From 'The Corridor Of Shame' To Microsoft, How Quinn Smith Made It Work

He's got big plans for the future.

This Black History Month, we've got our eyes on the current class of leaders, who, standing on the shoulders of giants, move the conversation forward through hard work, determination, and ingenuity. From HBCU valedictorians to entrepreneurs leading the charge, here's to the next generation.

Quinn Smith made it from a rural, South Carolina town to Microsoft, and he's not planning to stop there.

Smith grew up in Orangeburg, a small town in an area with such little opportunity some people called it the "corridor of shame." But from the beginning, people expected Smith to make a name for himself.

"With my mother being a music educator in the school district, expectations were already set for me," Smith told A Plus. "I grew up an honors child. From a very young age, I was noticed for my scholastic and musical talents in the community."

Quinn Smith
Quinn Smith

He described the Orangeburg community as a "village" and said that village was part of how he excelled. His mother raised Smith and four other children almost entirely on her own, and though her time was split as a single parent and teacher, she still taught him the value of hard work and ambition. And, perhaps most importantly, selfless love. 

"I live every day to see her smile on how much her hard work made a difference in my life," Smith said. "And I plan to use her doctrines to continue motivating and inspiring my peers, community, and the world."

Despite the economic challenges he and his community faced, Smith managed to enroll at South Carolina State, the only public Historically Black College (HBCU) in South Carolina. Things didn't get any simpler once he was on campus.

"I changed my major three times when I first got there," Smith said. "But I ended with a double major in business marketing and management."

Scholarships gave him the opportunity to stay in school. Coming out of high school, he was eligible for the Life Scholarship, a state-funded scholarship in South Carolina. He was nearly out of money when, during his senior year, he was awarded a Wells Fargo Scholarship, which he applied to through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund at the very last second. That scholarship helped him stay in school for a fifth year, too. And he made the most of it. 

"It was extremely important because on your 5th year you're not eligible for the Life Scholarships here in South Carolina," Smith said. "I was coming up short and then out of nowhere, literally two or three days later, I find out about the Wells Fargo scholarship. Not only did that keep me in school but it also would fund my trip to Berlin where I was the only HBCU as well as the only African-American student out of 105 international students who were a part of that program."

The program, which Smith described as "very competitive," only became an option after a few years of applications. But it came just in time to help land him at Humboldt University in Berlin, where he got to study international business. It took a while for Smith to finally get that coveted scholarship, though. He had been meeting with a campus rep from TMCF almost every year, and each year he would apply and get rejected.

Quinn Smith
Quinn Smith

Eventually, Smith also worked his way into the TMCF Leadership Institute, where he says everyone — the "TMCF family," scholarship coordinators and leadership institute directors — were instrumental in sharpening his skills.

"They taught me how to market myself as a brand, not just to my peers but to corporations and businesses," Smith said. "They taught me how to bring out the best in me and showcase those skills and be impactful in any business." 

After graduating college in May, Smith landed a job at Microsoft. He's now working as a technical account and incident manager, working with federal government clients such as the Department of Energy. His work is at times classified, and he's not planning to stop: his next goal is to go back to school and get a Master's degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Entertainment.

And then? 

"I would love to become the first African-American governor for the state of South Carolina," Smith said. 

And, as before, he says he's not going to stop until he achieves his dreams.

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