“I was born in Buffalo but raised and lived in Washington, DC for about ten years. My mom wanted a better life for us and so we moved back to Buffalo. We fell on some hard times in DC. I went to Bennett High School and then to UB, and graduated in 2005. Just like a lot of other young people, when I was done with school I wanted to leave Buffalo. I’m passionately in love with all things New York City. I took a job down there, but that didn’t work out. I should have know it wouldn’t. They reached out to me online, and everything was through email, including the interview. It was some type of scam situation. I came back home and got my first real job at what is now WBLK. I was a marketing consultant account executive there. That transitioned me into doing IT work at a financial services company. I was there for a while and they kept promoting me. When I left, I was the Director of Human Resources. I went from IT to human resources, it was crazy. But, I learned a lot about the structure of a company. I knew that HR wasn’t the path that I wanted. I’ve always have a dream of being an entrepreneur, but I knew that I still needed to pay the bills. I started doing some of that type of work as the marketing director for a New York City based lifestyle magazine, while I was still working my other jobs, including in the office of the Mayor of Buffalo. I left that job earlier this year to work for a developer, but that didn’t work out. So, I decided I would try the entrepreneur thing full time. I did that for a while, but the pressure was on for me to make some money. I went back to City Hall as I had a great opportunity come my way. He really wants to highlight and put Buffalo on the map from a digital perspective with all that is happening here. I’m now the Director of Social Media. I just started that job in August.”
Doing social media for the Mayor’s Office
“It’s a lot to manage. Especially because it’s such a new role. Plus, in addition to handling his social media, I’m also doing work for the Buffalo Common Council, and other agencies as well. We’re trying to give citizens access to local government and city agencies via social media. I’m working on that, and to my surprise, a lot of the city agencies already had a pretty good online presence. It’s just those ones that never really thought about it before. Trying to convince them that there is a need for it, to allow people to connect to you. Whenever change happens, you’re going to run into some kind of resistance. But what’s great is that you’re starting to see a lot of young people who are working in these different capacities who get it. It’s not so much of a fight anymore. ”
Buffalo Urban League Young Professionals
“I love the work that we are doing here in Buffalo. The work is impacting people lives, especially young people. We’re out here making sure that the community knows who we are and the work that we are doing. We have a big education conference coming up at the end of the month and a leadership development series that we are developing to help connect young professionals to local business leaders.”
What’s coming up that people need to know about?
“Our second annual education mini-conference is on October 29th. We are trying to engage educators and parents in a way that they can be more connected with one another. Also we are working to help educators think of better ways of engaging students, especially in our inner city public schools. We really just want to have the ultimate impact on a lot of people, and to engage young people to get involved. People are coming back to the city of Buffalo right now, or deciding not to leave. There is a renaissance here in Buffalo and people want to be a part of it. Part of our role is to make sure that we are connecting people to opportunities. Especially for the folks that are coming back to the city. They left for a reason, but now that they are back, what is here for them? We are here. There are other people and things here, and we want to connect them to what is happening here. I love my city. I really want to be able to tell the story of Buffalo. It’s an incredible story that is being told right now. There are still a lot of naysayers out there. I was one of those people, I left Buffalo. But it took me actually getting involved with things to realize that Buffalo really does have a lot to offer. I see people that I am connected with from other cities telling me that they need to come to Buffalo because they say, ‘Jamil, I need to come to Buffalo. You make it seem like it’s this incredible city, not just all snow’. You can’t fake this stuff. It’s real. It’s happening. I just want to keep telling that story and let other people see it. When you are involved, you can’t help but love this place. Whatever you want, I firmly believe Buffalo has it to offer. Those words would have never left my mouth 8 years ago. I love this place, I love the people here, I love what’s happening here. And, having a seat at the table makes it a lot better, too.”
What do you see as some major areas of need in Buffalo right now?
“I would like to see more people be able to feel the benefits of this renaissance. There are pockets of our community that feel like this is not for them. But it’s theirs too. I would like to become more aware and take ownership of what’s happening here. Once we get to that point, it’s going to explode. It’s really going to make Buffalo one of those destination cities. Not just for people to come and visit, but to consider moving here and starting a business. It takes building awareness and letting people know what is going on, truly educating people about what’s happening and how they need to be a part of it. That’s a lot of the work that we do at Buffalo Urban League Young Professionals.”
“At the same time, in addition to us trying to raise awareness, it’s going to take some initiative from the people as well. They’re going to need to want to be in the loop. Often times, when people are not for them, that’s when they become detached. They need to know that this is here for them too, but at the same time they need to educate themselves and realize that people aren’t just going to bring stuff to you. I’m a hustler. I want everyone to have that mentality and mindset and just get out there and just own it!”
“For everything that I do, I feel like everyone should feel like they are part of it. We are trying to build capacity so that we can do greater work. Once people realize everything that we are doing, it will cross all boundaries. I just have a passion for service and giving back.”
“Being a solo-preneur is tough!”
“I have my marketing company that I am rebranding at the moment. I started doing some freelance web design a few years ago, and some graphic design and event planning for events. The name of the business is changing now, and I have a team now as well. Being a solo-preneur is tough! I’ve been getting people to see and believe in my vision. I want to be able to connect with creative geniuses. I want to get some young creative people that will give me the absolute best product. I’ve connected with a few folks on that level and we’re going to launch in a few months. It’ll be fun.”
What would you tell a younger version of yourself?
“Also, I experienced a lot of adversity in my life. So another thing that I would tell myself is that a setback is always a setup for a comeback. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. ”