VentureFizz: Where did you grow up and what were you like as a child? What did your parents do for work?
Jasmine Smith: I was born in Western Massachusetts, Springfield to be exact. I spent the early years of my childhood there before my family moved to Maine. We moved to a small town in central Maine called Lisbon, which is about 35 minutes northwest of Portland. As a child I was very active! I took sports and academics very seriously, but I made sure to have fun while doing it. I was a cheerleader, in addition to being a state medalist in track & field as well as cross country. Not only did sports and cheerleading allow me the opportunity to be creative in competition, but it taught me an incredible amount of self-discipline that positioned me for success as an adult.
Now retired, my mother spent most of her career in nursing and she also owned a daycare for many years. My mother taught me to be nurturing, patient, and humble. My father was born in the Caribbean and came to the United States for college at the age of seventeen. He played semi-professional soccer, he was an amateur race car driver, and was well-known for his time on the national cricket team. He spent many years as an owner of an antique car dealership. His life was one that taught me to overcome obstacles with resilience and patient determination.
VF: Where did you go to college? What did you study and what did you do after graduating?
JS: I attended undergrad at the University of Maine in Orono, where I studied Clinical Psychology. My goal was to pursue my PhD and eventually start my own counseling practice. However, after college I took a position in business to business sales and learned I rather enjoyed the corporate world. I later transitioned from sales to talent acquisition, this prompted me to continue my education by pursuing my MBA with a concentration in HR Management.
VF: What inspired you to get into the tech industry?
JS: My decision to enter the tech industry was very intentional, I limited my employment search to positions within the industry. It’s an exciting space that tends to be fast-paced, innovative, and progressive; providing a great opportunity for both personal and professional growth, both of which I find valuable to progressing my career.
VF: What has your career path looked like in tech and the various positions you’ve held before joining Rapid7?
JS: Prior to joining Rapid7, I was an Assistant Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Diversity & Inclusion in the financial service industry. Although my prior role was not directly within the tech industry, I spent much of my time managing the recruitment efforts for technical positions.
VF: Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as a Senior Technical Talent Acquisition Partner at Rapid7?
JS: As a Senior Technical Talent Acquisition Partner, I manage the recruitment efforts for Information Security and Managed Services. Within that, I am responsible for strategic recruitment and behavioral-based interviewing practices. Additionally, with a large component of my prior role’s focus on Diversity & Inclusion, I have appropriately been tasked with partnering in these efforts at Rapid7. Rapid7 has created a great opportunity for me to collaborate on a number of amazing projects alongside those in supportive roles.
VF: What has attributed to your success thus far and what types of obstacles have you had to overcome along the way as a Black professional?
JS: Resilience, self-awareness, diligence, self-discipline, and pride have all contributed to my success. I am one who welcomes constructive criticism and is fortunate enough to have found spaces where there are mentors who genuinely seek ways to help and guide me through.
As many black and brown people experience, I have had to face being the only person of color in the room. Like many, I’ve found that I sometimes carried the weight of the many microaggressions lobbied against me in professional settings. My family taught me to never ask permission to be in the room or for a seat at the table, they taught me to work extremely hard, to build credibility, and show why I’ve rightfully earned my seat.
VF: What types of programs and initiatives does Rapid7 have that support diversity, equity, and inclusion?
JS: In 2018, Rapid7 set a goal to have 50% of our employee base be made up of women and people of color by 2020. Historically, the cybersecurity industry is comprised of predominantly white males, so our goal is to continue to build a workforce that is representative of the clients that we serve, the communities we live in, as well as a commitment to continuing our effort in creating an environment that allows for constant learning, career development, and a safe space where all people can be authentic. This isn’t just an “initiative.” It’s something we work on every single day. This bold and audacious vision was one of the many reasons I decided to join Rapid7. I enjoy being a part of an organization that challenges itself to do better and isn’t afraid to go against the grain.
We are always exploring ways to increase our philanthropic work and grassroots involvement to give back to communities impacted by inequalities and social injustice.We’ve taken the Parity Pledge and currently partner with many amazing non-profit organizations like Hack Diversity, BUILD, and BoSTEM. In 2019, we launched a rotational program for recent graduates that are balanced and diverse and we’re continuing to strengthen our partnerships with colleges and universities, including HBCUs.
Led by amazing leadership, we celebrated and reflected on Juneteenth by providing our employees with a homegrown educational platform, coupled with an optional day off to volunteer in the community, educate themselves, and reflect on what Juneteenth means.
Additionally, I was extremely proud to learn that our CEO, Corey Thomas, along with many other Black and Brown executives in Massachusetts are at the forefront of doing meaningful and sustainable work in the community. They’ve created the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice fund to support Black and Brown communities in Boston and throughout the Commonwealth. They are leaning in and committed to igniting change through criminal justice reform, healthcare care equity, civic engagement, youth education, and economic empowerment.
VF: What advice would you give to other Black professionals who are interested in joining the tech industry?
JS: I would encourage others to look further into an individual company and judge it independent of industry stereotypes. From the outside looking in, it may appear to be unwelcoming territory, but there are many organizations, like Rapid7, that are looking to actively change the industry and break negative stereotypes. I would tell them to be intentional, be proud, and to always be authentic. Leverage your network and find people that will help you navigate the industry and your passions. As a person of color, you can never underestimate the power of a supportive network.
VF: While general awareness of the problem of diversity in the tech industry is a step forward, to make a lasting change, real actions need to be taken. Do you have any ideas or suggestions on what companies or employees can do to step up and make a difference?
JS: I’d love to see companies extend their efforts to include Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other external diversity organizations. Staying committed to establishing a reputation and building trust within underrepresented communities is critical to moving the needle forward. They must seek to not only hire diverse talent, but also create a workforce that is inclusive and allows everyone to be their authentic selves. Companies must implement thoughtful non-bias promotion and evaluation processes, and they must implement and enforce anti-discrimination policies.