Infrastructure Engineer, Digital Tech
If you asked Jamal Robinson about his main goal in life, he'd probably tell you that he's dedicated to serving people. Especially people from underrepresented communities of color. From an early age, he saw what happens to communities that are overlooked: His grandparents left the South during the Jim Crow era to start a new life in Cleveland, Ohio, and Jamal grew up in Glenville, a neighborhood that has suffered from a lack of educational and financial opportunities.
The dream of helping people led Robinson to West Point, an engineering degree, and a stint in the U.S. Army. That dream also led him to understand his ability—and his responsibility—to uplift others. Today, he brings that focus to everything he does, from teaching kids leadership skills to his job helping businesses find technology solutions for their most complex problems.
What does success look like to you?
To me, success is serving others. My training at West Point and in the military has cultivated in me a lifelong commitment to helping both individuals and communities. It's how I'm built. It's who I am. For me, there is no line that separates personal success and professional success. I learned in West Point and the Army that we are all one. So in my heart, my personal success and my professional success are also all one. That singular approach to success is defined by serving others.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My grandparents. They were part of the U.S. great migration that fled the Jim Crow South. My grandmother was a sharecropper. My grandfather arrived off the bus in Cleveland, Ohio, with nothing but a nickel and lint in his pocket.
My grandfather taught himself how read with the help of my grandmother. They met, started a family, and had nine children. They also started their own businesses – a tow trucking company and a local neighborhood grocery store that was actually an attachment to their own house. Despite all of the challenges they faced, they raised a loving family which I'm proud to be part of.
What is the biggest obstacle you've overcome in life?
I've experienced two life-changing obstacles. I'm the oldest of five, and my younger brother was killed. As you can imagine, that was difficult but what helped me get through that experience was what I learned from the second obstacle: graduating from West Point. The values and perspective I gained from those challenging 48 months helped me overcome many challenges, especially dealing with the death of my brother.
What do you consider the most valuable piece of advice you've ever received and where did it come from?
The most valuable piece of advice I've ever received came from my leadership training and military experience: Never ask more from others, and your team, than you are willing to do yourself. That single piece of advice has always resonated with me because it is based on the idea of selflessness.
What brings you joy?
I grew up in a rough neighborhood, and I got out by the skin of my teeth. I had abilities and potential, but there were people in my neighborhood who were smarter than me and better than me. Luckily, I had the chances and the opportunities that made it possible for me to get out. Many of them didn't.
What brings me joy is being a bridge between the community where I grew up and the community where I live and work now. For the people in my old neighborhood, I can be an example of someone who found the opportunity to do something more with their life. I can be someone who says "I did this. You can, too."
For the people I work with now, I can be an example of the potential that exists in rough and underserved neighborhoods. I can be someone who says "Those people who seem hopeless, who you might overlook or write off? I'm one of them, and I've been able to go far beyond the limitations of the place where I grew up."
I feel like I'm just getting started, just beginning to tap into the potential that I developed at West Point, in the corporate world, and even in my childhood neighborhood. Although it's been a beautiful, chaotic journey, I wouldn't change any part of it, because I wouldn't be who I am today. My joy is in the journey, from where I began to where I am, to where I'm going.