10 Questions with Diamond Richardson
MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School
Diamond Richardson is an incoming MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School. Before school, she was an Integrated Marketing Associate at Nerdwallet, a fintech start-up in San Francisco that helps people make better financial decisions. While at NerdWallet, she also co-launched the company’s Diversity and Inclusion program. Diamond is a co-founder of Thrive, a community she launched with friends to support black women interested in pursuing MBAs and careers in business and technology.
- When did you know you wanted to be in tech?
I’ve always had an interest in personal finance. In college, I began searching online for resources to help me manage my (small amount of) money. I came across LearnVest, which was my first exposure to a fintech company. I became fascinated with the company and started following its growth, as well as its CEO Alexa Von Tobel, who I think is just incredible. Watching her make advanced financial planning something I could do on my computer put the tech industry on my radar. I knew I wanted to be a part of building something that useful. I did not actually make the jump into tech until a few years later though. I am from Texas, and moving to San Francisco to work at a startup is not a typical thing to do! I had to fight the expectation that I was supposed to stay in Texas and work at a “known” company.
2. Who’s been a role model you look up to?
I look up to my mom. She was a single parent who worked tirelessly to make sure my sister, brother, and I never went without, even though it was a huge burden on her, which I’ve come to understand as I’ve gotten older. She instilled the importance of education in me by going back to get her bachelor’s degree while working and raising us. She also encouraged my love of reading from an early age. I admire her strength immensely.
“I look up to my mom. She was a single parent who worked tirelessly to make sure my sister, brother, and I never went without.”
3. Where is your hometown?
4. What’s a challenge that you’ve faced in your career journey?
While my years in the tech industry have been incredible in so many ways, I definitely struggled with the cultural environment, which I know is common for women. I’ve had specific instances where I felt like I was treated differently because I was a woman or because I was a black woman. Sometimes, I am not recognized for my part in projects when everyone else is. Other times, I’ve been told I was too aggressive in meetings, even when I felt other people were speaking in a similar tone.
I’ve had to accept that I can say the same thing as another person but it is perceived differently. Now, do I know for a fact these things happen because I am a woman or black? No, but it is just something I sense and notice a pattern about based on who gets similar feedback. Feeling like that starts to make you self-conscious in the workplace and more likely to pull back or mute yourself. That is something I’ve had to manage the past few years.
5. Describe a time you were proud of yourself.
Getting into business school is a recent achievement that I am proud of myself for! One of the perks of working in the Bay Area is that you are surrounded by people pursuing a variety of interesting paths. I started to see a common thread amongst people doing the things I was interested in: they had MBAs. After some research, I knew returning to school would be a good move for me, and I put everything I had into getting in. At the time, my team at work was short-staffed, so I was working longer hours than usual, and still having to come home to study for the GMAT and work on essays. On top of this, I was traveling back and forth to Texas because I was in a long-distance relationship.
To say it was a difficult time is an understatement. I struggled with the GMAT, had to take it multiple times, and really started to doubt myself. The people I knew getting into the schools I wanted to go to went to private high schools, Ivy League undergrads, or worked in prestigious jobs like banking. I had none of that. It took the support of my fiance, family and many friends not to count myself out before I even applied. I decided to stay in the fight and I am so excited to be headed to school this fall!
6. What’s something that’s been on your mind a lot lately?
How do I pay forward all of the incredible help I’ve received along my journey? I’ve always been motivated and ambitious, but even with those traits, coming from a low-income, single parent home still made ending up where I am today highly improbable. If it were not for teachers who took an interest in me, a scholarship to Baylor and programs like MLT, I would not have reached half of my potential. There are so many smart kids in unfortunate situations who don’t catch those lucky breaks. You have to motivate and inspire early, and I am thinking a lot about how I can be part of doing that in a large way.
“I’ve always been motivated and ambitious, but even with those traits, coming from a low-income, single parent home still made ending up where I am today highly improbable.”
7. Comfort food of choice?
This is a near impossible question for a foodie from Texas. Probably mac and cheese. A close second place would be all things Tex-Mex.
8. Mac or PC?
9. If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?
I’d love to be a columnist for a women’s magazine. I grew up a lover of the written word and I am a magazine junkie. I studied journalism and business in college because I was not sure which way I wanted to go! I still see myself having a column somewhere down the line. I love writing about interesting topics.
10. If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t be so hard on yourself, it will all work out. One of the best quotes I’ve come across lately is “don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s all small stuff.” I’d love to hand my 18-year-old self that quote on a piece of paper and tell her to post it on the bathroom mirror and to look at it every morning.