Celebrating Black Resilience: Q&A with Dontell Lofton

Black history month

Resilience is what gives people the emotional strength to cope with adversity and hardship.

February 2023

Travis Whitmore

Dontell Lofton
Assistant Vice President, Training and Development

In celebration of Black History Month, Black Professionals Group Co-Chair Dontell Lofton reflects on his career journey at State Street, and on how this year’s theme of Black Resilience resonates with him on a personal level.

Could you briefly summarize your background, and your career path at State Street?

I always like to tell people that my journey at State Street began when I was a child. My mother has worked at State Street for more than 25 years now, and would bring me to work with her. As time went on, I graduated from Brockton High School in 2011, and attended college at the Wentworth Institute of Technology. After my freshman year, I pursued a summer internship at State Street in 2012, and stayed on as a co-op in 2014. After graduating, I accepted a full-time role as a senior associate on the Enterprise Demand Management team.

Over the next couple of years, I moved from an officer role on the Global Markets business continuity team to a position focused on our asset owner clients, before ultimately joining the Talent Marketplace as an assistant vice president. Today, I help run the Skip Level Advisory Programs on the Talent Development and Learning team. As I celebrate 11 years at State Street, I can reflect on how much I have grown my skills and network.

As someone who works in talent development, can you share your thoughts on the importance of recruiting, building and developing a diverse team?

Diversity is such an integral part of any business. Having a space where you hear different voices and perspectives makes an impact when you are trying to put together a successful strategy. Also, having the ability to relate to your clients will only enhance the trust and bond in that working relationship. The best solutions come when you have people from all backgrounds and experiences offering their input.

I believe people work best when they are their happiest. If you have an employee base that feels as though they work in an environment where their background is valued, it only stands to improve the company’s reputation, and will make attracting highly scouted talent much easier.

What is your involvement with the Black Professionals Group (BPG)?

Currently, I am the co-chair of the Black Professionals Group. The BPG has been an instrumental network for many reasons; most importantly, it has given me a sense of belonging. Being with a group of well-respected individuals that truly cares about my career and personal growth has completely transformed my outlook. They have mentored and guided me to where I can clearly see the path ahead at State Street.

Also, the visibility that I have garnered while being on the leadership team of the BPG has been especially enriching. I have had great conversations with senior leaders across the company, and have established strong relationships with them. I am extremely grateful for the networking opportunities that being a part of the BPG has provided.

The theme of this year’s Black History Month celebration is Black Resilience, defined as “what gives people the emotional strength to cope with adversity and hardship, and to utilize their resources, strengths and skills to overcome challenges – and bounce back.” How does that resonate with you on a personal level?

Resilience absolutely resonates with me on a significant level. Black Resilience exemplifies the courage and strength needed to succeed in a space where you may feel overlooked. Every day, you are reminded that you are an outlier, and could even end up changing who you are to fit into that space. Sometimes, we may not even notice this change ourselves, and only have that realization once we return to our personal lives.

It also speaks to the amount of resilience a Black professional must have in order to consistently represent the entire culture. Even though we all have our own thoughts and ideals, typically there is one person who has to speak for everyone. Sometimes, being a Black professional feels like climbing a mountain alone, while carrying the burden of representing your entire culture on your back. To deal with the tremendous pressure that comes with not wanting to “be a statistic” is what Black Resiliency is all about.

What are some of the DEI initiatives you’ve had a hand in promoting at State Street?

Being the co-chair of the Black Professionals Group and on the Talent Development and Learning team has positioned me to be heavily involved in DEI initiatives. From organizing events that exemplify Black success, to traveling to conferences to speak on the topics of DEI and State Street as an employer of choice, I aim to serve as a visible role model. My main responsibility at State Street involves running a new development program called the Skip Level Advisory Programs, which seeks to grant visibility, networking opportunities and career coaching to other employees within their business lines. This program originated from an idea and pilot in Action #2 from our 10 Actions to Address Racism and Inequality, as we look to help retain and grow our internal Black and Latinx professional talent within the firm.

How do you challenge yourself to show up as your authentic self at work, and what advice do you have for someone who may be struggling with this?

In my personal opinion, showing up as your authentic self can be super challenging. Luckily for me, I have had many different role models to guide and teach me exactly how I can be myself and still grow professionally. My parents are my biggest role models, because they work extremely hard, but always find a way to laugh and smile at the end of a long, busy day. Their positive attitudes inspired me to always find joy and purpose in what I do every day. I know that what I am doing will change people’s lives for the better, and that is one of the best feelings ever.

Ninety-nine times out of 100, you will probably see me laughing and smiling because I truly enjoy the people I get to work with, as well as the mission of my role. I’ve also set a personal goal of being a role model to all new employees at State Street, by showing how you can advance your career toward becoming a leader.

In addition to my genuine drive that helps me stay on track and pushes me to always want more for myself, I also spend quite a bit of time reflecting on my past and future. I currently work with two mentees, which keeps me humble and allows me to coach the next generation of professionals. I channel this energy into continued success. My advice to anyone who is struggling with this is to find what gives you purpose and joy, and work to succeed in your goals. When you are able to do this, nothing will be able to change who you are, because you are staying true to yourself.


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