Black History Month at Oath: Recruiting for diversity
Name: LaShanti Jenkins
Title: Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition
Location: New York, NY
Years at Oath: 4.5 years (started at Yahoo before coming to Oath)
Previous employers: Disney ABC Television Group, NBC Universal, Time Inc., STRIVE, Lockheed Martin
Education: Hampton University (undergrad) and New York University (grad school)
Major: Computer Information Systems (BS), Human Resource Management (MS)
Hometown: Harlem, NY
Outside of work: Avid traveler, Harlem YMCA mentor
Oath: Disrupt the norm
When we meet with LaShanti Jenkins of Oath's Talent Acquisition team and Co-Lead of our Black employee resource group, BOLD, it's clear she's in a good mood.
"We did a special screening of "Black Panther' last night", she explains, adding that Tumblr had an event earlier in the week where the movie's cast was in attendance. "We rented out two theaters and partnered with seven companies—from Google to Airbnb to LinkedIn—so there were 366 people there. You can imagine, everyone's laughing, everyone's cheering. It was an amazing experience."
LaShanti's excitement for the movie is obvious, but her enthusiasm when talking about her work to bring more diversity into tech is palpable. "You can't evolve without having diversity in an organization," she says.
"The tech space is a fast-paced industry that changes in a flash," she adds. "In order to continue to innovate and evolve, diversity is an imperative."
Wanting to know more, we dive right into our questions.
Your speciality is recruiting for diversity in the tech space—which is awesome—but that definitely wasn't the plan when you graduated from college. Didn't you start out as a techie yourself?
I worked for Lockheed Martin in Syracuse as a software engineer for two years right out of college, but the division I worked in had people who had been there forever. Now, I'm fresh out of school—I'm energetic and want to talk—but a lot of people were just, get in, get your work done, and go home. I was yearning for some kind of social interaction.
Fortunately, I was selected as an ambassador for the company, which allowed me to travel and host career fairs and information sessions at various colleges. I would do this during the fall and spring semesters for the academic school year, and then I would go back to my regular job which consisted of 10 hours a day—me and my computer—coding.
One time—I remember it clear as day—I was coming back from a school in Atlanta and it was just a great trip. I really bonded with the students and felt I helped to promote their interest in STEM, told them my story, and told them to explore this field and make sure it's something they really wanted to go into. On the plane back I felt really great about that experience, and the lightbulb just went off—"I think I like this more than I like my day job!" So, I decided to make a change and switched to HR.
That's fantastic. So, from Lockheed Martin you went into a few different HR roles—including for nonprofits and for-profit media companies like Time Inc. and NBC Universal. How did you end up at Oath?
I had been at NBC for six months when I heard about the job here and thought, "This is really great. I still have a love for technology and HR is now my thing, so here is an opportunity to marry the two." It was something I could not pass up and it's been an amazing adventure. I feel like technology changes so quickly that it just keeps me on my toes—I love that.
How did you specifically get into recruiting for diversity?
I've always had a passion for diversity. I started out at Oath in university recruiting, working with schools to figure out what was the best way to engage students but, after a while, I talked to my boss and was like, "Hey, what do you think about adding some diversity components to this?" and she was like, "Sure!" So we started going to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and HSIs (Hispanic Services Institutions), and then began partnering with affinity groups like NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers), SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), and SWE (Society of Women Engineers). We cast a wide net to make sure our candidate slates were diverse.
Today, I'm still in talent acquisition and focused on diversity, but I now lead a group of recruiters called the D7. The group is comprised of recruiters who work on every functional area of the business as well as university recruiting, and our main goal is to ensure we at Oath are considering and hiring diverse individuals.
Is finding diverse talent a challenge?
Finding the talent isn't the issue. I mean, it's not easy—you definitely have to work to find where those individuals are and how to gain access to them—but the bigger challenge is educating those who are making hiring decisions to not lean towards who they're comfortable with and to understand there's value in differences.
As humans, we are creatures of habit. If you have a good experience with someone, 9 times out of 10 for your next experience, you want someone who looks just like that, or makes you feel those same feelings. But, if you've been going down the road one way, you will continue in the exact same pattern with your work until you look at things through a different lens.
This is where the mindset comes in. A person needs to say, "Hey, let me explore this entire slate of candidates. Let me explore everyone who's qualified for this job. I need to put what's worked in the past to the side, and look at where we want to move forward." It's not about the color of anyone's skin or the diversity of the hiring manager—it's the mindset, the thinking, and the getting out of the comfort zone that's the issue.
That's a really interesting way of looking at things. Where do you see diversity in tech five years from now?
Ideally, I would love to see the spectrum of diversity balanced out. I would love to see more women and people of color in leadership roles across tech. I would love to see that trickle across organizations and for numbers to be elevated for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, and all underrepresented groups.
I want people to know that tech is a space where differences are valued, and that the industry understands these differences are superpowers.