February is Black History Month. All month long, we are showcasing Black excellence from both men and women. These are leaders who are diligently working every day to make our communities great.
Meet Kevin Bailey, the true definition of a quintessential Renaissance man who prides himself on family values and community service. Hailing from the South Side of Chicago, in addition to his demanding careers, he volunteers at Mother’s House, a nonprofit organization providing housing, case management, and supportive services for individuals addressing homelessness, substance abuse and the transition from incarceration.
Rolling out had the pleasure of sitting down with Bailey to talk about what motivates him to give so effortlessly.
How would you describe yourself?
Learning more and more about myself, I would have to say I am very focused, very driven and very family-oriented. While I didn’t think so at first, but when I think about my family and how much that different family members means to me — I feel at ease and comfortable. I would describe myself as an individual who is a focused and disciplined individual who believes in family and thinks that together we can accomplish a bunch.
Tell us about your careers.
I am a civil engineer by degree and trade but I’ve been out of the engineering space for three years now and I am currently a global industry leader for a distribution sector for IBM Watson IOT team.
I was also elected to office in the spring of 2016 as the 20th Ward Democratic Committeeman.
Talk about President Obama’s high-speed rail project.
President Obama commissioned a high-speed rail project that went between Chicago and St. Louis and I was one of the youngest and only black to lead that effort.
Are you still on this project?
I am no longer with that company, the company that was in control of that project was Union Pacific Railroad but I now work with a number of infrastructural projects across the world including some in Tokyo, France and Singapore. I am also doing some great work with some Nordic railroads.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement?
Most people would solidify their achievements in the world and material accrued, but I believe one of the biggest challenges we face in the community is making sure we are in tune and contact with our families regardless of the generations and regardless of the walks of life. So I feel one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve achieved is being able to listen, listen [to] my grandmother, listening to my parents and the ability to be led and understanding that I needed to be led because I don’t know everything. They have lived more life so being a student of my family’s life experience and I am still in study mode.
What has surprised you the most about your careers?
Two sides, from a professional standpoint — being in a tech space, how transferrable being an engineer that has specialized in running operations. I have gained management experience, I understand budgets, I understand stress loads, I learned how to delegate and most importantly, I learned how to communicate and present well. So I think having that background has put me in a great position to talk to a number of high-power executives, all the way down to that guy who swings the hammer and I am comfortable and I adapt to the climate and the situation that I am in.
I am surprised at the skill transfer.
Politically, I am surprised that those same skills also transferred to my political side with being able to present, articulate, and take very complex problems — break them down and put them back together for easy consumption so you are not confusing anyone. Also, how much opportunity there is for us to unify because there is so much division. Focus on our community, not a party.
What has been the most difficult day of your career so far?
The most difficult day of my career came recently. I am usually extremely positive but recently my grandmother was sick, both of my parents were out with the flu, my nephew was born with a hole in his heart. So the personal stuff, I usually act macho but I paid much attention to it and that kind of distracted me until they were cool. … At the same time, my politics is increasing its demand and being able to meet the commitments of the role as Committeeman, also being able to support the candidates that I feel will be the best fit to represent our community so those two components — personal and political. So just being able to navigate that through and stay focused and being able to support every part of your life — that was a challenge and being able to have a strong support team around you is critical. My parents and grandma were still very encouraging and now everyone is well.
Work-life balance, how do you do it all?
I’m able to do this because I have very effective people around me. There is nothing was able to accomplish without the aid, direction, and assistance of others and I am very aware and appreciative of that. My parents and my bother play a huge role and of course, grandma stays in my ear. I also have these little princesses my nieces (yes, they literally dress up like princesses) running around, they are motivational.
Finish this sentence: Innovation is a must because …
If you stay stagnant, you’ll become irrelevant. Innovation is needed in order to grow and progress.
What was the last thing you googled?
How to renew my passport.
Who influenced your decision to pursue your career?
My grandmother was a big influence to pursue my career in civil engineering. Whenever I felt overwhelmed, she always asked the direct questions.
Tell us something that people may be surprised to know about you.
I played two Division 1 sports at the University of Illinois, football and track.