Name: LEON A. WILSON, PMP
Job Title: Senior Director, Technology & Data Engagement and Director, Highway T
Company: MICHIGAN NONPROFIT ASSOCIATION
Q: What precisely do you do? What are the duties/functions/ and responsibilities of your job?
My title is Senior Director of Technology and Data Engagement. What that entails is staying abreast of technology and data trends that might be of value and relevance to nonprofits. With that information, I then help nonprofits better understand how can leverage technology and data to improve their operations, and make a stronger social impact. To do so I routinely meet with nonprofits educating and helping them understand their technology options, what’s available, and more importantly how to strategically adopt technology and data services. As well, I do a number of speaking engagements, workshops, webinars and so forth.
Finally, I manage a team of technology consultants that provide daily tech support to a host of nonprofits who don’t have access to full-time tech personnel.
Q: How did you choose to pursue computer science and engineering management? What excites you about these fields?
A funny story. When I was in 6th grade I told my teacher that I wanted to be a fire fighter, a policeman or work with computers. Once I went to high school I took my first computer class and joined ROTC and fell in love with both. As for computers I really enjoyed the ability to write computer programs that can do interesting things. To this day, computer programming, and helping organizations incorporate technology to satisfy their business needs satisfy the designer and engineer in me.
Plus, I look forward to learning business processes and how technology can improve organizations operations, reduce costs, and increase capacity.
Q: Some of your top skills include leadership and management, what do you think it takes to be a good team leader?
Communication skills first and foremost; this includes verbal and written. As a leader and manager a large percentage of your time is communicating. Holding meetings, writing reports, conferencing with staff, clients, and peers, gathering and sharing information and so forth. Without excellent communication skills it hinders your ability to be an effective leader. Also, critical thinking, decision making, planning and prioritization skills are vital skills. The ability to gather all the facts regarding a situation, collect input, assess the situation in order to make the best decision is another major responsibility of any leader.
Q: What are challenges that you have come across in your job? What is your strategy to find solutions?
Constant problem resolution and continuous learning. The field of computer science is ever changing and increasingly complex. Relying on your critical thinking and communications skills are what you will rely on to tackle any challenge that may come your way.
Q: What is a lesson you’ve learned in either pursuing your career or through your work?
One important lesson I’ve learned is the saying “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. The key take away, you never know when a career opportunity will present itself, but what you can do is continuously improve yourself, your skills and overall performance.
Q: What is some advice you would give to people pursuing a career in management, computer science or another STEM related career?
If a career in STEM is in your plans, look for mentoring and internship opportunities that will provide you greater exposure into what it takes to be in a STEM position. Get involved with STEM-based student organizations either within your school or as a part of a community program. The best way to learn and get motivated about a STEM is to get involved.
Q: Can you tell us an interesting fact that most people don’t know about you?
I mentioned that during high school I feel in love with computers and ROTC. Well, in addition to going to college for computer science, I also was in Senior ROTC to become an Officer in the Army Reserve. The interesting fact is that I got a chance to go to Airborne school to jump out of airplanes and Air Assault school to rappel out of helicopters. So I have a thrill seeker side of me.