Malcolm-Ali Davis ’18 got his first taste of the entertainment industry at the tender age of 3 years old, when he was cast in a role in a commercial. From then on he continued to get more work in TV shows, commercials, films, and theater. As he got older he toured for eight months with a live performance of the Lion King, playing young Simba, and has sailed for long stretches as an entertainer on cruise ships. He has participated in just about every major aspect of entertainment that one could think of, and has recently returned from a 46 show tour, consisting of 94 performances across six countries, as a background singer with the R&B legend, Babyface

It was made clear to Davis, early in his college search, that attending Syracuse University was not mandatory, but it was strongly encouraged. Both of his parents, and three of his older siblings went to Syracuse University. Still, he was attracted to this school for several of his own reasons, and never required much cajoling. In his senior year at a high school in New Jersey, Davis visited his sister, who at the time was a Junior at Syracuse, and he got his first tour of the campus and the iSchool; that experience sealed the deal. 

As a kid he was always keen on playing with the latest technologies of the time and he identifies as a member of the generation that watched cassette tapes turn into CDs, then MP3s, and so on. He had a natural curiosity for new innovations and technologies, and he was always the one helping his family setup and learn the new gadgets they would bring home. To the teenage Davis, a formal education in technology seemed like a good fit.

Even though he had been working for 14 years leading up to graduating high school and heading into college, he knew that he wanted to study something that could serve as a solid backup plan if ever he decided to switch paths from the entertainment industry. He was impressed with the classes available at the iSchool and the vast career potential of this kind of education. Davis admits that his career in entertainment was slightly unusual in the iSchool student body, but he also remembers that there were at least a handful of other students that had second-lives as musicians and DJs while pursuing their education. 

After graduating from the iSchool, Davis worked in business transformation and project management for a nutrition company. He then moved to FTLO Travel, where he currently continues in his role as Operations Manager. This company provides travel itineraries for groups of young professionals that want to “travel solo, not alone”. His focus now is still in operations, however he has moved more towards the client experience side of things. “I look at how to improve processes within our team, and being the best link between our customers and the actual destination management companies that help us to run trips in each country.”, says Davis. He is back-and-forth between finding best-practices for storing, changing, and retaining information, as well as a more recent and significant focus on the security of that information. In any given year, he is responsible for ethically maintaining the data collected from several thousand travel customers. His iSchool education in project management helps him precisely identify gaps in FTLO’s own information management systems, and he can speak the necessary languages to put teams of analysts and programmers together to tackle issues as they arise. 

Finally after three years with the travel company and many pandemic related hiccups, Davis was scheduled to join one of the “destination departure” trips that his company organizes for their many fun and adventure seeking clients. However, instead of heading out on that tour as an adventurer, he instead booked a different kind of tour; he was signed as a background singer with Babyface. 

A longtime musical collaborator and current keyboardist/musical director for the Babyface band, reached out to Davis to join the group. It was an opportunity that he could not pass up. After a long audition process he was invited to join the demanding tour. He continued to serve in his professional role with FTLO, working remotely as he moved from city to city (almost daily) to sing his heart out on stage. Admitting that he looked forward to “settling into some normalcy again,” he says, “it was such a fulfilling experience because it is what he loves and has always wanted to do, and he is out there seeing the way music creates memories for people.”

The education and internships that the iSchool provided helped pave the way for a fulfilling career in tech while still allowing him the flexibility to pursue other passions. Like many iSchool alumni, Davis credits the presentation classes that he attended at the iSchool with preparing him for success in professional environments. Being able to sing in front of thousands is a far cry from being able to communicate confidently with peers and professionals across many different settings.

As an active student, Davis served in many volunteer leadership positions, but his experience as a peer advisor was particularly rewarding. He remembers how helpful his own peer advisor was when he first arrived at college. How they helped him orchestrate his passions with his education. The iSchool offered fresh perspectives about education and career options. He was able to marry his entertainment goals with the prestigious and valuable education needed to work in the information and technology sector. Davis saw his role as a peer advisor as that of catching students that might otherwise wander away from the iSchool and providing them with fresh ways of intertwining their own passions and interests with the stability of an iSchool education. 

To say that Davis stays busy would be a tremendous understatement. He still holds the unofficial record for singing the National Anthem at the most sports games of anyone at Syracuse University. He has sung for the crowds at men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, volleyball, tennis, and of course, football in the dome. After wrapping his tour with Babyface at a show in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, Davis returns to his residency at a lounge in Hollywood, starts his busy wedding season (not your average wedding singer – he’s been featured in Vogue for some of the weddings he has worked), and get back in the studio to work on some of his original material. All of this while holding down his day job with FTLO.

Crediting his ‘long-ago’ decisions about which school to attend, Ali-Davis says,“The iSchool opened my eyes to different types of jobs, careers, and generally how to think differently about the traditional work environment and startup culture. That was really helpful for me because I wasn’t so locked into the idea of a traditional 9-5, so I was more willing to explore different things, and through that I was able to find a situation that really was just exactly what I needed.”