Black History Month Q&A with Demetrius Porter

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of African Americans’ accomplishments and a time for appreciating critical contributions to U.S. history. To mark the occasion, we are featuring several of our African American employees at Sema4. Demetrius Porter, Laboratory Technologist, shares the importance of tenacity in adversity and how Sema4’s culture helps foster his core values.

What is your role at Sema4?

I am a Laboratory Technologist III working in our DNA extraction department pre-PCR (polymerase chain reaction), where I am responsible for extracting DNA from human specimen samples that arrive to us for a variety of testing.

What motivates you to work at Sema4?

It’s knowing I’m making an impact on peoples’ lives. In my work, I get to be a vector for individuals and families to become more informed about their own health. Getting to be a part of that change is what drives me.

I’ve also stayed with Sema4 because of the potential for growth. I wanted to be a part of something that I could have my own hands in forging. At Sema4, I feel like I have a seat at the table.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History is history. It’s not only a reminder of what was and how we got here, but also a beacon of what can and will be. This month is about reflecting on our history and aspiring to push forward to make history every day.

What barriers have you had to overcome to reach this point in your career?

For a long time, I was afraid to ask for more and demand more from people around me because those before me had so much less. I was the biggest hurdle to my own success. Now, I do speak up for myself, and I do ask for more. Here at Sema4, it’s been nice to have that kind of support from my supervisors and managers to help me fulfill my career and personal goals.

Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired you?

I learned about Bayard Rustin when I was 11 years old. He was one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s most trusted advisors and original organizers of the March on Washington. Mr. Rustin was at the forefront of the civil rights movement and had a direct hand in shaping its efforts. Another reason his story resonates with me is that he was openly gay, and so am I. Learning about Mr. Rustin’s unrecognized journey, and that history tried to erase his journey, was and still is inspirational and deeply humbling. Despite all the adversity he faced, he kept pushing onward. This really stuck with me and cemented my philosophy to never give up in the face of adversity.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career like yours?

First, finish school. It will pay off. Secondly, be unrelenting and be persistent. In my experience, every battle is harder than the previous one. So, don’t be afraid to put yourself first, ask for help where you need it, be humble, be yourself, demand more from others, and take up your space so you can grow and flourish. If you don’t, someone else will take your place.

How has your role on the Sema4’s Diversity & Inclusion Council impacted your work and personal life?

I recently joined the Council, and what’s been really cool to see is how substantiative our efforts are. I’m extremely excited about all the things we’re doing, not just to talk about D&I, but how we’re doing it. I love that Sema4 puts us at the forefront of it – it puts our involvement front and center, and it’s genuine.

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