More than just a cellphone or technology company, Verizon is a place where employees are valued for what they bring to the table, where they can feel confident they can have a career with impact.
This — careers with impact — was the theme of the lunch and learn session led by Verizon at The Consortium’s 2019 Orientation Program (OP) and Career Forum, where Verizon hoped to connect with incoming MBAs and expose them to the company’s culture.
Beyond the day-to-day, Verizon employees are encouraged to think about and solve some of society’s most pressing problems, says Heather Noel Faulkner, talent acquisition manager for the campus recruitment program at Verizon. At the OP lunch and learn session, attendees were able to get a taste of this aspect of professional life at Verizon.
“We wanted to mimic a day in the life of working at Verizon, which is ‘let’s have an engaging conversation about how we can fix this, what would be some solutions and how could we implement that into an actual result?’” says Faulkner. “If you work at Verizon, these are some of the conversations that you can have, and these are some of the problems you’re going to have the ability to influence and tackle. Why wouldn’t you want to work for a company like that?”
Chief Security Officer at Verizon Michael Mason kicked off the lunch and learn by talking about his professional journey — which included working at the FBI — and the bumps he’s faced along the way, particularly with regard to having a positive influence. By doing so, Faulkner says, he hoped to demonstrate to others the challenges they too might face and how to overcome them.
“He shared very personal stories about how he might have gotten in his own way or how he maybe inadvertently had an unconscious bias against an employee in his organization and how he was able to turn that around for success in the FBI,” says Faulkner. “[He also discussed] what he’s done here at Verizon in order to make sure that not only himself but everybody in his organization and the company as a whole can have a career with impact.”
To the attending students, Mason emphasized the fact that they do have control over their careers and discussed some of the ways in which they can have greater impact by demonstrating their knowledge and leadership — by presenting data to support their ideas, for example.
“The overall idea was that you really do need to believe in yourself,” Faulkner says. “The Consortium’s going to get you so far, but at some point, it’s up to you to really drive that initiative.”
Further demonstrating Verizon’s focus on providing opportunities for employees to be a force for good, during the second half of the lunch and learn, the company highlighted its corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, with a particular emphasis on its third pillar: education. This is what drives initiatives like Verizon Innovative Learning schools, labs and camps, which provide access to technology and skills to help the next generation succeed in an increasingly digital world.
In partnership with Texas Southern University (TSU), Verizon created an Innovative Learning Camp, which TSU hosts, where participants 12 to 14 years old and from underrepresented minority groups learn about STEM, including how to code. The goal is to guide them toward careers in technology. By including some of these students in the lunch and learn presentation, Faulkner says Verizon wanted to demonstrate to Consortium students the positive impact they are already having.
“The message to the greater OP population was ‘you are a role model already and [are] having careers with impact right now to these campers as MBA students,” she says. “It was really focused around the idea that you’re already [showing] what it’s like to be a role model to the next generation, so how are you going to do that when you get to the corporate level?’”
Attendees were asked some hard-hitting questions about the current and future state of education in the U.S., some of the most significant challenges facing the sector and to what extent corporations should be involved. Verizon also explained some of the ways in which it is working to address these.
“We were asking questions like: ‘Do you think companies should pay for college? How would that work? What do you think would be the biggest challenges? What biases do you see in the world? What are the issues that we’ll be faced with over the next five, 10 and 15 years to get education to a place where it’s equal for all?’” explains Faulkner. “We really focused on realistic problems that are happening in the workforce and in education.”
The experience, she notes, was beneficial for both campers and MBAs alike. For the campers, it highlighted a goal they could aspire to, and for Consortium students, it helped put a face to contemporary issues in education.
“When you have a 12- to 14-year-old standing right in front of you asking for help, it becomes more of a real problem,” Faulkner says. “When they’re telling you about the challenges they face in the [current] education system, it makes [people] more motivated to come up with solutions.”
For Consortium member Ashruth Easwar, a student in the University of Michigan Ross School of Business’ class of 2021, the session opened his eyes to the work being done at Verizon.
“I had absolutely no idea that the content provided would be so meaningful and transformative as I always saw Verizon as just a telephone company,” says Ashruth. “Although I’m aware that companies often spend resources for community service and betterment, I could not imagine the effort and planning that goes into the activities they sponsor and create.”
He says Verizon’s presentation also inspired him to learn more about how he can make a difference through The Consortium while earning his MBA and opened him up to new career paths. “I felt transformed because not only did it paint Verizon in a more colorful light, but it changed my perspective regarding other companies and how I can best make use of my talents and education,” Easwar says. “Prior to the session, I would have [said] that I am strictly interested in consulting, but after the session I now want to explore all options.”
Beyond its partnership with The Consortium, Verizon has committed more than $400 million to help over 1 million children as part of its Innovative Learning initiatives, Faulkner says. “Our goal is to help 2 million more students by 2021,” she notes. “It’s something that’s part of our culture and our credo.”
It’s this habit of always thinking about the future that Faulkner says she loves about working at Verizon. This focus by the company has translated into providing access to programming and technology, such as Wi-Fi and iPads, to prepare today’s youth for tomorrow’s workplace.
“If we empower our future now, it’s only going to [result in] long-term sustainability for the company as well as for our network,” says Faulkner. “It’s also the right thing to do.”