Morgan: Jemell, congratulation on being part of our inaugural Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) cohort 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.
Jemell: Well, I became interested in technology by participating in Year-Up in my hometown of Boston. After enlisting in the Army, I completed my bachelor ‘s degree at the University of Maryland Global Campus. After transitioning into the Washington Army National Guard working in IT, I completed my master’s degree in Cybersecurity and Leadership and took a job at Central Washington University. I am still serving in the National Guard, working and teaching at CWU, and advancing my career by enrolling in the DIT.
Morgan: How did you decide to pursue a DIT and why did you choose CityU?
Jemell: The program at CityU will greatly enhance my professional development goals and allow me to further aid the United States. Currently, I am the network manager and lecturer for several classes at Central Washington University. I am also a senior enlisted information technology soldier in the Washington National Guard. I believe the DIT will provide me the pathway to leadership the roles I am pursuing CIO, CISO, CEO.
My vision encompasses spreading the cyber gospel to the masses; especially the under privilege or those people who fear the IT Security space. The DIT will allow me, with the help of teachers, peers, and other resources, the ability to develop curriculum and programs which help cement methods, terminology, and best-known practices to those seeking the appropriate skills. I have met people who have expressed interest in cyber but don’t know where to start or how to address the learning curve. I want to help bridge that gap and bring cyber to those people.
Morgan: What’s one thing you wish you had known when you began your career?
Jemell: Hit it hard and hit it fast. IT is a continually growing and changing field. Identifying your swim lane, choose it early and obtaining the knowledge to be proficient. Starting early provides great dividends.
Morgan: What are some of the things you’re researching and/or learning right now?
Jemell: I am currently researching how to create innovation in the workplace. I am learning innovation takes time. Innovation fills a need, and you need to have the willingness to be wrong and experiment continuously until you succeed. It’s also about timing. It may not depend on previous patents or designs. In the workplace employees need the freedom, opportunity, and space to be innovative.
Morgan: 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 biggest lesson); can you tell us about your ‘biggest lesson’, and what you learned from it?
Jemell: One of my biggest lessons, which I still battle with today, is the fear of success. The fear of what comes next. After achieving a milestone, I would procrastinate and not take the next step. I had no family or friends as role models. Not taking the next step was self-sabotage. I missed key opportunities for advancement. Now I am playing catchup. What I have learned can best be stated by Muhammad Ali when he said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
Morgan: What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career like yours?
Jemell: Find a mentor, gain the knowledge, build the network, showcase your work, be a mentor!
Morgan: Great advice! What are the best resources that have helped you along the way?
Jemell: Family, friends, and work colleagues. I have learned a great deal about having the right attitude, from my friend, Tom Muehleisen, (RET-LTC). Having the right attitude has opened many doors when my skills alone weren’t there yet. You can always teach someone a technical skill, but having a positive attitude, is something you must have.
Morgan: What have you read or listened to recently that inspired you?
Jemell: A devotional called “Do not worry” it focuses on reminding the reader that there are going to be tough moments in this thing called life, but one should hold fast to the known good beliefs that they have as well as maintaining the desire to move toward their goals despite what maybe happening currently.
Morgan: Where can our students connect with you online?
Jemell: I can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jemell-garris-8a130219b
Morgan: Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed and sharing your views on the importance of mentorship.