Doniella Mckoy, CBCP, discovered emergency management after watching the Will Smith movie “I Am Legend.”

“I wanted to be the person who made sure everyone got out of the city before a disaster wiped everyone out,” said Mckoy.

She said her first position after earning a Master of Science degree in healthcare emergency management was with New York City Office of Emergency Management as a continuity of operations planner.

Mckoy currently serves as the business continuity program administrator for non-profit Health Partners Plans in Philadelphia, Penn. She is responsible for the business continuity software, corporate and departmental plans, crisis communications system, and disaster recovery initiatives. She has experience with FEMA, NYC OEM, and as an adjunct professor in emergency management.

She said the value of what she does by planning, thinking creatively, and being innovative affects more than 200,000 people where she currently works.

“Inspiration comes from many different experiences which are not always unique to me that can help my organization become more resilient,” Mckoy said. “I can literally save my company by asking the right question, or engaging the right department at the correct time, or incorporating a lesson learned from an exercise or a colleague’s experience. I believe business continuity is a powerful component of business success.”

Mckoy said as a young professional there can be a lack of trust, that “we have what it takes” to accomplish what is needed. The expectation is to have seven to 10 years of experience for a decent salary at many organizations. “But you can’t get that experience without someone giving you a chance to learn and grow,” said Mckoy.

“Business continuity professionals need to be added to conversations when it comes to operational stability or on boarding new technology or vendors,” she continued. “While I don’t believe I should have the power to deny new business relationships outright, it would be great to evaluate the potential new partner’s recovery abilities to understand what the impact could be to the organization. The way I process risk and vendor relationships is going to be very different than someone who is just looking for efficiency or cost savings.”

Mckoy said some people don’t understand business continuity and that prohibits collaboration. “It is hard to make sure I have a seat at the table,” said Mckoy. “People don’t understand why they should add me to a meeting, and others don’t understand why I should not be added to a meeting.”

She said as remote work technology increases for the profession, the ability to communicate even if people are not physically in the same place is a positive reality. Conversations and planning can keep moving and delays can be decreased.

Mckoy recently got her first business continuity mentor and is looking forward to creating the relationship and being exposed to the experiences her mentor has had in the field.

As for aspects in the industry which she’d like to see changed or evolved, Mckoy wants to see business continuity more integrated into higher-level decisions. “We should be consulted to review new vendors or technology risks from a continuity perspective. I personally would like to see disaster recovery separated more from business continuity.”

As a young professional in the BC/DR profession, Mckoy has completed the Certified Business Continuity Professional certification process. She often takes advantage of webinars through vendors which provide a service in her organization and the Emergency Management Institute. She is also planning to join the Association of Continuity Professionals for learning and networking opportunities. She wants to hear more about people’s experiences, specifically what does and does not work. She is looking for additional opportunities to teach continuity or emergency management at the university level from a distance or in the Greater Philadelphia area.

“I want to hear how people handle difficult conversation with people who just don’t understand business continuity,” she said. “I want to learn more about other professional’s career path, particularly women and be able to share my experiences with others.”

As for advice for other professionals in the industry, Mckoy said learning from other people’s mistakes is important. Reading and building relationships are essential to anyone’s success. She said so many times she sees plans which do not meet the needs of the department simply because the department doesn’t understand the point. It is a mistake to not hold others accountable for what they contribute to the plan.

“It is our job to help others understand the value of the business continuity plan and program to take the resiliency of that department and our entire organization to the next level,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to read and reread plans and call people out on things that don’t make sense. Get to a point where you are not afraid to cut things out that don’t add value either.”

Mckoy asks is it important for departments to create a call tree in the company’s software when they already have a more comprehensive emergency contact list which the staff already knows how to use? “It’s not, and when you advise that department, they don’t have to add information to that extra screen, they will respect you more because you are listening to them and respecting their culture.”

Mckoy offered one last piece of advice: if people can afford to attend their vendor’s user group conference, they should take advantage.

“It’s a great way to see how people are using the same software you use and learn about enhancements.”

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