DE&I In Our DNA: A Farewell Interview with Lamont Mackley, JumpStart’s Retiring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion & Community Engagement Officer

Lamont Mackley’s unwavering commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has shaped both his personal and professional life. Over the course of thirteen years at JumpStart, Lamont has consistently emphasized the importance of integrating DE&I into our very core.

As our Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion & Community Engagement Officer, Lamont has seamlessly merged his personal mission of helping individuals achieve a better future with JumpStart’s objective of transforming entire communities, all through the power of building meaningful relationships.

Recently, Lamont sat down with three JumpStart staff members—Patrycja Ajdukiewicz, Raykwon Woodruff and Mery Sanchez—at VARR Studios to discuss the current state of DE&I and uncover how we can continue to move the needle as an entrepreneurial support organization.


Intentionality is key

The first question that often arises when discussing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is, “Where does one begin this journey?” Specifically in the context of JumpStart, how do we inspire people, communities, and groups to unite and unlock the full potential of entrepreneurship? Lamont emphasizes that active engagement with the communities we serve is essential. It demands intentionality, sensitivity and a genuine commitment to listening. We must go beyond surface-level interactions to forge deep, meaningful connections with the communities we aim to serve to foster authentic relationships based on trust and collaboration.


DEI is Uncomfortable

When Raykwon Woodruff joined JumpStart as an accounting analyst, he candidly admits he felt uneasy when confronted with discussions about race, equity, and oppression in the workplace. It felt “weird” to discuss topics like this with coworkers when he first joined the JumpStart team. Inclusion Champions, a monthly forum of internal dialogue around race, equity and inclusion, was intentionally designed to provide employees with a safe and respectful space to explore sensitive topics. Lamont emphasizes the need to step out of personal comfort zones and exhibit the courage to engage in these conversations, facilitating an atmosphere where racial issues can be openly discussed. Raykwon hopes that Inclusion Champions will continue to evolve and flourish even in Lamont’s absence, encouraging staff to engage in candid discussions about equity.


You need to know your mission

JumpStart’s Hispanic Deal Flow Analyst, Mery Sanchez, recounts a private conversation she had with Lamont where he posed a question that has become a signature of his interactions: “What is your mission?” Mery’s central mission was to help people, and she has closely collaborated with Lamont in developing programs for JumpStart’s Impacto program—an accelerator aimed at equipping Hispanic/Latino entrepreneurs with vital services like financial projections and marketing guidance. Lamont emphasizes the need to bring resources and assets directly into the communities we serve. By being intentional about engaging with these communities and understanding their needs, we hold the potential to bring about generational change. Through authentic relationships, the ripple effect becomes evident.


Confront equity head-on

In today’s world, divisions appear to be more pronounced than ever. Patty Ajdukiewicz, JumpStart’s director of small business services, asks Lamont about breaking down barriers for all groups without creating silos. In response, Lamont emphasizes the importance of community unification. He advocates for intentional efforts to bring people together around a common denominator—in JumpStart’s case, entrepreneurship. To effect genuine change, the JumpStart team believes we must confront the concept of equity head-on, by making access to business support opportunities and resources available to everyone.


As we say farewell to Lamont, we want to express our heartfelt appreciation for his exceptional contributions to the field of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. His unwavering dedication has left an indelible impact on JumpStart and the communities it serves.

Lamont’s ability to foster meaningful relationships, coupled with his emphasis on active listening, intentionality and inclusivity, has instilled DE&I into the organization’s DNA and helped shape JumpStart’s future. As Lamont embarks on his well-deserved retirement, we wish him a beautiful journey ahead, filled with fulfillment and joy.

Thank you, Lamont, for your extraordinary work advancing DE&I, and may your legacy continue to inspire others for years to come.