Kenneth Coleman

Kenneth E. Coleman
SVP and CIO, Southern Company


My dad. He constantly reminded me that I could become anything I wanted to become, provided I was willing to work hard, educate myself, and never give up. He was also a big believer in the importance of being someone who helps others. He would often say, “It doesn’t matter whether you become a doctor, a lawyer, or an Indian chief. You have a responsibility to leave this world better than you found it.”


The education gap. My dad always told me that education is something that no one can take away from you and the key to having success in this world. While progress has been made over the past few years, the African-American community still trails the majority community in academic achievement. Our dropout rates are still too high and our college graduation rates are still too low. We have to continue to demonstrate the value of education to our young people, and encourage and support their achievements.


I give back in a number of ways, but primarily through youth activities. I helped start a leadership academy in Montgomery, Alabama. And since I’ve been in Atlanta, I have coached sports, mentored youth through various programs, worked with a local internship program for inner-city kids, and participated in several initiatives aimed at helping develop our young people through the local chapter of the 100 Black Men of America.


Building relationships is important to success. No one can be successful solely on his or her own. Over the course of my career, there have been a number of individuals, including my peers, who have helped me—from giving me wise counsel to helping me find business opportunities, and everything in between.


Don’t be afraid to take calculated career risks. Many successful people I know were willing to accept a significant challenge at some point in their career. They chose to tackle a difficult business problem, relocate to a new city, accept a role in an area outside their particular expertise, or start a business. Be the one who volunteers for difficult tasks. People will notice.