Before becoming Google's head of black community engagement earlier this year, Valeisha Butterfield Jones had never landed a job because of an online résumé.
That included impressive stints working in the Obama administration; as the national executive director for media mogul Russell Simmons' Hip-Hop Summit Action Network as well as working full time for Wu Tang Clan and former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson — jobs that she secured through networking, making cold calls and just showing up.
"For me, it's kind of like having that guerilla-style tactic of just going in knowing what you want, because at the end of the day your dreams depend on it," Butterfield Jones told a crowd of a few dozen students Thursday at Xavier University.
With about 2 percent of its overall workforce identifying as black, Google "has had a challenge with diversity," Butterfield Jones said. In her role at the tech powerhouse, she is trying to spread the word about jobs and help improve recruitment and retention, particularly by ensuring that employees have viable "pathways to leadership."
"Part of my job really is to bring Google to the community, and the community to Google, and bridging that gap," she said.
Students asked Butterfield Jones, 38, questions that mostly focused on preparing for life after college: advice on what courses to take; how to be confident when taking chances; her most difficult career steps and regrets.
One of her biggest professional hurdles, she said, was "getting comfortable in my own skin."
"Finding my voice in those rooms when you're black, and you're a black woman, and when you're young, sometimes it can be intimidating to be in a room of all white men," she added.
While Butterfield Jones was working for Simmons' organization, she was introduced to a then-relatively unknown U.S. senator, Barack Obama. After a brief conversation, she felt energized. "I felt like he really believed in change and that he was about to do some big things," she said.
Butterfield Jones began volunteering for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, leveraging her celebrity connections to recruit high-profile surrogates like NBA superstar LeBron James to endorse and support Obama.
After Obama won the White House, Butterfield Jones was tapped to become deputy public affairs director for the International Trade Administration and later served as national youth vote director for Obama's 2012 campaign.
In turn, Butterfield Jones urged Xavier students to take chances and "be willing to invest in people or an idea that may or may not work."
"You just never know who could be that angel or that leader in the room, right?" she said. "In that moment, it would've been easy for me to kind of brush off the guy in the room that no one knew."