Thirty-one-year-old Rich Smith is a senior user interface engineer at Internet content provider Netflix. However, his life could have turned out differently for the college dropout, if he had allowed his failures to determine his future.
Instead Smith, who has roots in Jamaica, used his failures as motivation and taught himself to write code. As a result, today, he is one of the most sought after software engineers in Silicon Valley.
Smith describes himself as a first generation American, but his dream is to use his experience to inspire underprivileged youth in Jamaica to look beyond their failures and maximise their potential.
“My mother is from Nonsuch, Portland and my father is from Manchester, and I don’t believe my journey is for me alone, but I want to inspire a change in the attitude of those that may be faced with similar challenges that I was confronted with,” Smith told The Gleaner following his participation as a panellist at Tech Beach Retreat 2018 held at Iberostar Hotel in Montego Bay on the weekend.
“I dropped out of College, I don’t have a university degree, but I did not give up, I taught myself how to write codes and was able to do all of that by having access to the Internet to the necessary researches and a belief that it can be done,” he continued. “I struggled a lot in my life and we tend to be silent about those struggles, but for me it is an opportunity to mentor others.”
He says Jamaicans have the potential to achieve success.
“When I see countries like Jamaica and other under developed markets, all I see are people that don’t believe that they have the same opportunities and I think it is important for me to let people understand that no matter where you are from, no matter what you were exposed to, that you have the same potential as someone born in a privileged position or in the US,” added Smith, “I have done it, so others can do it too, but it takes hard work.”
Although he discontinued tertiary education, Smith is not advising others to follow in his path. He says each individual must write their own story.
“My recommendation is for education first, because if I had a mentor, then my decision might have been different and it is why I want to influence a more positive thinking among the younger generation in Jamaica.”
Using his expertise as a techie, Smith believes that is where he can have the most impact, but even though he will readily offer tutelage in other areas, but is hoping that his mentorship programme will also influence others.