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Managing

Sears’ Milt Haynes oversees knowledge management

This former national BDPA president graduated with U.S. President Barack Obama. Now he’s a knowledge manager at Sears, and runs a global group for blacks in technology


'I graduated from Columbia University in 1983, the same year and in the same class as President Obama,” notes Milt Haynes, “but he took a slightly different path than me.”

Haynes is a knowledge manager at Sears Holdings Corporation (Hoffman Estates, IL), where he ensures that IT knowledge, intellectual capital and experience are shared throughout the organization.

“My interest in computers started when I was a kid in Chicago, with Star Trek,” he says. “Mr Spock always seemed to have a logical solution to any problem. That made me think that if I had a computer, I could do that too.

“I went to Control Data Institute (CDI) in 1971, a trade school for computer training, but I didn’t get a degree. Back in those days, there were very few schools that offered computer training. I spent the next four years looking for a job.”

In 1975, Haynes left Chicago to take a job as an operator for an automated check processing system at Chase Manhattan Bank (New York, NY). When he left, he was a lead programmer.

Sage tip leads to hard-earned degree
“Chase had a tuition reimbursement program and an HR guy said I should take advantage of that and go back to school,” Haynes recalls. “I got my BS degree from Columbia in computer science in 1983. It took me eight years because I was working and also raising a family. I look back on it now and think, ‘Wow! How did I manage that?’”

Haynes’ career has taken him across different industries in several different companies. “I’ve been very aggressive with my career,” he says. “My focus area has been technology, with a lot of diversity in the type of company.

“At the beginning I was a subject-matter expert,” says Haynes. “I started as the guy who had knowledge of the intricacies of a particular technical solution. I moved into management roles in the 80s.”

From 1997 to 2006, at Lucent Technologies (Naperville, IL), he ran the global project management office responsible for roll-out and support of programs designed to efficiently move projects through a large organization.

At Abbott Labs (Abbott Park, IL), from 2006 to 2011, Haynes was IT director of global information services planning and research. He led enterprise project management and IT strategy and planning in support of an IT organization that included more than 3,500 IT professionals.

Networking to Sears
He was laid off from Abbott and spent eighteen months in what he calls “job hunt mode.” Through a contact at the Project Management Institute (PMI), he learned of an opportunity at Sears. “I’ve been very involved in PMI,” says Haynes. “I co-founded the executive council for the Chicagoland chapter.”

In 2012, he came to Sears in his current role of knowledge manager. “We use the ITIL (information technology infrastructure library) standard that views knowledge management as a process area, along with service desk, change management, incident management, and problem management. It’s a way to break up IT support into areas so each one can be optimized.

“For example, when a customer calls a help desk, the desk creates a ticket that has information about you and your problem. Then the service desk goes into a knowledge database to see if they can find a fix to the problem. Knowledge management is a competitive advantage because if your service desk can keep you up and running, there is less impact to the business.”

BDPA: one man’s exciting discovery
Outside Sears, Haynes is involved with Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA; Largo, MD), where he’s been a member since 1990. “I fell in love with BDPA,” he says. “In all the time I had been in the technical industry, there weren’t a lot of African Americans.

“When I met a whole organization of African Americans who talked the techie talk, I thought it was great! I became active in the Chicago chapter and became a board member. In 1998 and 1999, I was the president of the Chicago chapter.

“My passion is to change the mix of African Americans in the industry so there are more; and, once they’re there, help them move up the corporate ladder,” he says.

As president of the Chicago chapter, Haynes was a member of the national board, and in 2002 he was elected president of the national BDPA. Haynes is proud to say that during his tenure as president, BDPA enjoyed its highest membership counts, over 4,000. He is still a BDPA board and executive committee member, and serves as CIO, responsible for the organization’s website, cloud applications and more.

The advent of Blacks Gone Geek
In 2007, Haynes founded Blacks Gone Geek. “I wanted to leverage social media to attract African Americans to the IT industry. BDPA was trying to sponsor a student empowerment retreat but having trouble getting students to register. A college student told me about Facebook. This was also around the time that LinkedIn was starting to pick up steam and blogs were becoming popular.

“I saw an opportunity to start an online community that could be used to promote African Americans in IT, and that’s how Blacks Gone Geek got started. I wanted to use it as a bully pulpit to get the word out, and it’s moved on from there. We have 25,000 members. It’s fun. I like watching people join the community from all over the world, including South Africa and India. It’s become a global organization.”

Looking ahead
“I’m happy with what I’m doing,” Haynes says, “and there are still opportunities within Sears to expand the knowledge management practice across additional databases.

“I also want to grow Blacks Gone Geek and see it go to the next level. Right now, we’re kind of constrained by how much time I and the fifteen volunteers have to put into it. I’d like it to become self-perpetuating.

“The nirvana for me would be to have so many subscribers that I can’t keep up with them,” Haynes says with a smile.

D/C



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