There is no shortage of leaders at AT&T. Sales, technology, business – name a field and you’ll find someone innovating. Naturally, leaders want to meet and learn from each other, but how can they get started? Where can they focus their skills? How do they find someone who’s been in their shoes before?
Such questions helped start oxyGEN, AT&T’s first generational Employee Resource Group. Heather Miller is one of the original members, having started her AT&T career over 15 years ago in the Call Center world and shifting roles as her interests and professional network grew. Although she’s all about meeting new people, she wasn’t aware of Employee Resource Groups until she was asked to join oxyGEN as a board member in 2011 – the year the group launched.
She has learned a lot since then.
“I’ve done work at the local, national and virtual level. The group opened a lot of doors for me when I was a Retail Manager and looking to make a change. Mentoring and skill sessions at oxyGEN taught me how to promote myself.”
Heather’s experience speaks to the core of oxyGEN’s mission – to help new leaders develop professionally, as well as connecting existing leaders to work with each other.
“It’s almost like reverse mentoring. The mentors also learn from the mentees. That’s one of the things we try to develop – the people who join are not just new people. You can be 90 years old and still be a member. I always like to say that, at every stage of someone’s life, they can use a little bit of oxyGEN.”
The Leaders of Disruption
In 2019, oxyGEN launched its Disrupt initiative. The aim was to shake up the status quo and show what leaders have done to change their office (or industry) for the better.
“How do we encourage people to think outside the box? That’s just one thing we wanted to challenge ourselves on this year. We also have our career development series, collaborating with AT&T University on how to build a resume, interview, brand yourself and network. Next year, we’re taking it a step further and talking about what happens after you get the job. How do you innovate?”
Just like everything else at AT&T, technology plays a significant role in how oxyGEN carries out its mission. oxyGEN’s virtual chapter is not only the second largest in the Employee Resource Group, it helps give members a presence where they originally would have none. Technology is also one of the fields where younger leaders can take charge in teaching, although older generations certainly have other unique skills to offer.
Passing knowledge down (and up)
“We see a lot of younger generations familiar with technology, but then you have older generations who may have a different set of skills. Newer people, they don’t know how to sew, cook, whittle wood… We’re losing a lot of life skills! That’s why we encourage both groups to come together and teach each other.”
AT&T employees interested in joining oxyGEN have no shortage of options to get their foot in the door. Leaders like Heather keep an open-door policy to talk with any potential member on how they can help. Local members also set up tables at sessions and social events to chat about the latest in what’s happening.
“One of the main things I recommend, especially in a lot of locations with local events, is that if you’re interested in going, go. Leaders can share what's happening, where they can go and what they can do for new members.”