By Natalie Chandler
From hometown ‘basketball girl’ to data analyst with ExxonMobil
Growing up in the small town of McGregor, Yolanda Wilkerson was the youngest of three daughters nicknamed “The Basketball Girls” because of their talent in the sport.
Wilkerson eventually turned her skills into a college scholarship. As her high school days ended, she caught the interest of several Division I schools, including Texas State University. “I liked the beautiful campus, my teammates, and my coaches, and felt like I had a good chance of completing the degree I was interested in,” says Wilkerson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 1997.
Twenty years after she was named the top female athlete at Texas State, Wilkerson was inducted into the university’s Hall of Honor in 2017. She ranks as the sixth all-time leading scorer in the program’s history with 1,692 points. Wilkerson helped lead the team to a Southland Conference Tournament championship and the 1997 NCAA Tournament. “That was very rewarding, to be recognized for my accomplishments over the years,” she says.
In 2000, she completed her second Texas State undergraduate degree, a bachelor of business administration in computer information systems. She also has a master of business administration in finance from the University of St. Thomas — Houston. Currently an enterprise data marketplace supervisor with ExxonMobil in Houston, Wilkerson oversees the company’s data and analytics group.
“There’s a lot of data being distributed out there,” she says. “We develop systems that allow businesses to analyze the data to be more productive in the way they work or handle competition.”
It’s a bit different from her early post-college life, when she was pursuing criminal justice. Wilkerson recalls living paycheck to paycheck while working with teenagers in substance abuse facilities. When her employer eventually closed, she decided to take her career in a different direction. “That was part of why I switched. Once they said they were closing that facility it gave me the push to pursue the IT degree,” she says.
She has been with ExxonMobil more than 17 years and remains committed to helping youth through her time spent volunteering in various organizations. She gives her time to the United Way Gulf Coast, the Black Employee Success Team, and The Links Inc. Volunteer hours are often spent leading STEM exercises to increase awareness, mentoring at local schools, reading books to young students, and organizing back-to-school supply drives at community centers in the Houston area.
Her work with at-risk youth has given her “a bigger perspective on how other people are experiencing things in their day-to-day lives. We all come from different perspectives,” says Wilkerson, who is single and has no children. “Volunteering has helped me stay humble and grounded and want to continue to give back and help where I can.”
Although her basketball days have ended, Wilkerson stays connected to Texas State. She is involved in recruiting graduates to work at ExxonMobil, and she joined the Texas State Alumni Association Board of Directors and the committee that presents the annual LBJ Outstanding Senior Student Award.
“I feel like the university has given so much to me as a student that I want to make sure I give back and do my part,” she says. “I feel like I’m in a position to actually be able to provide real-life experience of how these IT students can get into the university. I think it’s important to give back and help shape future students.”
Her mantra to potential Texas State students is simple: “Great education, great resources, and a beautiful campus.”
“I think it’s a great place to get your education because it’s a big school but you still have the one-on-one interaction you may need from your professors,” she says. “It’s not overwhelming. The campus is beautiful, and the career resource center means you will be highly recruited for job interviews and potential career opportunities.” ✪