Creating Change Together: NAF Students & Business Leaders in Dallas

Courtney Savoia
July 9, 2020

Town Hall: Racism Beyond Criminal Injustice, organized by Verizon, featured the voices of NAF students and business professionals from the Dallas Community.

Adam Koeppe, Senior Vice-President, Technology Strategy and Planning at Verizon; Namita Tirath, Executive Vice-President at Pyramid Consulting Inc.; and Andrella Thomas, Diversity & Inclusion Leader at Capital One, joined the panel to discuss turning outrage into change in college and the workplace. NAF students, Kaci Anderson, Innovation Design Entrepreneurship Academy of Finance (IDEA) and Brandon Epton, Justin F. Kimball High School, Academy of Engineering, acted as moderators.

These executives in business spoke to the next generation of leaders about how companies are working to mitigate bias in the workplace; developing recruiting practices that place a diverse talent pipeline at the forefront; and what educators, community members, and industry professionals can do NOW to enact change for our students.

Read on for a recap of this important conversation.

On the Responsibility of Business & Leadership:

Adam, Verizon: “Companies must acknowledge that these forms of racism exist in the workplace. Leaders must set examples for their teams and peers and clearly state expectations, such as ensuring a Code of Conduct is readily available and specific.”

“Companies need to ‘live’ their open-door policy and encourage open, candid conversations with every employee in your organization. We must build empathy and need to understand how our colleagues are feeling and take active steps to combat racism in the workplace.”

Namita, Pyramid Consulting Inc.: “Diverse organizations perform better. Diversity is the backbone of innovation. The keys are education and communication. Organizations must take their commitments to Diversity & Inclusion seriously and this starts at the top. It’s crucial to have an honest and open recruitment process.”

Andrella, Capital One: “Companies need to put in the effort up front to ensure a diverse talent pipeline. Our relationships with organizations like NAF and NSBE help to do just that. We need to ensure that we have a direct pipeline to qualified candidates.”

On What Companies are Doing NOW to Support Employees:

Andrella, Capital One: “It is important for employers to ensure that are offering the resources needed, whether that’s in the form of curated resource groups, for employees to feel supported. Right now, there is NO separation between work and home and we need to make sure our colleagues have the time to process and heal from all of the current injustices going on in society.”

“We need the perspective of all participants in order to succeed. You need to bring participants fully on the journey with you.”

Adam, Verizon: “Verizon offers Unconscious Bias Training that focuses on empathy and learning for employees. Discomfort is critical to this process. These are hard conversations to have, but we want to help folks get them right over time.”

Namita, Pyramid Consulting Inc.: “It is important to expand opportunities through organizations to find the right talent – you need to be intentionally inclusive to have a diverse workforce. Establishing goals and timelines and making a good faith effort to keep them is what will make the difference.”

On Making Good on Their Promises to Students:

Namita, Pyramid Consulting Inc.:It’s so important to support programs to build diverse talent pipeline and Verizon and Capital One have kept their promises, by pivoting to virtual internships and ensuring that students don’t miss out on these opportunities.”

Adam, Verizon: “It takes a lot of hard and intentional work to ensure that companies find the right candidates. Relationships with universities and job placement programs are essential to ensuring that all students have a seat at the table.”

On Having Tough and Honest Conversations:

Adam, Verizon: “When you combine humanity and logic, you will always be guaranteed to have intelligent conversations. It is crucial to draw out the differences to create stronger organizations.”

Andrella, Capital One: “Bring your authentic selves to this conversation. As a wife and mother, I am processing everything going in the current climate, and want to have these real talks in the workplace. What may be a simple situation for one person, may be extremely difficult for others, and they may feel that it’s so difficult to share. Leaders need to create moments for peers to share.”

“If you are human, you are qualified to have these tough conversations. We need to work together to set the stage for the next generation of leaders.”

Namita, Pyramid Consulting Inc.: “Be who you are unapologetically. We come to work wanting to give 100% of ourselves and in order to do that, we must take care of each other and create that open environment.”

Final Words:

To our students: “Please know how valued you are today and how valued you will be tomorrow. As adults, we want to make the world a better place for you.”

Listen to the recording of this Town Hall here. Thank you to Verizon for arranging this important event.

View Bio

Courtney Savoia is the Assistant Director of Communications at NAF. She’s passionate about sharing the stories of our network and elevating their voices. Courtney writes about a variety of NAF and partner experiences, as well as lessons learned, and also conducts student, partner, and educator interviews about their journeys, for our audiences to take inspiration from.