WITI Women | Yvonne Brown
Chicago-WITI Chapter Director,
CEO of Ball of Gold Corporation
Yvonne Brown is an internationally known speaker, author, and human potential coach who has been quoted in national and regional publications and textbooks. Her commitment to living a life on purpose has captivated audiences and changed the lives of people worldwide. As a leading voice for taking control of your own destiny, she has appeared on many television and radio programs. Topping her deepest passions is her commitment to helping people reach their potential by breaking through self-limiting beliefs and taking control of their own destiny.
Yvonne grew up in Kingston, Jamaica when it was still the British West Indies and came to America in pursuit of the American Dream. This Jamaican American Dreamer™ started out as a rock and roll singer and fashion model. After transitioning to the field of technology where she was a consultant for 23 years, she took a sabbatical to write the book, Self Creation: 10 Powerful Principles For Changing Your Life and produce the audio program Drawing Forth Your Personal Vision.
Yvonne was inducted into the IT Professional Hall of Fame by Positive Image News and is listed in the International Who's Who Historical Society of IT Professionals. Yvonne speaks to audiences of corporate executives, universities, career changers and professional associations. She is the Chicago Regional Director of Women In Technology International (www.WITI.com) and the Regional Vice President of WITI Unlimited. In January 2003 Yvonne partnered with the world-renowned former talk show host, radio personality and award winner Les Brown to provide motivational training and inspiration to people and help them achieve their dreams.
Yvonne lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband Bill and son Charles. She holds a Degree in management from DePaul University in Chicago, a degree in Computer Science from the College of DuPage, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Professional Development Program. She is the founder of Ball of Gold Corporation, a human capital management, training and consulting firm http://www.ballofgold.com; and its personal motivation and inspiration division, JAD Communications International, http://www.JADcommunications.com. Yvonne is passionate about helping women and teens.
- What was your first job in technology?
My first job in technology was as a keypunch operator for Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. My next job in technology was as a Systems Analyst for a commercial real estate developer. That was a great opportunity because I started out as a secretary for the vice president of development and when the company decided to begin using the AS/400 computer I was given the responsibility for the project. Once the computer was installed, I was promoted to Systems Analyst and given responsibility for management of all computer related acquisitions, implementation and training for the entire firm. Thus I had contact with all levels and departments of the organization, from the president, to the operators in the computer room. Being analytical by nature, I relished the opportunity and soon had read every single technical manual for the company's AS/400 computer system. Soon I became an industry expert and progressed to become the treasurer of the local AS/400 Chicago chapter user's group. This exposure to the business community increased to the national level when, in 1989 I accepted the responsibility of chair for the project management segment of conferences for the national AS/400 users group. Over the years I was an operations manager, computer programmer, project manager and management consultant. I have worked as a technology professional now for 23 years and still find it the most exciting field to work in. As one who bores easily, this is the one profession where each morning when I arise there is something new to use, teach or learn about. I dare say that I tend to live on the bleeding edge. Quite often I am learning (and playing with) the new technology while it is still in beta. I find technology quite intriguing.
- Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
- I have been blessed with having three significant
mentors. My first mentor Bob Finke promoted me to Systems
Analyst and encouraged me to excel in the field of technology.
The most significant thing I learned from him was to
focus on solutions. It was Bob Finke who once told me,
"don't bring me problems, bring me solutions." I never
forgot that and it still serves me well.
- My second and current mentor is a gentleman named
Milt Haynes. He is the National President of BDPA (Black
Data Processor Associates). After watching Milt turn
around an organization after being elected president,
to one of innovation and high resources, I approached
him and asked if he would be my mentor. Since agreeing,
he has surpassed my expectations by truly teaching and
sharing with me how to manage and run an organization.
- My husband William Brown has been a constant mentor
for the last 14 years. He is my chief supporter in everything
I dream of or strive for both in my career and personal
life. His method is one of asking me questions until
I "find the answers myself." It helps that he too is
a technologist and has been in the field for 25 years.
He is also a master project manager and one of the best
program managers I have ever known.
- What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies
did you use to overcome obstacles?
My greatest challenge was writing my book Self Creation.
It was done on a shoestring budget and I self published.
As this was my first book, I had dual research projects
going simultaneously. First there was the research for
the book "Self Creation" which focuses on the 10 principles
that I have used for the last 30 years to achieve my dreams.
There was also the research required to self publish the
book. One of the things that helped is that JAD Publications,
the publishing division of my company Ball of Gold Corporation
(www.ballofgold.com), published the book. A corporate
division for employee motivation and self-development
(www.jadcommunications.com) soon followed. Managing the
publishing company, the motivation company and the consulting
and training company keeps me pretty busy. In addition
to research for the content and publishing, I contacted
many well-known experts in who work in the field of personal
motivation and self-development, enlisted their help,
and leveraged their expertise to produce a high quality
book. Having this team of experts to work with enabled
me to overcome many of the obstacles typically faced by
new authors and publishers. Frankly, I see obstacles as
opportunities and treat them as such. The result of this
mindset is, that Rita Emmett, Les Brown and Brian Tracy
endorsed the book.
- Who has been the most influential person in your life?
My husband William Brown is the most influential person
in my life. He completely believes in me and provides
me with 100% support for my ideas and for my business.
He is my mentor and business partner and remains the one
person I can turn for a completely honest, no holds barred,
opinion on absolutely anything.
The only other person that has had a lasting influence
on my life is my grandmother who raised me in Kingston,
Jamaica. From the time I was a baby she taught me that
I could do anything I put my mind to. She always encouraged
me to live my dreams and told me that I was capable of
achieving anything I desired.
- What lessons have you learned that would be valuable
to women beginning their careers in technology?
I have learned that some of the greatest opportunities
come disguised as adversity, or as a challenge. I would
also encourage women to do work that they find challenging
and really enjoy, because when you have to work long hours
or give up a holiday, you find it a lot more palatable
if you really like what you're doing. Stay up-to-date
on changes and developments in your field and take the
initiative to help your company to succeed. Above all
treat the company as though you are the owner and who
knows, one day you just might be. One acquaintance purchased
her company after working there for 7 years and recently
sold it this year for $63 million. She was discouraged
from taking the position and told by many that she would
not succeed, but the results speak for themselves.
- What new technology do you believe will have the most
positive impact on the world in the next 20 years? The most
I think the human genome project and its technology will
have the most positive impact on the world in the next
More than that though, I believe that nanotechnology
will make a tremendous difference in the lives of people
like burn patients. There are currently innovative discoveries
and research into re-growth of tissue and skin that uses
nanotechnology. It is truly fascinating. In fact the fields
of biotechnology and nanotechnology are growing so rapidly
that new jobs include great opportunities for database
analysts in an area called bioinformatics. Today analyzing
how multiple genes function together can produce terabytes
of data. But as nanotech enables greater sensing and collecting
of data, the information flow could become measured in
petabytes, or a quadrillion bytes of information. Bringing
such large and complex raw results into useful knowledge
is the main goal of bioinformatics. According to Small
Times magazine, (http://www.smalltimes.com)
"Front Line Strategic Consulting predicted last year that
the bioinformatics business will reach $1.7 billion by
2006. The market research firm said that bioinformatics
would grow at a 20% annual rate while helping to shave
33 percent of the cost, and in two years of time, off
the drug discovery business." Startups like BioForce Nanosciences,
Inc. in Ames Iowa, are working on nanobiotechnology's
I learned quite a lot about this area of technology while
on a recent visit to the University of Iowa, which teaches
classes in this area. The WITI Chicago Chapter also partnered
in April of this year with the Chicago Microtechnology
and Nanotechnology Community for an International Technology
Workshop that included the Pronano Group (http://www.pronano.se
- click on English in the lower left of screen to convert
text) founded out of Lund University in Sweden. What we
learned was incredible. So the results of this new area
of technology has a global reach and will only continue
to provide opportunities in the field.
Some companies to watch include: Cementa (developing
air cleaning concrete), Pilkingoton (developing the self
cleaning window), TetraPak (makes packages for milk that
protects it without the need for refrigeration) and Teknoinvest
(a venture capital firm).
In my opinion, the technology that will have the most
negative impact on the world in the next 20 years is chemical
warfare. This is readily notable as we almost daily hear
of new more exotic diseases that spread rapidly and are
previously unknown. While chemical warfare has been around
for many years, it is much more sophisticated today. As
countries continue to fight each other and battles escalate,
we may well find that what we injure the most, is the
planet we need for our own survival.
On the lighter side:
- If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?
My first choice is Ayn Rand, author of my favorite book, "Atlas Shrugged." The book is based on the premise of what would happen to the world if the thinkers, creators, and inventors all went on strike and refused to share their ideas and inventions with the herd.
The other person I would enjoy having dinner with is Frederick Douglass, the great orator who rose so far above his humble beginnings as an American slave that when he went to Europe as an Ambassador from Washington, the Europeans refused to believe he had once been a slave and accused America of lying about his background. To my mind this man was the epitome of Self Creation.
- What was the last book you read? What books do you love to recommend?
The last book I read is "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. I find the content so compelling that my motivational company JAD Communications International (http://www.jadcommunications.com) uses the four agreements as the cornerstones of the corporate vision.
The four agreements are: 1) Be impeccable with your word, 2) Don't take anything personally, 3) Don't make assumptions, and 4) Always do your best.
I love to recommend any book by the philosopher and objectivist Ayn Rand, any of Stuart Wilde's books and of course my recently published book Self Creation.
- If you couldn't do what you are doing now, what profession would you choose?
I would be a travel writer. As a professional in that field, I could indulge two of my favorite things, writing and traveling, and be paid for doing it. Come to think of it, I could travel around the world learning more about nanotechnology and biotechnology inventions and research and write about it. That allows me to use my 23 years of technology skills as well. What joy!
- What is your definition of success?
I define success as being happy in my personal and professional life. I would expand that definition to include making a positive difference in peoples' lives and having a quality of life afforded by great financial success. As a parent, success also means raising healthy, ethical and loving children who are productive members of society.
WITI would like to thank Ms. Yvonne Brown for her words
and her time
If you wish to be featured in WITI Women or know of someone who you want to recommend for this segment, please email David Leighton at email@example.com.
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