For the Visa Black Employee Network, also known as ViBE, Black History Month isn’t just for black and African American employees, but it’s an opportunity for a broader conversation that includes us all. In this second installment of our three-part series, we hear from ViBE member Jasmine Smith, Visa’s HR business partner based in Foster City, CA, on how we can all be allies to the black community.
Q: What’s your role at Visa?
I am responsible for aligning business objectives with employees and leadership teams for various groups within our corporate functions like legal, strategy and government relations. I consult management on human resource-related issues and I act as an employee champion and change agent.
Q: How did your upbringing help shape you?
My grandparents raised me in a small rural town called Blythe, CA in the middle of the Mojave Desert. It was a town of about 10,000 people and had three stoplights. I left my town to attend University of California, Berkeley. I’ll always remember my first lecture hall class, which had 800 students, just 100 fewer than my entire high school. I was a sheltered, small-town girl in a big place and school so it was a pretty major culture shock! I found myself facing several challenges in this unfamiliar environment. But it taught me to be scrappy, resourceful and find my own way. My grandparents would always say, “be smart, be proud and be independent.” That is what has shaped who I am today.
Q: What does success look like for the black community at Visa or any corporate environment?
Success can be seen in two different ways. One is career success, but another avenue would be in engagement. That’s where ViBE and community come into play—to help black employees feel like they have a voice, belong and will be able to grow. You don’t see a lot of people who look like me in the corporate world. Everyone wants to have a place that feels safe and an environment where they feel appreciated. Success is, “I see that I’m different, but my team makes me feel included. I feel like I belong.”
When you can have 100 percent of all employees say that they feel like they belong, that’s what success looks like to me.
Q: What are ways that all employees can be allies to the black community in the workplace?
Try to learn more, listen and connect with the black community. Employee resource groups like ViBE offer a ommunity with a wealth of knowledge. Whether it’s participating in Black History Month events or going to events in your community, being an active participant is a great way to understand what the needs are, what the issues are and to learn to be sensitive to what’s going on. From there, people can then ask themselves, “From my place in this organization, how can I advance someone’s growth?” If you’re not in a position of direct leadership, you are still a team member and you can still take advantage of the opportunity to be a peer advocate. You don’t have to join a movement, but at least try to understand, raise your own awareness and then see personally how you can help.
Q: What is the biggest lesson that we can take away from Black History Month?
It can be an opportunity to ask yourself, “How can I be a support structure and ally to this community?” What would be helpful is if everyone agreed to go to one Black History Month event, understand its significance and ask themselves what they can do with that knowledge.