Our Black in Tech series features the career path & advice from Black professionals in the tech industry. In this Q&A, Norman Hall - Manager of Strategic Projects at CrossBorder Solutions shares his story.
Where did you grow up and what were you like as a child? What did your parents do for work?
Originally, I was raised in Mount Vernon, NY. For a short time I lived in Fort Lauderdale, FL with my family before settling back in Wappingers Falls, NY with my mother, father, grandmother, and younger sister.
My parents both found their careers at a young age over 20 years ago. My mother worked in Operations Management for Fedex, and my father serves as a Lieutenant of the Greenburgh Police force. With the combined effort of my parents, they made me into the hardworking go-getter professional I am today. Without them, I don’t know where or whom I would have turned out to be. My grandmothers and great uncle helped mold me into the person I am today. Small things such as “Always smile, it costs you nothing” helped me a long way in my career. In a previous interview an interviewer commented they were happy to see my smile, and said it gave me a personable aura that would be great when speaking to customers.
As a child I was definitely a sports fan, but I always loved the time I spent with my family, especially my grandmothers. They both gave me a driving force to be better and bigger than I ever thought myself to be. They both raised my parents single handedly, then provided the support to my parents to help raise my sister and me. Hearing how these women worked tireless hours and made sacrifices to give my parents a fighting chance at life, made me realize their work doesn’t stop with them but continues with me. My competitiveness and ambition to put in the extra hours stem from my drive to make them proud, while achieving my personal aspirations and goals. My younger sister looks up to me so I think about that every day when I make choices. My choice to work at XBS proved to be a positive one that has made my family really proud of me.
Where did you go to college? What did you study and what did you do after graduating?
I went to York College Graham School of Business to study Economics. I graduated in December of 2017, and began working for XBS in January of 2018. Ever since January 2018, I have been working at XBS and XBS alone. Although I started as a Professional Services Analyst, about November 2018 I was approached by senior leadership to be the Manager of the Tagging Operations here at XBS.
Before getting promoted, my boss and leaders shaped me into a well-rounded professional and provided the tools to take on more responsibilities to lead an entire team. One of the biggest lessons I learned was understanding the difference between managing up and managing down to my peers and executives. My dedication, effort, and hard work paid off when I got promoted, but growing as a professional continued. My abilities as a manager were put to the test when I had to manage my own team of 10 young professionals. It was not easy at first, but I always felt supported by everyone at XBS. In the end, I would like to thank everyone at XBS who believed in me and continues to do so since my journey continues at XBS.
What inspired you to get into the tech industry?
Right after college, I knew I wanted a career that could help me grow professionally and financially. My biggest fear was getting stuck at a job where I wouldn’t get promoted or get a raise for 5-10 years. With an Economics major, I knew I had many options.
After applying for jobs, I stumbled on an opening at XBS. At first, I didn’t consider XBS a “tech” company as it was a financial services/accounting organization. In the beginning, I was a Professional Services Analyst and my day focused on generating transfer pricing documentation reports. As I got familiar with the company over the months, I realized it was a tech company since there was an AI component called Fiona. At this moment, the company continues to be market leaders in AI tax matters and I’m grateful to be part of this growing tech community.
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Manager of Strategic Projects at CrossBorder Solutions?
While managing a team of 10 direct reports, I lead a review of data submissions collected by my team. My role focuses on ensuring the data’s accuracy before it is moved from the internal XBS software to our AI Fiona solution to then be used for transfer pricing reporting. The reports are directly relying on my team to successfully tag companies correctly. My role is vital to the organization as data integrity is top of mind towards retaining and preventing the loss of clients due to errors. If the data is incorrect, it will mess up reports and provide inaccurate pipeline growth to the Professional Services department. In the event the reports are not to standard, it causes a huge risk towards client relationships and data privacy. Which is why, my team takes their job very seriously because data integrity is key towards our success.
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?
Watching how hard my parents worked day in and day out while growing up showed me the kind of dedication I needed to have to be successful in life. I would also attribute the mindset I learned from playing basketball as a key contribution to my success. I personally believe basketball took the laziness away from me and shaped me into a competitor, which I then applied to all aspects of my life. If there are metrics to show who is a top performer, I want to be the person that is number one every month.
The biggest obstacle I have faced along the way as an African American is prejudice or misconception. I’ve heard previous comments while in college or summer jobs such as, “I didn’t expect you to be that smart” or “Really? You went to college? I didn’t expect you to say that.” As an African American professional, I always wonder why people have the need to make these remarks. These comments helped me realize the kind of environment I want to work in, which is a work culture where bias does not exist and meritocracy is highly valued. Luckily, my time at XBS has proved to me it’s an environment where I have grown over the past 2 years.
What advice would you give to other Black professionals who are interested in joining the tech industry?
I would say to go for it! Tech is a growing and thriving industry with plenty to offer. Most tech companies are driven by data and results, which do not see color. Data is data. XBS provides an environment where you have the opportunity to be successful as a result of your own hard work and merit.
My best friend since elementary school has always worked in tech and we talk about how different our companies are, yet we are in the same industry. Working within the tech industry provides ample variety and opportunities versus other industries. My goal for my next professional development will be within project management.
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?
Hosting seminars or sending employees to recruit at college campuses has a direct impact on diversity and inclusion practices. Letting more young black professionals know that this is a viable option for their career is important. I can personally say that throughout my years of education, I never thought about working in the tech industry at all, simply because I never saw it as an option until CrossBorder Solutions (XBS).