real-life data visualization and communication techniques. The course builds weekly towards a final project which is a video presentation of each student’s own data visualization or business dashboard. Most students use data from their own companies and specific areas to create powerful data visualizations or business dashboards which address strategic business questions and challenges. Many go on to present their analysis and data visualizations to senior and executive management. I personally find it very rewarding to take each student on this data presentation journey and enable each of them to have the opportunity to deliver powerful business analytics.