Making diversity work — Porter Braswell ’11 uses Yale as a model of success
Porter Braswell ’11 B.A. says his undergraduate experience at Yale provided a view of what a thriving workplace could be: diverse, international, intellectually stimulating and a place that challenged you and got the best out of you. “Every student at Yale has a unique story and qualifications,” Braswell says. “It’s not just academics — Yale takes a holistic view.”
What Braswell found in the workforce after graduation, however, was a very different picture. He knew leading industries wanted more diversity — he had participated in diversity initiatives at both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs during high school and college — but he also saw the inefficiencies in their implementation. With his experience working in finance, and vision for what was possible, Braswell launched a new job platform called Jopwell in 2014 to better match companies with professionals of color. “I was trying to build workforces that were reflective of the Yale community,” he says. “That’s where innovation occurs.”
Braswell has created the world’s leading hiring platform for Black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals, forming partnerships with UBS, Lyft, Spotify, the PGA and Google. He has also recently published a book, “Let Them See You: The Guide for Leveraging Your Diversity at Work”, that details the lessons he’s learned personally and professionally.
One of the issues tackled in the book is the notion of diversity itself. Braswell says Yale taught him that it’s important to be specific. “Many of the diversity challenges that companies face stem from the fact that they can’t articulate what ‘diversity’ is,” Braswell writes in “Let Them See You.” As CEO of Jopwell, he focused on diversity of ethnicity and race, because people of color are traditionally underrepresented in the workforce and because it allows them to focus their resources.
Braswell says the business partners Jopwell works with also need to articulate what they are looking for when they push for more diversity. “The organizations that have taken the time to understand where they are on the diversity journey — and take a holistic approach to diversity and inclusion — do the best,” he explains, noting that successful companies embrace practices like early access programs, changing their marketing to more authentically engage audiences, hiring individuals from non-traditional backgrounds, and broadening the pipeline by drawing candidates from more than just a select few universities.
In “Let Them See You,” Braswell talks about how to manage being the only person of color in the room and use it to one’s advantage. “While it can feel intimidating,” he says, “you will stand out. People will listen. Our difference is an asset and our experience in owning that is where the power of diversity comes in.”
He’s honest about his own struggles dealing with stereotypes, including when a neighbor asked what sport he played after he mentioned attending Yale. Braswell was a standout basketball player at Yale, as well as throughout high school, but he began to deny it. He writes: “I wanted them to see my intelligence and other accomplishments. I didn’t want people thinking I was only an athlete.” It was during a conversation with NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson at an investment meeting for Jopwell that Braswell realized his athletic skills — skills Johnson himself had turned into a $70 million deal with Starbucks — were a major asset. Now, Braswell says, he owns his identity as an athlete. “I had no experience managing 50 people,” says Braswell of his early startup days, “but I knew how to be an athlete and what a great coach looked like. I have a unique ability to motivate and lead people and give them the freedom and creativity to operate within the playbook.” Ultimately, he says: “The only thing you can control is what you put into it, doing what you can on a day-to-day basis to drive the most impact.”