Joe Watson’s ambition as a student at Dickinson in the mid 80s was merely a glimpse of what was to come later in his career.
Watson was highly involved with the college radio station, WDCV, and held leadership positions as Production Manager and Station Manager. He was a member of Theta Chi, and he served on the Grievance Committee in Student Senate.
In addition, Watson played rugby and worked for a summer camp called P.E.E.R., which provided academic and social support for underprivileged kids.
Watson said he regrets not studying abroad. However, his active involvement on campus kept him busy and enabled him to have various leadership opportunities.
One such leadership position was on the Commission on the Status of Minorities. This organization was in fact one of the outlets for Watson to pursue his passion for diversity and commitment to minorities’ rights.
According to Watson, the social and political environment fit perfectly with the goals of students on campus at the time. He said, “it was a peaceful time, a time of limited worry.” Also perfect in the sense that “students all walked out [of the college] feeling empowered.”
Watson spoke of the students’ attitudes on campus being very positive. He said, “the 80s were about defining tolerance and appropriateness,” and “there was a lot of energy and interaction among students and the administration.”
One difference, however, was the college’s curriculum, which was still very much centered on traditional, non-specific programs. Dickinson had yet to achieve some of its distinction in terms of program and course offerings, though according to Watson, it was well on its way.
Watson graduated in 1987 as a history major. Immediately after graduation, Watson accepted a job offer from Island Records located in New York City in Greenwich Village. He worked in National Club Promotion, ensuring that Island Records’ songs remained in top positions on the charts.
Currently, Watson is the CEO and founder of StrategicHire, located in Reston, VA, which “focuses on techniques and strategies to facilitate the acquisition and retention of diverse management talent via the building of networks and bridges.”
More specifically, Watson specializes in “the location of diverse middle and senior level management personnel across a broad range of industries.”
Prior work experience has included Director of Personnel for Virginia Governor Mark Warner’s Transition Team. Watson was responsible for constructing Governor Warner’s Cabinet. As a result of Watson’s influence, Virginia was able to place people of color as Secretary or Deputy Secretary in seven of ten Secretariats.
Watson is the co-founder of The Exchange, an African American CEO Council, Chairman of the Virginia High Tech Partnership, and internship program with historically black colleges and universities, and Chairman of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce.
In addition, Watson is a frequent speaker at professional development events: National Black MBA Entrepreneur’s Conference, National Association of Minorities in Communications, Women’s Business Network/Diversity Best Practices, MTV Networks and AOL Time Warner.
Watson spoke of his goals being “not only to help companies find people to meet their goals but to exceed their expectations.”
Additionally, he said, “lack of progress [with respect to diversity initiatives] is unacceptable; there are solutions out there which simply require the ability to communicate effectively with folks that are different.”
Essentially, Watson believes that the need for diversity and the ongoing efforts to achieve a diverse environment and world stem from a liberal arts tradition.
“It’s simply a decision to engage or not to engage, it’s a choice,” Watson said.
He added, “once students make the choice to engage, then they must seek opportunities to interact with folks that are different, and whether or not students seek that opportunity is yet another choice.”
Watson mentioned that too often people vow to do something and never follow through: “Do what you say you’re going to do! That is half the battle.” We all need to make the conscious decision to be engaged and engage others, while seeking those opportunities to meet “different folks,” Watson stated.
Finally, Watson advises students to not be disheartened by the changing definition of the “American dream” or be discouraged while trying to achieve their goals.
He affirmed, “the dream can only be created and defined by the individual, so you must define your dream for yourself,” and only you can be the judge of your own success.