Sheneisha sits down and chats with Dr. Jacquelyn Malcolm, the CIO and VP of Enrollment, Marketing & Communications at Buffalo State College, about the non-traditional route she took to get to where she is and a whole lot more. Remember, you don’t have to take the cookie-cutter format or strategy that is laid out before you. You can navigate and go into different realms!
Connect with Dr. Malcolm on LinkedIn!
Sheneisha: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou. What’s up, Living Corporate? It’s Sheneisha, and today we’ll be discussing the rise of success for black and brown women. Our guest today, with nearly 20 years of distinctive higher education experience to Buffalo State, including her previous role as associate vice president and chief marketing officer at Catholic University in DC. Our guest has held leadership roles in marketing and communications, as well as extensive experience supporting enrollment management and technology efforts at multiple institutions. Our guest was the executive director of marketing and communications at Delaware State University, where she also worked as the executive director of integrated marketing. Before returning to Delaware State in 2015, she worked at the University of the District of Columbia for seven years, where she served as an executive director of interactive media and Portal administrator, executive director of alumni relations, and assistant vice president for marketing and communications and alumni relations. Prior to joining the University of the District of Columbia, our guest worked at the University of Delaware as an assistant director of alumni relations and at The George Washington University as [?]. She earned her B.S. in business administration from Drexel University and an M.S. in project management from The George Washington University and completed her doctorate of education and educational leadership from Delaware State University. Let’s welcome our guest chief information officer and vice president for enrollment, marketing, and communications at Buffalo State, Dr. Jacquelyn Malcolm.
Jackie: Hello, everyone.
Sheneisha: Yes, yes. Dr. [laughs] Dr. Malcolm, welcome to the show. How are you?
Jackie: I am well. I’m well, thank you. How about yourself?
Sheneisha: I am well. It’s so great to have you here with us today. So we gave this elaborate and most beautiful intro. You have accomplished so much. What else would you like the Living Corporate family to know about you?
Jackie: Wow. You know, I pride myself in being an African-American female from a relatively small town in Delaware and I sort of grew myself into this career and took a non-traditional path, and just certainly want to let your viewers know that it’s okay to take non-traditional paths. Quite frankly that is one of the reasons that I’m able to do so many things is because I did take a non-traditional path.
Sheneisha: Yes, yes. I definitely saw that and read that within your bio, and it was quite intriguing. Quite intruiging. I’m so glad you’re here to share that with us today, and I’m sure our listeners are going to be elated to hear your non-traditional role and your path. So let’s get into that. So what was your path to becoming the chief information officer at Buffalo State? And what does that role consist of?
Jackie: Sure. I actually started out as a fashion design major at Drexel, and Drexel is an institution that affords their students cooperative education. So you get to get yourself a job and experience prior to even graduating from college, and through that process I found that I wasn’t getting the jobs that I wanted to get and wound up actually working for a company now called GlaxoSmithKline, but which was SmithKline Beecham at the time, and I worked in their convention planning department. So I was the person who helped them get prepared to go to their conferences and things like that, and I absolutely fell in love with the field of marketing. So I came back after that experience at Drexel and changed my major and went on to–I actually started out as a work study student in the financial aid office at Drexel as well, and that’s sort of where my career in higher ed started. And then after I left Drexel and made the decision to go straight into my graduate degree, and that was at George Washington, and I was so incredibly glad that I was able to do that and was afforded the opportunity. So that’s where I really worked hard. I got my master’s in project management and after that moved on to a company in Wisconsin to be a marketing coordinator. So that was really where I got the start of my marketing experience. And I didn’t sort of like corporate America too much. You know, it didn’t sit as well as higher ed did with me, and so I moved back to Washington, D.C., which is where I gained some more experience at GW working in the alumni relations office in the law school. And I really enjoyed that experience. I loved higher ed. I loved being around students. I really loved just having the opportunity to be around education all of the time and loved that experience, and I went on to do other things in higher ed, as you stated, and, you know, several positions within marketing. And then when I was at the University of the District of Columbia, I went on to–I was marketing a new Portal product, and it was sort of that centralized place where all of our students would register, they’d get their news, their announcements, all of that good stuff. So I was mainly the marketing person, but as a marketing person I tend to really immerse myself in the technology, in the solution, and so I did all of the training and I did all of that, and I had a conversation with the project manager at the time, and I said, “I know part of the work of implementing this solution is hiring a Portal administrator. Can I have a conversation with that person?” And he said, “Well, actually we don’t have that person yet.” And I said, “Oh, you don’t?” And I said, “Well, how can I be helpful?” And he said, “Well, you know, you’re a marketing person. You can take on managing the functional side.” So I went back to my supervisor, and–you know, I’m a long-term marketing professional at that point, and I said, “Technological solution? Me? I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if that’s my strength,” and I really pushed myself, and I trained, and I worked really, really hard, and it was a case of having really, really good people around me who were willing to help me learn. And so did that for a few years and marketing, you know, for the Portal. I did technological communications as well. So I had such great experience and really pushed myself out of my comfort zone. And went on–the institution where I was went through a lot of layoffs, and there wasn’t a lot of staff, and I was having some trouble getting some of the things that I needed to manage the product, and so I sat down with somebody, and he said, “I’m gonna show you how to do the technical side of this,” and I said, “Wait a minute.” You know, I took on the functional side. I don’t know if I can take on the technical side. And I’m saying “This is a lot,” you know? But I said why not? What do I have to lose? I can either not get the experience and continue on my path or I can get some really great technological experience, and that’s what I did. I wound up being both the functional and technical administrator for this Portal product. So I would up being a system administrator, right? So here I go, this sort of, you know, self-made marketing person in higher ed, and I’m now doing this technical stuff, which I found I absolutely loved. And so taking that chance and really pushing myself out of my comfort zone and really wanting to grow my professional skill set really helped me get the position where I am now as chief information officer and vice president for enrollment, marketing, and communications at Buffalo State. And I never forget the day I saw the job on Inside Higher Ed. I called up a friend and I said, “There’s this job, and it’s just so eclectic, and it matches my eclectic background,” and she said to me, “So what do you have to lose? Go apply for the job,” and I said “What do you mean?” And she said “Well, just go apply for it.” And so I did, went through the interview process, and got the job, and I never in a million years ever thought that I would have a leadership role in all of these areas. And speaking to my president about sort of this level of innovation that she had to even fashion this role, and she said “All of it intersects,” right? Enrollment, marketing, communications, and the systems that support everything that we do day to day, it all intersects, and so it makes so much sense. And as I do my work now and I help my staff understand why we were all put together in the way which we are, it makes so much sense, and they’re learning things about processes and things that they would have never had the opportunity to have that much insight into without this role being fashioned the way it was. And so, you know, my career has been set upon sort of taking chances on myself and educating myself. I consider myself to be a life-long learner, and that’s really important to me. I don’t ever want to consider myself to be the complete expert in anything, because, you know, the fields that I oversee are ever-changing anyway, and so I can never be in a position just to say “Well, I got this degree,” or “I got this job and now I’m all set.” And I will continue to push myself. Even though I do have my doctorate, I continue to do leadership academies and to hone my skills, and I just completed a CIO leadership academy. And so there I think it’s really, really important to ensure that you understand that there never really is an endpoint to learning and educating yourself.
Sheneisha: There isn’t, there isn’t. A life-long student. I really like that. A life-long learner. That is great. So what does your role consist of, being the chief information officer? Like, what is it? What do you do for those who may not know?
Jackie: So as chief information officer–so sort of that third, if you will, of my position encompasses overseeing the institution’s entirety as it relates to information technology. So my spam includes areas in instructional design, technology support services. So that’s our help desk. It is our computer help, who goes around campus and supports our constituents, and it’s also managing all of the network infrastructure and architecture that all of our systems sit within, as well as enterprise data and analytics, which is all of our sort of major systems, and institutional research as well. So I really can flux between “Hey, we’re thinking about some sort of security measure for the network,” to “We need to pull this data,” to “We’re implementing a new CRM system.” And so it really runs the gamut. The beauty of my job, because I sort of have these buckets that I oversee, is that they all intersect, so I could spend one or two days a week really focused on IT and, you know, another day on enrollment, and two more days on marketing and communication. So it really just runs the gamut, you know? That’s another reason why I love my job and the way it’s fashioned. No two days are alike truly, and it really allows me to stay on top of my game, because I am literally hopping from initiative to initiative, and my team, including students, is about 275 people, so I’m [in] one of the largest areas within the institution. So one thing I will say that through–as I’ve grown through my career, the leadership component is so incredibly important, and to learn how to, you know, talk with IT folks and give them the leadership and the professional development that they need, but then turning and switching gears to really supporting my marketing and communications folks or my enrollment folks. And so it’s really an interesting dynamic when, you know, each of those groups speak differently from a leadership perspective, and so I have to be able to manuever myself to be in this position to support them as they need as well.
Sheneisha: Wow. This role is, like you said, multi-faceted. There’s so many different things that you can do, and like you said, no day is alike. That’s–I mean, you’re always staying interested and definitely loving what you’re doing.
Jackie: Right, absolutely. I absolutely love what I do, and I will say that having strong–reporting to strong leadership is really important too, you know? I know a lot of the folks listening to this also know how important it is to have a really great boss that supports you. I have run the gamut. I’ve had some doozies, but I’ve also had some really great leaders, you know? Where I first truly learned leadership was from a supervisor that I had at GW law school, and he was a retired Navy judge [?] general. We really clicked ’cause I’m a military brat, and, you know, he came–I was literally 22. I didn’t know anything from anything, and he put so much trust in me, and every day he came to my office and he said, “Is there anything I can do to support you?” And that really stuck with me about how you truly treat people when you’re leading teams, and it’s so important to know that people are coming with multiple things. They’re coming with their life issues, and they’re coming with stressors and pressures from work, and how do you work alongside that to create success, not only for them, but for the organization or institution that you’re working for? And so that’s sort of where I really understood the importance of good leadership and sort of, for me, the innate desire to truly ensure that I’m consistently learning how to be a good leader. And I look at it – how would I want someone to lead myself, right? And I would want transparency and compassion and communication and support and professional development. I would want all of those things. So I try to really truly lead by example and not just talk the talk but really walk the walk.
Sheneisha: That is some very good information. I think is extremely important to have great leadership. The fact that the gentleman trusted you and supported you, those are some great key elements in helping you and your development as well. And I know that you mentioned that you continuously take part in leadership academies. So with you taking part in those leadership academies, is that something you search–clearly you must search for it on a regular. Are you leading any of those academies? Do you like to actively participate? How frequently?
Jackie: So I actively participate in leadership academies. I also do a lot of panel discussions. As a minority, as a female, especially in the world of tech, we are few, far and in-between, and so I feel sort of it is my life’s work to really allow other minorities, black or brown, right, to be able to see themselves in these roles. And then, you know, I do a lot of work alongside really talking to women specifically and helping them understand that while we want to advocate for ourselves in this field, we can’t do it alone, without our male counterparts and supporters. Because a lot of times I think sometimes, you know, women-led initiatives are like “Oh, we’re females, and that’s just the way this goes, and we don’t want any males around us. We’re doing this on our own.” And I’m all for women’s empowerment, but I think you also have to see the value in understanding and making sure that you get the support from others around you. And so for me it really is sort of that, my own professional development and growth from a leadership perspective but also showing others what it means to be a female in tech, and I have frequently been the only African-American in the room, frequently the only African-American female in the room, and so some folks say “How does that make you feel?” And it sort of empowers me, right? And I think it allows me to show others that, you know, we can be at the table, and we can be just as qualified and educated as the next person around that table, and so I always say use that to your advantage. You know, people say, “Well, you know, they’re just picking me because I’m African-American.” If that gives you a unique experience to learn, take that experience. That’s not a bad thing. But then how do you then advocate for other minorities to be in the room with you, right? So that way you’re not the only one, but then you can give that experience to others, and that’s also really important as well. I’ve been, you know, a benefactor of other minority leaders saying “We want her to be at the table. We want her to be a part of the discussion because she creates a level of diversity in the discussion,” and so I think it’s always important to remember that it’s not only about you elevating yourself, but it’s making sure that when you’re able you’re elevating others as well.
Sheneisha: That is so powerful in itself. I think it’s super important, especially as not only women but people of color, that we are able to get to a place where we can reach back and pull one up, or pull several up. Definitely we’re always in a place, like you said, where we may be the only one in the room. We may be hired for that reason. But like you said, use that to your advantage, and clearly you possess something unique, so why not leverage it? Why not level up on it and make sure that when you do get there you’re not just there? [laughs] If you’re gonna be there, be there and make sure that they know that you’re there. [laughs]
Jackie: That’s a thing. That’s why it’s so important for me too, you know, when I’m asked to speak at different events and really be a representative, you know? Both because of the fact that I’m female and the fact that I’m African-American, you know, I use that to the advantage of saying “Yes, I want others that look like me in the room,” and “You can be there, and you deserve to be there, and you’ve earned the right to be in that room,” and, you know, when working with students that’s really important for me, you know, as we have our female students who, you know, need our knowledge and our support and our network and, you know, I always–at the events that I speak, especially the ones that are free, I send them out to our students. Come, whether you’re male or female. Come. You know, participate, network. Let me introduce you to some folks that I know so you can build your network. And I [?] that in my example they would know to be able to do the same as well, right? And it’s really important for our students to be able to see that now. And I also hope that I can show how you come to the table ready to go and to be taken seriously, you know? There’s a time and a place to be, you know, individualistic and be who you are, and I’m certainly not saying to cover up who you are, but you gotta know there’s a time and a place for everything, you know? I also am–you know, I’m an African-American female, you know, and I wear a mohawk. You know, my head is shaved, and so I’ve had my angst and anxiety about walking into a conservative environment, and I say “You know what? This is who I am,” and it makes me no less worthy of partaking in the conversation, and it certainly doesn’t make my work any worse for wear, right? And if anything, it allows me to stretch my limits and be creative and to show people that my creativity doesn’t then diminish my professionalism, and I like to be able to show the students that as well, that you can have an air of individualism, but just know your environment, right? Know what’s gonna be receptive. And it’s unfortunate that we still live in that space where we just kind of have to be a little bit more concerned about who we are as individuals regardless of race, you know? But I think it’s really important to know the time and the place and the space, you know? And it’s that just our reality, you know? It’s not, you know, neither a good or a bad thing. It is just a thing, right, that we just have to respond to, so.
Sheneisha: Absolutely. Being unapologetically black. Unapologetically you. [laughs]
Jackie: Right? You know, I walk in a room and, yes, I’m African-American, yes, I shave my head, and I’m ready to go. Let’s have this conversation.
Sheneisha: I love it. [laughs] I love it.
Jackie: Yeah. It’s interesting too that there are times when I’ve–like I said, I’ve been really concerned, like, “Oh, they’re gonna think I’m a rebel, a renegade,” you know? ‘Cause I shave my head, and I said “You know what? Then that’s your loss,” right? That’s your loss for not wanting to have me at the table because of something that you’re not okay with, Because I’m okay with it, right? And so to, like you said, really be unapologetically black, female, I also tell my students too when, you know, you’re in a position of interviewing for a job and getting a job offer, negotiate. Know your value. Know your worth, right? Don’t just take whatever somebody gives you. If you feel that that person’s offering you $50,000 and you’re bringing $75,000, tell ’em why, you know? The only thing they’re gonna do is tell you no or “We don’t have that level of budget.” You have to understand if you’re willing to take that intentional risk, right? Because it’s that too. And that’s something that–those are two words that, you know, my current president said. She said “We are in times now where you have to understand when you take intentional risk,” right? You can’t always be the one to say “Well, I’m not gonna take that risk,” or “I’m not gonna put myself out there.” My whole career and professional journey has been really predicated on taking intentional risk. I’d never be in IT if I didn’t, and also understanding and knowing when you take that risk, and sometimes you take that risk without compensation for future gain. That’s also important too. Because I think we’re all focused on “Well, you’re not gonna get that out of me if you don’t give me money for that.” And I’m not saying give up everything for free. I’m saying, again, be intentional about where you want to take that risk for future gain.
Sheneisha: Speaking about taking that risk and being intentional, I notice–okay, so in higher education there’s often a level of classism, right? So how did you navigate having a non-traditional background and getting into this space as a black woman? Of course taking that risk, but how were you able to navigate that to get here?
Jackie: Yes. You know, I will definitely say, you know, higher ed is an interesting environment because we’re based on credentials, right? And so I would say that to be successful in this environment, you’re gonna absolutely have to come with your credentials, you know? I made the decision very early on in my career, you know? By the time I was 22 I had both my bachelor’s and my master’s degrees. I wanted to make sure I at least had the credentials in place to be able to garner some long-term benefits from that, you know? I had about a 20-year break between my master’s and my doctorate, and in the field in which I’m in, you know, even though I’m in academia and I’m not on the academic affairs side–so the faculty side, the [?] side, for me getting my doctorate was more of a personal piece, because it wasn’t necessarily something I absolutely needed to progress in my field in higher ed. But I did know that if I wanted a leadership role, that was gonna be key for me. It was fine if I was gonna be executive director, but once you start reaching into the vice presidential realm, especially in higher ed, you’re gonna need to have your credentials, right? So I knew me having my doctorate was gonna be very, very important, and I will say, to anyone listening, it’s gonna be acutely important to know your space, right? That’s important for higher ed. It may not be important, you know, if you’re in a different type of space, right? And so that’s really, really important, and know where you want to go long-term as well. And you may say “Well, I don’t really need that right now.” Maybe not right now, but will you in the future? And what does it open up to you as far as options go? I’m all about options. I don’t want to ever stymie myself into only being able to be in certian fields because I’ve only done but so much. So again, in higher ed, that’s what we’re about, right? We’re about those educational credentials. And I always say to folks too, you know, maybe you don’t want your doctorate, but maybe you’re doing micro-credentialing. Maybe if you have your bachelor’s you’re looking into, you know, stackable certificates to get you to a master’s, right? And so there are options out there. So, you know, know what those options are and how they could potentially be beneficial. You know, it’s different in the K-12 environment, where you get additional dollars for every degree or certain number of credits that you get. That’s not the way it works once you get into the higher ed realm. But while it doesn’t necessarily make an immediate return in a certain position, it did for me long-term because I knew I wanted to go on to be a vice president, and ultimately my goal is to be the president of an institution. A beautiful thing for me is that right now my president at Buffalo State is an African-American female. I can’t tell you how encouraging that is. She is absolutely one of the most amazing African-American female leaders I’ve ever encountered. We call her our sage. She is very calm. She’s very thoughtful. She’s very methodical. She’s experienced. She’s a psychologist by trade. She really has a lot of markers for a great leader, and she is, and she allows us, as myself and my colleagues on the cabinet, to be ourselves and to do our jobs, and I have never been at an institution where I have been truly winning with my colleagues and my president.
Sheneisha: That’s major.
Jackie: Yeah, it makes a huge, huge difference in your productivity, in your desire to learn and your desire to lead your team, especially when you’re dealing with a challenging environment. You know, the space of higher ed right now is tumultuous in a lot of the geographic areas within the U.S. I’m sitting smack dab right in one of them. You know, enrollments are set to continue to decrease, and so now, you know, I’m dealing with an environment of how do I remain creative and encouraged and being really a transformational leader for my team in this type of environment, you know, where my colleagues in other areas of the U.S. are doing extremely well in regards to enrollment. So understanding and knowing where you can have your wins and doing the best that you can do to remain status quo where there really isn’t a lot of room for growth. So you really need the backing of good leadership to support that environment.
Sheneisha: And you definitely had that, from fashion to where you are now, CIO and VP. That’s a major–that’s a complete different, or non-traditional, route to get to where you are. And let this be–Living Corporate family, let this be encouragement to you. You don’t have to take the cookie-cutter format or strategy that is laid out before you. You can navigate and go into different realms. And Dr. Malcolm, I want to say–you mentioned about being a transformational leader and about transformation. I want to ask, what are your thoughts of higher education transforming or evolving into being more corporate-like or becoming more similar to corporate?
Jackie: That’s a great point to make, because higher ed traditionally has been “We’re not corporate America.” You know, most of us, we’re non-profit, right? So there’s that. We’re non-profit. I mean, we don’t need to function like a corporation. At the end of the day, we still have to keep the lights on, right? We still have to make enough money to do our business, and so I always say to folks that while we’re not traditional corporate America, we still need to function like a business, and quite frankly there are pieces we can learn from the way in which corporations run and create success for themselves, right? And so while we’re not here making, you know, millions and billions of dollars in revenue and growing services and products, per se, we still have to be better, right? We do perform a service. We educate. And so in order for us to be the greatest at educating our students, we need to be looking at our top-notch programs, and we need to be ensuring that we’re offering the programs that students are looking for. You know, sort of the elitist sort of way in which higher ed has traditionally been able to move really no longer exists. Students have options. They have modality options. They have private public options as well. They have HBCUs options. They have faith-based options. And so far gone are the days where, you know, 200 years ago where it was like, “Come and we will educate you, and you should be proud that we are educating you.” Students have options, you know? I always say, as I put my marketing hat on, “Students are consumers,” and their parents and their families are consumers, and they’re gonna be making one of the most expensive life investments they will ever make outside of purchasing a home.
Sheneisha: Yes, you will. Oh, yes. [laughs]
Jackie: And so the fact that, you know, we can’t be pretentious in this space, you know? We need to meet students and their families where they are, and we need to make sure that we’re hearing and we’re listening to them and giving them the best level of teaching and learning we possibly can, and that indcludes goo dcustomer service, which a lot of times some of us in higher ed have really struggled being a good partner to students and their families, you know? And customer service is huge, and I always say, you know, it’s no different if you walk into a car dealership, right, and you walk in for service. You want somebody to pay attention to you. You want somebody to give you a good experience, you know? You make that investment. YOu want somebody to return that experience back to you in good customer service. It’s no different for students and their families, and it’s really important for us to remember that’s the space we’re in. Again, we’re no longer able to be in an environment where we have an elitist approach. We’re all, you know, trying to go after similar students, right? You know, strongly academic and, you know, passionate about getting a degree in higher ed, and, you know, at Buffalo State, a large part of our population is first-time college goers, right? So they’re called first-gen, of which I am. And, you know, they’re navigating waters that their families have never navigated before, right? I remember going to Drexel, I didn’t know anything about financial aid and where I got my meal plan or how I was gonna get my books. I didn’t know any of that. And so how do we become good partners to these students and families to ensure that we are saying “We know you don’t know, but we’re here to help you. We’re here to help you have that positive experience. Here’s how you do some of these things.” And I live in this world, and I love–this is why I love working at Buffalo State, because I can see myself in those students. I was that 17-year-old who didn’t know anything about anything, you know? And I needed good people around me to support me and to help me into my college transition, and I just distinctly remember those moments of doubt and–you know, because sometimes what we think is success is “Well, I’m on campus. I got here. I got into college. I made it,” right? And that is a level of success, absolutely, especially for a lot of our students. That is a big deal, but we want to be able to take them all the way to graduation, ’cause that’s really the ultimate of what we’re trying to help them achieve. And so again, I see myself in them. I see the need to support. You know, when I see a student, who, you know, “I just need to talk to someone because I don’t understand,” I say “Come into my office and let’s talk. Let’s sit and let’s talk and help you in your own unique decision and space,” you know? And that’s what we know, that we no longer can look at a student solely from the academic side. They’re a whole person, right? You know, students are coming in, and not just at Buff State, but overall students are coming in with, you know, autism and depression and anxiety, and quite frankly a lot of things that I think a lot of us didn’t come into school with, and so we need to really understand that and what it truly means to support them as a student as a whole.
Sheneisha: That makes a heavy impact, when you have someone that’s there to just speak to, to listen to you, to help guide you along the way–mentorship, and I can definitely relate. Going to pharmacy school, it was hard. First-generation. I’m like “Okay…” I come from a single-parent home. My sister is looking at me, you know? I’m an example. My mother is in support, okay? So what do I need to do to make sure that I make it to graduation? Who around campus? Because I remember being at FAMU, and the phrase was “It’s not what you know but who you know.” [laughs] So being able to know someone to get into pharmacy school was major, but, you know, having those people along the way to help me get there, it showed the camaraderie and what we call the FAMUly that was built there to help get me to that place. Look, we need a Dr. Malcolm at EVERY campus. [laughs] At every campus, from small-town universities, college town, community college or whatever, we need you eveywhere.
Jackie: Absolutely. And that’s key, you know? And like I said, it’s so important to really build that network, and that’s why I always say to the students “You need to come to this event. So-and-so is gonna be here. You need to see this person and talk to them.” You know, it’s interesting. I have a deputy CIO who works very closely with me at Buffalo State. He met this gentleman who said “I really need a summer job,” and he was really struggling. I had just come from a meeting a few weeks prior with CIOs in the local area who were saying their jobs were going without any applicants. No applicants, right? And we had talked about internship programs, and I said to my deputy CIO–’cause he was talking to the young man–“Why don’t you put him in touch with their program?” It was a major health provider, and I know their CIO, and I said “Now, look, you’re gonna have to go in. You’re gonna have to interview.” Like, “I can’t do that part for you, but I can get you there. I can lead you there.” And he did great. He got an internship. He came back to our office and he said, “Thank you so much,” and he said “I am getting experience I never thought that I would ever get in college.” And [it was?] a company who has hired our students out of their internships, and I’m hopeful. He is a computer information science major. Smart, ready, passionate, eager. And I followed up a little bit later with the CIO, and they were like “He’s doing great,” you know? And so again, to your point, you gotta know your connections. You know, other cultures do this very, very well, and we can do it well too, you know? And, you know, this case of, you know, you need to go to that event with your mom. You need to go to this event with Professor So-and-so, ’cause you never know who you’re going to meet. And tehre are times when–I get it. You’re tired and you’re exhausted and you’ve had a long day, and now somebody’s asking you to come to some event, you know? And you’re like “Ugh,” but then you get there and you say to yourself, “Oh, my goodness. If I had not come to this event, I would have not gotten this level of networking.” And so you gotta also be ready and be open and push through being tired and push through being exhausted and push through when you’re like “I gotta finish this exam.” Yes, you do. And where you can, do your networking. You’re not gonna be able to do everything, but allow yourself to create opportunities for yourself, right? So this is exciting work for me. I love what I do every day. This is, I will say, my first job where I come into work every day and I absolutely love what I do. I am supported. I get to do the work I want to do. I get to support students. You know, what we do in higher ed–this is a life-changing type of experience, and, you know, I want to see these students graduate in four years and come out and say “I work at So-and-so,” or “I do this,” but ultimately I hope that you also say you take the opportunity to give back, right? And as we all have been led and supported by others, I would hope that they do the same.
Sheneisha: Speaking about giving back, what–so you’ve achieved very much success during your career. What steps have you taken to develop yourself, and what does that strategy look like for black and brown women? Like, what would you give back to the black and brown women who are looking to reach this level of success?
Jackie: I would definitely say any time there’s an opportunity for–you know, like I said, professional development, leadership–in higher ed there is an organization called ACE, and I did their ACE Women in Leadership session, and it was a 3-day session, and it was wonderful, and it was a diverse population of folks, but there were African-American female presidents there. There was just so much diversity in the room, and it was like–they say, you know, “Be a sponge,” and it was just, like, asking them every question you could ask them, things like that. Any opportunity that you get to be in a leadership or professional development opportunity, any opportunity that they’re doing women in leadership events. I would also say being a part of boards, right, organizational boards. It’s really, really important. And I would stress doing it in your field and outside of your field as well. I got tabbed into being on an aerospace board because they wanted diversity and they wanted my marketing skill set, you know? And so, you know, again, stretching yourself outside of, you know, the normal sort of types of activities that yo uwould do as they are related to your discipline. Push yourself outside of that, because the level of networking and experience that you too will get from that is huge, right? And I’ve had to learn that. And at first I was like, “Why would I want to do that?” And then it was like, “Well, hold on a second. That puts me in a whole different realm.” And the level of folks that I meet and get to network with are completely different than those folks that I would typically run into in my higher ed space or in my ed tech space or in the marketing space, right? And so I would say making sure that you’re looking at your professional organizations as well. So anything that’s related to your particular discipline, but also, like I said, being on boards that really kind of are stretches. And I think a lot of times as women and women of color, we’re not taught to stretch ourselves. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural piece. We’re taught to certainly obtain and learn and, you know, get the degree and get the great job, but I’m not sure how well we’re taught to be risk takers, right? And that’s something that I stress a lot too with students, that–I mean, certainly if you’re risk averse and you want to stay in your space that makes you comfortable, that’s okay too, but that’s sometimes how opportunities get missed, right? Apply for that job. You know, it’s funny. I was speaking to a young lady about a position, and I said “Well, why don’t you look at this?” And she said “Well, I don’t have all the pieces. I don’t have the experience in every area.” And I said “That’s okay, you have the capacity though,” to do that, and I said “We as women are never taught that you don’t have to have every single piece.” If that job description–if you’re missing one thing, then you know what? Own it and say, “You know what? No, I don’t have that, but I have the capacity to learn that, and I’m perfectly okay with taking this on,” and with the right professional development and the right leadership support I can do that,” right? And so again, it’s sort of always keeping ourselves safe. You know, our male counterparts do this all the time. They go in, they apply for things they may not even be qualified to do, but goodness, in the off-chance that you are able to get that job or get that experience, that just makes you a better person. It makes you a better leader. It makes you a better professional as well. And that’s that life-long learner piece, right? “Okay, so you’re gonna learn something different.” I mean, I had never walked into a network room before I worked at UDC. I walked in there and I said, “What in the world have I gotten myself into?” [both laugh] I said, “But what does this mean? What does that mean? What are you doing there? What are you wiring? What is the network switch? Where’s the network closet?” And you start getting into these conversations with these folks and you’re like, “Wow, this is really interesting. I want to know more.” And to be able to push myself to broaden my comfort zone at that point, right? So it’s like you step out but you broaden it.
Sheneisha: You don’t settle for safe. You do not settle for safe. You definitely have to branch out and go beyond yourself, because you never know how far you can go until you stretch yourself.
Jackie: The worst thing somebody can tell you is no. Well, goodness. And that’s okay, and if no is the answer, move onto the next thing. Don’t lament over that person saying no, because if it’s no, then that wasn’t meant to be a part of your journey, right? Your journey is meant to take a different path, and that’s okay. And sometimes we also get really discouraged, right? So own those feelings and emotions and say “Gosh, I really wanted that,” and let that be the energy you need to empower yourself to either go get that level of experience or manuever in a different direction, but don’t lament in that space, right? Just say “Okay, it wasn’t meant for me, and I’m gonna move on.”
Sheneisha: That is great. Because it’s not like you’ve never heard no before, you know? If you hear it, it’s okay. Just keep going. They’re not gonna stop you.
Jackie: Right, exactly.
Sheneisha: You know, you’ve done so much, and you have empowered many, many women I am sure, myself right now being included. [laughs] Now, what has been your experience as a black woman in leadership?
Jackie: Hm. Wow, you know… that’s a heavy question. You know, I think, for me, I’ve experienced leadership in minority-serving environments as well as majority-serving environments, and I have found that I have been questioned a lot about my level of expertise, my value, what I bring to the table, and what I have found, the only way you can combat that is to just continue to do good work, right? Be confident, because the minute you question yourself is the minute that you’re not focusing on doing all of that great work. You’re focused on making that person happy. You’re focused on making that person see your worth and your value. And I’ll give you an example. I had a situation where I came into this field and several people were doubting my technological expertise, and they said “Well, you don’t have a degree in it, and you don’t have that many years of experience. You’re not a technician.” I said “Well, I am, because I’ve been a system administrator before and I’ve worked in IT for a number of years.” But I feel that, due in part to them not finding value in me, they questioned my skill and expertise, and in response to that I had somebody say to me “Well, why don’t you kind of do a round table and talk to them about your experience?” And I said “Well, why would I do that?” “So they can feel better about you.” “I’m okay with me.” I said, “I can’t help them be better with how they feel about me. I know the value that I bring. I am here. I was their choice to bring into this position. They are confident in my skill set.” And I couldn’t give energy to that, because that is someone else’s stuff. That’s not my stuff, right? And I’m not gonna own that. I’m not gonna own that for them, you know? And I will continue to do good work. I will continue to strive to be the best leader I can be. I will continue to always learn. I will never ever think that I know everything about my field, because it’s ever-changing and I won’t ever. That’s the beauty of being a professional. I can constantly learn. But I had to distinctively really say “Just because you question my value and my worth doesn’t mean that I do.” And I don’t. And you have to not own that, because people are willing to give you their stuff all the time, especially in leadership. “Go take this because I’m not comfortble with this. I have anxiety over this. I don’t like this. You’re making me change. I’ve been in this job for 20 years, and you’re taking it away from me and I don’t like it,” but that’s your stuff. I can help you get there if you’re willing to take the ride with me, but if you’re unwilling to take the ride with me I can’t help you get there. This is about a compromise here. I’m not saying that it’s gotta be my way or the highway. I’m happy to take you along for this journey, but you’re gonna have to allow me to do that. Right? But one thing that I have always–and I think this is what I get from my mom, who is one of the most strong African-American females I know alongside my great-grandmother… never question your value or your worth. I made tremendous investments in myself to ensure that I know that what looks like for myself, and I can’t take the energy away from my work and from the students who need to see me in this role and who can benefit from me being in this role, who can benefit from the networking, who I can get them in jobs. I can’t take energy away from that work because a person isn’t okay with me, ’cause that’s not my stuff.
Sheneisha: Oh, my goodness. You know what? If I could just–if I could bottle you up and take you with me everywhere I go. [both laugh] I’m telling you. I feel like I can go out here and move mountains. You are so encouraging, and you have so much wisdom and knowledge. And Buffalo State, I mean, you guys made an excellent choice, and the students I know for sure are being motivated and impacted in a multitude of ways and are going to come out on top. Graduation will not just be it. I see great, great things on the horizon for the university. This is magnificent, having you on board. I mean, wow.
Jackie: That’s my goal, you know? To be able to–at the end of the day, I think also too that when you know the purpose of your work, and so–and also keeping in mind, if I can stress anything to those who are partaking of this conversation, please don’t ever think that this is about yourself, because if you–if the work that you do and the progression of your career is about you, boy, you’re gonna miss out on so, so much, right? For me, my growth and where I am professionally is about me being in a position to give back and to be able to elevate others, you know, and like you said, each one teach one, but I think what’s important for African-American females is there’s enough space for all of us, right? We don’t have to compete against each other. I want to be able to support you and to do whatever it is you need to progress within your career, whether that is supporting your business and investing in your services and your products or whether that is a conversation, whether that is to put you in touch with someone who can be helpful to you. That’s what this is about, you know? This is not about competition. We don’t need to compete with each other. We need to support each other. We need to make sure that we understand the value that we have as African-American females and that we are in a position to help elevate each other. Our numbers, if we banded together just on sheer numbers and how we can support each other, ooh, you know? We will continue to do beautiful things. And so I also would stress that this cannot just be about yourself and what you can obtain and what you can gain and how much money you can make. While yes, we all want to be able to support our families and do wonderful things, this is bigger than us as individuals.
Sheneisha: ‘Cause we are greater women for success. Listen, Living Corporate family, if you have not picked up on these words of advice, words of encouragement–’cause that’s definitely what she just gave you, words of advice and encouragement. It’s not just about you. We are great women, black and brown, and great men as well, on the rise to success, and Dr. Jackie, thank you so much for your time and for your beautiful words and for your great intellect and knowledge and wisdom and conversation and sharing strategy on how we can take that non-traditional role and make it into something beautiful, your own unique path. Owning who you are, your unique self, developing yourself always, not settling for just mediocre. Making sure that we’re realizing it’s not just about us, but those who are connected to us, being direct and indirect. And I just thank you so, so much for your time. Are there any shout-outs that you would like to give?
Jackie: I would love to give a shout-out to my president Kathryn Conway Turner, and she is just a beacon of light for me and support. And all of my colleagues on the Buffalo State cabinet. I have never had such great colleagues to help support and encourage me. Certainly my family, who without them I would not be here. Goodness, gracious. And, you know, for all of the folks that were willing to invest in me. You know, I just thank everyone for allowing me to become who I am in my truest sense and really, you know, an opportunity for me to really be in a space where I know my own truth, both personally and professionally.
Sheneisha: That is so wonderful. How would–if our listeners wanted to reach out to you, do you have an Instagram or a Twitter? I know we have your LinkedIn information that we’ll be sure to link below.
Jackie: Yep. They can actually always reach me on LinkedIn. That’s sort of my most favorite place for folks to reach me. I am on Twitter. I just changed my handle. It’s @VPwithamohawk. [laughs] You can reach me on Twitter if you’d like to do that as well. I’m always up for networking and conversation and supporting however way in which I can, so just reach out and let me know how I can be helpful.
Sheneisha: Great. You know what, family? That’s our show. Thank you for joining us on the Living Corporate podcast. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @LivingCorporate, Twitter @LivingCorp_Pod, and subscribe to our newsletter through www.living-corporate.com. If you have any questions you’d like for us to answer or read on the show, make sure you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This has been Sheneisha, and you’ve been listening to our wonderful, beautiful, talented… I mean, super smart, beyond smart, amazing guest Dr. Jacquelyn Malcolm. Please be sure to reach out to her on LinkedIn. And we’ll talk to you guys later. Peace.