Porter Braswell
Photo: Courtesy of Porter Braswell

Diversity in the workplace is a topic of conversation that stretches beyond industries. Across the board, companies can and should do better. And Porter Braswell is helping to bridge the gaps and ensure that no one has any grounds for lacking a diverse team. Braswell and his friend Ryan Williams left Wall Street to found Jopwell, a platform that helps leading companies find diverse professionals to fit their needs.

Potential employees have an unheard of amount of control over how they present themselves to potential employers, and companies are able to get a well-rounded look at a wide-array of candidates. This tech solution to a huge problem is inspiring. And so is Braswell.

Get to know Porter further before he presents at AfroTech this November, and read our interview with him below:

Blavity: Is the concept behind Jopwell something you always knew you wanted to work on ? If not, what prompted the passion behind such a platform?

PB: The passion for Jopwell came from my cofounder Ryan and my own experiences working on Wall Street, where we met as analysts on the same trading floor. We both felt incredibly fortunate to have gotten exposure and industry experience in high school and college through specific diversity-focused internship programs. We also saw the key barriers that led to a lack of diversity in the workforce. Our passion came out of knowing that there was a large opportunity to use technology to connect candidates and companies more efficiently and at scale.

B: You and Ryan left your previous jobs to start Jopwell — a decision that many founders have to make, but that many more people don’t understand or are skeptical of. How did you find the strength to believe in and invest in yourself, despite what naysayers might try to convince you of?

PB: A lot of our confidence came from being uniquely familiar with the problem we were looking to solve. The workforce diversity gap continues to be a massive business challenge across all major industries, and the opportunity to introduce an innovative, tech-driven solution has been hugely motivating for us.

The naysayers will always be there – and that’s actually a good thing because you have to believe in yourself and your idea enough to be able to ignore them. When Ryan and I told people we were leaving Wall Street to launch Jopwell, even my own parents looked at us like we were crazy. That’s a reality whenever you’re doing something new and unfamiliar to people. Plus, we’re both non-technical and had zero startup or HR experience. But along with our passion was our strong belief that we could rally the resources to create a diversity recruitment platform and get amazing candidates and the world’s leading companies to use it.

It’s not easy to leave the stability of a job or industry you know, but we believe in ourselves, each other, and our vision, and that continues to drive us forward.

B: Jopwell allows users to create a profile that’s more than just a résumé, but that also lets them describe themselves with various words, highlight leadership roles they’ve had, and be transparent about what roles interest them. How do you think this more thorough way of describing oneself changes the way companies recruit diverse candidates?

PB: Before anything else, companies are looking to connect with and recruit great candidates. That search can’t be limited to simply screening people’s work history and alma maters, especially when it comes to recruiting talented candidates from historically underrepresented groups.

Your Jopwell profile, in addition to showcasing your résumé and work experience, is designed to give you a platform to stand out to recruiters by providing more context around your unique traits and skills. You can share a “leadership moment,” for example. We prompt Jopwell candidates to be more descriptive and highlight their capabilities, talents, and aspirations in their profiles so they can stand out in today’s crowded and competitive job market.

B: You’ve described yourself as “non-technical.” How did you manage to break into the tech industry without coming from a tech-based background? What advice do you have for someone who wants to do the same?

PB: You don’t have to have a technical background to understand how technology can be applied to a problem. You need to be able to add value to the business, and that can come in many different forms. The best tech companies are looking for the best lawyers, digital marketers, salespeople, etc. Having talented engineers is incredibly important, but you don’t have to write great code to have a great career in tech. A Microsoft general manager recently shared some great advice with the Jopwell community around how to build a successful tech career when you’re non-technical. She stressed the value of being a strategic thinker and doer.

My advice is to constantly consider how to turn challenges into actionable, value-add solutions. When we’re hiring at Jopwell, we’re looking for people who can cut through barriers, add value and get things done.

B: How important was it for you to tap into your resources and network when trying to build out the tech side of things?

PB: It was and continues to be hugely important. Our first technical hire, Randy Brown, went to high school with me, and when I think about how we’ve gone from a few of us in a WeWork space to a 24-person team in our own NYC office, I can connect much of our growth back to our networks. We participated in Y Combinator in San Francisco last summer, and having the opportunity to grow our network there and gain support and insight from industry leaders has been invaluable. Our funding and the mentorship we’ve received from leaders like Magic Johnson and Mitch and Freada Kapor, for example, has come from meeting as many people as we could across a number of industries and building real relationships with them. Having their support makes it possible for us to be able to build out our technology thoughtfully.

B: How have you watched the conversation about diversity in tech shift since you founded Jopwell?

PB: It’s interesting – Jopwell focuses on connecting top talent with jobs across a range of industries, not just technology. But, probably because tech companies have been the most transparent and forthcoming about their actual numbers, a lot of the diversity-related press and conversation is around tech. By releasing their data, tech companies have set a new standard for accountability, and other organizations are following suit and being more open about the investments they are making to really move the needle. More and more, companies are hiring chief diversity officers, hosting diversity-specific events, and proudly using Jopwell. We’re moving beyond this phase of companies acknowledging “Yes, we have a workforce diversity problem that hurts our bottom-line” and more into a “So what investments are you making to solve this, and how is that going?” stage. It’s a positive shift.

B: What’s on the horizon for Jopwell? How do you plan to continue to raise the bar for diversity recruitment?

PB: Growth. It has been exciting to see what we’ve been able to accomplish in less than two years.

We’re going to continue to grow our user base by offering new and unique features to help candidates make meaningful connections with the employers leveraging the Jopwell platform. We’re excited to host some great events nationwide. We just announced our first National Headshot Tour and will be giving free professional headshots to black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American college students in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, D.C., and NYC. (Editor’s Note: You can check out the dates here.)

We’ll also continue expanding our roster of leading companies that are committed to diversity in the workplace. This will bring even more great job and internship opportunities to our community.

B: Your book, ‘Yes, You Can: The secrets revealed for how to get into and succeed at America’s top universities and colleges’ gives readers a straightforward look at what’s really helpful to get them into their school of choice. Such a resource is so beneficial for first generation students. What motivated you to curate and share the tips and tricks?

PB: I think we can all learn from each other people’s honest experiences, and I wrote Yes, You Can with the hope of reaching other young people who are ambitious and might have some of the same questions as I did when I was applying to college.

B: Anything else readers should know about you or Jopwell?

PB: No matter what stage of your career you’re in, we welcome and encourage you to create a Jopwell profile. For professionals, you can even opt out of allowing certain companies to view your profile. There’s no downside – it’s an opportunity to be on the radars of great companies and to get career advice from and for our community via our editorial hub, The Well.

Here’s a quick overview on who we are, exactly:

Jopwell helps today’s leading companies find and recruit Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American professionals and students at scale. The platform provides two-way empowerment for both companies and job seekers, delivering a pipeline of talent to fill a range of roles – from experienced to entry-level to internships – across industries, including technology, finance, education, not-for-profits, consulting, and healthcare. In doing so, Jopwell shrinks the diversity employment gap and helps underrepresented ethnic minority talent find jobs they love.

For more from Porter Braswell and other game-changers, get your tickets to AfroTech! We’ll see you there. 


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