Gen Z IT: From Single Mom's IT Help Desk to Supporting Leading Scientists
- April 29, 2019
Kaloni Marshall-White grew up in Dorchester, where jobs were hourly and opportunities limited. Then one day, when she was 10 years old, a big box arrived on her doorstep that changed everything. Today, Kaloni is working her way through Northeastern University as a Senior Field Desk Agent with NTT DATA Services, providing IT support to a biopharmaceutical company. Through this work, she is helping cancer researchers minimize their IT distractions, so they can focus on life-saving work.
Q: At the age of 10 you discovered a love of IT. Tell me about how that happened.
A: My mom was a single mother that worked long hours to support us. She really liked gadgets, and one day a box showed up at our home that she’d ordered. I thought it was a present for me, so I opened it. It was a computer. By the time she came home from work that day, I had the computer put together, plugged in and working. I surprised myself! And she said, “How did you do this?” After that, she’d come to me for all her technical issues and say, "Why is this not working?" And I am like, "I don't know, I'm 10! But let's figure it out."
I always liked figuring things out and making things work. I've always liked to tinker with things. Trial and error, trial and error, trial and error … okay … now it’s working!
Q: So in essence, you became your mom’s help desk. Did you ever think that would lead to a career in IT?
A: I had no idea these jobs existed. Being an inner-city kid from Dorchester, and growing up with a single mom, I had to try to find my own resources to push my future forward. I found a community program with an IT track, which was amazing. I enrolled in that and pushed to find IT support jobs — first at Boston College, then Harvard University, and now NTT DATA Services, which is helping me to pay my way through college.
Q: Tell me about your first day with NTT DATA Services? What was that like?
A: I was assigned to a biopharmaceutical company whose scientists are making these amazing discoveries to treat cancer patients. We provide Device as a Service support to their entire global organization. My job is to be our IT support team’s first line of defense and handle to day-to-day IT issues scientists have with their devices that prevent them from getting their work done. I’m there to weed out all the small stuff so our second-level IT people can concentrate on break fixes, such as actually fixing computer screens and more complicated support needs. My team specifically makes sure those devices are always working so the scientists can stay focused on their discoveries.
The scientists are busy. They didn’t know who I was or that our IT support space was located on another floor. So I decided to sit right in the middle of working scientists around me. That way they didn't have to look for me or try to figure out where I was. I decided to make a poster. I took a selfie with my mobile phone and printed them out. The posters said exactly what I did, what kind of issues I could help with, and how to find me. I put my Skype name and my workshop number on it, when I would be on the fifth floor, when I would be on the sixth floor, and information like that. Once I did that, I was flooded with requests. It was awesome.
Q: Can you tell me about a time you’ve supported the team that made you feel like you made a difference?
A: I had a senior scientist who was catching a flight to India for a meeting for this groundbreaking drug they just discovered. Her profile completely locked her out and she came to me because she couldn’t log in to her computer. I had 15 minutes to solve her issue because she had to get on her flight. She was super upset — almost in tears because she thought we weren't going to get it solved in time and she was going to miss her flight. I said, “What could it possibly be?! We have GOT to figure this out!”
As I connected her PC, I was on the phone with one guy, and texting another guy. I had three monitors going. I’m researching on the Internet. It was sick! Just trying to figure it out was amazing. It was completely crazy.
But we solved it. And, she was so happy. She hugs us all and shouts, "Bye guys!" Then she rushes off to the airport. It was funny. And it was really great. She was so happy. A month later, she came to our support space and bought us all lunch. She was singing our praises to everyone. It was a great feeling knowing that I really actually helped her and our help meant so much to her that she came back to thank us. She wouldn't have been able to do anything without us. That’s great.
Q: It seems you have been on an IT track since you were your mom’s 10-year-old IT support tech. What would you tell other Gen Zers about what’s great about a career in IT?
A: I’d tell them that I love my job. It's absolutely amazing. Every day, I am helping scientists — the smartest people who are working to cure cancer and Alzheimer's — and I get to do that with innovative technology.
It’s always nice to feel like your job means something. I think that a lot of Gen Zers are looking for that. And I’ve found it. My job is actually helping contribute to the world. So, that's really something that I love about it.
It’s super amazing to know that when I am fixing your computer I am helping you build a cell structure that might cure something. It feels like I'm an important little gear in a really big machine.
Q: Where do you see your future going?
A: IT gives me so many career options. From cybersecurity to maybe account leadership. But, for now giving back to the community is something so important for me. I want other kids to feel as though they have a chance in life; for younger people in the inner-city to know there are possible careers out here for them in IT.
Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon I volunteer my time with a community organization called The Loop Lab that helps inner-city youth. We help them build skills for the real world to become producers, videographers and photographers. These are sustainable, creative careers. I get to use my IT skills, I get to be creative and I get to work with kids. So, it's a really fun way to spend my weekend. It doesn't feel like I'm working or like I'm volunteering. It feels like I'm doing the things I love.
I feel lucky to be at NTT DATA Services where I’m learning ways that can help me give something back. When I was searching for my next job, I researched NTT DATA. I was looking at how it was a global IT company and they had great reviews from their employees — people love working for them. Now that I’m here, I really love it. I feel really heard, seen and really appreciated.
We get customer kudos all the time. People are always constantly coming down telling us how much we’re helping them. When they have new hires, they’ll come down and introduce them to our whole team and say, “You know these guys are really great. You know they are really fast, really responsive — whatever you need they can help you.” People even bring us cupcakes!
I feel like I have meaning in my work in getting to help these incredibly brilliant scientists take their mind off IT so they can focus on their patients.
To me, that’s what it’s all about.
Learn about our other NTT DATA Services Game Changers.