Employee Spotlight: Bruce Smith
This month’s team spotlight shines on a new and important hire for Otak. Meet Bruce Smith, our new DEI Manager.
The first thing Bruce will tell you about his role is that he is an educator before all else, and his resume proves it. He got his start as a high school English teacher because of his desire to amplify the voices of people of color in the literary world, one of his favorites being Carter G. Woodson. This commitment and attention to detail brought him success, where he climbed the ladder of higher education and most recently served as Vice President & Dean of Students at Whittier College in California. He says that role means everything to his approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:
“As an educator for three decades, I value learning and development, and I bring that focus on creating knowledge alongside my peers to my role as DEI Manager. I strongly believe that inclusion is a practice, and that each of us faces learning moments and opportunities to improve.”
Bruce lives this truth through his love of alliteration. Through his leadership, he’s coined a motto for our DEI practice— “Acknowledge, Appreciate, Ask.”
To him and all of us, Otak must acknowledge the privileged space in the community we inhabit, appreciate the contributions of BIPOC in those communities (where they are often glossed over or silenced), and ask good questions that help Otak better understand the counternarratives that tend to be misrepresented in the spaces we create.
Those 3 words have already taken hold. When asked about early successes since coming onboard, Bruce had this to say:
“Since my very first Otak meeting, I’ve been greeted with excitement and interest in transforming internal culture as well as the external partnerships at Otak. As a DEI professional, I’ve grown used to facing very real resistance and hesitancy. I think my first win is being a part of a company that possesses a high level of interest in learning and developing and that places a high value on using our resources to impact equity in the communities in which we do our work.”
However, acknowledgment comes with recognizing where we’ve fallen short and defining areas of improvement. Bruce is leading our efforts in this regard:
“An important component to being more equitable and inclusive is acknowledging the work we do with our partners, especially amplifying the voices of those partners representing historically underrepresented voices and reflecting on the ways in which these partners have asked us to provide support and resources to them and their communities. Otak is ready to build on the value we place on solidifying these relationships and leveraging our privilege.”
He also notes that in leveraging and acknowledging that privilege, we become more diverse, and therefore more effective. This has everything to do with Black History Month, which was actually coined by Carter G. Woodson.
“Black History Month was founded to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions that Black people have made to our society and communities. I am honored that my introduction to the company and this industry coincides with our celebration of Black contributions. Also, I look forward to working alongside my Otak colleagues as we celebrate, honor, and amplify the voices of other marginalized communities.”
More than anything else, Bruce is excited to bring his skills and experience to bear as our DEI Leader. He exemplifies the value-added and educational approach that facilitates sincere, real learning moments, and we’re grateful to have him on our team.
Welcome to Otak Bruce. Don’t ever stop educating us, and we remain ready to learn.