Here are some surprising facts about Jacky Wright (BBA, ’85), chief digital officer of Microsoft and recently named the most influential Black person in Britain by U.K.-based Powerful Media. One: She’s based in the U.S. (Jacky was born in London to Jamaican parents.) Two: She got into technology by accident, thanks to a job she held while working her way through the Zicklin School.
While she was still a teenager, Jacky’s family immigrated to the United States in search of greater opportunities than they had had back in Britain. Like many immigrants before her, Jacky found her way to the Zicklin School (then known as the School of Business), where she originally planned to study accounting.
“I did not have an interest [in tech] until I got a job at a bank and started exploring technology,” she says. “I wound up majoring in computer science and minoring in accounting.”
Her computer science training led to jobs in IT for BP, Andersen Consulting, General Electric, and eventually Microsoft. After taking a two-year secondment to serve as chief digital and information officer at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (the British equivalent of the IRS), Jacky has been back in the U.S. at Microsoft since 2019. She sat down for an interview with Zicklin News from her home in Florida.
Zicklin News: Congratulations on being named the most influential Black person in Britain. Could you tell us more?
Jacky Wright: It was a humbling experience. I have always been focused on leading with purpose and “paying it forward.” My ability to do that hinges on my ability to raise awareness of the challenges people face, to be their advocate and ally, and to have a role in creating economic opportunities for them. If those are part of why I was named the most influential, then I am humbled and honored to be that person.
ZN: Why did you choose the Zicklin School for your BBA?
JW: A combination of reasons. I wanted to be able to work while going to school, and it afforded me that proximity. The business school was focused on accounting and finance, topics I was interested in at the time.
ZN: And yet you ended up majoring in computer science.
JW: Right. I did not have an interest [in tech] until I got a job at a bank and started exploring technology, and that is where my interest started. We had an IBM computer and I started playing around with it and learned how to code so I could automate my work. From there, I was curious about what else I could do with technology and I continue to explore the many ways we can use technology to improve outcomes for people and society.
ZN: What was your favorite class at the Zicklin School?
JW: I believe it was called Business Simulation. It involved running a business and doing a case study of it. We ran daily scenarios around revenue, sales models, financial reporting, and so on.
ZN: What did you do at Zicklin besides study and work?
JW: I joined social clubs, such as the Women’s Club and the Caribbean Club, that helped me find people of similar cultural backgrounds and build a sense of community. That was especially important at a school without dorms or a campus. Now [with the Newman Vertical Campus] it is easier for students to find others like them, but social clubs and community activities continue to be very important.
ZN: What is the key to being an influential leader?
JW: Leadership capabilities are driven by one’s ability to collaborate, be inclusive, and challenge the status quo. As a leader, you must build your self-awareness and your “empathy muscle,” build relationships, learn to collaborate, foster team spirit, and focus on how you affect others.
ZN: What’s next for you?
JW: As a member of the advisory board for the Paul H. Chook Department of Information Systems and Statistics, I am working to monitor what is happening in the marketplace and ensure that our curricula are preparing students to meet the needs of employers. Life is short — I’m focused on leading a life with purpose and having a rich life by continuously learning.