Telecoms + Black History Month: A Conversation between Michael Adams & Eric Cevis

Brought to you by: Verizon Partner Solutions Marketing Communications Team in partnership with Eric Cevis and Michael Adams

Date: February 25, 2021

 

Black History Month originally began in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson as Black History Week. It was conceived as a way to continue the education, remembrance and celebration of Black American contributions throughout history and has since expanded to being observed around the world.

As social justice became one of the major topics of conversation in 2020, Verizon took the opportunity to have what was dubbed “Courageous Conversations” to help its over one hundred thousand employees better understand diverse perspectives and positively move forward as a team.

Some employees went beyond those conversations and found additional ways to become a meaningful part of social change. In a recent article titled "Listen, Learn, Act, Improve: A Conversation About Social Justice with Eric Cevis," Verizon Partner Solutions President Eric Cevis discussed four key areas where businesses can support social justice.

I reached out to Mr. Cevis to discuss his insights on Black History Month, asking him to share some of his experiences and examples of leading with action in a business environment from over his 34+ years in the industry. 

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MA: What does Black History Month mean to you?

EC: Although Black History Month has been around for quite some time, over the last two years it seems as though there has been more attention around people of all backgrounds showing more interest in trying to better understand one another for the greater good. I believe that this has led to a number of initiatives that support diversity and inclusion, and Black History Month is one of the avenues people and businesses can use to support an increase of that understanding.    

MA: What was the industry like when you first started, and how have things changed over time?

EC: When I started in the Telecommunications/Technology industry in 1986, openly discussing topics that were not considered directly relevant to running the business—like pay equity, gender equality, work/life balance, global citizenship and diversity—was not the norm. Throughout my 34+ year career, I have seen more investment in programs that support people of varying backgrounds and needs, as a way to help all employees be successful team members. Now, there are more quantifiable and objective performance measures in place, diversity and inclusion training for all employees, talent management programs investing in knowledge and skill training for promising candidates from a variety of backgrounds, and corporate support for diverse employee resource groups. In general, there is more accountability and diversity of thought across the organization than ever before. These efforts to support diversity, inclusion, equality and equity have the ability to strengthen businesses and drive profitability.

MA: In what ways do you believe Verizon initiatives—such as Verizon’s ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) like BOLD (Black Originators Leaders and Doers) — have contributed to the broader mission of identifying, developing and amplifying more diverse voices across the industry?

EC: I am a very strong supporter and believer in ERGs, as I personally experienced the impact they can have on my own life and career. ERGs provided a safe space for me to try leadership roles. They gave me confidence to apply the skills and knowledge I learned from leading ERG teams to things on the job. Today, I am the Executive Chair to the BOLD ERG Advisory Board. This is an opportunity for me to share some of the best practices and lessons learned over my career with a group that has provided a platform for identifying and investing in employees and encouraging the “Courageous Conversations” about diversity that have expanded throughout the Verizon corporation. BOLD hosts mentor groups, resume writing workshops, Verizon product and services training and more. I believe ERGs aren’t just the right thing to do, but they help drive diversity of thought, which I believe is great for business and driving better results.

MA: What role do you believe a continued commitment to diversity can play in the growth and professional culture of Verizon Partner Solutions and other telecom organizations?

EC: I see tremendous opportunities from the continued and expanded commitment to diversity within the professional culture of Verizon Partner Solutions and the overall telecommunications and technology industry. During the Global Leaders Forum in 2020—where Verizon, along with 30+ other carriers discussed emerging technologies and other issues—I asked why we don’t add Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging to our agenda with the same passion, energy, and resources that we devote to other important topics. I am glad to say that today the Global Leaders Forum has a working group with an assigned committee that has already collaborated to help publish what we believe to be the first industry whitepaper on the topic of gender imbalance. I had the opportunity to further collaborate with Delta Partners and GLF on what we believe to be the first industry whitepaper on racial injustice and inequity, that should be available before the end of 2021.

MA: In a recent article in SAVOY magazine titled “Listen, Learn, Act, Improve: A Conversation about Social Justice with Eric Cevis,” you discussed some of the ways businesses can do their part to support social justice in a positive way. What are some additional steps businesses can take to contribute to progress?  

EC: There are many steps we can all take in this industry. I was so encouraged when Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg spoke out publicly on racial injustice—and did not stop there. Verizon Foundation committed $10 million to social justice organizations including the NAACP, National Urban League and other groups working to drive awareness and education on these issues.  Businesses and business professionals can definitely play a part in creating an inclusive environment. For example, one of Verizon’s Responsible Business initiatives, Citizen Verizon, was created to drive economic, environmental and social advancement. Just like Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, Black History Month, is another meaningful way to help draw attention to the fact that people of all backgrounds have a place in the world and we are stronger together than apart.  

MA: Who or what influenced you to highlight workplace diversity in your career, and what are some of the more rewarding moments you believe have come from this focus?

EC: I would say my parents. They encouraged my sister and me to believe we could achieve and accomplish any goal we set our minds to as long as we worked hard and stayed focused on the goal in mind. Also, as the father of three adult children now, I feel strongly that it’s important to lead by example. I want to show my children that perseverance can also come with the resolve to help change things for the better. The most rewarding moment for me personally has been to see those things start to change. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve risen in a Fortune 20 corporation from Manager to Director to VP, and on to SVP/President. I am also proud of the work that Verizon Partner Solutions has done—and continues to do—as an organization. I plan to continue to do my best to create an environment where employees have a voice and can work to achieve their full potential.

Verizon Partner Solutions connects a diverse set of communities of people, places and things around the world. Our purpose-driven culture leverages diversity for sustainable success. We want to help the global community move forward towards equality for all, which opens up new opportunities for more innovation and growth. I am proud to be a part of it all.

 

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We appreciate Eric taking the time to share his personal thoughts and experiences concerning Black History Month. As always, his insights provide great reflection and food for thought about how we can all “Listen, Learn, and Lead with Action.” 

Black history is part of American history. Thurgood Marshall, the first Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court said, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” The story of Black History is still being written and, collectively, we have a chance to write new chapters that will make humanity proud. 

 

Brought to you by: Verizon Partner Solutions Marketing Communications Team in partnership with Eric Cevis and Michael Adams

Date: February 25, 2021

 

Black History Month originally began in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson as Black History Week. It was conceived as a way to continue the education, remembrance and celebration of Black American contributions throughout history and has since expanded to being observed around the world.

As social justice became one of the major topics of conversation in 2020, Verizon took the opportunity to have what was dubbed “Courageous Conversations” to help its over one hundred thousand employees better understand diverse perspectives and positively move forward as a team.

Some employees went beyond those conversations and found additional ways to become a meaningful part of social change. In a recent article titled "Listen, Learn, Act, Improve: A Conversation About Social Justice with Eric Cevis," Verizon Partner Solutions President Eric Cevis discussed four key areas where businesses can support social justice.

I reached out to Mr. Cevis to discuss his insights on Black History Month, asking him to share some of his experiences and examples of leading with action in a business environment from over his 34+ years in the industry. 

---

MA: What does Black History Month mean to you?

EC: Although Black History Month has been around for quite some time, over the last two years it seems as though there has been more attention around people of all backgrounds showing more interest in trying to better understand one another for the greater good. I believe that this has led to a number of initiatives that support diversity and inclusion, and Black History Month is one of the avenues people and businesses can use to support an increase of that understanding.    

MA: What was the industry like when you first started, and how have things changed over time?

EC: When I started in the Telecommunications/Technology industry in 1986, openly discussing topics that were not considered directly relevant to running the business—like pay equity, gender equality, work/life balance, global citizenship and diversity—was not the norm. Throughout my 34+ year career, I have seen more investment in programs that support people of varying backgrounds and needs, as a way to help all employees be successful team members. Now, there are more quantifiable and objective performance measures in place, diversity and inclusion training for all employees, talent management programs investing in knowledge and skill training for promising candidates from a variety of backgrounds, and corporate support for diverse employee resource groups. In general, there is more accountability and diversity of thought across the organization than ever before. These efforts to support diversity, inclusion, equality and equity have the ability to strengthen businesses and drive profitability.

MA: In what ways do you believe Verizon initiatives—such as Verizon’s ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) like BOLD (Black Originators Leaders and Doers) — have contributed to the broader mission of identifying, developing and amplifying more diverse voices across the industry?

EC: I am a very strong supporter and believer in ERGs, as I personally experienced the impact they can have on my own life and career. ERGs provided a safe space for me to try leadership roles. They gave me confidence to apply the skills and knowledge I learned from leading ERG teams to things on the job. Today, I am the Executive Chair to the BOLD ERG Advisory Board. This is an opportunity for me to share some of the best practices and lessons learned over my career with a group that has provided a platform for identifying and investing in employees and encouraging the “Courageous Conversations” about diversity that have expanded throughout the Verizon corporation. BOLD hosts mentor groups, resume writing workshops, Verizon product and services training and more. I believe ERGs aren’t just the right thing to do, but they help drive diversity of thought, which I believe is great for business and driving better results.

MA: What role do you believe a continued commitment to diversity can play in the growth and professional culture of Verizon Partner Solutions and other telecom organizations?

EC: I see tremendous opportunities from the continued and expanded commitment to diversity within the professional culture of Verizon Partner Solutions and the overall telecommunications and technology industry. During the Global Leaders Forum in 2020—where Verizon, along with 30+ other carriers discussed emerging technologies and other issues—I asked why we don’t add Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging to our agenda with the same passion, energy, and resources that we devote to other important topics. I am glad to say that today the Global Leaders Forum has a working group with an assigned committee that has already collaborated to help publish what we believe to be the first industry whitepaper on the topic of gender imbalance. I had the opportunity to further collaborate with Delta Partners and GLF on what we believe to be the first industry whitepaper on racial injustice and inequity, that should be available before the end of 2021.

MA: In a recent article in SAVOY magazine titled “Listen, Learn, Act, Improve: A Conversation about Social Justice with Eric Cevis,” you discussed some of the ways businesses can do their part to support social justice in a positive way. What are some additional steps businesses can take to contribute to progress?  

EC: There are many steps we can all take in this industry. I was so encouraged when Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg spoke out publicly on racial injustice—and did not stop there. Verizon Foundation committed $10 million to social justice organizations including the NAACP, National Urban League and other groups working to drive awareness and education on these issues.  Businesses and business professionals can definitely play a part in creating an inclusive environment. For example, one of Verizon’s Responsible Business initiatives, Citizen Verizon, was created to drive economic, environmental and social advancement. Just like Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, Black History Month, is another meaningful way to help draw attention to the fact that people of all backgrounds have a place in the world and we are stronger together than apart.  

MA: Who or what influenced you to highlight workplace diversity in your career, and what are some of the more rewarding moments you believe have come from this focus?

EC: I would say my parents. They encouraged my sister and me to believe we could achieve and accomplish any goal we set our minds to as long as we worked hard and stayed focused on the goal in mind. Also, as the father of three adult children now, I feel strongly that it’s important to lead by example. I want to show my children that perseverance can also come with the resolve to help change things for the better. The most rewarding moment for me personally has been to see those things start to change. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve risen in a Fortune 20 corporation from Manager to Director to VP, and on to SVP/President. I am also proud of the work that Verizon Partner Solutions has done—and continues to do—as an organization. I plan to continue to do my best to create an environment where employees have a voice and can work to achieve their full potential.

Verizon Partner Solutions connects a diverse set of communities of people, places and things around the world. Our purpose-driven culture leverages diversity for sustainable success. We want to help the global community move forward towards equality for all, which opens up new opportunities for more innovation and growth. I am proud to be a part of it all.

 

---

We appreciate Eric taking the time to share his personal thoughts and experiences concerning Black History Month. As always, his insights provide great reflection and food for thought about how we can all “Listen, Learn, and Lead with Action.” 

Black history is part of American history. Thurgood Marshall, the first Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court said, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” The story of Black History is still being written and, collectively, we have a chance to write new chapters that will make humanity proud.