In this blog post
1. Please tell us something about your childhood. What values had been instilled in you that helped you excel later in your life?
My family came from the hills of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia coal mines. My parents moved to Lexington, Kentucky, and worked multiple jobs until they settled into their careers. They taught me that anything is attainable if I put in the time and work to make it happen. I took a circuitous route to my career and worked my way up from a part time PC Tech to a CIO. I obtained my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree later in life as well so everything is pretty non-traditional, but it shows it can happen.
2. What have been some of the biggest challenges in your life and how that has shaped you?
Professionally it was the epiphany that I was not a good leader and not someone I would personally follow. I had achieved success early on due to my technical skills, but I did not develop as a leader. Admitting that to myself and having the courage to tell my peers and my team that I recognized it in myself was daunting. I became a lot more thoughtful in my actions from that point forward and I have made it a point to look at decisions from different perspectives.
3. When did you discover your passion for technology?
As a kid, I was constantly taking things apart and putting them back together and I worked multiple jobs in high school, including small motor repair which I found fascinating. My first computer was a Commodore C64 and I was the US Army when I bought it to play games. I would buy magazines that talked about them and I discovered the coding and how I could use it as a tool to do other work. When my enlistment was up and I returned to college I took my first computer science class and through a fortuitous series of events I ended up with a part time job in the IT Department. I would go home and work on computers in my spare time and I truly enjoyed my work.
4. How would you define success?
I think you should always have a personal/professional goal that you want to achieve, and you should develop a plan on how you want to get there. It usually does not go according to plan, but as long as you are moving forward you can find personal success. That is only a part of the equation, as personal satisfaction is critical to me as I work to live, and I don’t want my job being the only thing I do. The most exciting successes to me have been in watching others develop and achieve their goals and knowing that I played small role in helping them to achieve that. I have mentored over a dozen co-workers to go back to school and finish degrees and in some cases pursue entirely new careers and that is simply a wonderful feeling.
5. How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
As I mentioned earlier, I always seek input and look at situations from multiple points of view. I have often changed direction based on feedback from my co-workers and I found that being firm, not rigid gets the best results. I am always looking to improve myself in areas where I feel I need help and I am not shy about asking someone to mentor or coach me as needed. I also offer this to other people as well and I usually find myself learning just as much from them. Lastly, I watch people and teams that are successful and unsuccessful, and I note what their leaders do that stand out, good or bad, and I use that to help me with my own development.
6. Looking back on your journey and knowing what you know now, what is the one piece of advice you would have given yourself along the way?
I would never change anything in the past as I enjoy where I am today. I would tell a younger me to study a bit harder, be patient and finish what you started. That last part came to me later in life and has served me well.
7. What advice would you give those who want to pursue a career in STEM?
Chase your passions and it is never too late to change your direction or goals. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do it and I abhor it when I hear someone try and limit another person’s ambitions. Instead, be realistic in your goals and know that you can and should continue to evolve. Some of the best engineers and coders I have ever worked with were B/C students so don’t be afraid to fail and never give up.