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Mindjet User Spotlight: Jeffrey Gawel

Name: Jeffrey Gawel
Title: Director of IT, Chapin Hall, University of Chicago; Adjunct Lecturer, University of Illinois 
Started using Mindjet: 2007
Social links: LinkedIn, Twitter

How did you hear about Mindjet?

I first started using Mindjet back in 2007, when I was introduced to it by a friend at work (who, in turn, learned about it from a consultant who had been working with us at the time). It was literally one of those “I need to show you something very cool!” moments. And boy – was he right! At the time, we were desperately looking for an easy-to-use and efficient tool for brainstorming as well as helping to re-engineer a series of business processes. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect; Mindjet met our needs, and then some. And my colleague and I immediately became “Mindjet evangelists,” spreading the word far and wide about this very, very cool tool.

What do you primarily use it for?

It’s probably easier to say what I don’t use it for! I’ve told many a person that I think of Mindjet as the “Swiss Army Knife” of apps, since I can pretty much use it for just about anything! Primarily, I would have to say that I use Mindjet for planning purposes: project planning (simple to complex projects), strategic planning, all manner of processes analyses, etc. You name it. I find the product especially helpful when planning out presentations as well as developing syllabuses for the courses that I teach. Also, in terms of brainstorming, there simply is not a better, more flexible, and more accessible tool out there (and I have played with a couple of other mind mapping tools). You can pretty much achieve near-instant productivity with this tool, and then share the result electronically in a snap. And as a person who has always been – and still is – a huge fan of whiteboards, I do have to say that this sure saves a heck of a lot of retyping and redrawing! The ability to just drag and drop ideas and concepts is, in my opinion, a nice way of spurring further ideas.

What is your favorite feature? 

I can’t think of any one feature that stands out more than most when it comes to Mindjet. The usability of the application, and the ability for beginners to pick it up right away, is a big plus. The exporting functions – especially the ability to export into MS Project and MS Word – are huge time savers. And the mobile apps (which have improved in terms of functionality over the last couple of years) really are phenomenal for brainstorming and planning “on the go”! The latest online version of the product has also been terrific in terms of collaboration across teams. Mindjet is going in a positive, upwards direction, and it’ll be great to see where it goes over the coming months and years!

Is there anything the tool helps with that was unexpected? 

Mindjet has many unexpected results, such as getting people to approach brainstorming and planning differently, and in a more collaborative fashion. I sit through many a meeting these days where someone in the room will suddenly say “let’s map that out!” People love visual tools (I know I do), and being able to quickly develop a map and send around the results is an enormous productivity win. Mindjet has pretty much become the “must have” app everywhere I have worked!

Tell us about your map. 

This is an example of using Mindjet for “self-brainstorming” when I developed my online courses. I especially like the ability to drag and drop content, especially readings, etc. Sure, I could do this on a white board or a piece of paper – but that’s not nearly as much fun. And being able to export the data into Word makes things that much easier.


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Jeffrey Gawel is currently the Director of Information Technology at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, a non-profit research and policy center focused upon improving the well-being of children, families, and their communities. Prior to joining Chapin Hall in May 2011, Jeff served as the Sr. Director of Information and Technology Services and in other IT and project management-related positions for over ten years at the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority (MPEA), a government organization which owns the McCormick Place convention center and historic Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois.

Jeff has also served as an Adjunct Lecturer for the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Master of Public Administration program since 2003, teaching both traditional classrooms as well as online courses on project management; e-Government; the management of IT; and data management. He received his MPA degree from UIC in 1998, and also earned his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification in 2003. Jeff currently lives the historic and very cool Ravenswood neighborhood in Chicago, along with his wife; four cats; a few snakes; and a big Blue-Tongued Skink named Snag.


Here at Mindjet, we know the value of sharing ideas. It’s just like philosopher Michel de Montaigne said way back in the 1500s: “It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.” The Mindjet User Spotlight series aims to help that little endeavor along by bringing your stories and experiences with Mindjet to the forefront. If you’ve got one to share, don’t be shy! Give us a shout.

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