Monique Sendze – Chief Technology & Innovation Officer, Tulsa City-County Library

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Monique Sendze has worked in information technology management for over seventeen years and joined the Tulsa City-County Library in the summer of 2015 as the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer. Previously she worked at the Douglas County Libraries in Colorado and the Johnson County Library in Kansas as the IT Director. She has a B.A in English, a M.Ed. in teacher education and a M.Sc. in Management Information Technology. Ms. Sendze has a number of key strengths, including a strong history of innovation (including unique leading-edge library technology projects), exceptional project management skills, and a deep knowledge of industry-standard IT practices and procedures. Ms. Sendze is a person of vision, and knows how to work with people and resources to accomplish great things in not only the IT arena, but the library arena as well. She has contributed to information technology management articles published in various library publications. She is actively engaged in issues related to mobile and broadband technologies, innovation in libraries, digital media, digital transformation and advancement, enterprise technology systems, data analytics, customer experience and self-service technologies; among others.

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Monique Sendze. A lot of who I am has been shaped by very strong family values based in a catholic upbringing, faith, humility, hard work and generosity. As one of five daughters raised by incredible parents who were role models, I grew up knowing that the sky was the limit and that education came first and then everything else. Originally from Cameroon, I moved to the United States as an adult professional; already with a Master’s degree in education and hoped to continue with a doctorate in educational technology. After a few months here with my oldest sister, plans changed and she and her husband decided to get me into IT; where I spent the next 12 months in an IT professional training center owned by a Cameroonian. This will become the beginning of a now 19 year’s successful career in Information Technology.

Upon successful completion and industry certifications from his school, I was ready to begin a career in IT. My professional career started as a Helpdesk Technician with an IT department of a county government agency. My passion for people and my teaching background together with my newly acquired IT skills had me moving up in that organization rather rapidly. Within 3 years I was named the IT Manager. I earned a MSc. in Management Information Technology in 2005. I am currently the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer for the Tulsa City-County Library, a 26 branch public library system, with over 360 employees located in Northeastern Oklahoma.

What led you to pursue your career?

My passion for learning and my love for a challenge were driving forces. Working in public libraries and seeing how lives were being transformed everyday was simply amazing. As a technology professional in the space, I was incredibly psyched by the prospect of being at the center of a digital transformation that was to become my passion and daily work – bring technology and innovation to the haves and haves not. I had the fortune of having some incredible mentors that propelled me and allowed me to reach for my dreams.

How were you able to get started?

I was able to get started with the support and encouragement from my sister and her husband; who both got me into this IT training program. I must also say, Mr. Henry Ful, the CEO and Owner of Technology Center, Inc. was a big part of how I was able to get started. His belief and faith in me in the fact that I could do this even when I tried to come up with all the reasons why I couldn’t was truly a blessing. His manner of instruction and dedication to his students’ success and future was inspiring. He would not take no for an answer, he had you believing in yourself anytime you thought it was too hard and you were ready to give up. I am grateful to have had him as that driving force, which played a significant role in my ability to move forward into a career in IT.

When did you realize that you were making real progress with your career?

I realized I was making progress when I was being presented with new opportunities and responsibilities that allowed me to also mentor others to become their best. Being invited to serve on many panels to talk about technology trends, digital transformation and advancement and to promote the use of technology in solving today’s societal pressing issues.

What have been some of the challenges you’ve had to face?

Prejudice is a major challenge and a part of the reality when working as a woman of color in this field. You always have to work twice as hard to earn your place and respect among your peers. But I remain optimistic that you can still rise above and break through these stereotypical barriers if you assert yourself and let your knowledge speak for you.

Do you personally know other Cameroonians in your field?

Yes, I personally know other Cameroonians working in my field. I have hired and worked with some of them. And I must tell you, they were some of the best in the industry. They have taught me many lessons in leadership and challenged me to even greater heights.

Do you feel as though you’ve helped break barriers?

I feel many before me broke those barriers to make it possible for me to be able to excel in a predominantly male dominated career and I follow in their footsteps humbly; hoping I can contribute to the deadlocks and stereotypes with Women in Technology and especially, women of color. My aim is to be the best I can be, do what I love and positively impact as many people as possible. I hope to be a role model to my children and other young aspiring young women that if you put your mind to something and do it well, the sky is your limit and that you can open doors that would not be otherwise be opened if you work hard and make yourself stand out. Others will look at you and say, I can do it too. I have mentored many Africans not just from Cameroon in this field and every one of them is successful today in a career in IT. I understand that if I do well, many others will be inspired by my story and be empowered to pursue their dreams. So I’d advise others to have strong reasons for doing what they are doing, as this helps them stay on track during the tough times. Also, if people see that you really believe in what you are championing then you are more likely to get support.

What do you feel is next for your career?

I strive to be the best I can be, do what I love and positively impact as many people as possible. I love to mentor and coach people to realize their dreams and so I think the next steps for me will be in a leadership coach role. At the moment I’m really eager to drive innovation and build technology, processes and people in my current role; but in the future I’d like to be in a position where I can make a greater impact on people’s lives and have a greater influence. I am hoping the years ahead will be filled with the realizations of our goals and vision here at the Tulsa City-County Library as we continue to build 21st century library services, customer experiences and products. I am excited about the future here as we get ready to open our state-of-the-art, learner-driven, technology-centered facility designed to meet the needs of 21st century visitors.

What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?

My advice to them is to always be authentic and true to yourself. There are no quick fixes; I tell them that resilience, hard work and humility are key drivers for success. Just like my parents did for me, I also encourage young people to have an insatiable thirst for learning and to never stop learning, and to always reach for the sky. I also tell them how important it is to be responsive to those in need; something my late father also always said to us. I tell our young people that they cannot turn their heads away from the challenges of our times; they need to be a part of the change we desire in our society and communities.

What do you think today is a major challenge for the Cameroonian Diaspora’s full positive impact to be felt in Cameroon?

Our complex bureaucratic systems and governance are among some of the greatest challenges impacting the Diaspora Cameroonian’s ability to make full impact back at home.

Do you believe a campaign highlighting the positives of Cameroon would be worth exploring to take away the stigma associated with it?

Absolutely. Not without a doubt. Building and driving awareness cannot be underestimated. It will however require a collective effort at many levels – individual, national, local communities, faith communities, etc. As Cameroonians we need to be cheerleaders for our rich culture, history, and value systems.

Would you recommend the CPS to your network of professionals? Why?

Yes, I would absolutely recommend CPS. Together, we are stronger and we can only succeed if we all make our little contributions and participate in the national discourse to make our beloved motherland a better, stronger nation. And I believe CPS is contributing to this effort by providing excellent opportunities for Cameroon professionals to connect, network, collaborate and learn from each other.

Send requests to info@cpsociety.org to contact Ms. Sendze