Our Black in Tech series features the career path & advice from Black professionals in the tech industry. In this Q&A, Leemar Scott, Software Engineer II at Bullhorn shares his story.
Where did you grow up and what were you like as a child?
I grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri as a regular inner-city child. I played sports, explored the neighborhood, and played with friends. My mother and large extended family has always been a huge influence in my upbringing. My mother has 13 siblings, and as a result, I have over 50 cousins. She worked in pre-kindergarten childcare while earning minimum wage for most of my childhood. Being a part of a large family helped shape our values, which are rooted in togetherness and community. My mother always emphasized the importance of giving back and putting others before myself. The expectation was to be there to support others and the community around me. The sense of belonging and community are aspects of my upbringing that I have carried with me throughout my life.
Where did you go to college? What did you study and what did you do after graduating?
After high school, I decided to join the Marine Corps. I was motivated to join because it provided camaraderie and belonging and helped me to connect with others driven by the same purpose and passion. My platoon was extremely structured and regimented – I found it important that we all held each other accountable while looking out for one another. Unfortunately, in 2015 an injury caused me to leave the Marines and ultimately forced me into early retirement. Retiring from the Marines allowed me to focus on spending quality time with my family. However, I still needed to discover the next move in my career. After leaving the Marines, I attended Webster University, where I initially majored in secondary education but ultimately decided to pursue a degree in Computer Science.
What inspired you to get into the tech industry?
I love gaming, and sure enough, it piqued my interest in tech. While playing Madden throughout the years, I consistently identified technical glitches that needed to be fixed, and I wanted to be the one to fix them and improve the gaming experience. Since that moment, tech has been on my mind, but I never fully considered it as a career. My wife’s friend, who left healthcare to join the tech industry, started at Bullhorn and loved it. I was immediately drawn to learning more about the company when she described their mission, culture, and her experience at Bullhorn.
What has your career path looked like in tech and the various positions you’ve held before joining Bullhorn?
In 2017, I was furthering my education when I decided to start my journey into tech with Bullhorn as a Tier 1 Support Analyst. After a short time in a support role, I was promoted to a Product Consultant position, where I was responsible for servicing customers in the APAC region. During this period in my career, I was still discovering what paths I wanted to explore within tech. Bullhorn’s Beacon Program allowed me to explore different areas by giving me the ability to try out new roles, such as Relationship Management and Database Administration. Working in engineering was something I didn’t consider because of the “foreign language” component; however, one of my mentors at Bullhorn inspired me to take the leap and change my college major to Computer Science. Once I graduated in 2020, I applied to a Software Engineer position at Bullhorn and landed the role I am in now.
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Software Engineer II at Bullhorn?
As a Software Engineer II at Bullhorn, one of my key responsibilities is being able to collaborate with other developers to ensure we create readable and reliable code. Knowledge sharing is a large part of the role, which is why I love that frequent collaboration is a priority and expectation. My manager reassures the team that "You don’t have to know everything to be a great developer.” This is a constant reminder that my role requires continuous learning, and we can be better as a team by openly communicating and collaborating, with the impact of helping others further develop their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Our team dynamic and culture builds great developers who work together to build great products.
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?
Bullhorn was my first professional employment opportunity outside of the Marine Corps. Since joining, I have only experienced support and encouragement. If there were any obstacles, it was only my self-doubt that made me question if I could be successful in a new and challenging role, especially before seeing Black representation firsthand. I had always felt like if I decided to work in tech, I would be pretending to be capable of success; however, each leader at Bullhorn has overwhelmingly supported my career growth. You are set up for success by putting in the effort to learn and taking on opportunities to know you are capable. This has been amazing because I have been able to see the greatness in what I can accomplish that I didn’t necessarily see before – I am able to be my best self.
What types of programs and initiatives does Bullhorn have that support diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Bullhorn has employee resource groups that support and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. Before joining Bullhorn and learning more about our ERGs, I didn’t necessarily understand their purpose. As a Black professional, I always put myself in a “one-size-fits-all” box; however, through my participation in [email protected] and Allies, I have learned that I can be a variety of things. I am not defined by my skin color, sexual identity, gender, or religion.
The differences we learn about when we join these groups and hear from others’ experiences help you realize your own individuality and the intersectionality of so many aspects within diversity. ERGs truly help to drive human connection and help allow you to be an individual. You do not need to fit a box to be accepted. Our culture is rooted in celebrating and honoring our differences; through our ERGs, all employees have been given the chance to help and encourage one another to come to work authentically as themselves.
What advice would you give to other Black professionals who are interested in joining the tech industry?
Getting into the tech industry is no longer “out of reach” with the vast availability of coding bootcamps and other non-traditional routes. If you have the slightest interest in exploring this field, I recommend diving right into it. If you want to make a pivot in your career, remember, anything you want is obtainable. It is important that you don’t set limitations on yourself.
Tech used to be a white, male-dominated, closed industry. The days of “traditional schooling” are gone. There are so many self-taught developers – seek them out. Look for mentors that you connect with and search for representation, as I found with my mentor. This relationship was life-changing in terms of my career trajectory and what I thought was even possible for me as a Black professional.
Whatever you are trying to do, find someone that’s had successes and learned from past failures. Go for it – if you are ready to get your hands dirty and make sacrifices, you will go far. The opportunity is waiting for you to take it – there are organizations set up to help you start your journey.
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?
Technology is such a big part of our daily lives; however, we typically don’t see the people who are building and growing the industry. As a community, it is our responsibility to educate the next generation in the workforce. Having more accessible educational programs that introduce careers in technology would be a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t stop there. Building diverse programs that emphasize the importance of mentorship and representation would ensure that career exploration and development are accessible to everyone, no matter your race, religion, gender, disability, or anything that expresses you as an individual.