The School of Information Studies recently hosted a special guest to teach students about Information Security, but also how to take on a leadership role in the Information Technology industry. Alumna Vickie McCray is President and CEO of The McCray Group, Inc., a consulting firm that focusing on leadership operations. She is also the author of the recently published book How to Swim With The Sharks, A Survival Guide for Leadership in Diverse Environments. I was able to sit down with Vickie and learn a little bit more about her experiences and see what advice she has for the students of Syracuse University.
“You never really know what path your career will take.” In the past, Vickie served as an Auditor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an IT Audit Manager at KPMG, LLP, Risk and Advisory Services Washington, and later joined ManTech Security Technologies Corporation where she served Assistant Executive Director.
Being a Woman in IT
Through the School of Information Studies, there have been many programs established to encourage the entry of women in the IT field. IT Girls and Girls are IT aim to ignite passion and create excitement around women in the technology industry.
Vickie encourages the entrance of women into the IT field, but acknowledges that it is not alwasy easy. She has faced many challenges throughout her career being a woman in a male dominated field. She says, “you are walking into sharkey territories, and you have to be able to handle it.”
Vickie feels that one way to overcome these challenges is to be a star communicator. It is so important for women to communicate with men in diverse environments and let their ideas be heard. During her work experience, she learned to communicate with people from all different walks of life and that helped shape her into the strong leader she is today. Throughout her time in the workforce, she has noticed improvements in the presence and respect of women in the Information Technology Industry. She feels that “now is our time.”
Advice to Students
The communication skills that Vickie identified as being so important throughout her career path, were some of the most important skills she learned in college.
“I can’t say enough about communicating well and working in teams.”
Sometimes working in teams can be overwhelming, but Vickie assures that the more you practice the better you will be. You will start to understand the dynamics of a company and the people you work with. Also playing on a pun from her book, Vickie explains that many times you have to learn how to work with sharkey individuals.
Specifically, Vickie reflects on the soft-skills she learned throughout school. Garnering presentation skills while still in school is incredibly valuable as this prepares you for communicating with others. These skills allow you to effectively get a message across to an audience, and will be necessary for any industry. While broadcasting a message through presentations is always useful, Vickie also emphasizes that listening skills are necessary when leaving school and joining the workforce. She was able to teach a grad leadership course, and feels that this prepared her for the next role in her career as Senior Management.
Sharing Ideas With the World
Vickie took all that she learned throughout school and her career, and turned it into a book! After managing so many different types of teams and individuals, she had a lot of tips and tricks to share with others. She writes about challenges that you may not think would happen in the corporate world, as well as advice on how to get promoted and how to work better with teams. Vickie says, “I wrote a book about my challenges so that I can help others who come across the same things.”
We were all very lucky to have Vickie McCray come for a visit and thank her for her time and sharing her insights.