VentureFizz: Where did you grow up and what were you like as a child? What did your parents do for work?
Jamal Fuller: I was born and raised in Brockton, Massachusetts. As a child, I was a bit reserved but always had an active imagination. I started playing organized sports heading into my teenage years and that's when I came out of my shell. I played basketball year-round and participated in every local basketball league as well as with my AAU travel team.
My mother worked two jobs to provide me and my sister with a stable home life, but was also supportive in all of our endeavors in sports and other social activities. She worked in Finance at Gillette and Proctor & Gamble and was a manager at a retail store. Watching her grind during my childhood instilled in me the importance of hard work.
VF: Where did you go to college? What did you study and what did you do after graduating?
JF: I studied at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. I majored in Psychology and minored in Philosophy. I realized in my Junior year that while I enjoyed Psychology and Philosophy, I didn’t want to base my entire career in those areas. I started to explore different ways that I could apply my knowledge in Psychology and Philosophy in the business world.
I graduated into a recession but was able to land a Sales job with the Brockton Rox who, at the time, was an independent minor league baseball team. That job was a great initial step into the business world as I did everything from executing deals with large companies to being our mascot when needed.
VF: What inspired you to get into the tech industry?
JF: My entrance into the tech industry was a bit serendipitous. I was working as a Key Account Manager for an apparel company but I was looking for something new. One of my friends posted that his company was hiring for Business Development Reps and I jumped at the opportunity.
VF: What has your career path looked like in tech and the various positions you’ve held before joining Poppulo?
JF: At Mashery and Intel, I started as a Business Development Rep and moved up within the company until I was the manager of the team. I also began working with our Strategic Alliances team to build out our partner ecosystem. I was lucky enough to have an extremely supportive and engaged leadership team that wanted to develop their employees.
In my roles at Exinda and Progress, I was a Director of Channels and Alliances. In these roles, I was responsible for building relationships with referral and reseller partners. I worked cross-functionally with sales, marketing, and product teams to develop the materials and programs to pique partner interest and train partners in the
VF: Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Manager, Strategic Partnerships at Poppulo?
JF: In my current role, I am tasked with establishing and developing strategic technology and referral partnerships. I recruit new partners that align with our business directives and develop go-to-market strategies with them to drive revenue growth. I am working closely with our product, marketing, and sales teams to ensure that we can develop clear strategies with each partner in our ecosystem.
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?
JF: A strong work ethic, an eagerness to learn, and a good support system have been essential to my success. The combination of these items have helped me through every facet of life from school to sports, so applying them to the business world came naturally. I’ve also been able to understand that every failure is a lesson.
The biggest hurdle that I’ve had to overcome is the constant thought of “is my voice going to be heard”. Developing the confidence in your own voice and the belief in your skillset is half of this battle. This has been an ongoing process throughout my career, but whenever I do begin to question myself I remember that if I don’t speak up for me, no one else will. The other half is having the knowledge to support your ideas and voice.
VF: What types of programs and initiatives does Poppulo have that support diversity, equity, and inclusion?
JF: Being an international organization, there are many different voices and experiences to capture and validate. Poppulo has taken the steps to drive development and learning around diversity that is being led by a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion group. This group was established to identify the key areas for growth and improvement. The culture Poppulo has established is one that is very inclusive. Many of our employees have expressed that they feel accepted here no matter their background which gives us a great starting point.
We’ve also taken the time to start addressing difficult conversations with our employees in small groups, so we can truly understand what we are doing well and what areas need to be improved. I was allowed to serve as a moderator for one of these conversations which allowed me to hear the difficult stories from outside of Poppulo as well as the positive experiences that our employees have had since joining Poppulo.
Watching and participating in our DEI group and seeing the progress that we have been able to make in ensuring all the voices of Poppulo employees are heard is one of the prouder achievements of my career.
VF: What advice would you give to other Black professionals who are interested in joining the tech industry?
JF: I would tell them that networking and professional development are necessary. Reach out to people or groups that have ties to organizations that you are interested in joining and make yourself known. I’d tell them to identify the kinds of technology that interest them and look for different ways to expand their knowledge on those topics. My last piece of advice would be to look up blogs, podcasts and other content in the area of tech (Sales, Engineering, Product, etc.) that they want to break into.
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?
JF: I find myself thinking about this question more than ever since I now have two small children and would like their experiences to be better than mine. For change to take place, I believe a dedicated effort needs to be made to connect with BIPOC students and young professionals early and often. I would love to see companies work closely with BIPOC groups in their local high schools and colleges to begin developing skills that would benefit students looking for careers in tech. I’d also love to see more mentorship opportunities developed by companies to engage with a more diverse group of potential job candidates. For all of these ideas to have long term success, it’s imperative that companies ensure their management and executives teams have a more diverse composition.