The City, the CIO, Covid and collaboration
Though she scores a lot of firsts in her role as CIO at the City of Memphis, Tennessee (her first CIO appointment, first African American woman in the job and certainly the first to have had a pandemic dumped on her just two months in!) she has never felt out of her depth. Before accepting, she reached out to a former boss of hers and asked him what he thought. He replied “If they don't hire you they are crazy, so go and do your Kim thing!” That's shorthand for her unique style, which is as far from dictatorial as you can get.
She likes to learn, which is why she listens, and she listens because auditory input is her thing. “I think it's important to always have mentors: people who have done what you are doing and can give you their insights. I read a lot, and listen to audiobooks and I think it's important that a leader should be a reader.” She selects books to read with her managers, and in the Covid year 2020 it was The 12 Week Year, and Good to Great.
“I never think that I do not have the ability to learn more: there is always something I can learn. I listen to other CIOs who have been doing similar work and I get good insights from them. But at the end of the day I trust my gut, my internal barometer I call it! If something doesn't feel right I don't do it, but if something feels good I go for it.” However, when it comes to management she looks to a more reliable authority. “Every day I try to be the manager that I've always wanted to have myself. I have had some fantastic managers and one or two that were not so great – so I try to be the one that I would want to report to. I don't expect, perfection from anyone because none of us are perfect, but I do want people to be ok with making mistakes, and always know that I have their back.
Not content with being an avid reader Kimberly is an entrepreneurial author, having produced four titles in her Color and Read series. “They focus on the African-American leaders and history that children don't get to hear about in school.” She's very passionate about encouraging people to have faith in themselves. “I am really an introvert, but I don't get to be that person in this job! I have had to grow in confidence, so I want to be a good example to young girls who look like me and know that they can do this job or any other. When she was nine my daughter saw an engineer who looked like her – now she is a qualified engineer working for UPS in Atlanta,” she says proudly. “I want other girls to be able to say well I can do that too, and that is really what I get up for.”
Her integrity is another attribute she will never compromise. “My yes is yes and my no is no, but I am always open for correction I want to be honorable in my work and I want to be a trusted partner for anyone I do business with. I am the first African American female to hold this role at the city of Memphis and I am grateful for that and I do believe you have to have a diverse team.”
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We’re focusing on the build-to-suit concept as we own a lot of land and have the ability to expand quickly with a partner and build to their requirements which is becoming more important for larger customers.