Black History Month: One on one with Oath's Black leadership
Black History Month is an energizing time at Oath as our Black employee resource group—BOLD—hosts events like movie screenings and fireside chats celebrating historic achievements and promoting a future that's more diverse and inclusive, both inside and outside our walls. We sat down with Jason Hawkins, one of the leaders of BOLD, to talk about work, life at Oath, and the importance of diversity in tech.
Name: Jason Hawkins
Title: Sales Manager
Location: New York, NY
Years at Oath: 4 (started at AOL before coming to Oath)
Previous employers: Goldman Sachs, AppNexus
Education: Carnegie Mellon
Hometown: Prince George's County, Maryland
Outside of work: Apollo Young Patron for the Apollo Theater and on an advisory council for the Environmental Defense Fund
Oath: Make history today
Thanks for chatting with us, Jason. Let's start out with a simple one—what brought you to Oath?
I used to work in finance at Goldman Sachs but all my friends who weren't in finance, worked in ad sales. I wanted to know more about that so, when I left Goldman, I went to AppNexus where I learned all about ad tech. I thought it was really interesting, but my clients were all ad networks. I would sell to the network, the network would sell to the agency, and the agency would sell to the advertiser—I felt like I was in this game of telephone and at the wrong end of the game. I wanted to sell directly to agencies, advertisers, and brands, and that's why I came to AOL four years ago.
What do you like about what you do?
It feels good to say you're at a company like Oath. Even though we are a large company, I don't believe I am cog in a wheel. Tim Armstrong the CEO just walked past us and said "hello"—I feel that doesn't happen at other big tech companies.
I've already worked at the blue chip company—I've done Goldman Sachs. I've done the sexy startup (AppNexus). I wanted to work at a company where I could help make an impact.
Sounds like you like it here! How would you describe life at Oath?
It's crazy! There is constant change and there are new things to learn every day. Change is a good thing because change brings about innovation, and innovation allows you to disrupt industries and become the market leader.
Your team's goal is to sell BrightRoll, our demand side platform (DSP), to advertisers and their agencies. What's been a highlight of that work?
Something I'm proud of is that I have worked with a client company that spent $5M a year with us four years ago, and today spends $30M programmatically. I attribute that success to my awesome team at Oath that supports the account as well as to my sales style. I'm very consultative—I really don't care about my sales number at the start, I care about being seen as an advisor for my clients. I want them to know I have their best interests at heart even though that may not translate into immediate dollars for me, it usually pays off in the end.
That's impressive. In between your sales work, you're also the Global Co-Lead of BOLD, our Black employee resource group. Tell us about that.
The goal of BOLD (Black Organizers, Leaders, and Doers) is to make Oath a more diverse and inclusive organization by providing opportunities for employees to experience African-American culture through events, discussions, service, and other programming. Our members are awesome and they are from every type of background. You do not have to be Black to be in BOLD, we actually encourage allies to join because they are key in the conversation around inclusion.
Why is BOLD important to Oath?
Research shows that a more diverse workforce is a more productive and profitable workforce. There is no value in hiring people from diverse backgrounds if the organization lacks inclusion because, if the diverse employees are treated like outsiders, they will leave the company. We are here to create a safe space for all employees to come together and have conversations around culture, race, and diversity. This will increase education, decrease prejudice, and drive inclusion.
Generally speaking, how are tech companies doing with diversity? What advice do you have for diverse candidates thinking of entering the space?
Tech companies are historically weak in terms of hiring, retaining, and most importantly, promoting people from diverse backgrounds. Diversity numbers at tech companies are low, but those numbers take a nosedive when you enter the VP and executive suites.
My advice for diverse candidates thinking of entering the tech space? Don't be discouraged by the low diversity numbers. The employees of color at tech companies are doing our best to pave the way and create opportunities for more people of color by doing great work in our day jobs and pushing for diversity and inclusion outside of our day jobs.
Thanks for the great chat, Jason. We look forward to seeing you at the exciting BOLD events happening this month!