Leland’s first month at AT&T was a trial by fire. Literally.

Working out of our downtown San Francisco office in August 2015, Leland was dealing with an active wildfire season in California. As a network provider and public safety’s communications network partner, it’s our duty to keep first responders and our customers connected during times of crisis. In a media relations role, Leland was responsible for communicating how AT&T was helping its customers to members of the media and other stakeholders.

“We were on top of different forms of communications – whether it was traditional or social media – and keeping in touch with news reporters and making sure people understood how we were waiving fees and helping out the community by providing support at various emergency shelters during the crisis,” Leland said, reflecting on what was a far busier orientation than he expected. Getting through this emergency required quickly learning the ropes and working with his colleagues to operate as a team. Luckily, Leland had great mentors at AT&T, and knew how to think on his feet. He was, after all, a military veteran.

Broadening his horizons

Long before joining AT&T, when Operation Desert Storm was front-of-mind in the 1990s, Leland joined the U.S. Army. He was still in high school and grew up relatively sheltered, in a suburb of Los Angeles. His world opened significantly once he began his military service as a combat medic, spending time in places like Oklahoma and Texas.

“I visited places and met people I never would have otherwise,” Leland said. “These were people from large cities like Washington D.C. and rural communities in the Deep South, who had different upbringings than I did, and we still became close friends even though we were all different ethnicities and had different perspectives. What’s great about the military is that it really teaches you about working together as a collective, and how the sum is greater than its parts. They teach you that the only color you see is ‘Army green.’”

Once he finished his service, Leland pulled from his medical experience to work in health care for 10 years before pivoting into journalism, and then eventually media relations. He had seen his fair share of work environments and challenges, and one would think that after working through the California wildfires that nothing felt insurmountable. But Leland – LGBTQ+ and married – felt slightly nervous about how open he could be with one of his first bosses at AT&T.

“My husband and I were planning a family in 2017,” Leland said. “Our son was close to being born and I had to tell my boss we were expecting. I had a great working relationship with him and he’s been a valuable mentor. He’s a great guy, but he’s also a straight man from the South. It’s one thing to have a gay employee, another to have one who’s married, and it’s a whole other level to have a gay married employee expecting a child. I wasn’t exactly sure how he would take the news.”

Much to his relief, Leland found out he had nothing to worry about.

“My boss was genuinely very happy for me and told me that family is everything, and to do everything that was best for my family. I’ll never forget that,” Leland said. “Shortly after that conversation, my son was born 10 weeks premature, so my husband and I had to relocate to San Diego for multiple weeks while he was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). I received so much support from my boss, his boss, and other colleagues. So many of them reached out to us during our paternity leave. It meant the world to us and I can’t thank them enough.”

An environment of trust

Today, Leland works with an ever-growing portfolio that encompasses technology, network, and entertainment. When he first joined AT&T, Leland’s friends warned that the excitement was nothing more than a “honeymoon period.” Five years later, the honeymoon doesn’t seem like it will end anytime soon.

“In most work environments, you get along with some people and not necessarily with others. AT&T has been different for me,” Leland said. “By coincidence I had two job offers already lined up when AT&T called me after my initial interview, and I picked AT&T because of how amazing the people who interviewed me were. As I got my feet wet and worked with more and more people, I can honestly say this is the most collaborative environment I have ever found myself in. On top of that, I’ve never felt discriminated against for being gay, Asian or a veteran. I’ve always felt included and the added perspective I bring to the table is not only welcomed but encouraged.

“AT&T is all about bringing your whole authentic self to work. Don’t think of us as a legacy company or your parents’ long-distance company. We’re a modern tech and entertainment company that has remained agile by reinventing ourselves many, many times.”

“Don’t be afraid of applying. Whatever unique qualities you bring to the table – that’s your strength.”

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