Using Mindfulness and Authenticity to Lead Tech Teams

A neon sign with the words "and breathe" turned on and placed diagonally against a wall filled with plants.
(Image credit: Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash)

For Teri Green, career and life success are all about pushing yourself. 

“I’m a firm believer that life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” says Green, an educator and IT professional. 

Green started her career working in the cybersecurity industry before moving into the education sector. She recently stepped down as CISSP Chief Information Officer at Normandy Schools Collaborative in St. Louis to focus on her own cybersecurity firm. 

She was able to help her district navigate the recent difficult era in education by leading by example and incorporating wellness techniques with her team. 

Mindfulness Matters Even for IT 

A picture of Teri Green

(Image credit: Teri Green)

During the height of the pandemic, IT education teams were under a lot of pressure.  “Information technology teams were just as stressed, if not more than, educational technology teams because not only did they find themselves teaching how to utilize devices, but they were also protecting the infrastructure from adversarial threats,” Green says. 

To help alleviate this stress and keep school technology running, Green says it's important for IT and school leaders to recognize the importance not just of technology but of the people behind it. 

To help her team cope with the difficulties they were experiencing she began leading daily mindfulness sessions and encouraging her staff to practice mindfulness on their own if they couldn’t attend the sessions. “Taking a deep breath when overwhelmed, stopping to look for understanding, being aware of their surroundings and the needs of those they work with, are all small things people can do to engage in mindfulness that can change their perspectives on how to move forward or turn a difficult situation into an opportunity to grow themselves in a positive direction,” she says. 

Leading by Example 

Getting your staff to buy into mindfulness programs and other plans has a simple formula, Green says: “Be one who leads by example and is willing to follow.” 

She adds, “When considering how people decide to do one thing or another, it all comes down to seeing and believing. When leaders show up, they need to show up as the individual they wish to see.”

Green shows up by being honest and open with her staff. A ward of the state at age 11, she is proud to have gone from “orphan to CIO” and promote much-need diversity within the IT world in the process. She credits her faith with helping her through that journey and believes she has a duty to serve as an example to others. 

“One thing that is evident from my childhood until now is that my life is bigger than me, and is not only for me, but for the people who look to me for guidance, motivation, and solace,” she says. 

Fostering Connections Between Education and Industry  

Green is stepping down from full-time work in education to focus on her cybersecurity firm but she’s not leaving the world of education behind. She’s building on her existing degrees by working toward a doctoral degree in Policy and Law with a Cybersecurity minor at Purdue University, and wants to help schools learn to protect themselves better from cyber attacks. 

“Nationally, 85 percent of K-12 technology leaders are non-technical,” she says. “I feel the 15 percent that are technical must assist in bridging the gap. My firm is a federal contractor that does cybersecurity and is now creating an education segment because of my passion for this deficit.” 

Ultimately, for education IT leaders and their teams, Green believes that being able to stop and focus inwardly is essential to being able to grow and successfully help others. “For me, mindfulness is like having an umbrella large enough to cover all avenues,” she says. “Thinking of things that you may not normally consider is pertinent to providing leadership that is open and willing to expand.”

Erik Ofgang

Erik Ofgang is a Tech & Learning contributor. A journalist, author and educator, his work has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Smithsonian, The Atlantic, and Associated Press. He currently teaches at Western Connecticut State University’s MFA program. While a staff writer at Connecticut Magazine he won a Society of Professional Journalism Award for his education reporting. He is interested in how humans learn and how technology can make that more effective.