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Where My Girls At? The Finale: The Tech Tea with Kimberly

This is the last "Where My Girls At"? blog for now. It has been fun getting to know my fellow ladies in tech.


LinkedIn has a way of connecting some incredible people, and I thank LinkedIn for this connection. Let's hear from another #girlCIO

 

Joining us on this week's Tech Tea Q&A is Denise Musselwhite.



Denise, tell us about yourself and what you do.


My name is Denise Musselwhite, I serve as the Chief Information Officer at a 6-12 grade co-ed college preparatory independent school located in Central Florida. I also serve as a Board Member/Vice-Chair, for the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS) and in several other volunteer capacities as part of the Florida Executive Women (FEW) organization. I am married with three children (20, 17 and 9) and two pets, and a leopard Gecko. It's a full and fantastic life.


What’s your professional background, and how did you get into your current career?


My professional background began when I was 16 years old in my first job. A school counselor suggested I work as a "runner" for a local small law firm because I had finished all of my academic coursework and could leave early from high school. In that job, I had several mentors who without question allowed me to learn hands-on about the technology (which was state of the art at the time) they had. I was immediately put in charge of lugging around a giant tape backup device and manually backing up desktop computers, taking the backup tapes to a safe deposit box, and recovering files when needed, as well as other basic tasks, printers, and basic word processing. Having come from a home where my father was a mechanic, I wasn't afraid to get my hands dirty, he always encouraged my curiosity and empowered me to solve complex vehicle repair issues in his busy family-owned repair shop. This gave me confidence and initiated a lifelong curiosity about how devices/technology work. This intrinsic curiosity partnered with an unshakeable work ethic is what have paved the path for my success along the way. My first high school job led to bigger law firms and ultimately I decided to study in a new program at the local University (UCF). I joined the Information Technology Management program; one of only a handful of women at the time, and graduated with honors and pursued several industry certifications while working full-time. Upon graduation, I was offered the chance to lead the technology office at the law firm where I had worked as a technical trainer when my supervisor (who had accepted a promotion elsewhere) suggested that I could lead the growth and development of the technology infrastructure at the firm; one of the largest in Central Florida at the time, I was 23. The rest is history, I led technology at the firm with a small department for 4 years and ultimately left to find work-life balance and was encouraged to interview by a former supervisor at one of the most prestigious private schools in the area who was in their early stages of technology use. I jumped at the chance and never looked back. Since 2000, I have helped the school grow from a few computers in the library and no Internet access on my own to a department of 6 Full-time employees and an award-winning technology program. This work has allowed me to travel the nation, consulting with other schools, speaking to aspiring technology leaders in the industry and evangelizing the importance of experienced and consistent, well-resourced technology management policies and procedures in independent Schools around the country and in Europe. This year, I'll start my 22nd year proudly serving in this role. I attribute my success to a servant leadership mindset, and mentors along the way who believed in my potential and encouraged me to dig into projects, challenges, and opportunities.


Tell us what a typical day at work looks like for you.


A typical day for me is a dynamic mix of strategic planning, leadership, and project management demonstrated through cross-functional collaboration, leading a team of outstanding professionals to deliver on the organization's mission in an evolving technology landscape, alongside learning and teaching. The technology team works in three 3 key areas: Educational Technology IT Operations & Infrastructure Cybersecurity & Data We aim to provide technologies that enhance learning and teaching without adding any obstacles to a student, teacher, or operational employee's growth and development. Technology should power the work of others not hinder it. The technology department serves to move roadblocks, build "safe" highways to the vast world of information and data. I pride myself on being able to find solutions that match strategically to the needs of the organizations while honoring the end-users expectation of outstanding customer service, delivering effective tools and services that lead to success. In a nutshell, I lead a lot of projects and conversations that deal with Change management


What do you like best about your current position?


Inspiring others toward their own success. The constant challenge toward growth and learning. The evolving technology landscape invigorates me, it is never boring or stale. In my role, I am constantly advocating for workflow improvements, innovative approaches to solve persistent issues, and inspiring others in their own growth.


What is the most challenging thing about your current position?


1. The work of change management is the most significant challenge.

2. Connecting strategic impact with technology solutions/prioritization of projects.

3. Collaboratively fleshing out the rationale (ROI) for the technology investment.


What is the best career advice you have received?


I can keep it simple and say that: "Be authentic and stay true to your values no matter what." It's my go-to. But I love Simon Sinek and Brene Brown's wise words that empower us to be bold leaders. Here's my favorite from Brene.

A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential. - Brene Brown


What advice would you give other women about a tech career?


The women I've met in this career are incredibly supportive allies and astute technology professionals and leaders. Don't take failure personally, there's no innovation without failure. Be willing to do the work of deep learning so that you can speak up with confidence on issues that are relevant today and in the future.


How would you rate your tech career on a scale of 1-5 and why?


4...There's always room for improvement. A 5 for me would be the ability to do the work completely autonomously on my own schedule.


Tell us one really cool or unique thing about you.


I have been fortunate to meet and worked alongside more than 10 Nobel Laureates in collaboration with PeaceJam Foundation to inspire young people to be the change they wish to see in the world.

 

Wow Denise! We should definitely talk more, because you nailed it.


 

I want to personally thank each of the ladies that willingly shared with me this month about their tech career. I send each of you a virtual hug and I look forward to hearing more about what you are up to.


I got something for the guys coming soon. If you know a guy that would not mid sharing some tech tea with me, hit me up.


Ladies, this is for you!





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4 Comments


E. Fairley
E. Fairley
Sep 29, 2021

Kimberly, this was awesome!

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Tecia Marshall
Tecia Marshall
Sep 27, 2021

Very needed! Wonderful read.

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Sherry Bellomo
Sherry Bellomo
Sep 27, 2021

Kimberly, I sure enjoyed reading these profiles, what a great thing to do. Thank you for taking the time it takes to put this together. Impressive stories from all these powerful women!!!

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You ladies rock!

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