IT AVP Jeremy Lewis creates and leads at Federal Reserve
From his early years as a Red Lobster manager, this IT pro has come far. His successes have been built on his ability to lead and network
'I’ve been successful because of the mentoring and coaching I received from a lot of people I met along the way,” believes Jeremy C. Lewis. “At first I tried to figure everything out for myself, but I eventually realized I needed a network of people to help me. Now I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Lewis is AVP of information technology, access and controls at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. His areas of responsibility include information security operations, asset management, change management, and records and information management, which is a department he was instrumental in creating.
Lewis grew up in Cleveland, OH. “In school, I couldn’t stand science but I always liked math. Everybody else looked at those word problems and thought they were nasty,” he smiles. “I said, ‘Give them to me!’
“One math teacher in particular really encouraged me. In fact, he worked with a contingent of minority students on advanced math concepts because he knew how important it was for us to have a leg up as we finished high school and went on to college. I really appreciated what he did for us.”
Lewis was a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist. “Iowa State University (Ames) had a George Washington Carver scholarship program grant that I took advantage of.”
He graduated in 1993 with a BS in mathematics and was just a few credits shy of a minor in computer science. He was good at his studies but admits that he was bad at thinking about getting a job after he graduated. “If I had it back, I would have taken advantage of the counseling resources and internship opportunities available to me,” he says.
When he graduated, he got a job as a personal banking assistant at Norwest Bank in Des Moines, IA (later merged with Wells Fargo). “We helped people get loans, researched their accounts, and talked with customers about our financial products and services.”
Lewis was at Norwest until 1995. He was also working at the local Red Lobster, and became a manager there. “I liked the leadership position they offered me, so I quit the bank. I started in Des Moines and moved to Red Lobsters in Omaha, Lincoln and then Chicago in 1997. That’s how I got here.”
The fourteen-hour days began to wear on Lewis. He moved to Kinkos (now FedEx Office), and then Target Corporation. Finally a friend told him about an opening at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in the internal audit department.
A new career in the IT world
He joined the Fed in 2001 as an internal auditor and held that position until 2008. “We evaluated the bank’s internal controls,” he describes, “making sure our policies and procedures are being followed.
“This is where I got introduced to the IT world,” he explains. “I moved into information technology auditing and developed my expertise in computer science and IT in general. I was responsible for leading many IT audits. That brought me into contact with the IT department at the bank.”
After seven years in internal auditing, Lewis still craved a more direct leadership role. “I needed to broaden my horizons,” he remembers. “I had some mentors including the top manager in the audit department. She understood what I wanted to do and told me that, to do it, I probably had to move out of the department. It was the best advice she could have given me.”
Taking chances and making connections
The IT department was assessing the bank’s records and information management capabilities. “I took what was supposed to be a six to eighteen-month position to evaluate how well the bank was positioned to handle requests,” he says. “Did we have the information we needed? Were we retaining our critical information for the correct length of time? My title was project manager for the eDiscovery initiative, and this position got me in front of a lot of senior bank leaders.
“I proposed a new records and information management department in 2010, and they selected me to lead it. I was the bank’s manager of records and information in the IT department.”
During this time Lewis was also the president of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank’s African American professional network, which gave him additional exposure to top management. He was chairman of the group from 2008 until 2010, and continues to be a strong advocate of the bank’s diversity and employee development initiatives.
“Late in 2011, a position opened for an AVP of information technology, access and controls. That person was going to be in charge of my records and information management department as well as some other IT departments,” Lewis says. “I think it was my visibility as head of the records department and the African American network that positioned me to grab that post. Those involvements put me in a good position to demonstrate my skills,” he says.
He has three direct reports: the managers of the records department, information security, and asset and change management. Lewis reports to the bank’s VP of IT.
Lewis has certifications for information systems auditing and internal auditing, and is a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors (Altamonte Springs, FL). He earned a 2007 MBA from the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (Lake Forest, IL).
“Ultimately, my goal is to be a leader who can help develop people in different areas of the organization. I can always hire someone with technical expertise, but the leadership education made the MBA attractive,” he states.
“I’m a year into my current role and loving it to death,” he enthuses. “Long term, I would like to take on more responsibility. That could be IT-focused or in other areas where leadership and risk management are key factors. I want to apply all the knowledge and customer service skills I’ve acquired.”
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