WIT Interview with Dr. Jacquelyn Malcolm, CIO, and VP of Enrollment, Marketing & Communications at Buffalo State College
Women in Technology WNY is here to feature the stories of women in our local community and the various technology roles they fill, traditional and non-traditional. TechBuffalo is here to highlight these women to encourage others to not only explore technology opportunities but to take advantage of them.
What brought you to a career in tech in higher education?
I do have a very nontraditional background as it pertains to higher ed leadership, and I pride myself in that. I believe that we can all get to leadership roles using different pathways. I started out in marketing communications – that was my initial field of interest. Later into my career, and because of a layoff at my institution at that time, my department was placed within information technology. It was in that moment that my IT career took off. While we were going through that process, I was charged with marketing a new internal portal system. The way I work when it comes to marketing is, I want to be immersed in understanding what I’m marketing. In my research, I understood that we needed a portal administrator. I went to the project manager and asked if they had anyone in mind and how I could be of help. He said I could easily pick up the functional side, and that was the start. I ask my supervisor if he would mind if I took this on and he said go for it. Due to the extensive layoffs, resources were very limited, and obtaining assistance with the system was difficult. I had a great network administrator, who I’m still friends with today, and he says, “Have a seat, I’m going to show you how to do this.” I wound up building the system, working with the DBAs, and bringing this portal to light, as well as doing all the marketing for it. At that point, I became a full-on Sysadmin, which was never part of my career. I took the job because I wanted to learn something new, and it intrigued me. I knew it would be a great part of my skill set. From that relationship, I was able to be a part of data center restructures, working with banner DBAs, Oracle DBAs, and network infrastructure staff. I got exposure to things I would have never even dreamt of and the cherry on the top was that I loved it.
From there, I had successive roles in marketing communications and grew myself in a space where I feel like I do my best work, which is minority-serving institutions. I was a first-generation student myself and there was a lot of support and help I needed when it came to getting my degrees. I’m happy to say that I can sit here with three degrees. Underneath all of that, I could see myself in this work. I see it in the students, and I want them to see that they can aspire to these types of leadership roles as well, and so I’ve pretty much remained in this space. Once I got my doctorate, I was ready for a change, and lo and behold comes my job at Buffalo State College that encompasses my entire background. I couldn’t have found this if I made it up. It included marketing, communications, enrollment management, as well as the tech piece. So incredibly eclectic but so incredibly progressive. I asked the president why have this role encompasses all these departments? She said, “We needed to take intentional risk and work to break down silos.” When I tell you this works, it absolutely works. And so here I sit as Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing & Communications and also, the CIO.
If you could offer a piece of advice to a person of color interested in tech, what would you say to them?
I think my advice would be don’t let someone else determine your value and your worth. And, don’t allow the “no” to define you. A rejection should be redirection. Ask yourself, “How do I redirect myself, my resources, to get to the place that I want to be both professionally and personally?” Too often, we allow others to determine our worth and it causes us to question ourselves. If you believe you will add value and create success for that organization, even if you don’t check all the boxes, go for it! As minority women, we feel as though, if we don’t check all the boxes, we aren’t worthy. I think there’s nothing better than stepping out of your comfort zone to push yourself into something greater. If I had second-guessed myself with every single position I applied for, I would have gone nowhere. So, take that “no” and find the right place and right fit for yourself. Know your worth and continue to press forward.
What advice would you give to a woman who is thinking of taking on a leadership role but is skeptical about it?
Absolutely go for it.
- Make sure that you’re ready for the position. Understanding if you are in need of certain credentials to better achieve that position.
- I would also say to be mindful of what you place on social media. Companies are looking, people are looking, and that one comment or that one selfie might expose a little more than what you wanted. You can really compromise yourself. Be mindful of what you post, keep your profiles private. I know we live in a world where followers and fan bases matter, but you have to ask yourself, how is that going to impact your ability to get a job?
- If you want to be a leader, continue to strive for it. Be ready to work for it. Come ready to the table and provide really strong strategic leadership and ideas.
- Lastly, you must be a good listener. You will not always have the right answer or the best idea. Utilize those around you such as your staff or colleagues. They have great ideas and great opportunities to help grow your organization. Listen to them. Not everything is going to be applicable, but make sure they are heard and make sure that you bring them to the table. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t utilize my leadership team.
My final question, I usually get a lot of fun answers to it, but what advice would you give yourself at the start of your career?
When I first graduated college, there was this big, massive world out there that I knew little about. I would say have the confidence to try new things. Push yourself, expose yourself to new things, and if a project comes by and your boss asks if you would like to participate, raise your hand because you can gain a new level of experience and exposure. Growing your network comes from those very things. I wish I had done that sooner especially with the IT side.
Taking on those experiences also opens you up to what you may really love to do or give you a better understanding of what you want to avoid. We don’t want to miss out on what we could have learned, what we are passionate about in our careers because we didn’t raise our hand. When somebody asks, raise your hand.
Thanks for joining us, Jackie. Read more about her career journey on her LinkedIn.