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Accomplished business consultant Maryann Douglass ‘89 enjoys the challenge of helping clients around the world solve problems related to risk, security and privacy. It’s a skill that she has honed over the past 30-plus years with remarkable success.
“I enjoy the different relationships I have with both my clients and my peers,” Douglass says of her role as principal consultant at Online Business Systems, a global consulting firm.
Douglass credits part of her business acumen to her early years as a student at Perimeter College in the late 80’s, when it was called DeKalb College. She also earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University in 1992 and now serves on the Perimeter College Dean’s Advisory Board.
In the Q&A below, Douglass shares her Perimeter College “Origin Story,” including memories of her favorite professor and much more.
Why did you choose to study at DeKalb College/Perimeter College?
I chose DeKalb College because of the Dunwoody location. It was close to my parents’ house in Dunwoody. I was a single mother and my parents helped watch my daughter while I attended classes.
What’s your favorite memory of being a student at the college?
When I was at DeKalb, I had the best teachers. They all loved teaching and keeping their students engaged. When I talk about my college experience, it always goes back to my DeKalb teachers. I had one teacher in particular that taught me so much. Tommy Barber. Not Thomas or Tom; he was a multi-generational, southern-raised man. “Tommy”—this is how he introduced himself. The class was Georgia Politics. I learned so much about Atlanta and Georgia in this class. I still throw out history facts about Atlanta today that I learned in Mr. Barber’s class.
How has DeKalb College/Perimeter College contributed to your success?
My experience at the college gave me the confidence to keep going in my education. The teachers gave me the interest to continue learning. When I graduated from high school, I did not want to go to college, but realized later that it was important for me to attend.
Share some of your career highlights.
I started my career as a midrange computer operator for a food distribution company. After four years, I moved to the IT division of Macy’s Department Stores because I wanted to learn mainframe computing operations. I never made it to that position. I embarked on more process management roles, leading the project and change management process. This led to me becoming director of the Infrastructure Project Management Office and local operations team. Over the years, I added additional responsibilities, including establishing the infrastructure governance, risk, and compliance team. A 29-plus year career at Macy’s led to my current consultant role at Online Business Systems, where I provide services to companies located throughout the world.
What is it that you actually do in your career as a consultant?
I work with clients to understand their business, technologies and processes in order to recommend security solutions that will help them implement Payment Card Industry (PCI) requirements in order to achieve PCI compliance. I also assess the client’s security infrastructure to ensure compliance is in place. In a Trusted Advisor and vCISO (virtual Chief Information Security Officer) role, I assist clients with improving their current IT environment by recommending security and business improvements.
Would you say that your experiences at DeKalb College/Perimeter College are partly the reason you were bold enough to move into consulting?
Yes, my experiences at DeKalb College, now Perimeter College, gave me the foundation I needed to be successful. I went to school in my late 20’s. I was ready to take in all knowledge and experience that the professors would give me.
What advice could you give to other aspiring consultants?
Believe in yourself. If you have the education from Perimeter College/Georgia State and the willingness to continue your journey of learning, you can be anything you set your mind to.
Throughout my career, I’ve always had mentors. Having a person who can listen to your ideas, provide feedback, and open doors is key to being successful. Also, networking. Staying in touch with other people in the industry is so important. You never know what opportunities that will bring to your career. My current position was obtained through a networking relationship.
What else would you like to share with us about your connection to DeKalb College/Perimeter College?
Looking back from where I am now, I realize how much I appreciate the start I received at DeKalb Community College. When the opportunity to be on the Board of Advisors at Perimeter College was presented to me, I am excited to give back to the school and hope I can help other students be successful.
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