Radana: Kendra, congratulation on being part of our inaugural Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) cohort and also one of our new faculty members, and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the STC Thursday Byte.
Let’s start off by telling us about your career path that brought you to where you are today.
Kendra: Hi Radana, thank you so much for having me! I would say my love for Information Technology started when I was a pre-teen and, with age, I became much more passionate about the subject. I wanted to be involved in a field where my work was challenging and made a difference. I started my educational career at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and graduated in 2005 with a B.S. in Business Administration with a Concentration in Computer Information Systems. Upon graduation I worked for 4-years at Bank of America as a Developer/Project Manager/Business Analyst – let’s just say I wore a lot of hats.
While I was working at BofA, I decided to go back to school for my MBA and I chose CityU. I graduated with my MBA with a Concentration in Project Management in 2012. During the latter part of my education at CityU, I became Ms. Wheelchair Washington 2011 and I worked as a Project Manager Analyst at the SanMar Corporation in Issaquah. In 2014, I decided to move out of the Seattle area and ended up taking a job at a small company, Monoprice, in Southern California. I finally ended up settled in 2015 when my husband and I moved to San Antonio, Texas. During my time in San Antonio, I’ve worked for United Healthcare, Harland Clarke Holdings, and USAA. I love my current role as Technical Project Manager, Senior at USAA. I feel that I not only have the freedom to make decisions, but I also feel that the work I do helps our members of the armed forces and their families.
Radana: Thank you, you sound very passionate about what you do, great to see. Why did you decide to pursue a DIT and why did you choose CityU?
Kendra: I decided to pursue a DIT because I felt like I still had more to learn. In the world of IT things are constantly changing and you must stay on top of those changes to be successful. The DIT program at CityU looked very appealing to me because I had done my MBA at CityU and I absolutely loved the way the classes were structured. Online classes can be hard if they don’t have structure and I’ve always felt that CityU provides great structure to their classes and lays out in detail the expectations for the students. I also really liked that CityU had the option to have a customized emphasis. My current role at USAA deals extensively with compliance as well as project management of those compliance efforts. I really felt that a customized emphasis in cybersecurity and project management would be ideal for me. It would give me the opportunity to learn more about a field that I’m interested in while still ensuring it aligned with my career objectives.
Radana: The DIT is indeed designed to support candidates to ‘sculpture’ a path that best aligns with their career plans – a real strength of the program. Thank you for highlighting it. What’s one thing you wish you had known when you began your career?
Kendra: I feel that a lot of times you learn something new, but then it gets lost when you go into the “real world.” I wish I had known that the career path is not always a stable ride. I graduated and began employment right before the big recession in 2008/2009 and it greatly impacted my area at work. I made it through two company layoffs but, unfortunately, was laid off in 2010. I had always thought that everything would be smooth sailing and I hadn’t accounted for hard times to come my way. I think that it is extremely important to realize this and plan accordingly. Always have your resume up to date, your LinkedIn spot on, and be sure to keep those working and educational relationships open; networking is truly key to your success.
Radana: So, so, spot on! I am trying to teach the importance of networking to our undergraduates. STE started Networking events during the fourth week of each term, which I know you helped organize – thank you! I hope the events start attracting more students! Thanks again for highlighting the importance of networking. What are some of the things you’re researching and/or learning right now?
Kendra: I’m currently taking DIT615, a project management course, and in that course, I’m looking at project management methodologies. The paper that I’m currently writing has to do with waterfall versus agile and how a company, in my example USAA, goes through the agile transformation to become a lean and mean agile machine. I’m also very interested in how technology can help those with disabilities, and I hope to write a paper about that in my future as I feel that there is so much to explore.
Radana: I look forward tor reading some of your work. We hear about success, but I think it is more powerful for our readers to hear you talk about your biggest failure (which I prefer to call the biggest lesson); can you tell us about your ‘biggest lesson’, and what you learned from it?
Kendra: I agree that folks learn a lot more hearing about other’s failures. It helps others to plan and learn. My biggest failure relates back to the one thing I wish I knew when I started my career. My biggest failure, early in my career, was not planning for the unknown and thinking that if I had a job, I would always have it and be stable. I think in today’s world we underestimate all the changes that take place and fail to realize that change happens. My failure was not being prepared for the change. When I was laid off from BofA it was earth-shattering… I had bills to pay and was unsure about where I would go next. Even though a company usually provides you severance when you’re laid off, you need to still have a plan to start your next role. With this failure early in my career, I learned that I need to keep my resume up to date, I need to have savings, I need to keep all my professional relationships spot on, and, most importantly, I needed to keep my skillset on target with the times.
Radana: So true! Thank you! We all need to be prepared in this ever-changing global market. The pandemic really showed us how things can quickly change overnight. What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours?
Kendra: I would say work hard, ask questions, be vocal, and never give up. IT can be hard, but if you truly love the field nothing can hold you back. It’s important to always ask questions when you are unsure about something. Ensure you build solid relationships with your classmates, professors, and future employers. Those that are your classmates today may become your co-workers tomorrow. Letters of recommendations or referrals can help you get the job that you desire. Career fairs are a great place to meet potential employers and learn about their companies. Find your passion and start to target companies that align with your passion. Most importantly, if things get rough, never give up!
Radana: I love Never Give UP!! That is something my children grew up with, and I tell all my students. I am thrilled you will be teaching for STC; students will benefit from your experience and mentoring. What are the best resources that have helped you along the way?
Kendra: LinkedIn has been a great resource for me career-wise. It has allowed me to stay in touch with my professors, previous co-workers, and meet other’s with similar interests. Additionally, I am a member of the AnitaB Organization, an organization for women technologists. They have great information on obtaining a career in IT, salary information, and new technologies. They put on a yearly conference that I went to for the first time last year and I absolutely loved it! I am also a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI.)
Radana: What have you read or listened to recently that inspired you?
Kendra: Just recently I read an article from 2019, “How to create team building activities your IT department won’t hate” on CIO.com. I really liked the article because I feel team morale is so very important. When my teams were in office, we would celebrate a project launch with pizza and cake, but now that we’re remote it is a bit more difficult. What I really liked about the article was it talked about remote workers. It is important, especially in today’s world, to ensure that everyone is included in the activities regardless of their location.
Radana: You are right, working remotely can easily be isolating, and team members can feel they are left out. I will have to read the article. Thank you for the reference. Where can our students connect with you online?
Kendra: Students can find me on LinkedIn HERE. I am open to answer any questions, so please don’t hesitate to reach out or add me on social media. Thank you so very much for having me!
Radana: Kendra, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed and sharing your story. Our students will benefit from the advice. I am delighted you have joined our faculty and I wish you all the very best in the DIT program and your career!