“This is a community that is often forgotten about and overlooked. To me and to Andrew, I know the time we give to the Native American community is appreciated, needed and welcomed.”
Rachel Salinas is the Texas President of AT&T’s Inter-Tribal Council of AT&T Employees. Often referred to as ICAE (pronounced “Eye Kay”), the Council stands as one of our employee resource groups (ERGs) that help our employees make new connections with people and their culture. ICAE, specifically, is focused on Native American culture and community. Joining Rachel is Andrew Simons, Vice President of the same Texas Council and graduate of our Leadership Development Program (LDP).
Starting her career with AT&T in 2000, Rachel joined us as a call center representative. She quickly realized that, in addition to benefits such as tuition reimbursement and the ability to accomplish good work for customers, she had an opportunity to turn the job into a career. Today, along with her duties as ICAE President she also works as Business Operation Analyst in our Dallas office.
AT&T ERGs are just one of many channels our people have to learn more about the business while helping others. “I didn’t learn a lot about ERGs until six months into the company. They’re especially useful for new hires who are coming in and learning how to network.”
Andrew can attest to that. Joining AT&T back in 2015, he transitioned from engineering to the LDP rotating through different fields of business over a two-to-three-year period. As part of the program, he moved to Long Beach, CA – a far cry from his Florida home. That’s where another ERG, InspirASIAN stepped in.
“It was good to be outside my comfort zone, but I didn’t know anyone. InspirASIAN helped me feel like I was part of a family; they offered the opportunity to feel welcome. It was nice to find a group that shared their experiences and taught me about a different culture.”
Making a True Impact
Through their individual experiences with other employee groups, both eventually landed in ICAE. Though each had different reasons to join, a common thread links Rachel, Andrew and other ICAE members together.
“I joined ICAE about four years ago,” Rachel said. “I wanted to learn more about the Native American culture. It also lined up with joining a group that I didn’t know much about… We’re not one of the biggest ERGs, but we serve as a voice for the Native American community. Our work with ICAE aligns with two of our values, ‘Be There’ and ‘Make a Difference’, showing the community that we’re there for them.
Andrew added, “When I heard about an ERG focused on Native Americans, I didn’t really know of similar opportunities in other companies. What motivates me is the impact. We support one of the most, unfortunately, overlooked and forgotten groups in this country. It’s very rewarding to work with ICAE. You have to face reality to change it.”
Recently, ICAE raised $30,000 in scholarships to help Native American youth receive support to continue their education. The group also ran backpack and bicycle drives for Native American students who couldn’t afford them.
“There’s nothing like being able to hand a child a bicycle and have them tell you they never rode one,” Andrew said.
“Andrew actually taught someone how to ride a bike at the event,” Rachel said. “And they weren’t that young.”
“These are kids getting ready for middle school. Those moments, they make it all worth it.”
Discovering Our Roots
Rachel and Andrew are just two of the thousands of members in ICAE working to make a difference. No matter how small, ICAE always works to set up a table at every AT&T employee event. Doing so helps increase their visibility, membership, and ability to share Native America culture with other employees.
“Being with ICAE, we have learned a little bit more about our roots,” Rachel said. “Last year I found out that I’m 50% Native American, and I’m still researching more about that.”
“I found out I’m a bit under 10% Indigenous Panamanian,” Andrew said.
“A lot of people come to us asking how they can find out if they have Native American roots in their heritage. Everyone wants to know more about their roots and their heritage. That’s one thing in the Native American community that we believe in: All are welcome, and we are all, in the end, related in one way or another.
ICAE’s motto is a phrase from the Lakota language, Mitakuye Oyasin which means “We are all related”.
“That’s in line with our message, we’re all in.”Learn more about our employee resource groups