Martha Daniel '81, Information Systems
President and CEO, Information Management Resources, Inc.
How are entrepreneurs made? Cal Poly Pomona alumna Martha Daniel might have an interesting answer to that question. After all, she was awarded the Living History Maker Entrepreneur Award from Wells Fargo and Turning Point magazine in 2004 and was inducted into the National Association of Women Business Owners Hall of Fame in 2001. Daniel also earned a master's of business administration from the University of La Verne. She has come a long way from her sheltered childhood in Memphis, Tennessee, and is proud of being the first in her family to graduate from college.
The youngest of five children, Daniel grew up during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, which had a profound effect on her. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message motivated and inspired her to achieve a college education, which was also a goal her hardworking parents endorsed.
“The Civil Rights Movement showed me the significance of education in our lives,” says Daniel. “It is the key to distinguishing ourselves in society and creating a diverse world where everyone can make a contribution.”
Following a brief stint at Tennessee State, she joined the U.S. Navy's cryptology unit. After fulfilling her enlistment requirements, Daniel married and moved to California. At the time, she had a six-year-old son and was pregnant with her next child. In her search for a new career path, she read an article in Reader's Digest that listed “computer systems analyst” as the #1 degree of the future. Because she was instinctively drawn to the technology industry, Daniel immediately began researching degree options. She found the answer at Cal Poly Pomona through the College of Business Administration 's information systems program. She began her coursework shortly after her daughter's birth.
“I was a mother, a veteran and a wife,” she says, noting that she often read her college textbooks to her infant daughter as bedtime stories. “I was completely focused on earning my degree and entering the business world.”
Daniel worked hard, taking 24 to 32 units per quarter to graduate in 1981 with a bachelor of science in information systems. The article in Reader's Digest proved prophetic: she had 16 job offers before she left Cal Poly Pomona. By the time the ink was dry on her diploma she was working for ARCO Petroleum Products Company's information technology department. Her new degree more than prepared her to meet the challenges of her new position.
“My degree in business has been the foundation of my whole career,” says Daniel, who was accelerated through ARCO's three-month training program in three weeks due to Cal Poly Pomona's hands-on style of education.
Within seven years, she rose to the level of vice president. Again, she credits her degree program for her success.
“We information systems students were trained not only in business technology but also in business management,” says Daniel. “I stood out because I was able to think beyond the technical components of just writing a program and see how it would impact the business as a whole.”
She swiftly moved from senior management to executive management at various well known companies before her entrepreneurial nature kicked in. Daniel is president and CEO of IMRI (Information Management Resources, Inc.), a consulting firm that specializes in enterprise services. Daniel is currently one of perhaps 10 females in information technology who has a company that provides consulting services in broadband and telecommunications for small businesses throughout the country. In 1996, Upside magazine named IMRI one of the top 100 fastest-growing technology companies in the United States. IMRI has approximately 60 employees, with a focus on providing quality employment opportunities for women and minorities.
“I have a chance to pave the way for other small businesses, women-owned businesses, and minority businesses,” says Daniel, who is well known for her mentoring as well as her community service efforts. “I give back to the business community so that others can benefit from what I have learned.”
How, then, are entrepreneurs made? Perhaps, like Daniel, they follow the examples of courage and integrity set by their families. Daniel's mother, who was illiterate, earned her high school equivalency diploma at the age of 72.
“I believe,” she says, “that we can do all the things we desire to do and that our only limitations are the limitations we put on ourselves.”
And that is what entrepreneurs are made of.