I was growing up on Staten Island when the September 11th attacks happened. I remember watching the events unfold from across the bay, in awe of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect others. Right then and there, I knew I wanted to serve my country as a member of the military. Except when that day came, the military didn’t want me—or at least not the full, authentic me.
At the time, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the law of the land. And as an openly gay woman, I didn’t want to hide who I was or who I loved, so I decided against enlisting. But a few years later, as fate would have it, I was inspired to follow another career path. Linda Yaccarino, now NBCUniversal’s Chairman for Global Advertising and Partnerships, spoke to my class at Penn State. Her presentation blew me away and I decided a career in media sounded exciting and fulfilling.
Eventually, my two dreams—to serve my country and work in advertising—converged in ways I never could have imagined. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, so I joined the Air Force Reserves. Shortly afterward, I was hired by NBCU’s Global Ad Sales and Partnerships Division. Since our company’s workplace policies were flexible and accommodating, I was able to continue to serve in the reserves and complete a tour of duty, while keeping my job at NBCU and growing within the organization.
That’s how I wound up in my current role as a Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Manager. It’s a position that didn’t perfectly align with my resume on paper, but that allows me to channel my passion for recognizing people’s potential, especially those who typically get overlooked. As an Asian American, queer person, and member of the military, I have firsthand knowledge of the barriers faced by marginalized communities, and I’m grateful I get to play a part in dismantling them.
Now, as Pride Month kicks off, right on the heels of AAPI Heritage Month and Military Appreciation Month, I can’t help but feel, well, proud of the progress we’ve made at NBCU. Here are just a few of the ways we’re building an inclusive culture and empowering people from all walks of life.
We’re Amplifying Diverse Voices
As important as it is to build a diverse workforce with a plethora of ideas and perspectives, it’s equally important to create an environment where employees feel empowered to share their identity, however they feel comfortable doing so.
With that in mind, our division launched We Stand Together, an initiative aimed at spotlighting diversity across our team. Throughout the year, we celebrate every heritage month by featuring Ad Sales employees from different backgrounds and curating videos and blog posts telling their stories. We also provide access to educational resources, volunteer organizations, and events that support underrepresented communities.
But our goal isn’t just to ensure people can bring their whole selves to work. We want to make certain they feel seen by those who identify with their experiences, as well as our organization more broadly.
We’re Creating Opportunity
In addition to elevating diverse communities, we’re expanding opportunities for individuals within those communities, including the military. This effort is critical because the experience on Veterans’ resumes isn’t always readily understood by civilian hiring managers. And while many members of the military have invaluable skills, unfamiliar credentials mean they’re often dismissed as under-qualified.
That’s why NBCU’s Ads & Partnerships division launched BOLD Vets in 2019, a program near and dear to my heart. As part of this initiative, we hire Veterans for one-year rotational programs in our division, so they can learn the different functions of the business and launch a career at our company or within the industry.
So far, I’ve been proud to put my military experience to work by helping our organization better understand, identify, and foster Veteran talent. Already, we’ve hired more than 40 Veterans. And this year, we announced both a BOLD Vets Planning Residency Program and a Production Residency, opening even more opportunities to connect Veterans’ talents with NBCU’s training. Ultimately, bringing more diverse talent to our organization requires creating the right pathways—and continually widening them, too.
We’re Showing Up for Each Other
Building an inclusive culture—one where people feel safe, welcome, and respected—takes work. And it’s work we, as an organization and as individuals, need to engage in consistently. That means participating in difficult conversations, opening ourselves to new perspectives, and, above all, showing up for each other.
Over the past few years, NBCU has made it easier to do just that. We have several employee resource groups, including Out@NBCUniversal and APA@NBCUniversal, where people can connect with colleagues who share their identities, as well as allies from all backgrounds. We’ve also created safe spaces for employees who want to discuss the issues and events that are in the headlines and impacting their lives. And this June, as Pride celebrations get underway, we’ll show up for our LGBTQ colleagues—literally. NBCUniversal is participating in Pride parades all around the country, and encouraging employees to don their rainbow gear and join in the festivities.
As a company and as a nation, we’ve come a long way. The fact that I’ll be celebrating Pride alongside my colleagues—something I would’ve never thought possible when I was a kid—is a testament to the collective progress we’ve made. When I was starting out, I had to make a choice between hiding who I was or following my dreams. Now, after serving my country and launching a career in media, it’s my job to make sure that no one else ever has to make that choice. That they can pursue their passions while embracing who they are—proudly. But there is always work left to be done, and I’m committed to making sure that when June ends, NBCU will keep on marching.