Interview Series: Jan Kubiska, Director of IT at Pressley Ridge

Photo Credit: Jan Kubiska


Name:  Jan Kubiska

Jan is the Director of Information Technology for Pressley Ridge, a nonprofit that provides Education, Treatment Foster Care, Residential, and Community-based services to children and families in six states and internationally. In 2014, Jan was President of St. Lucy’s Auxiliary to the Blind, an organization she has volunteered with since 2007.  During that time she served on several committees, including chairing the 2012 Medallion Ball, and as a Special Member on the board of Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh (BVRS). 


Years in the Pittsburgh area? I grew up in Pittsburgh. I went to Loyola College and then spent a summer working in London. After college I lived in Washington D.C. for 3 years. I came back to Pittsburgh in 2002 when I got married.


First job out of college?  I was a technology consultant with a company called Xpedior in Washington D.C.  It was 1999 – the dot com boom – and I was offered the job the fall of my senior year.  It was definitely an interesting experience!


How were you drawn to nonprofit work? I can’t say it was done on purpose. When I had my first daughter in 2005 I was working for a small technology consulting company in Pittsburgh.   While I liked my job, it was what I called “feast or famine,” depending on whether we had a project going or not. I loved the busy periods because I didn’t feel guilty being at work, but when it was quiet I regretted not being home with my daughter.   I had Pressley Ridge on my radar prior to having my daughter, so when our conversations started up again it seemed like a good fit.


First thing you do each day?  If my daughters wake up before me, they get into our bed and we talk.  If I am up first, I’ll stay in bed reading emails, etc. and enjoy the silence.


What keeps you motivated? I always have goals – personally and professionally (and all self-imposed) – that keep me going.  My parents are both very successful professionally and I have always looked up to them.  My mom went back to school when she was pregnant with her 4th child and got her MBA, graduating at the top of her class.   Looking at that…I can’t see anything as a barrier.


 Share your favorite time-saving/productivity hack:  I am a list queen, but I am not sure that really saves me time because I spend too much time making lists! I do love apps like Wunderlist and I think OneNote is a great program to use in meetings to keep notes, etc.  I also love a clean inbox and sent items folder, and I file most emails. I recently learned about the “Clean Up” feature in Outlook that deletes older messages in a conversation history – it has saved time during my mission to keep those folders clear.


 Best piece of advice you’ve been given?  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t apologize for it. I see a lot of egos in IT that want to prove they know everything – which is just impossible in this sector. I used to be hesitant to admit what I don’t know, but now I am the first person to ask questions, even if they are basic.  There is no other way to keep up with the changes of this sector. It’s not possible to be an expert in everything.  I have a group of colleagues and friends I turn to regularly to help answer my questions.


What are you reading right now?  Currently I am reading Wild.  I also read a lot of “Chick Lit” (Bridget Jones type books). Anything set in London I love and I can read them all as way to chill my brain out.   I do more intellectual audio books for driving like The Power of Habit which I am listening to for the second time now.


What trend(s) do you see playing an important role in nonprofit technology in 2015?  More organizations will take the leap into “the cloud.” That is such an overused term and means many different things; however there are cost savings, risk reduction and efficiencies to be gained by exploring what technologies are better served in “the cloud.”  It also allows IT staff to focus more on improving the use of technology versus always being primarily focused on servers, etc.


What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015? Professionally, we are implementing a new electronic health record system at Pressley Ridge.  I want to see that project to a successful completion as well as explore the possibility of moving our data center and disaster recovery site off-site. Personally, I would like to get back into the running groove and complete another half-marathon.


Best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh? There is an endless amount of amazing organizations in Pittsburgh, and when there is a need, Pittsburghers fill the void.   My dad spent a month in the hospital 18 months ago and in the waiting room we were surrounded by families from out of town.  We were so fortunate to have our home close by and took that for granted. Many of these families were staying at Family House facilities so they weren’t burdened by high hotel costs while they stayed in town to be with their family members.

Use of Mobile Technology to Fight Human Trafficking

The Polaris Project launched a short code to help victims of human trafficking - BEFREE
The Polaris Project launched a short code to help victims of human trafficking – BEFREE

Although technology allowed for the spread of human trafficking activities across mobile platforms and sites, anti-trafficking interventions are using mobile media to advocate for and reach potential victims.  In March 2013, The Polaris Project, an organization committed to fighting human trafficking as well as strengthening the anti-trafficking movement, activated a mobile code to assist victims of human trafficking in locating help. This textable short code, BEFREE or 233733, puts a victim in touch with someone who can help them plan an escape from their situation and, if possible, connect them with local resources for further assistance.  After a year of operation, the organization released data that indicate victims of trafficking are utilizing the text option more than the hotline (17 percent versus 9 percent). Other findings include

  • nearly 75 percent of the calls referred to sex trafficking,
  • 68 percent of the calls mentioned one female victim (or more),
  • 8 percent of the calls mentioned one male victim (or more),
  • and adults were the victims in 58 percent of the calls.

In Pennsylvania, data from 2007 to 2013 reported to the Human Trafficking Resource Center show the majority of potential trafficking situations are related to sex (74 percent), followed by labor (16 percent). Additional data on human trafficking in the Commonwealth, as well as resources for those seeking information and assistance, are available on the Polaris Project website



Photo Credit: M. Puzzanchera (Own Work) (CC By-NC-ND 3.0)

The Non-Predictive, Un-Trend Post for 2014

What will 2014 mean for nonprofits?


A perfect tweet to read today. It captures the exact reason why my post on nonprofit trends for 2014 has languished in USB limbo for over 2 weeks: there’s nothing new there.

So, rather than bore us all with a rehash of nonprofit issues and their related buzzwords, I’d rather share a few areas I’ll still be watching in 2014 from the experts who write about them:

Mobile. Yes, again.  Again and always. And by now nonprofits should have integrated mobile technology (or at least seriously discussed the logistics of doing so) into their daily operations/service delivery.

Take care of your Boomers. They are still the largest and most varied group of givers. According to Blackbaud, Boomers prioritize local social service organizations and places of worship for their donations and give through multiple channels.  Carolyn Appleton sees this group as continuing to lead in their philanthropic roles in2014, including in the area of planned giving. Hint hint, planned giving has seen an increase in mobile activity.

Data, Privacy and Transparency. Nearly anything Lucy Bernholz writes is among the best you will find on the topic.   Interested in predictions for 2014? Start here.

Although not exclusively a nonprofit issue, Hack your (Professional) Lack. Sitting in a few of the sessions at Pittsburgh Podcamp 8, I realized that I had been so busy connecting with potential  clients and starting new projects in 2012 – 2013 that I had neglected to keep up with the new apps, products, and basic shortcuts that might make running my own shop easier.  I’ll be sure to make the time for my own professional development going forward, absent my go-to responses that it’s “a full-time staff of me, myself and I” *grimace* or “blah, blah, work-family boundarieeees” and every other excuse in the bucket.

What are your predictions for nonprofits in 2014?  What lack might you hack this year? 



Photo Credit: M. Puzzanchera (Own Work) (CC By-NC-ND 3.0)

Nonprofits Report More Social Media Activity than Small Businesses

VerticalResponse conducted a survey of nonprofits and small businesses on their use of social media as part of their marketing and outreach efforts.   The responses indicate that more investment, in both time and resources, is being spent on social media than in prior years, but that there are challenges to keeping pace with the immediacy of mobile communications.   Findings include,

  • 40 percent of respondents spend 6 or more hours a week on social media tasks, with 61 percent reporting that they are spending more time on it than they did last year
  • 80 percent of nonprofits surveyed reported posting on Facebook more than once a week
  • 2.5 percent of respondents reported a decrease in their social media budgets, while 10 percent reported an increase
  • Content curation was the top challenge for both nonprofits and small businesses


Survey results are displayed and discussed at the VerticalReponse blog.