VOL. 130 | NO. 144 | Monday, July 27, 2015
I Choose Memphis: Kenneth Burnett
Special to The Daily News
“I Choose Memphis” spotlights Memphians who are passionate about calling this community home. New Memphis Institute provides the profiles.
Name: Kenneth Burnett
Job Title and Company: Solutions Architect, ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Length of time living in Memphis: 37
Life history: I was born and raised in Memphis – North Memphis (Smoky City/New Chicago) to be exact. So my life story is a quintessential tale of starting from the bottom and being blessed to have been surrounded by caring souls who believed in me and rooted for my success like it was their own. In my current role at ALAC, I am responsible for leading teams to implement technology solutions that support the fundraising goals of the organization. Prior to joining ALSAC, I worked in information technology, strategic business development, business analysis and marketing at several companies in Memphis and Phoenix, Arizona.
I proudly served my country in the United States Marine Corps and received a commendation for my tour of duty in Southwest Asia during Operation Desert Storm. In 2002, I was the recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Phoenix chapter of the National Black MBA for outstanding achievement with my local professional networking events.
I hold a bachelor’s degree from University of Tennessee at Martin and a MBA with a concentration in leadership from Christian Brothers University. My wife, Laronda, and I have two amazing children and one very resilient goldfish. In my free time, I can often be found in the gym trying to stave off Father Time. In addition to coaching football and track, I am an avid photographer who occasionally books a gig or two to justify all of the money I spend on equipment.
What do you like most about your job? When I joined ALSAC 10 years ago, I knew that I would never find a better mission. I wake up each day knowing that what I do matters for all the right reasons. So I can’t help but smile when people ask, “Wow, you work at St. Jude?!” Yes, it’s a magical place that is truly one of Memphis’ greatest treasures.
What connects you to the city? I left town somewhat disillusioned when I was in my late 20s. I grew tired of the city’s “slow” ways and decided to head west to make my “fortune” at a software startup firm during the dotcom boom. What I didn’t realize at the time was that for every Yahoo, there were 100 “Yoohoos” that went bust. My firm was one of those Yoohoos! After seven fun and enlightening years, I realized that Memphis had something that Phoenix would never have: family. Quite simply, the home ties were too strong to stay away. I am a Memphis kid who has always loved this city for good and bad. Memphis is family. And you simply cannot turn your back on family – even when you (incorrectly) felt like family turned their back on you.
Who are your local role models or mentors? One of my first (and lasting) mentors is Robert Lipscomb, director of Housing and Community Development. While in high school, I was lucky to be a participant in Memphis Partners, a mentorship program he founded. Robert’s accomplishments are too many of name here – but his forethought and tenacity is legendary. If I am ever able to accomplish just a fraction of the change he’s made for the city, I’d consider it a job well done. He’s created such a high bar and I will work tireless to emulate his service to the city and the next young batch of citizens poised to leader our city one day.
Where is your favorite place to go to listen to music? Sugashack on 150 Monroe
In your opinion, what can be done to move Memphis forward? While we have plenty of folks on the frontlines creating meaningful, positive change for the city, we still have far too many on the sidelines lamenting about how much more needs to be done. To appropriate a tagline from the University of Memphis, we need more “dreamers, thinkers and doers!” I firmly believe that you are either a part of the solution or the problem. Contrary to popular belief, there is no middle ground.