Jimmie Owens ‘03 knows better than anyone that the path to success isn’t always linear. Sometimes life—and the choices we make—takes us on a journey of ups, downs and detours that lead to an unexpected destination.
An uncertain future
A self-professed military brat, Owens moved around throughout his childhood. As a teenager, he attended four different high schools in two countries before he graduated in Ft. Meade, MD.
“I don’t have a hometown,” he notes.
It was challenging moving so often, but early on, Owens learned that he could make friends by playing sports. He embraced athletics and played on as many teams as he could. In fact, when he enrolled in college the first time, he played basketball and flag football. He was at the height of his athletic career and looking forward to any opportunities it might bring when he wrecked his motorcycle.
“Sports were over for me,” he says. He also left school dozens of credits shy of his degree.
Unsure of what to do next, Owens began working as a drywall installer, where he met his wife. Life was going well, but he recalls a moment when he realized he needed more from a career.
He was at the county fair with his wife and their three kids. They had used all their tickets, but the kids wanted to go on more rides. Owens headed to the ATM to pull out the last 20 dollars in his account—his job paid 10 dollars and hour—but his request was denied. He didn’t have enough money to cover the ATM fee.
“I said to myself, ‘Never again,” he remembers. “That was the biggest motivator.”
He began working for his father-in-law’s floor covering business. When that business started declining, he took a job at Navy Federal Credit Union to get his foot in the door. A senior leader noticed his potential and urged him to return to school and finish his degree.
Finding his footing
Owens, who enjoyed coaching little league for his kids and spending time with his family which had grown to four children, was looking for a university that would work with his busy life. He found UMGC and was able to complete the remainder of credits required to earn his Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Information Technology in just two semesters.
“That was the best choice I have ever made, and it kickstarted my career,” he says. “Without finishing at UMGG, I don’t think I’d be where I’m at.”
Where he’s at, some decades later, is working as chief information security officer (CISO) at DXC Technology, a global company that helps businesses run their mission-critical systems and operations while modernizing IT, optimizing data architectures, and ensuring security and scalability across public, private and hybrid clouds.
However, the road to the top of his profession can best be described as zigzagged.
“You need to manage your own career,” he insists.
For him, that meant taking an inventory control director position with a large company and taking on IT responsibilities there to get a foot in the door in that department. From there, he moved to another company to gain experience on the physical side of information systems.
He later accepted a job with a smaller credit union because it offered him the chance to run his own IT shop, something he had wanted to do since he began working in the field. He wanted the opportunity to try out a structure he had created to see if it was scalable. Because he was willing to make what some would consider a backward move, he learned that it was. Later, this allowed him to bring his model to larger organizations knowing it would work there, too.
“It’s important to swallow your pride sometimes and take a step back so you can move forward,” Owens explains.
“I took a number of detours, and without those I don’t believe I’d be where I am today. I learned through starts and stops.”
In 2018, he was named a Top 15 Chief Information Security Ofﬁcers by SecurityScorecard for his accomplishments. While he’s enjoying his role as CISO at DXC Technologies, down the road he plans to put his talents to work for non-profits through board service. He’s grateful that his approach led him to success and hopes it inspires others whose careers—like his own—may not have begun smoothly.
“I’m a firm believer that it’s not how you start,” he says. “It’s how you finish.”
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