By Hannah Rosche
Times West Virginian, Fairmont
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) When we talk about women as leaders in business…sometimes you have to look outside the big cities to find that special person who truly inspires. Jotwyla Moore of West Virginia is one of those special people. Moore is president of Reliable Systems Inc., a woman-owned information technology and engineering firm in Fairmont. That is impressive in and of itself, but at the same time Moore is a woman of great faith and humility; serving as assistant pastor at Restoring Life Ministries, a church she and her husband of almost 22 years, Kirk Moore, built and own.
Seeing is believing.
People often have role models who inspire them and drive them to work hard to achieve their dreams.
Jotwyla Moore is an innovator, an inspiration and a role model for not only young black women, but everyone.
Moore is the president of Reliable Systems Inc., a woman-owned small business in Fairmont, and an assistant pastor at Restoring Life Ministries, a church she and her husband of almost 22 years, Kirk Moore, built and own.
Moore was born and raised in Fairmont. Starting out, she graduated from Fairmont State in 1994 with a degree in science.
“I had no plans of really going into this industry,” she said. “I thought that I’d maybe go into nursing, health care, that type of industry. I never thought I’d be here.
“But life happened,” she laughed.
Moore ended up getting married and had two kids, Alexxus and Kirk Jr. She began helping her husband with ministry.
“We built our church, and then I thought that I should get out into the world now.”
And like Moore said, life happened.
“A job kind of opened up in this industry, so I actually got a job (at the I-79 Technology Park) working for a contractor,” she said. “I had no idea what contracting was for federal agencies or anything, but I got a job working for a contractor called GeoControl Systems, based out of Houston. I ended up getting a job on the SWAT team, which is a software assurance tools team.”
Moore worked at a help desk, helping engineers gain access to software tools, making sure the softwares were running smoothly.
“I started learning a lot of things that I had no idea about,” said Moore. “I had great teachers and a great team around me. I worked there for a few years until my contract ended, so I ended up going to work at Northrop Grumman, which is right next door. I worked for them as a documentation specialist.
“Then this opportunity came up,” she said.
The former president of Reliable Systems Inc. served as president for six years until he decided to pursue other business opportunities.
“They needed a leader for the company,” she said. “As an African-American woman, there aren’t many of us who work in the entire park, probably about six or seven, and I’m pretty familiar with most of them. I asked myself, ‘Am I really ready for this?’ I’ve never been the president of anything. I’ve helped my husband in ministries so I’ve been a leader in a lot of functions, but I’ve never had the title of president.”
But Moore jumped at the opportunity.
“My motto now is ‘no opportunity wasted,'” she said. “It’s here. The chance is here. I’m here. I believe that anybody can learn anything that they set their minds to. I thought that it will be a challenge. I will have to learn something new every day, but I do have great mentors. I have great people that are around me, so I took the challenge May 1 of 2015. And it is very true — I have learned something new every single day.”
RSI is a small woman-owned business. It is an information technology and engineering firm that holds contracts with the federal government and has done business for privately owned companies.
Moore, as well as holding the president position at RSI, works one of its subcontracts for a company called TMC at NASA IV&V, also located at the I-79 Technology Park. She works the help desk at NASA IV&V.
“The analysts use over 40 tools, some of which the team I am on has developed,” she said. “Others are what they call COTS, commercial off the shelf tools, that somebody else created. Getting access to the tools, if they’re having problems with the tools, like any other help desk, they call or email. We support the users here basically.
“I’m the president of RSI. However, my company has a subcontract to TMC to IV&V. Because I’m new and I’m an entrepreneur, my company is very small. I work one of my contracts. That’s why I’m here every day.”
Moore said the Small Business Administration (SBA) has been a big help to her as the president of a Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB).
“Entrepreneurship is very challenging within itself,” she said. “Learning this business is very challenging. However, the SBA has a lot of resources out there.”
The SBA sent a representative who provided her with a plan, giving her guidance and training.
“I’ve just been learning along the way, and so far, so good,” she said.
Moore is in the process of seeking 8(a) certification, which is a program designed for helping disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to government contracts. She said receiving 8(a) will be a big step for RSI.
“The government has different certifications for different groups of people,” she said. “8(a) is when the government will set aside certain portions of contracts for certain people groups that they consider disadvantaged — African-American, Alaskan-American, Native American. The government knows these groups have been disadvantaged in America.”
Judy Sheppard, president and CEO of Professional Services of America, is a professional mentor to Moore. Sheppard met Moore through TMC.
“We talked about where she was going, how she was going to achieve her 8(a), and she needed some guidance and advice,” Sheppard said. “I started giving her that advice and some guidance on that.”
Women-owned businesses also get assistance under certain government qualifications.
“It is the government’s way of making sure everybody gets a piece of the pie,” Moore said. “The government contracts over, I think, $5 billion worth of services. It’s a way that they can guarantee as a government that women-owned businesses get a certain chunk of that.”
Moore is an innovator, navigating through the fields of high technology and entrepreneurship daily.
“I am very rare in this industry just by being an African-American woman and an African-American woman owner, as there are very, very few even throughout the United States,” Moore said. “I’m something new, something that you don’t see all of the time. I love to empower women. That’s who I am as a person. For me, to take this on was not just about me. It was about me showing other young African-American women that you can take on a challenge. This is something that you can do. Even though this world doesn’t seem like it’s meant for you, it is something that you can aspire to and actually become successful in.”
Inspiring women and blacks to pursue careers in high-tech fields is one of the most important things to Moore. She understands the disadvantages that face minorities and aims to be a role model to show the world that minorities and women can accomplish anything.
“I was having lunch with a couple of engineers who work for IV&V who are African-American,” she said. “They were both telling me that going through school — and they went to different schools — their professors told them, ‘This isn’t for you. You should just look for a husband because that’s the best thing that you can do here is find a husband and move on. He’ll be able to take good care of you. This industry is not for you.’
“I guess there’s kind of a stigma for women, and as you see, even in general, there’s not a lot of women (in high technology),” she said. “I’m not an engineer so I can’t speak for that, but I am an African-American woman, and you don’t see many of us.
It’s important to get an education but also to understand that there are various things that you don’t have to fall into: teacher or nursing. That’s kind of West Virginian as well. When I was a kid growing up, we were told, ‘These are the things that you can be.’ We didn’t really know that we could become an analyst or an engineer or a president of a business. I think it’s important for girls in general to know.”
Moore, being from Fairmont herself, emphasizes the importance of reaching out to youth in the area and serving as an example for young women and blacks.
“It’s not good enough, I feel like, especially when you grow up in a small area in small-town West Virginia, to see (an example) somewhere else,” she said, speaking of minority representation in the high technology industry. “You have to see it where you are.
“That is a part of why I made the decision to do what I did, so that somebody could see a living example. I’m reachable. I’m touchable. I’m local. I can’t say that it’s all easy. I can’t say that every night I can go home and rest. I’m here, then I have lots to do either in the morning or the evening to continue to make my business run. However, it’s something that excites me because I know I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Truly, if I’m able to inspire just one girl, if she’s African-American or not, that would be my legacy and my testament to doing this.”
High-tech fields are in West Virginia, but not everyone knows what is truly in their own backyard. Moore knows how important high technology is to West Virginia and wants to keep technology workers in the state.
“When you grow up in West Virginia and you see everything happening outside, it seems like it’s more advanced to you,” she said. “Your goal is to get an education, and you may get your education here, but then you plan on leaving. I think it’s extremely important for us to have facilities and contracts like IV&V here. (Students) have to understand that there are places here and that once they’re educated, they can stay here and work and build a career. They need to understand that they can actually build a career here, not just have one job. And then they can raise their family and live life here.”
Being a representation for black women in high technology is one of the most important things to Moore. As she speaks about inspiring young black women and other women, her eyes light up.
“It’s a wave of the future,” she said. “(Black women) should be a part of everything that’s going on. There should be representation in every field in every industry. So for me to be able to represent is just as important to me.”
Sheppard said she plans on working with Moore in the future.
“I think she’s going to make a terrific representative of West Virginia,” Sheppard said. “I’m really excited for her to get her 8(a). I intend to work very closely with her. I’m certainly going to be a major teaming partner with her.”
What Sheppard likes about Moore is that she’s straightforward and honest. She said Moore is ready to take off and accomplish all her goals with her business.
“You have to start and you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run,” Sheppard said. “And then you have to run, and I do mean run. So she has crawled already. Now she’s walking and she is ready to take off.”
Moore said the best advice is to not be afraid to take risks.
“Jump into it feet first but with your head on,” she said. “You will learn something new every day. There will be surprises around every turn, but just take on the challenge. It is rewarding. My best advice is to be prayerful. Make sure you have good people around you. Build good relationships and have good people around you. Make sure you have a mentor. It’s a learning process every day. Soak it all in and move forward. Keep your eyes on the prize.”