The intersection of technology and business has long fascinated Huron Benson ’00. Even as a student at Essex County Technical High School, Benson found a way to study both computer science and business. As she puts it, “I was drawn to taking computers apart and building networks.”
Montclair was a logical choice for Benson. “I was considering out-of-state schools, but I was mindful of my family’s finances,” she explains, adding that she initially planned to study accounting.
Finances again played a role in Benson’s plans. “Accounting had been extended to a five-year master’s program,” she says. “I decided to switch my concentration to Management Information Systems (MIS), so that I could finish my degree in four years.”
Benson was active in Alpha Kappa Psi, the Organization of Students for African Unity, (OSAU) and student government. It was through these activities that she had learned about the MIS courses available to her within the Business Administration program. The integration of technology and business made sense to her.
Socializing on the quad, living in Blanton Hall, and meeting friends in the dining hall make up some of Benson’s fondest Montclair memories. “During my time at Montclair we elected the first Black homecoming king and queen,” she notes.
She remembers also the visiting alumni who came back to campus to recruit students. “One of my professors made it a point to encourage us to attend the job fairs,” she says.
In fact, it was a visiting alumnus from IBM who hired Benson for an internship – an opportunity that led to a full-time job as a consulting analyst for IBM Global Services. “I would be assigned to accounts, providing desktop and server support,” she says. “One of my assignments was to work with Deutsche Bank during the Democratic National Convention in Boston. I learned that they were creating an IT disaster recovery site 40 miles outside of the city, just in case anything happened during the convention events. This was very interesting to me.”
From IBM, Benson moved to Warner Brothers where she was a desktop analyst, and then to AXA US (now Equitable) where she was a lead manager of business continuity. The company relied on her expertise in business continuity in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. “We had a solid strategy and everyone knew what to do,” she says.
Working for global powerhouse companies offered many opportunities for career growth, and for international travel. “My job required visiting AXA’s headquarters in France,” she says. “Each year, I attended meetings and conferences around the world.”
In 2015 Benson rejoined Deutsche Bank, this time as the Americas regional lead for business continuity disaster recovery in charge of business disruption risk control and crisis management. She further developed her knowledge, skills and experience before joining BNY Mellon as vice president for technology disaster recovery governance, where she now serves as senior vice president. “I like this field,” she says. “It’s ever-evolving and has grown considerably since I was a student.”
Benson is grateful for the opportunities that Montclair, and Montclair alumni, provided to her. “If it weren’t for Montclair, I’m not quite sure I would be where I am today,” she says. “My willingness to work, to go to the career fairs and to have my resume at the ready, were important, too. These things, taken together, propelled me to where I am now.”
And she is eager to return the favor, reaching out to students and to help pave the way for their career success. “Several years ago, I was involved with a young professionals initiative designed to build a bridge between the students, their professors, and the professional world,” she says.
“More recently, I have joined the Black Alumni Advisory Council as co-chair of the fundraising committee,” Benson continues. “We raised funds during One Day for Montclair, the university’s annual day of giving event.”
Whenever possible, Benson’s husband and five-year-old daughter join her at Montclair events. In fact, her daughter attended the BAAC cookout this past summer. Might this be the start of a Montclair legacy? It is too early to tell, but according to Benson, “she had a great time and made new friends.”