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Baylor Alum Jeff Blackwell Shares Secrets of his Success with MIS Students

Feb. 22, 2011

by Nina McAllister

On Tuesday, Feb. 1, Informations Systems students gathered at the Alumni Center to listen to Deloitte's director of Information Technology Services (ITS) and Baylor alum, Jeff Blackwell speak.

Blackwell, named one of CIO magazine's "2010 Ones to Watch," spoke about his journey from a Baylor graduate to becoming Deloitte's director of ITS.

His presentation, "The Secrets of My Success: How I got there from here to there" touched on important concepts and skills Blackwell picked up along the way.

Among the most important are to always put people first, always stay in a constant state of learning, take risks, and develop a personal brand.

First, Blackwell advised students to understand the power of relationships. Every one of Blackwell's jobs has come as the direct result of a relationship. He also said not to burn bridges and to find a mentor. Most important, however, is learning to be a servant leader. Blackwell believes that, "Success comes from giving attention to your colleagues and being a humble steward of your organization's resources. Your success is dependent on the success of your teams."

In a rapidly changing market, the ability to adapt is key. Blackwell suggests staying in a constant state of learning by reading books and trade publications, identifying and understanding trends, pursuing certifications like the CISA and the project management certification, and developing the ability to innovate. Students should learn to take risks and constantly look for ways to work outside of their comfort zone. By being open to trying new things, new and incredible opportunities may be presented.

When asked what he hoped students would take away from his presentation, Blackwell answered, "I wanted them to understand the importance of people in their careers either through relationships, networks, mentors and the project teams they will lead or be part of. I also wanted them to find their giftedness and learn how to glorify God in whichever mission field they are placed--IT, a local church or their community."

Both before and after the presentation, several students had the opportunity to speak with Blackwell. Information Systems senior, Kendall Zapffe, a student who spoke with Blackwell, said, "He was very easy to talk to. I talked with him and his wife before the dinner, and he was very kind and personable. I could tell from talking to him and listening to his presentation why he is listed as one of the top CIOs under 40."

Blackwell's presentation resonated with several other students in the audience, including senior Computer Science major, Nick Stephens. Stephens said, "In my opinion, the best thing about the event was that the speaker was down-to-earth. Even though he has been very successful, he is still a nice, personable guy. His main theme of the speech was relationships. He kept saying that his relationships got him to where he is now."

Baylor's Information Systems student organization, the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), organized the event. Hope Koch, AITP sponsor, believes, "It is important to expose students to former students who have been very successful like Mr. Blackwell so they can see that these people are very similar to them and they can begin to form a vision about how to go from where they are to achieving their dreams."

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