Jim Stroud

VP of Marketing, Proactive Talent

1. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?

My favorite teacher in school was a college professor at Ga State University. His name was Dr. Sellen and he was a social studies teacher who was a masterful storyteller. With a commanding presence and dramatic readings, he made history come alive for me. His lectures impressed upon me that if you want to teach someone something, you must entertain them in some way. By amusing your audience, they will stay awake long enough (hopefully) to hear whatever it is you have to say. I think that lesson comes across in my videos. At least. I hope it does.

2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

When I was in college, I was dating someone with the intent of marriage. At the time, my career goal was to be a filmmaker / screenplay writer in Hollywood. Unfortunately, I was not making much progress in that pursuit, so I was encouraged to “get a real job.” The quest was work suitable for a potential mate lead me to the campus career center. There were several options posted on the billboards therein; jobs ranging from the clerical to sanitation and nothing struck me as a viable option. As I was leaving, I noticed a sign that said, “get paid to surf the internet.” I was somewhat intrigued as the only experience with the internet prior to, was reviewing swimsuit models. It turns out that the job posting was from a major telecom company – MCI. They were looking for internet researchers to source resumes which I thought was beyond bizarre. “Who would put their resume on the internet?” I wondered, back then. Little did I know it was the beginning of a 2-decade long career.

“I noticed a sign that said, ‘get paid to surf the internet.'”

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

As a general rule, I have kept my politics to myself. Unless I am in a pub with Hung Lee or among like-minded individuals, I rarely comment on the social issues of the day. I certainly do not blog about them. Yet, it has become my passion. The catalyst was the George Floyd protests and the resulting civil unrest and increasing social and racial divisions in my country. I felt compelled to speak out because all too often, people tend to think of African Americans as one homogenous group sharing one popular opinion. (Jim’s African American so he must believe this thing, as so many other African Americans do.) As a result, conversations are self-censored and any potential for resolving disagreements are squashed before they can begin. I think that is the root of the cancel culture that is rampant and growing. If certain topics are taboo because of political correctness then, a certain mindset prevails and to speak or act counter to that is anathema.

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Purple Cow is what made me a Seth Godin fan. I’ve ready many of his other works and highly recommend them all. However, Purple Cow is the one that tattooed on my brain. Creating products that are worth remarking on is what permeates all the content I produce or at least, I hope it does.

100 Amazing Facts About the Negro by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

100 Amazing Facts About the Negro helped to open my eyes to what I was not learning in the public school system. I read the original version of it years ago and it helped spark my interest in black history. It also gave me the realization that to fully appreciate history I have to look at it from the perspective of the times and not from modern lenses. History is complicated and not black and white, pun intended.

The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris

The 4 Hour Work Week really opened my eyes to automation on a personal level. Prior to the book, I thought of automation in terms of manufacturing but not in terms of outsourcing to virtual assistants, calendar apps and chrome extensions. I take a lot of that for granted now but when the original version of that book was published, it opened up a whole new world to me. #ParadigmShift

Why those three? In their own ways, they challenge conventional ways of thinking and I very much appreciate works that can shift paradigms.

5. Imagine: if we were to go to people who don't think very highly of you, what do you think they would say about you?

I was speaking at a conference, somewhere, I honestly don’t remember, and someone made the comment that I was the only African American speaker in the lineup. As such, the reason why I was featured was because of my skin color and not my skill. The person who said it was also African American. I was not immediately offended. I suggested to them that if color was all it took to be consistently invited to speak on international stages then, I wasted my time researching my topics and preparing my presentations. I almost certainly should not have worked hard to make multiple clients profitable and more efficient, thereby validating my work. Most of all, all efforts to nurture a personal brand over 10+ years on social media was totally without merit. How foolish I’ve been to not realize my skin privilege.

When I said these things in a calm and matter of fact way, I think they were unnerved. Rather than harbor offense, I offered them a series of suggestions on how they could apply themselves and possibly mimic my success. To date, I don’t think they listened to me, preferring instead to blame outside forces for their own inadequacies. If they are reading this now and have not progressed in their career nor taken any risks since our encounter, they have only themselves to blame.

6. What’s one misconception people generally have about you?

That I am always happy. For the record, I am not. I do see happiness as a choice and that is the option I typically opt for.

7. On what topic would you never make a joke?

I try never to say never as one never knows but, I find it highly unlikely that I would joke about suicide. I have lost a dear friend and a family member to that scourge. I doubt I would ever see that as a laughing matter.

8. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

Racism in any form is wrong and I do not see any justification for it as one cannot control the color of their skin. I would think that Americans would be especially sensitive to this in light of our Civil Rights movement. And yet, discrimination against whites seems to be in vogue and to some people, justified because of slavery. I’ve seen increasing reports of race hatred towards whites and how the mainstream media ignores it. Its not right. Although, I do find it ironic in the era of interracial marriage. I am hopeful that the violence will subside soon and be as taboo as public lynchings.

9. What is your most prized possession? What’s the story behind it?

My most prized possession is my faith because it guides everything about me. Every success and every failure draws me closer to what I believe in, which is to live my best life, to help others and to leave something positive behind when I go.

10. Cheese or Chocolate?

Chocolate, every time

11. If you were a giant mega Monster what city would you rampage first? Why?

I would rampage through Washington, D.C. and destroy all the roads so the Congress would have to stay and get things done until the American people vote on whether or not they should be allowed to recess.

12. If you could invite any three people – living or dead – to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

I would invite my best friend because we wouldn’t stop laughing.Conversation would be free flowing and mutual acceptance would abound; no judgements, just freedom. Commenting on society, pop culture or random topics like sunflowers could become deep intellectual pursuits worthy of sarcasm and ridiculous debate. #Amusing

I would invite Josephine Baker because I imagine she would be the life of the party. If you don’t know who she is, look her up! Her life was phenomenal – burlesque dancer, world-famous entertainer, military spy, civil rights advocate and humanitarian. She went from being poor to one of the richest women in the world, losing most of it and then regaining it all again. Wow. I imagine chatting with her would be fascinating.

I would invite God because he would make it last forever.To dwell in a situation where I was surrounded by friends, totally accepted and to grow my personal experiences with fascinating people… Sigh. It would only make sense to invite God but, I think He would already be there. Isn’t what I described Heaven?

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

Choose your mentors wisely and for specific things. Just because someone is great in one area does not mean they are exceptional in everything. Learn the best of what you can from a person and overlook (or forgive) the rest.

14. Tell me about that one project that was a total off-the-rails disaster? What was your role in that shitshow?

I once gave a presentation to a 200+ person audience with a couple of colleagues that none of us adequately prepared for. We had a decent enough idea, but the execution was terrible and we did not study enough to adequately address questions from the audience. 10 minutes into our stage show and we knew we were dying on the vine. (I still have flashbacks.) It would be easy to say that the failure was due to the others but, I played a large part in it as well. I should have insisted on more practice, studied longer and not trust in our improvisational abilities. I overestimated my luck. Since then, as before, I present alone and after several hours of practice. (Okay, calling my therapist once this article is over.)

15. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

Someone who is overly pessimistic is someone I could work with; albeit from a distance. I imagine that the quality of work would improve if someone was always finding something to fix.

16. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?

I worked for a tech company supporting multiple recruiters as a Sourcer. The Recruiters had done their own sourcing before but as they were swamped, they wanted to rely on me to offset their efforts. Among the various Sourcers on the team I was the weakest because I was the least experienced. I saw it as a blessing because I was forced to learn quick and experiment with various tools to make up for my handicap. As a result, I was able to catch up and in some ways surpass those I worked with in terms of quality and quantity of candidates.

17. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

I think what concerns me the most is that our industry will become so automated that we lose the human touch.

18. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

I think when its an employer’s market (more candidates than jobs), hiring managers will always demand “perfect” candidates who match perfectly their laundry list of requirements.

19. What’s the one question that we should’ve asked you, but wasn’t on this list?

What would be the perfect gift that someone could buy you right now? > An Amazon gift card because I would use it to buy books in support of my black history quiz newsletter.

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With ... ?

I recommend Balazs Paroczay

Thank you to Jim Stroud for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Subscribe to Black History Quiz, a newsletter by Jim Stroud

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