Q&A with Todd Rowley
April 8, 2022
In 2021, Virginia Tech and Northern Virginia Community College formed a partnership to establish the Business Information Technology – Cybersecurity Management and Analytics (BIT-Cyber) program. The program provides a guided transfer path toward earning a bachelor’s degree in BIT-Cyber, while offering the first Virginia Tech bachelor’s degree available to students without having to be in Blacksburg. The work-based program “removes barriers for students from diverse, non-traditional backgrounds, while also providing access to high-level, workplace-learning opportunities in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area,” according to Svetlana Filiatreau, director of BIT-Cyber.
Filiatreau recently spoke with Todd Rowley (MBA ’94), Pamplin Advisory Council Board Member Emeritus and chairman of the Future of Work Business Advisory Council with Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). He has played a critical role in facilitating this academic partnership between NOVA and Virginia Tech as a regional cybersecurity workforce development initiative.
Rowley has over 40 years in the banking industry, currently serving as the Regional President with Old Dominion National Bank, supporting commercial banking for the Metropolitan Washington Region and Central Virginia. He has a personal interest in information technology, cloud computing, and cybersecurity, and has been one of the region’s most respected industry leaders involved in the regional workforce and tech talent development efforts for over three decades. Rowley has a long history of involvement in community engagement and has served on the board and executive committee of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he currently serves as director for Northern Virginia Community College, a member of the Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board, an advisory board member of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership on Ending Homelessness, a board member to the Northern Virginia Council of GO Virginia, and a member of the board of directors for LEAD Virginia.
Filiatreau and Rowley discussed his career, how he ended up at Virginia Tech, and the benefits offered through the partnership between Virginia Tech and Northern Virginia Community College.
I want to go back and discuss your early years. What was there – in your teens and high school – that informed your career, your passions, and your commitment to making a difference?
I remember being in third grade and sitting in my house on a Saturday morning watching television. My dad walked into the room and said, “You're going to go to college,” and then just walked out of the room. From that early age, I knew that my going to college was an important goal for my father.
I went to a very small high school in Michigan, and I thought I might get overwhelmed by the Michigan State or the University of Michigan. I decided to go to a smaller size private college called Adrian College. I was a double-major in business administration and speech communications. I figured, knowing how to communicate while I'm in business couldn't hurt you. Besides, getting a double major was good economics for me because they didn’t charge me more for getting two degrees.
When I graduated there were no jobs in Michigan. Everybody was moving out of state to find jobs elsewhere. So, I moved to Virginia.
Tell me more about it. What was it like? We have a lot of students in similar situations, where the transition is scary.
I went to a bank to look for a job as a teller because I figured I had to start at the bottom. A long-term employee there mentioned that they had a management training program and asked if I would be interested. I think the key thing is you’ve got to keep at it – you can't get discouraged. I think the other side of that is you can't be above or below any job you have. When you don’t have a job, no job is beneath you.
When you come out of college, or you come out of whatever your circumstances are, and you don't have a job, getting a job is like winning the lottery. I feel that one of my personal paybacks is to make sure that other people have the ability to gain a skill, whether it be a trade, higher education, or college degree; something that allows them to get a job. I'm very fortunate. The only thing I had coming from Michigan to Virginia was a paper piece of paper that said I knew something. It allowed me to get an interview that, luckily, led to a job. So, I want everybody else to have the same fortunate circumstances that I was able to have.
You mentioned that you were management trainee. That seems to be something that you're passionate about – formal and informal on-the-job training opportunities.
I think that, in some form or fashion, everybody should be a “K through gray” learner. Everybody should continue to be learning something new all through their life. In my case, I went to graduate school at University of Delaware, and I've got my MBA from Virginia Tech. Being able to layer those together is important because each of those added a dimension to how I approach my job.
To learn more about Rowley and his career and impact, please watch the entire interview.