Given that you have more than 30 years of experience in enterprise infrastructure and operations, customer relationship management, and business solutions delivery, how do you utilize these different skills and aspects into your everyday work life?
Being the accountable official for critical IT infrastructure and support services in various organizations for nearly three decades has shaped my management style in many ways. First, I have learned to take a risk-based management approach to most tasks and initiatives—prioritizing those that would have the most impact to the organization. As a technology partner, as well as a service provider, there is always a disproportionate amount of demand versus resources to accomplish the work. I have learned over time that, through building strong coalitions based on common goals and objectives at the enterprise level, and effective influencing to gain consensus on priorities, everyone’s needs can be met—just not all at once.
Second, I have learned the invaluable benefits of collaboration, face-to-face engagement, and transparency in communications. I manage from the position of there always being “middle ground.” A critical component of being an information technology executive is customer relationship management. I have found that communicating effectively and transparently not only builds trust, but also facilitates the collaborative process of creative thinking and the innovation of exceptional solutions.
What is the one most gratifying part of your job?
The most gratifying part of my job is delivering technology solutions that transform the way an organization does business—both with its internal users, as well as its external stakeholders and constituents.
The digital transformation movement is a confluence of where business meets technology, with technology being the catalyst of sweeping changes to workforce cultures, as well as employing emerging technologies to unlock all the possibilities of business enablement. I find great accomplishment and gratification in my ability to have had the opportunity to significantly influence technology transformations throughout my career.
I am motivated by developing the strategic vision and leading the enterprise-level discussion of reimagining what’s possible using disruptive and emerging technologies to advance organizational goals and priorities.
You’ve spoken about some of the challenges and experiences you’ve encountered as an African American woman-- can you recount the most defining experience?
Still today, significant gender parity issues exist in the field of information technology. And still today, and all too often, I am the only woman and most definitely the only African American woman who has a seat at the table when discussing the technology vision and roadmap or most other emerging issues for organizations. This is not satisfactory, and those of us in influential positions must lead and encourage the initiatives to close the race and gender parity gap in underrepresented career groups.
Over the course of my career, there have been numerous instances where I know that I was overlooked for opportunities or my ideas were not embraced. Frankly, those experiences help me to be more outspoken and determined, because I was well aware of the fact that if I had made it to the organization, to the position, and to the discussion, I was qualified to be heard.
I believe that the one thing that really helped me gain my voice and stand up was when I would present an observation or solution that did not get the attention of the room until a male colleague would take my perspective or idea, repackage it, and receive accolades or recognition for the suggestion. In those moments, I learned to stop the conversation and thank the room for adopting or accepting the suggestion I had actually put forth. I learned to reclaim my ideas and the value I brought to the group. When I learned to professionally and confidently assert my value, it was a game-changer in my career progression.
As EVP and CIO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with a lot of technology background and experiences, how has working in the intersection between technology and the U.S. economy affected your view on the growth of the technology industry?
In my experience, technology has been the cornerstone of ensuring a sound and stable economy in two very distinct ways. First, over the past two to three decades, dating back to the dot-com revolution, technological advancements have led global economic growth. Technology companies continue to lead in global markets.
Second, the use of emerging technologies among economists and researchers have revolutionized the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of how they do their jobs. Everything from high-power computing environments for analytics, research, and big data management platforms and tools to machine learning and predictive analytics to forecast economic trends, has contributed to the reliance on technology among economists, as well as in other areas of the financial sector.
What has compelled you to stay in the government for your entire career?
I was compelled to stay in the Federal Government for the majority of my career because of the public service aspects of the organizations which I have had the privilege to serve. My Federal career began at the United States International Trade Commission (USITC), where the mission included ensuring stability in the U.S. economy through the administration of fair trade laws and providing independent analysis on international trade and U.S. competitiveness on a global stage. As an IT executive for the USITC, I was able to influence the strategic direction of technology to enable the mission.
Following a 23-year career at the USITC, where I served in numerous information technology leadership roles of progressive authority and accountability, I moved on to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has a similar mission that touches every American citizen through its mandate to protect investors, and to help them make informed decisions about their short- and long-term investments—albeit a car loan, savings plan, or retirement plan.
The mission of the Federal Reserve also has commonalities with my experience at the USITC and the SEC. At the New York Fed, we have a public service mission, and share responsibilities with the other Federal Reserve Banks, to create a stable economy by conducting economic research and supervising and regulating depository institutions, formulating and implementing economic policy, and supporting international financial operations.
In the role of Executive Vice President and CIO for the New York Fed, I lead the Technology Group in support of the mission of the New York Fed. This includes developing the information technology strategy and managing the delivery and use of technology solutions and services for the New York Fed while contributing to the development of IT solutions to the Federal Reserve System as a whole.
As a female in the finance industry, what advice do you have for women working in the financial sector who are struggling to get their voices heard?
Be relentless. Be bold. Be influential. Be heard.
Every woman has a story that creates the fabric of who she is. Her story includes past experiences—both successes and challenges-- that have shaped who she is and why it qualifies her to be at the table. Her voice is needed. Her creativity is needed. Her perspective is needed. Because that voice, that intellect, that “magic” makes every team more diverse and creative, every goal achievable, and every organization better. Find your voice and bring your talent and your story to your careers.
Who in your life would you consider to be your role model? How have they impacted your growth as a person?
Actually, I would have to say that it was my parents who really influenced me the most. Neither of my parents had formal education beyond high school, and both were two of the wisest, most pragmatic, and most determined people that I‘ve known.
My mother instilled in me the importance of education. She taught me reading and math and even how to write in cursive prior to kindergarten! She demonstrated the essence of strength and overcoming obstacles. She was also confident and did not hesitate to speak up in defense of herself and those principles that were important to her.
My father instilled in me the importance of character and commitment. He taught me the values of hard work and being authentic and credible. He also taught me the principles of faith and optimism, and the understanding that there was nothing I could not achieve if I put in the work and the commitment to meet our goals.
I have carried these values with me my entire career. And though both of my parents are now deceased, I continue to live my life every day in a manner that I know would make them proud. And I do think they would be proud of the woman that I have become.