“Growing up an only child in the inner city with an overprotective mother can be lonely, but it drove an incredible imagination and a desire I now characterize as a ‘call to tinker.’ “
Years in industry?
21 years. Wow, time sure does fly by when you’re having so much fun!
Who or what inspired your career in tech?
My mom was probably the biggest inspiration in my tech career. Growing up an only child in the inner city with an overprotective mother can be lonely, but it drove an incredible imagination and a desire I now characterize as a ‘call to tinker.’ I was always intrigued with taking things apart and figuring out how they worked. Everything in the house became my playground. If it had a button/dial and it illuminated – watch out, here she comes! While most little girls were playing with Barbie Dolls, I fancied Atari, robots and electronics! That passion was sent into hyper drive every Saturday when my mom would take me grocery shopping. We would always pass Radio Shack which had a window display of the coolest, most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my very young life – a Tandy Color Computer 3! Remember that look on Ralphie’s face from ‘A Christmas Story’ when he sees The Red Ryder Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle? Well, when I’d see the Tandy, my knees would buckle, my heart would race and my jaw would drop. That Tandy was my ‘Holy Grail of Christmas Gifts,’ but for me it was only pipe dream – at least that is what I thought.
My mother never liked the word ‘poor;’ she worked very hard to make sure I had things to keep me occupied and to this day I still have no idea how long it took her to pay it off. The best Christmas I’ve ever had was the day I pulled out a new Tandy from under the tree. Not a day went by that I did not spend hours on that magnificent machine. From playing ‘Breakout,’ (the one and only game I ever owned for the Tandy,) to learning to write rudimentary BASIC code – I was mesmerized by its wonder and amazed at how it responded to my commands.
My career in tech really began when I was 20 years old and doing a Co-Op program at Cleveland State University, I began an internship as a PC Support Specialist for a manufacturing company in Cleveland. My internship was such a critical stage in my career – it gave me an opportunity to learn various IT specialties including desktop support, LAN administration and help desk.
What’s been your best hack ever?
Owning a company requires long hours and hard work, and finding balance can be a chore in and of itself, but I do believe it is important. My strategy for maintaining that balance is in health and fitness. I am not sure if it would necessarily be considered a hack, but I do believe a healthy body fuels a healthy mind and for this reason, I work just as hard on my health as I do on my company.
What has been your greatest career challenge and how have you handled it?
My greatest career challenge has been the little voice in my own head doubting my abilities and the decision to choose a path in technology. During my teenage years, most people really did not understand the magnitude of computers and their potential. I knew no women in MIS (Management & Information Systems), and the thought that there were African American women in MIS seemed impossible.
I still remember the look on my 8th grade teachers’ face when I went back for a visit and shared with her that I chose to take Computer Science classes instead of the more popular typing classes. She looked appalled and perplexed and told me I was wasting my time and should be focusing on something actually attainable in my life. That feeling of “you’re just wasting your time” carried over into college. I loved college, enjoyed learning and being on my own, but in the beginning there was an internal, agonizing battle in finding a career path that would satisfy me.
What is your biggest career success to date?
My biggest career success is making the decision to quit a rewarding and well-paid job to build Reliable Solutions Group with my husband, Robert. I get asked quite a bit what it is like working with my husband. This is such a funny and weird question for me because we work so well together. Having the opportunity to help our clients improve their technology processes and infrastructure, garners the same excitement I felt as a little girl when I first pulled my Tandy from the Christmas tree! I love what I do and am very fortunate to do so with my husband, my best friend and the love of my life.
Who are your role models?
I worked three jobs while in college: the internship through the Co-Op program, as a Student Advisor to freshmen, and then on Saturdays for an insurance agent by the name Reuben Harris. I learned about business and technology though my internship; I learned how to help students find their way as a Student Advisor, but I learned how to be a better human being as an assistant to Mr. Harris. I spent only 8 hours a week with Reuben Harris, but the work ethic he instilled in me is unwavering even today. I still live by the quote he had hung on his office wall, “When you do a job, no matter what job, do it better than anyone else has or can.”
If you could go back in time, what’s one tip you’d give your teenage self?
As a teenager, I did not know it had a title other than just being too quiet. I would tell my teenage self that being an introvert is not a bad thing and being unusual is more than ok – in fact, I encourage you, Lacretta, to be different. Above all else- be yourself, try not to make the same mistakes twice, have fun and make a difference!
What do you do when you’re not kicking butt at work?
Kicking butt in the gym! I love working out, sweating and being strong, and CrossFit certainly helps in all three of those areas. Whether it is training to improve a specific skill or training for a CrossFit competition, that feeling of accomplishment when a goal is met, a lift is successful and/or an event is complete, can only be summarized in one word – awesome!
Flats, heels or kicks?
All three, please and thank you! I love shoes! My choice is really dependent on my mood, the weather and the event. However, I have to give the nod to heels – there is just something about a pair of high heeled boots, jeans and a blazer or leather jacket that makes me feel Geek Girl Supreme!
Best career advice book?
A CEO that I worked for required every new employee to read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I remember being so anxious my first week – all I wanted to do was get right to work updating the LAN and WAN and did not understand why or how reading a book was going to matter. I was just a network engineer and thought reading a business book at that point was, well… pointless. I was wrong. 7 Habits is not just a business book, it’s a life book. It’s a must read.
Who are the women in tech that you most admire and why?
Melinda Gates is the epitome of class, compassion and selflessness. One her quotes that really stands out for me: “If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” I admire and appreciate Melinda Gates’ geekiness, her work ethic and her giving nature.