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Sheila Talton

Corporate executive Sheila G. Talton was born on October 12, 1952 in Cleveland, Ohio. As a teenager, she became involved in the civil rights movement in Rockford, Illinois. Talton went on to graduate from Northern Illinois University with her B.S. degree in business administration and speech communications in 1980

Upon graduation, Talton was hired as a sales trainee at NCR Corporation. She became head of Midwest sales for Data Group Systems in Chicago in 1982, moving on to a position as team leader in the sales department of Applied Data Research (ADR) in 1984. Taking advantage of a void left by the breakup of AT&T, Talton founded Unisource Network Services, a provider of voice, data and video networking consultation and support services, in 1987. In 1996, while still leading Unisource, she helped establish the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, a mentoring group that cultivates executive talent among African American IT professionals. Talton sold her stake in Unisource in 2000, and was hired as the vice president of Cap Gemini, Ernst & Young’s Midwest technology consulting practice. In 2002, she was named president of global business innovation services for Electronic Data Systems (EDS). Talton was hired by the computer networking company Cisco Systems Inc. in 2004 where she became vice president of advisory services in the Customer Advocacy Group. She was promoted to a role as vice president of Cisco’s Office of Globalization in 2008 and helped the company identify growth opportunities in emerging markets around the world. She left Cisco in 2012 to found the consulting firm SGT, Ltd. In 2013, Talton established Gray Matter Analytics, Inc., a business providing consulting services and cloud hosting service for analytics.

Talton has served as a member of the board of directors of the ACCO Brands Corporation, the Wintrust Financial Corporation, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Foundation, the Lighthouse for the Blind, and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her honors include selection as a Congressional appointee on the US White House Women’s Business Council, as one of the “Top 10 Women in Technology” by Enterprising Women, and as “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the National Federation of Black Women Business Owners. She is also a recipient of the “Entrepreneurial Excellence Award” from Working Woman magazine and a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award. She was named a 2007 “Woman Worth Watching” by Profiles in Diversity Journal, received a 2008 Egretha Award from the African American Women’s Business and Career Conference, and was named a 2009 Business Leader of Color by Chicago United. In 2010 she was honored as a Woman of Achievement by the Anti-Defamation League, and as the Outstanding College Alumni of the Year by the Business School of Northern Illinois University. In 2011 she was named one of “25 Influential Black Women in Business” by The Network Journal and received the “Diamond Leadership Award” from the Information Technology Senior Management Forum.

Sheila G. Talton was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 23, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.216

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/23/2013

Last Name

Talton

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Gayle

Schools

Harvard Business School

Northern Illinois University

West High School

Rock Valley College

Roosevelt-Perry Elementary School

Franklin School

First Name

Sheila

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

TAL01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Vail, Colorado

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/12/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Vegetables

Short Description

Corporate executive Sheila Talton (1952 - ) had extensive global operations experience as a business leader and entrepreneur in the information technology industry. She founded Gray Matter Analytics in 2013.

Employment

Gray Matter Analytics, Inc.

Sterling Partners

Sgt, LTD. (Sheila Talton, LTD.)

CISCO Systems

EDS

CAP Gemini Ernst & Young

Unisource Network Services

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sheila Talton's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sheila Talton lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sheila Talton describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sheila Talton describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sheila Talton describes her mother's personality and education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sheila Talton talks about her father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sheila Talton lists her father's siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sheila Talton remembers her parents' divorce

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sheila Talton describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sheila Talton recalls living in Louisville, Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Sheila Talton remembers Perry Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Sheila Talton describes her home life in Louisville, Kentucky, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Sheila Talton describes her home life in Louisville, Kentucky, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Sheila Talton remembers the holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sheila Talton describes her family life in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sheila Talton describes the Hough neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sheila Talton recalls visits from her father after her parents' divorce

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sheila Talton remembers moving to Rockford, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sheila Talton remembers the Franklin School in Rockford, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sheila Talton remembers her parents' relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sheila Talton talks about the African American community in Rockford, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sheila Talton remembers reconnecting with her father

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sheila Talton recalls her involvement in the Black Power movement

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sheila Talton remembers her teenage years

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sheila Talton describes her experiences at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sheila Talton talks about the Black Panther Party in Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sheila Talton recalls her decision to attend Northern Illinois University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sheila Talton remembers leaving Northern Illinois University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sheila Talton remembers entering the secretarial workforce

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sheila Talton recalls her return to Northern Illinois University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sheila Talton remembers studying business administration at Northern Illinois University

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Sheila Talton describes her motivation for completing her college education

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sheila Talton remembers joining the NCR Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sheila Talton recalls her decision to leave the NCR Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sheila Talton talks about her technological aptitude and training

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sheila Talton describes her salesmanship skills

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sheila Talton remembers her role at Data Group Systems

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sheila Talton remembers working for Applied Data Research

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sheila Talton remembers her prejudiced manager at Applied Data Research

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sheila Talton remembers founding Unisource Network Services

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sheila Talton describes what she learned at Applied Data Research

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sheila Talton remembers her divorce

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sheila Talton talks about her daughter

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sheila Talton remembers running Unisource Network Services

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sheila Talton remembers leaving Unisource Network Services

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sheila Talton describes her role at Ernst and Young

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sheila Talton remembers working at Ernst and Young

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sheila Talton describes her civic involvement in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Sheila Talton recalls her transition from Capgemini SE to Electronic Data Systems

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Sheila Talton talks about the importance of community service

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sheila Talton talks about her role as a mentor

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sheila Talton remembers her second marriage

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sheila Talton remembers being hired at Cisco Systems, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sheila Talton recalls working for Cisco Systems, Inc. in China

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sheila Talton talks about challenges for African Americans in Silicon Valley

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sheila Talton remembers working for Cisco Systems, Inc. in Mexico

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Sheila Talton remembers working for Cisco Systems, Inc. in Brazil and Chile

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Sheila Talton talks about her interest in big data

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Sheila Talton remembers founding Gray Matter Analytics

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sheila Talton describes the workplace culture at Sterling Partners

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sheila Talton describes her business plan for Gray Matter Analytics

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sheila Talton describes her hopes for Gray Matter Analytics

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sheila Talton reflects upon her values

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sheila Talton shares her advice to young people

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sheila Talton reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sheila Talton reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Sheila Talton talks about her plans for the future

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Sheila Talton reflects upon her parents' lessons

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Sheila Talton narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$3

DAStory

9$7

DATitle
Sheila Talton remembers founding Gray Matter Analytics
Sheila Talton recalls her return to Northern Illinois University
Transcript
And when I went back out there I started looking around, who was investing in all the big data and then where the money was going, and it was pretty much going all in software; and I thought to myself, hm, that's probably not a good thing 'cause I think that there's an opportunity for the services piece, which is really more important because it's having the people that can read what the data's telling them. I ended up landing at a private equity firm here [Sterling Partners] that had not done a lot in technology but they said that they wanted to, and quite frankly, I believe because of the discrimination in those firms, I didn't have a lot of options. I mean, I wasn't getting firms, "Oh, yeah, Sheila [HistoryMaker Sheila Talton], come on in, come on in," but there was an African American principal at this firm and he wanted me to come into this firm. So I did. I joined the firm as, what they call an executive in residence, which means that, you're not making much money but you're looking to invest where you might end up running the new entity that they invested in. So, I wrote an investment thesis, spent about eight months doing that and I was becoming very, very bored and then I probably brought them about four different deals. They didn't like any of them.$$Right.$$And I went back out to California this past March and met with some old Cisco [Cisco Systems, Inc.] colleagues, met with some venture funds and told them all about this investment thesis I wrote and how I know that this is the sweet spot in big data, where there's a void. Consistently, I got asked, "So why aren't you launching the company?" I said, I don't know. Came back to Chicago [Illinois], thought about that, went skiing out in Vail [Colorado] with a couple of friends, talked to them about my investment thesis and they said, "So why aren't you launching it?" And I said, you know, I think I will. So, I came back to Chicago and started Gray Matter Analytics and we're nine people now, office in Silicon Valley, office in Chicago, thinking about whether we need one on the East Coast because right now our biggest customer is out there on the East Coast.$$Okay.$$I sit on a couple of public company boards and still on the Northwestern Memorial Hospital [Chicago, Illinois] board, Chicago Urban League board and the Shakespeare Theatre [Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago, Illinois] board, so I've got a full life.$Then in, let's see, 1975, 1975, I met my husband--maybe '74 [1974]. And we were married and he was a machinist at a factory in Belvidere, Illinois and I was still working at the printing place, and then I became pregnant and I had my daughter. And when I had my daughter, life changed for me. I did not go back to work at the printing place, I went to work at a place called Allis-Chalmers [Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company], they manufactured forklifts and I was a clerk there. And my daughter was young, a baby, and there was a salesman there, first name Greg [ph.], I cannot think of his last name, white guy, and I had been working there for about, say maybe a year or so, and he says to me one day, he says, "Why are you working here?" And me being as militant as I am, I'm thinking, and why are you asking me that? And he said, "You're capable of so much more, why is it that you're a clerk here at this showroom?" And I said, "Well, I have to work, my husband works, we have a daughter." And he says, "Well, why didn't you go to college?" I said, "Oh, I did." I said, "That didn't work so well." He says, "What do you mean?" And I said, "Oh, I partied a lot, I was on academic probation." He says, "Why don't you go back?" I said, "Well they're not going to take me back." He says, "They would take you back." And I said, "What do you mean they would take me back?" He says, "Well, if you would go to a junior college and you take calculus and quantitative analysis, some really tough classes and ace those, they'd take you back at Northern [Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois]." And I said, (makes sound), I said, "Well, you know, I've never been really good at math." He says, "Well, I'll tutor you." So I took his advice. I went and enrolled in classes at Rock Valley junior college [Rock Valley College, Rockford, Illinois] and he kept his word. I would go to his house, his wife and he, and he would tutor me. I ended up taking about, I don't know, twelve hours there and then I reapplied back at Northern. I had a young child at this time. They accepted me back. I quit that job. I got a loan and a scholarship, a grant from Sundstrand [Sundstrand Corporation; UTC Aerospace Systems], it was one of them where I had worked as a secretary, and I was on the dean's list every semester.$$Can we hold that for a minute 'cause you're, you're going to where I'm going to be in a few minutes, but let's back up just a hair. You ended up getting married in 1970--$$I think we got married, my daughter was born in '77 [1977], so we must have got married maybe in '74 [1974], '75 [1975].$$Okay, and your husband's name?$$Henry [Henry Talton].$$Henry, thank you, and your daughter's name?$$Shannel [Shannel Talton].$$Shannel, thank you. These are important details, I want to make sure I get them.$$Ex-husband.$$Ex-husband, okay, no, I can deal with then-husband, later on, ex-husband. And this salesman, I'm sorry, what was his name?$$Greg was his first name. I wish I, I actually wish I could find him, but Greg was his first name.$$All right, and he just, so he took you under, under his wing (unclear)?$$Right.$$He's white?$$Um-hm.