October 3, 2017

Member spotlight: Emilio Arocho

Emilio Arocho has been an NTEN member since 2010.

What’s your current position? Give us a brief overview of what you do in your work.

I’ve worked at the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI) since May 2016, and was promoted to Director, Technology and Digital Strategy in March 2017. FDLI is a nonprofit membership organization that offers education, training, publications, and professional engagement opportunities in the field of food and drug law. Our office is based in Washington, DC and we have 17 employees.

At FDLI I’m responsible for overseeing how we operate digitally, as well as our IT infrastructure. This has meant introducing a lot of technology change in the last 16 months, to both meet an immediate need to modernize our online presence as well as anticipate more long-term requirements and create opportunities to improve the digital aspect of our business.

I’ve had a lot of fun! In the last year and a half, FDLI has:

  • Relaunched our website on the WordPress platform, introducing mobile responsiveness, SSL encryption, and SEO features.
  • Migrated our CRM database and association management system (AMS) to the Salesforce platform.
  • Acquired a Google Ad Grant, set up analytics tracking across our website and member portal, and finalized our implementation of Google Tag Manager.
  • Reduced our monthly IT operating costs by 50% by migrating to Microsoft Office 365 and Azure.
  • Put together a bold plan to shore up our data analytics and construct at least one predictive model using machine learning and Microsoft Power BI by the end of 2017.

FDLI is in a great phase right now in which we have an abundance of new ways to optimize our services delivery and increase our online reach. I largely attribute this to our adoption of leading-edge technologies that have agility and innovation baked into them, as well as the collaborative team atmosphere among staff.

Tell us about a recent win (professional or personal).

The FDLI website relaunch was a real triumph over adversity! The project took four months, and we primarily relied on internal resources to get it done, so our expenses totaled less than $1000. By adopting the WordPress platform, we could scale down our web server while also getting better performance from it. The cost savings on our web hosting meant the website relaunch effectively paid for itself in four months, while introducing new critically important features.

We encountered a major setback when our previous ailing website platform ceased to work correctly a month before our target launch date. Our solution was to create an interim WordPress website, theming it to appear indistinguishable from the old one, within 36 hours. It was an ambitious idea, but we got it done and the website relaunch still completed on-time!

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about?

I am so encouraged by the scrappiness of the nonprofit community. I’ve solely worked in this field since graduating college nine years ago, and never regretted it for a minute. There are lots of inspiring stories on NTEN and elsewhere of people doing interesting work in service of important causes. Sometimes I get to talk to those people. And sometimes I get to work directly alongside them!

Aside from the mission component of nonprofit work, the teams I’ve had the privilege to work with in my career have been critical to staying motivated. The FDLI staff is an excellent example. The fact that our organization has seen so much enhancement in the digital area is as much attributable to everyone as it is to me. We do an excellent job of rolling our sleeves up and getting stuff done with good humor and positive attitudes!

Nonprofit technology can be a demanding field in which stakeholders expect great outcomes with little financial investment, and they needed them yesterday. At the same time, cloud services are becoming more and more turnkey. The biggest tech companies are pledging considerable resources to nonprofit organizations. I’m tempted to say the days of telling people “fast, good, or cheap: pick two” are over. We can have it all.

It’s an exciting time to deliver innovative technology solutions. Sometimes it feels like you’re doing the impossible!

What’s been the most helpful for you about being in the NTEN member community?

I love the NTEN online groups. I consider it part of my job to monitor and be a part of the discussions about data, WordPress and anything digital. I’ve gotten so much perspective, and frequently find that discussions in the online groups parallel work concerns I’m currently mulling over, providing great insight.

I hope people know how immeasurably valuable their participation on those online groups is. You may answer someone’s question and get one or two thank-yous, but I assure you many more people have read that conversation and gotten something out of it. I try to make it a point to chime in when I read an instructive discussion, but like everyone else, sometimes I’m just too busy. Because of that, the full value of your contributions might not be immediately obvious to you.

What nonprofit tech-related tip have you learned recently that has blown your mind?

I only realized in the last several years of my career how important project management skills are to any technology job. I wish I had known sooner! Studying project management has been easy. There are a lot of great resources out there, including NTEN’s courses, Lynda.com videos, and the Project Management Institute.

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