March 7, 2023

A career is a long, winding road that includes, failures, successes and unexpected turns along the way.

This was the advice to the next generation of students from the panelists at the Cockrell School of Engineering's third annual Black Alumni Panel. The conversation, titled Celebrating Black Excellence, between chemical engineering and aerospace engineering alumni who both ended up in Information Technology shows how different careers can turn out from the plans they made as students.

"You have to take the opportunities where they come and realize that sometimes the path you take is not what you expected as an 18-year-old walking on campus for the first time," said Michael Timmons, one of the panelists at the event.

Timmons (B.S. Aerospace Engineering 1991) has in his career served as CTO at Family Promise Inc. and CEO at Government Solutions. His career also includes time as a senior software engineer for NASA and lead software architect for Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Fellow panelist Angela Archon (B.S. Chemical Engineering 1983, M.S. Systems Engineering 1989) is the former COO for IBM Watson Health. She has held leadership positions in IT systems engineering, business development, customer experience, strategy and supply chain. She serves on numerous boards including Switch, Inc. and CommonSpirit Health and is a former board advisor to H&R Block.

An avid golfer, Archon noted that a major turning point in her career was when she realized she shouldn't compete with her colleagues, and should focus on bettering herself, or "mastering the course." She said this made her realize that there isn't a little amount of achievement to be had.  

"There is enough success to go around," Archon said. "I found myself relaxing when I figured out the pie is not 'this' big, the pie is infinite. Once I realized that, my whole attitude changed."

The full panel is available in the video above. Watch to hear the panelists discuss discrimination and adversity they've faced in their careers, impactful moments and learning from failure.