Dr. Paul Stamas grew up in the Capitol District of New York. He earned two undergraduate degrees from SUNY Buffalo, a B.A. in Statistics, and a B.S. in Systems Engineering. His training in statistics helped pave the way to his goal of obtaining an engineering degree. Now a two-time master’s degree holder, a Doctor of Professional Studies, a teacher, and the Chief Information Officer of a large organization, Stamas looks back–and gives back–on his road to professional fulfillment.
His first time on an airplane was when he answered a recruiting call to Southern California. General Motors had recruited Stamas and wanted him on the west coast to work in their systems engineering division. While working with GM he collaborated with Hughes Aircraft building defense weapons. This marked the beginning of a distinguished career in manufacturing, but though he greatly valued the experience in California, Stamas wanted to get back east.
As providence would have it, Stamas was tapped to be Chief of Computer Integrated Manufacturing for the U.S. Army Arsenal in Watervliet, NY. A big job for a relatively young professional, this position had him building automation systems for complex radar based weaponry. Because of his performance and promise, the Army saw him as an up-and-comer and sent him to his first tour of graduate school. He attended RPI for his MBA, and after working at the arsenal for over eight years, Stamas took his talents and experience to manufacturing in the private sector.
His first move into IT was as Global Information Technology Manager for Albany International, Inc. After that he joined Philips Medical Systems, where he was manufacturing MRI machines. Stamas then pivoted into the telecommunications space, working for Sprint, running the IT group focused on geographic radio frequency mapping, and building cell towers. Then he got into paper.
Mohawk Paper defined the next thirteen years of Stamas’s professional journey. Making his transition into the industry as Director of IT, he quickly found an opportunity through the company’s partnership with Syracuse University, and entered the online master’s in information management program at the iSchool in the very early days of remote learning. While working towards this academic goal, Stamas became aware of a new program being formulated by the faculty of the iSchool.
Constantly seeking the next challenge, either through education or new experiences, Stamas was honored to be one of five doctoral candidates handpicked for the debut of the new Doctor of Professional Studies Information Management program. He came into the doctoral group as the manufacturing member of the cohort, and remembers being impressed with the diversity of backgrounds and experiences of his fellow founding members of the program. “I can tell you without question, the greatest aspect of the three to four year journey was working closely with that cohort, and getting to know them, and supporting and challenging each other in every way,” says Stamas.
He admits that it wasn’t easy to work a full-time job and dedicate the necessary time to his studies. Before the plethora of platforms available now, they were using first-generation video chat software to communicate remotely. He laughs as he remembers buying a cutting-edge external computer camera and headphones that promised a more ‘full’ online learning environment.
“The faculty was excellent,” says Stamas, “we were co-developing this program together; the faculty of the iSchool and we as students. The flexibility, the understanding, the support they gave us, was really phenomenal.” He explains that even though they were the first group of students through the program, the faculty never lowered their standards or expectations. Even after a particularly challenging first round of defending his dissertation, he again credits the fluidity of the program by saying, “I took some time off, got back to it, and ultimately pushed through. It was even more rewarding.”
His doctoral dissertation, co-written with Dr. Michelle Kaarst-Brown and Dr. Scott Bernard, was an important contribution to early discussions surrounding cloud services brokerage. The project earned the elite distinction of being published in the MISQE, the premiere scholarly journal for cloud computing practitioners. It was one of the most downloaded papers after its publication in 2014, and was used widely in information systems classrooms. As a pioneer of the cloud computing community, Dr. Stamas acknowledges he is perceived by some as being an expert in the subject. “Because,” he says, “I have such extensive experience, and accolades in the IT community for delivering cloud computing solutions highly effectively.”
One of the most immediate benefits of his new degree was that Mohawk Paper encouraged him to expand into areas outside his previous job descriptions. He was able to experiment in different directions based on his curiosity and interest in new materials and technologies. They started to experiment with things like nano-technologies, electro-magnetic frequencies, and medical applications. Keeping the company computers running was his role as CIO, but he was also working on a technology to create digital lottery tickets, for which Stamas currently holds two patents.
Stamas admits that his success in branching out at the paper company was not because he had the know-how, or because he was a subject matter expert, instead it was due to his adherence to, and application of, research and scientific methods. The rigor of his doctoral program was what prepared him for the type of work that he was involved with. Stamas explains that typical doctoral programs are used for academic or research pursuits, but he emphasizes proudly that the graduates produced by the iSchool are unique because they often become practitioners involved in the actual work, whatever it may be.
As Stamas’s career proceeded, he was again looking for new challenges. There was a section of the business landscape that he hadn’t yet explored. So, with an abundance of experience in several private sector industries, as well as government agencies, he decided to jump into the nonprofit world. He landed a role as CIO at Northern Rivers Family of Services, a nonprofit human services agency, which he claims is the hardest and most challenging work he has ever done. He makes the point that optimizing for machines and assembly lines is one thing, but optimizing for 2,000 people to provide services to people in need is an entirely different set of challenges.
Another turn taken by Stamas as his career progressed was motivated by a desire to augment his curiosity and follow an urge to further explore the online learning environment. He also felt compelled to give back for all of the good fortune he had received in his own educational development. For the last four years, Stamas has been teaching online at Excelsior College, and more recently at Colorado State University. He often finds himself teaching lessons he retained from the iSchool, when he’s encouraging his students to take a 360º view of a topic, or how to properly research and cite sources.
Dr. Stamas has won a number of honors and awards over the years. A couple of his most memorable were; Mid-Market CIO Technology Innovation Award (2011), and Top 100 CIO’s in the World from CIO Magazine (2012). Among all these, he holds his degrees from the iSchool high on his list of accomplishments. He states, “you can take the degree to any place that you want to take it. It’s a launchpad to do better things. In terms of the learning and the prestige, and the confidence that people will instill in you because they know that you went through a rigorous process. This is not a paper degree. This is the real deal. This is hard work. And having gone through it, you wouldn’t want it any other way.”