Inspirational Day speaking at a virtual graduation ceremony

Today, I had the honor of being asked to be the keynote speaker at the virtual graduation ceremony for Focus:HOPE, a group that provides workforce development and education out of Detroit, Michigan USA.

Many of you may be aware, but Detroit, Michigan has been one of the “hot spots” in the United States in the Covid-19 pandemic. These amazing students started their path to enhance and expand their career path on the day that Michigan’s first Covid-19 case was announced. Since, then, they have pivoted from a classroom training program to online training for both their Server and Workplace Technology and Industrial Manufacturing career tracks.

This was a group of inspirational people. I was particularly moved by the student speaker from the Server Technology track that had moved to the US from Nigeria and was changing careers. His story was amazing and the bond that he has built with the students, mentors, and instructors is a testament to the program’s goals and mission.

The message of this graduating class was “Against all odds”, and I believe it. My keynote was a story about my own career challenges and adjustments. It made me do some personal reflection of my own professional and personal growth. I wanted to share that with you today in hope that it may provide some inspiration.

Thank you very much to Ms. Portia Roberson, Ms. Jewel Chapman, Ms. Tiffany Graydon, and Ms. Hermine Turner of Focus:Hope for inviting me to be a part of the recognition of these great individuals.

Here is the speech that I delivered today:

What a pleasure it is speaking to you today. These are strange times that we are adapting to these days and it’s fitting that your graduating class slogan is “Against all Odds”. You have accomplished something great by adjusting to what the world has handed us, and persevered to complete your goal.

As many of you take a new direction in your career, What I want to share with you today is a story about career adjustment. My college education was in Business Management and Human Resources. I spent my summers installing phone and computer cabling for my father’s company.

I graduated college and immediately found out that a master’s degree and ten years of experience was necessary to get into human resources, which at the time was the path that I felt was the one that was right for me.

It was the early 1990s and the job market was not good. As we may find to be the case once we emerge from our current global situation. I ended up working full time for my father while still trying to find my own career path.

After a year and a half, the distributor that we purchased equipment offered me a position to enter their management training program. I accepted, and that was when Information Technology became my career.

Over the years following, I was in several different roles, but none of them felt necessarily as if they were the “right” role for me. I continued to improve myself, going back to school to earn my master’s degree in Business Information Technology, and earned my Project Management Professional and CISSP, cyber security, certifications.

I had gone through multiple roles within IT, mostly focused on network and server technology. These roles have been in management, sales, operations, project management, engineering, and consulting. During this time, I even gave a class on cabling and terminations to Focus:Hope years ago in one of the Cisco classes.

Fast forward to 2014, cloud and hosting technologies were becoming the new trend. I knew about hosting and the “cloud”, but I had not bought into it. At the time, I felt that an organization’s data should remain with them on their physical hardware, and that companies were more comfortable with that approach as well.

But the times were changing, and my company just purchased a managed hosting company that was going to eliminate the need for my role. It was time for me to adapt or I was going to be gone and looking for another position.

I took it upon myself to reshape my value to the organization and the market. I shifted to becoming a cloud advocate, learning everything that I could about cloud technologies and security. I created training roadmaps for myself and others to follow for Microsoft and Amazon cloud services.

In less than a year, I went from being a physical infrastructure subject matter expert to one for the cloud. I was able to move into a Product Manager position within the company that was purchased, and I have been in this role ever since, even though I have changed companies in the process. I can truly say that this was the role that was right for me.

In addition, I expanded my creation of training roadmaps into providing training myself. This led me to becoming a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Regional Lead, allowing me to provide certified Microsoft training courses and assist other Microsoft trainers in navigating the program.

During this career progression, I have been married for over 20 years, and have three children. Though it may seem that I spend all of my time learning and training, I make sure that I find the balance in my personal life to spend time with my family.

I have coached baseball and helped with basketball games, and volunteered for choir and theater performances. I build time to learn and expand in the evenings and weekends, or early morning when I find free moments.

To sum up this story, it is never too late to reshape yourself and learn new skills. All aspects in life are a continued learning process and the more that you invest in yourself professionally and personally, the more balanced you will become.

You may have different paths that you have taken to get here. Your careers may be taking you in different directions, or you are on the road to changing your career entirely. Making it through these current challenges will build the character in you to succeed in whatever you do in the future. Continue to learn and invest in yourself.

Thank you very much.