“Sometimes you don’t choose the job; the job chooses you.”
Whether it be a commitment to service or an inspiration from those that came before, our team brings their authentic selves every day. In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, members of our Asian American and Pacific Islander employee groups share their stories.
No matter their mission – from finding new ways to embrace their cultures in their work to making a difference in their communities – the members of these groups all share one trait: courage.
Standing for Equality
Our InspirASIAN, OASIS and FACES employee groups represent the different cultures that make up our AAPI communities. Their goals are to celebrate their members’ heritages and give them the tools to succeed personally and professionally. Mentorship, community outreach and standing up for representation in the workplace all take courage. Just ask Lao Yang, National Secretary of InspirASIAN.
“I felt my duty was to rewrite the narrative for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. If I want to see a change in this society, I need to be the change myself.” To that end, she hosted diversity and inclusion DINE meetings with her management staff to encourage conversation and to help everyone feel comfortable on the team.
Judith Villacruz-Brandt, the National President of FACES – our Filipino-American employee group – echoes this sentiment. “Growing up Filipino-American we were encouraged to ‘keep our head down and just do the work,’” she says. “It wasn’t until I got into my 30’s that I was finally comfortable to speak up for myself and forge new paths.”
FACES played a large role in making those paths possible. The organization taught her how to spot networking opportunities and mentors who could help hone her business skills. In turn, Judith brought her new skills back to her community. As National President, she guides others’ development the same way.
“If you hold yourself back, sometimes you miss an opportunity to create something great.”
Priya Rajamani of our OASIS employee group champions diversity in the workplace as an opportunity to understand others. “Since our perspectives are limited by the circumstances of our life,” she says, “diversity helps us broaden our perspectives and understand other people. We become more comfortable with our co-workers and build a more unified team.”
“By embracing diversity,” Lao adds, “we can learn to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. We all come from different experiences in life, and we will never know that about each other unless we sit down and talk.”
Having an Impact
For these women and their organizations, diversity is more than an idea. “Bring your authentic self” is more than just a slogan. These values have real, tangible impacts on the world.
FACES, for example, puts on an annual golf tournament to raise scholarship money. In their most recent event, over 144 golfers showed up. “We awarded 17 college-bound students their scholarships at the event,” Judith says.
InspirASIAN supports their community and promotes future leaders through scholarships, too. Within the last 11 years, they have given out 805 awards to graduating high school seniors totaling over a million dollars. “We strive to make a difference in our community, and we couldn’t have done it without our 1,315 AT&T volunteers!”
Priya takes great pride in having represented OASIS at the 2021 Employee Group Conference. At this gathering of our employee groups, she received the Community Impact Excellence in Action Award on behalf of the OASIS National Organization. OASIS’ India COVID-19 Response initiative – put together with AT&T Corporate Social Responsibility and senior business leaders – raised over $250,000 to support our team members and the most under-served communities in India.
“We could celebrate our accomplishments,” she says, “but more than that, it was a celebration of culture and diversity as a whole.”
Lao credits her career trajectory to her passion for inclusion. “When I was a first-level manager at a new call center, I was trying to promote diversity by hosting DINE meetings. I reached out to the DINE creator for guidance, and this moment turned into an opportunity to join a mentoring circle. This ultimately turned into a promotion to my current role.”
Judith shares a similar experience. “I don’t think I would have had the confidence to even think about applying for my current role if it weren’t for all I’ve learned through FACES,” she shares. “It was all the experience I’ve obtained throughout my years in the group that influenced me to apply for my dream job.”
All our Voices of Courage might agree with Lao when she says, “All of this happened for the greater good because I was passionate about diversity, equality and inclusion in our workplace and community!”Learn more about our AAPI community