Roland Minshall, formally the Iowa Annual Conference Director of Information and Technology and Statistician, gave support and protected systems for nearly three decades. Minshall retired on October 7, 2022, after 27 years with the Conference.
“I think one of my proudest achievements is that in all the time I was at the conference, we never had a cybersecurity incident,” said Minshall.
For his first seven or so years, he solely supported approximately 80 computer systems, including the conference center staff and 12 district administrative assistants, and 12 district superintendents.
Minshall graduated with a Business/Industrial Technology degree from Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. He was hired by a company during Spring Break earlier that year, so after he went through commencement on Saturday, he moved to Des Moines on Sunday and started working for a company called Systems Support on Monday.
“I started working for a computer time-sharing company where, because computers in those days were so expensive, companies couldn’t afford them. We provided it as a service of sharing time on one computer with several companies. One of the things I get the biggest kick out of was at one point in time, we had both the Democratic State Central Committee and the Republican State Central Committee sharing time on the same computer,” said Minshall. He worked there for 16 years.
Minshall began his tenure with the Iowa Annual Conference in 1995 when it was located on Methodist Hill in Des Moines, then moved to Court Avenue and its current location on Rittenhouse Street when it opened in March of 2005. He is the last remaining employee that worked in all three locations.
Before moving the Rittenhouse, the Conference had little remote access to anything. After the move, for the first time, the Conference had a computer network that he designed for the new space that could connect individual computers rather than everyone using a dumb terminal on their desk.
“We had one central computer that everybody called the ‘mainframe.’ Even though technically it wasn’t,” said Minshall.
Minshall likened working for the Iowa Annual Conference to working for a family.
“For the first seven years, the Conference was my family because all of my family lived in other states. I didn’t meet my wife until 2002. I was single, and the Conference was my family,” said Minshall.
Minshall also transitioned the Annual Conference into using an email system.
“When I started with the Conference, there was no such thing as email. The Conference had what was referred to in those days as a bulletin board system, a little server that sat back in the corner that the district offices would dial into with a modem and connect, transfer a message or two and then disconnect. So, I was responsible for bringing in the first real full email system to the annual Conference,” said Minshall. “The first one we used was a system called Eudora.”
As the system progressed, the Conference could move up to a Microsoft Exchange System and the Office 365 Suite, which covered all of the Conference’s business applications, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It also gave them much more control and security of the information being hosted on the cloud rather than on a server in their office.
“A lot of people were hesitant to do things like Zoom meetings or teleconferencing, but we had all the pieces in place before the start of the pandemic so that when the pandemic hit, we needed to switch to home offices, there was no transition. We could do it instantly,” said Minshall. “We went in and just said, ‘Yep, we’ve got this.’ There’s no need to panic. We’re prepared.”
Minshall shares that he looks forward to retirement to spend more time with his wife and family and to explore Iowa and Texas, where they own a second home. He also looks forward to working on his T-Trak model trains.
“It has been a pleasure working for the Conference over the years. I think we had a lot of good things put in place operationally during my time,” said Minshall.