Though African Americans have always been at the forefront of technological innovation, today only about 8% of science and engineering degrees are earned by African Americans, according to a recent study by the National Science Foundation. Yet, there are still black leaders in science and technology fields, with one shining example not only African American, but female as well.
Sherrie Littlejohn, 52, is the head of the enterprise technology architecture and planning group at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, linking business strategy and engineering/implementation. She moved to her current post after leading the financial services company’s network services and operations team, supervising more than 300 employees.
With almost 30 years of experience in telecommunications, the Xavier University graduate has both technical and business acumen and finds it important to give back, serving on her local community YMCA board, working as a group leader with the National Charity League, and being involved with the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, an organization for African American CIOs and senior leaders.
Littlejohn talked with BlackEnterprise.com about a mantra that encourages teamwork, efficient processes, and results, and how encouraging technological study is vital in today’s changing economy.
Black Enterprise: What are some key elements of success in managing a team in terms of planning, supervision, and seeing results?
Sherrie Littlejohn: I have a mantra: People, Process, and Results. The execution requires commitment, discipline, accountability, caring, and a sense of pride at all levels of the organization. Also, technical teams do not usually want to be told what to do. They tend to want to be part of the solution — defining it and delivering it. I try to create a culture that allows this to thrive.
People: It’s important to me that we recognize all our team members and provide them with the necessary training so they can do their jobs better.Â Equally important is providing an inclusive work environment and a diverse team.
Process: Once it starts to be a part of who we are, it’s like wildfire – it catches on. We start to hold each other accountable for sticking to the process because we know the value, the benefit, and the disciplined results that we have come to depend on.
Results: Happy people. Happy customers. Happy shareholders.
With a gap in the number of minorities in top technology positions at our nation’s corporations, what challenges have you seen being an African American woman in your position?
I think where the challenge lies – overall in the IT industry – is in hiring African American leaders (both men and women) and other people of color. At Wells Fargo we’ve acknowledged this challenge and are working hard toward attracting, retaining, and developing technologists of diverse backgrounds.
As a graduate of an HBCU, how important is it for minorities to consider pursuing a career in technology, and how can HBCUs nurture a desire to do so?
I believe that careers in technology will continue to be in demand. If we look