Video production: Andrew Kennedy Lewis
Employee resource groups provide three key things, says Jomo Castro, regional director of external affairs at AT&T — networking, an opportunity to showcase skills and learn new ones, and the chance to impact your community. At AT&T, a strong ERG community and employee networks have allowed the company’s employees to tackle local issues and lean in from a volunteer perspective. Castro has held many local and national positions with AT&T’s ERG, HACEMOS.
Read the full transcript of Castro’s interview below:
AT&T has a thriving employee resource group community. We also have employee networks. And there’s a slight difference there just in terms of the ERGs can be and often are 501(c)(3) organizations. So the company really embraces these groups and leverages their skill sets because they all nurture into very specific niche communities. And really for me, and I think for most people, the ERGs provide three key things. One is networking, a great way to meet new people. Two, it’s a great way to showcase skills and learn new skills. And then three, it’s a great way to impact your community.
We’ve actually started a program called Believe. We had an employee that left the company, became Rahm Emanuel’s chief of staff, the mayor of Chicago, and then came back to AT&T. Gun violence, as you know, is kind of a prevalent thing in Chicago. And what she did was, she said, “Let’s do something about it. And let’s go into some of these neighborhoods that are impacted by gun violence and put some of AT&T’s resources into helping the community.” When this idea was brought to John Donovan, our CEO of AT&T Communications, his only comment was, “You’re not thinking nearly big enough.” And now, we have programs going on in Houston and Atlanta and in New York, and we’re expanding to 20 or 30 other cities. And I’m leading one of those efforts in St. Louis. So it’ll be Believe St. Louis. I’m also playing a role in Arkansas, Kansas City and Oklahoma.
What’s really neat about these programs is it’s not a cookie cutter approach. These are opportunities for the local employee force to tackle a local issue and really just lean in from a volunteerism perspective, see what additional resources AT&T has to bear that can impact this issue, and really just help make a difference in these communities. And a big part of that is bringing other corporations and not-for-profits to the table to see the vision of our goal.