TheBridge profile: Rhonda Foxx
Name: Rhonda Foxx
Current city: Washington, DC
Current job: Chief of Staff, Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12)
Past job: Finance Director & Interim Campaign Manager, Erin Bilbray for Congress
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? The Pret A Manger on Penn Avenue when I’m in a hurry for work, but when I’m on my own time hands down best coffee spot is Peets!
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. Before coming to Capitol Hill, I worked in sports for a boutique sports non-profit founded by Washington Redskin, London Fletcher. I was young and fresh out of law school but I was entrusted to build a family's foundation from the ground up. I didn't just manage London Fletcher's foundation, but I helped build his brand and create his digital profile. It was a tremendous experience, being honored a the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl, this truly cultivated my entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic.
Q. Job advice in three words? Believe in yourself.
Q. What can Silicon Valley (innovators) teach DC (regulators)? Silicon Valley can better help regulators find more innovative solutions and approaches to our increasingly complex legislative issues. Within the beltway, we are resistant to change and if change happens it does so incrementally and at a snail’s pace. Being more innovative is critical for regulators because our constituencies are evolving and they are demanding a different, more effective, government.
Q. What can DC (regulators) teach Silicon Valley (innovators)? Silicon Valley is so unfamiliar with DC and the way that regulation works. In many respects, it feels like innovators have taken for granted the critical role to industry that regulators play. As we prepare for the new Congress and begin to tackle things like privacy and trade, I think the Valley will finally begin to see the importance of working with government.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech / innovation and regulation? I'm the Chief of Staff to Rep. Alma Adams, who is the Co-Chair of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus. The Caucus and Rep. Adams are at the forefront of the Congressional push to diversify tech. Our 77 members, including 14 senators, firmly believe that HBCUs are integral to this effort. HBCUs produce over 35% of black STEM graduates and over 47% of black women engineers. There can be no tech diversity without HBCUs.
To amplify this message, in 2017, the Caucus launched the HBCU Partnership Challenge. Since, the Caucus has worked closely with entities like the Information Technology Industry Council, the Internet Association, BSA Foundation, and the Entertainment Software Association to promote the challenge and to forge a collective conversation about diversity in tech. These organizations and their member companies have worked with the Caucus to host tech diversity events such as the HBCU STEAM Day which brought over 16 tech companies and 40 HBCUs to Washington to advocate for greater funding for HBCUs. The Caucus then hosted the Diversity in Tech Summit at North Carolina A&T State University, the largest STEM producing HBCU. This was the largest convening of its kind. The Diversity in Tech Summit brought together members of Congress, 40 tech companies, three tech associations and 36 HBCUs to discuss the creation of strategic and sustainable HBCU and tech partnerships that produce more inclusion and diversity. To cap off a year of engagement, tech partners and the Bipartisan Caucus joined together through the National HBCU Braintrust to provide over a quarter million in scholarship funding to black women engineers.
Because of these efforts, there are now 16 tech companies in the HBCU Partnership Challenge and over the next 12 months, we will continue to work as a collective to outline the best practices for recruiting and retaining diverse tech talent. Leveling the playing field and ensuring equal access to 21st century opportunity demands that government and industry work together. This is what the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus is all about, and Rep. Adams is at the forefront of leading that charge.
Q: Morning routine? I start almost every morning with either a run around the Hill or a sweat session in the gym.
Q: How do I unwind after work? With my dog Carter and a good book.
Q: What's one piece of advice you are still trying to master? I'm trying to do a better job with striking work life balance, I just went on a two day solo vacation and it was the most magical and long overdue experience. In the new year I am really going to try to make more time for myself and to unplug.
Q: Best advice you have received? I was doing an informational interview with Caitlin O'Neill from Facebook - this was many moons ago. And she said, "Rhonda, let your freak flag fly!" Or in other words, just be yourself. In this town people want you to look a certain way, act a certain way and fit a certain mold. Unfortunately, I just don't fit into the traditional DC box and after that meeting I finally stopped trying to. Having someone finally say that's ok was huge. I've kept my head down, worked hard and now I just let my freak flag fly.
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