EY’s Innocent Shumba: ‘We All Need Sponsors’

Innocent Shumba, Assurance Partner in EY's Technology Industry practice, talks about growing up in Zimbabwe and how he got interested in accounting, how mentors and sponsors helped him in his career and five things high potentials should avoid.

Innocent Shumba is an Assurance Partner in EY's Technology Industry practice with over 14 years of experience serving private and publicly held high-technology companies, ranging from fast growing pre-IPO entities to large multinational firms.

Shumba was awarded a bachelor's degree and master's degree in accounting from Brigham Young University, and is a Registered Certified Public Accountant. He is currently a member of the Black Professional Network group's (EY resource network group) steering committee and Executive Partner Sponsor of EY's signature program – College Map, and serves as an advisory board member for Emergination Africa (a non-profit organization focused on mentoring and developing African youths).

DI: At what age did you know you wanted to become an accountant?

Shumba: My upbringing is unlike many of my peers. I grew up in a village with very few role models and accountants. So I was not exposed to the accounting profession earlier on in my life. In fact, the only three professions that I knew of at the time were being a peasant farmer, a teacher or a soldier. It was not until I was in junior high school, when my school had a guest teacher who introduced me to accounting. He only came for one semester and taught accounting and other subjects. I took the class and I really enjoyed it because of the passion my teacher had for the subject. When the teacher left, I went back to focusing on mathematics. When I came to the U.S. for college, I wanted to do engineering or business, but then changed my mind when I found out that Brigham Young University (BYU) had one of the best accounting programs in the nation. The seed was planted for me in junior high, but it wasn't until I was at BYU that it hit me that I wanted to be an accountant.

DI: Did you have role models that guided you to this field?

Shumba: There were two critical role models who guided me into the accounting field. One was my teacher who I mentioned above. He taught me my first accounting class and did it with such authentic enjoyment that it left a very strong impression on me. My other role model was my grandmother, who raised me. My grandmother didn't have much ­— she was a peasant farmer in my village, but yet she was able save little by little to buy herself a few cows, goats, donkeys, etc. She never went to school and didn't even know how to count. Yet, somehow she had a great deal of business savvy. What I've learned from this experience with my grandmother is that sometimes you don't have to look that far for role models. They come in different shapes and forms and you just need to be willing to recognize one who you can learn from. I was definitely taught early on in my life how to be business-minded. I believe that making the decision to be an accountant when I got to BYU was largely because of people like my grandmother and my teacher, who shaped my career interests in business when I didn't even know it myself.

DI: Did you have any insights into the racial diversity of the industry?

Shumba: I grew up in Zimbabwe, which was colonized by the British and almost 90 percent of the white collar jobs (including accounting) were occupied by either the British or expatriates. This was true across most industries in my country. Though I didn't know much about the accounting industry as a student, I was keenly aware that it lacked racial diversity. I think this realization largely impacted my decision to go into the accounting industry and help change the status quo. This is also one of the reasons why it's so important to me to be a partner sponsor for our annual Black History Month Executive Roundtable discussions at EY. I want other young professionals from diverse backgrounds to see me and our incredible panelists from leading companies and feel inspired, less isolated and empowered to fill the voids they see in the profession. My colleague, Udanda Clark, the moderator from our recent EY Black History Month roundtable discussion in San Francisco, offered some great advice to the audience: "Leverage your differences into opportunities," and I couldn't agree more. It's easy to get discouraged when we don't see diversity and inclusiveness in action, but I used it to propel my career, and it's been a very powerful motivator.

DI: Why is diversity important to you?

Shumba: Diversity is critical to me for several reasons. The world we live in today has changed significantly and, as such, our surroundings reflect the very diverse world we live in. There are notable benefits to teams or organizations that embrace diversity and inclusion. When you have people who think differently around you, it helps to enrich the conversation; it allows you to expand your thinking, and to come up with better solutions. Most high-performing teams or successful organizations are those that value diversity and practice inclusion. During my 16-year tenure at EY, I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of working with diverse teams and this has played a critical role in advancing my career and my ability to provide exceptional service and solutions for my clients.

DI: How did mentors and sponsors help you in your career?

Shumba: I have been blessed with great mentors and sponsors since the first day I joined EY. My mentors took their time to help me see the bigger picture of what my career was going to look like. They became my career advisors who perfected the skill sets required for my growth by making sure I was getting the right experiences and building my personal brand. My mentors also helped me by removing obstacles that were in my career path. They were always willing to share their life experiences with me and any mistakes they made earlier in their careers and what I needed to do to avoid making similar mistakes. They were not afraid to provide me with constructive feedback either. In contrast, my sponsors were those who made sure that they spent their capital equity on me. They regularly sounded the horn or gave my work visibility with leadership. They had a seat at the table and they made sure they used it to advocate for me, to bring me new opportunities and push me out of my comfort zone — which made all the difference.

DI: Were you a good mentee?

Shumba: I believe I was a good mentee because I made sure that I excelled on things that were under my control in order to make it easier for my mentors and sponsors to champion my cause and advocate for me to leadership. I always had a learning mindset, and was willing to put in the hard work to make my mentors and sponsors proud. I was never shy in asking for challenging assignments or volunteering for more work, even when I still had a full plate. These complex assignments really pushed my limits, but also provided me with the opportunity to acquire the new skill sets I needed to build my brand. I saw it as my responsibility to own my career, to earn my mentors' trust and to make their jobs easier — and these same characteristics for a good mentee apply today.

DI: And could you have advanced without a sponsor?

Shumba: No. There is an African proverb that says it takes the whole village to raise a child. The same can be said about my career trajectory and my success today. It would be a lie to say that I did it all by myself. It took many people along the way who saw the potential in me and who invested in me. My sponsors played a critical role in removing the stumbling blocks in my way. They were always two to three steps ahead of me, guiding me and illuminating my path to leadership. There are many sponsors who have contributed in some way to my success, but the following are a few of my EY colleagues who I'd like to thank for paving the way for me: Lee Henderson, Kailesh Karavadra, Rick Fezell, Dianne Glynn, Scott Whelton, Mark Secker, Steve Maier and many others. What's notable when you read these names and see my sponsors is that many of them don't look like me. We all need sponsors, and if you do the right thing, your sponsors will come from places you least expect. Seek sponsors who will challenge you to get out of your comfort zones, advocate for you and have a seat at the table and are not afraid to use their influence for your cause.

DI: What are five things high potentials should avoid?

Shumba: High potentials should avoid the following:

1.Having a negative attitude about their careers.
2.Complacency — staying in their comfort zone for too long and not taking enough risks.
3.Over promising and under delivering and not executing on their promises.
4.Shying away from constructive feedback.
5.Forgetting to invest in themselves and the community.

Corlis Murray: ‘As a Black Female Engineer, I’m a Rarity’

Abbott's Corlis Murray, Senior Vice President, Quality Assurance, Regulatory and Engineering Services, talks about her inspirations for getting into engineering and her work in encouraging young women and minorities to get involved in STEM.

Corlis Murray is Senior Vice President, Quality Assurance, Regulatory and Engineering Services. She was appointed to her current position in February 2012. Previously, she served as Vice President, Global Engineering Services. Murray joined Abbott in 1989 and has held a number of management positions in quality, operations and engineering in Abbott's diagnostics and nutrition businesses. In Abbott Nutrition, she served as divisional vice president, Quality Assurance; divisional vice president, Manufacturing; and divisional vice president, Operations Services.

She is a board member of The Clara Abbott Foundation. She earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

DiversityInc: During the 70s and 80s, the percentage of engineering bachelor's degrees conferred to women never reached 15 percent. What inspired you to major in engineering?

Murray: This doesn't surprise me at all. Even today, as a Black female engineer, I'm a rarity — more than 10 times as rare as a woman in Congress. My mother and grandfather instilled in me a love for learning, especially of math. I had a knack for math and science and was nominated by one of my teachers in high school for an internship with IBM. Quitting my $1.76-an-hour job at Jack in the Box to pursue that internship is one of the defining moments of my life. Because that high school engineering internship — and the African American man who mentored me, showing me how to troubleshoot issues with mainframe systems (essentially the brains of room-sized computers) — demonstrated to me that I, too, could be an engineer if I wanted to.

The percentage of women receiving engineering degrees today is better, but not significantly better. In 2014, only 19.8 percent of bachelor's degrees in engineering went to women, according to the National Science Foundation. That's why I've brought my experience full circle, founding the high school STEM internship at Abbott six years ago.

Corlis with her 7-year-old granddaughter, Arianna

DiversityInc: It's very important for young Blacks, Latinos and women to see people like them in the STEM field. Can you talk about the high school STEM program you initiated at Abbott? What are the long-term impacts of the program? What does that say about Abbott's commitment to diversity and inclusion?

Murray: A high school engineering internship changed the trajectory of my life. I very much believe in an "each one, reach one" philosophy — which means I have no choice other than to give back to young people, especially young women minorities, like myself. There are young people in school today who might have no idea what engineering is, no idea what fun math or science can be — young people who, through a single positive experience, could be impacted for a lifetime.

Our high school STEM internship program demystifies engineering and science for these young people and makes it a real, viable career option. These minds will invent the next breakthroughs in life-changing technologies.

The program is made up for almost 60 percent women and about half of them are minorities. Nearly all of them (97 percent) go on to pursue a STEM degree or career. Many of our students started at inner city schools and now, after our internship program, are attending the top engineering and science schools in the country: U of I, MIT, Purdue, USC, Rice. Many are the first in their family to go to college.

Corlis with former high school interns who were college interns in summer 2017

My sincere hope is that more companies do what Abbott is doing, investing in young people by providing robust high school STEM internship programs — as well as other STEM programs. Abbott has invested over $50 million over the last decade with the goal of helping to inspire and support tomorrow's inventors who will create the world's next life-changing technologies. It's such a benefit, both to these young people, and to our company, as we develop a top-notch pipeline of people who know the value Abbott brings to people's lives — and are excited to join a culture of innovation where they know their ideas could someday be on the shelf, in a doctor's hand — or in a patient's heart.

This extra support for young women and minorities in STEM can help start a positive cycle. It's amazing that still today less than 4 percent of engineering degrees go to African Americans, according to the National Science Foundation, and only 1 in every 7 engineers is a woman according to the Department of Commerce. These young people need to see others who look like them to signal that they, too, can be successful.

DiversityInc: You've held a number of management positions at Abbott. What advice would you give to others on how to navigate a successful career at the company they are currently at?

Murray: The reason I reach out to students as young as 15 for our high school internship program is because the more we can open their eyes to potential STEM dreams young, the more they can explore and pursue during formative years.

Regardless of our age, race or gender, we make our own odds. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses; study hard; make connections with people who can teach you and advocate for you; and ultimately, sell yourself by demonstrating your aptitude in a creative way and knowing the business or organization you're working in or pursuing inside and out.

DiversityInc: What are some attributes you look for in high potential women?

Murray: The attributes I look for in high potential people — women and men — are the same. The organization that I have responsibility for is diverse, functionally and organizationally. I look for someone who is:

  • A quick-study
  • Knowledgeable about finance and business
  • Highly committed, focused and with leadership qualities
  • Well-spoken and a good writer/communicator
  • Passionate, with a proven track record of developing others
  • Detailed-oriented with an ability to see the big picture
  • A change agent
  • A global thinker
  • Actively engaged in a team environment
  • Knowledgeable technically in her area of expertise

Reaching Your Full Ability with a Disability

Comcast's Fred Maahs talks access to the boardroom.

By Frank Kineavy

Fred Maahs started his corporate career 36 years ago while working his way through college – just two years after a diving accident left him partially paralyzed.

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EY's Sabina Zaman: Seeing the World from Different Lenses Made Me a Curious and Open-Minded Person

Sabina Zaman, EY Partner, discusses the perspectives growing up around the world gave her, the female role models in her life and how to be a good mentor and mentee.

Sabina Zaman is a partner in EY's Financial Accounting and Advisory Services practice ("FAAS") based in New York. She leads the Wealth and Asset Management sector

Sabina has more than 20 years of consulting experience serving multinational clients in the asset management, banking and insurance sectors. Her diverse experiences as an auditor, subject matter advisor (IFRS/US GAAP/SEC), capital markets deal advisor and management consultant, enable her to bridge technical accounting/financial reporting advice with an understanding of operations.

Sabina is a CPA, licensed in New York, and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). She holds an MA in Economics (Carleton University, Canada) MS in Accountancy (University of Urbana) and MBA (University of Manchester, UK), International Affairs Diploma (University of Stockholm, Sweden)

Sabina's early childhood years was spent growing up in many countries all over the world: Senegal, Sweden, Australia, Canada and the Philippines. In her spare time, she loves to travel, play tennis and enjoy all the cultural experiences NYC has to offer.

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EY's Ali Master: Protégés Primary Responsibility Is to Get the Maximum out of the Sponsor-Protégé Relationship

Ali Master, Senior Partner at EY, talks about the work of the firm's Inclusiveness Advisory Council and gives advice on how protégés can successfully manage the sponsor-protégé relationship.

Ali Master is a senior partner in EY's National Tax Department and is based in the Dallas office. He leads EY's Workforce Advisory Services including the Affordable Care Act, Employment Tax Advisory, and Hiring Tax Credits.He has been with EY for 23 years and has been a partner for almost 15 years.Ali has extensive experience designing and delivering managed tax services to national employers.He is supported by a cross-functional team with over 300 professionals.

Ali is member of EY's Americas Inclusiveness Advisory Council and also co-chairs the firm's Asian Partner Work Group—a partner group committed to advancing equity for EY's Asian professionals.

Ali holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Texas at Dallas. He is a board-certified CPA and also holds a CCIP (Certified Credits & Incentives Professional) designation through the Institute for Professionals in Taxation.

DI: Why is diversity and inclusion important to you?

Master: I have personally experienced the powerful impact of diversity & inclusion (D&I) on my own career by having inclusive leaders, mentors, and sponsors who believed enough in D&I to allow me opportunities that otherwise would not have been possible.To elaborate further, I had a somewhat non-traditional start to my career.Prior to joining EY as 2nd year staff, I had already worked for several years for a boutique firm that specialized in certain niche tax services.Having an entrepreneurial bent, I wanted to start a similar new business at EY. It took serious sponsorship, inclusion, and belief on the part of several key EY partners that availed me the freedom to start building a new practice at EY even as a young senior.They saw "different" and embraced it.The mentoring and coaching I received along the way completely changed the trajectory of my career. It also resulted in tremendous dividends for the firm proving the business case for diversity and inclusion.

DI: You are a member of EY's Americas Inclusiveness Advisory Council. From your lens, how important is an executive diversity council to driving a company's D&I strategy and holding senior leaders accountable for results?

Master: I believe such a council is vital and I am so glad that the firm has continued to make this investment.Having the executive diversity council has a multipronged impact in cascading the importance of this business imperative.First, it allows for an open and candid dialogue with leadership about our results and the gaps that may exist.It also provides senior leadership an opportunity to 'get out of the board room' and listen to a wide range of perspectives.Second, since many of the IAC members are in key leadership roles across the firm, it helps further engender accountability for each of us to serve as micro-cultures and impact our own sphere of leaders who may not yet be as informed about the significance of diversity and inclusion in terms of being a major catalyst for innovation, attraction and retention of talent, and winning.

DI: Can you cite an instance in which being an inclusive leader made a difference and delivered better results or an innovative solution?

Master: Over the years, I have had the privilege of leading many diverse teams and initiatives.Even today, over 70% of my executive team is comprised of either women, minorities, or members of the LGBT community.Nothing surpasses however what I experienced in terms of innovative solutions being developed by a highly diverse team than our Affordable Care Act (ACA) technology and services.In 2014-2015, we pulled together a global team of over 200 EY professionals to design, develop, and deliver a solution to serve over 275 national employers comply with the complex requirements of the ACA.We had a diversity of background—tax, HR, benefits, technology.A diversity of race, gender, age and heritage—Black, Caucasian, Chinese Indians, Latino, Nepalese, and Pakistanis.And a diversity of personalities—visionaries, drivers, analyticals, and more.The results were terrific! Our ACA COMPASSSM technology received the 2015 Gold Level Stevie® Award for Technical Innovation of the Year.It was one of those experiences where you sit back and watch in awe at what this amazing tapestry of professionals collectively produced.I can't imagine a homogenous team ever achieving such results.

DI: Do you sponsor anyone at EY? If so, what are some good attributes of both the sponsor and protégé?

Master: Yes, I am presently a sponsor to several individuals.Additionally, during the course of my fifteen years as a partner, I have had the opportunity to sponsor many others.I definitely feel that both the sponsor and the protégé have a role to play.Let's start with the sponsor, who must be willing to advocate for their protégé at the right venues and to key decision makers that can influence the career trajectory of their protégé. Furthermore, a good sponsor must stay abreast of what others in leadership think of their protégé and whether there are any real or perceived gaps in skillset, business-case etc. that they need to convey to their protégé and/or advocate for assignments that can bridge those gaps.Finally, a key attribute for the sponsor is to be honest and realistic with their protégé in terms of what they must do to achieve their career milestones. And then, help coach them through that journey. In my view, however, the primary responsibility to get the maximum out of the sponsor-protégé relationship falls on the protégé.Good attributes for a strong protégé include ensuring that they over-deliver for their sponsors.Said another way, to make the job of the sponsor easier.A solid protégé must develop a strong personal brand, follow through on their commitments, and take control of their career. A protégé should not wait around for the sponsor to "make things happen" for them.Also, depending on how far removed the sponsor is from the protégé's day-to-day responsibilities, it's the protégé's job to provide the sponsor with up-to-date and accurate information about their accomplishments and to drive the relationship.I am so thankful for the range of sponsors over the years who have helped shape my own career.Interestingly, as others have said before me, most of my sponsors did not look like me.

EY's Molly John: Mentors, Sponsors Made an Investment in Me and My Career

Molly John, Audit Partner at EY: "I recognized that my mentors/sponsors were making an investment in me and my career; thus I made it a point to truly listen to feedback and accept any type of coaching with an open mind. Although I could have advanced without my sponsors, my path would have been much different and likely more challenging to navigate without their support."

Molly John is an Audit Partner based in the New York City office of EY and has more than 20 years of experience providing professional services to a diverse client base, from domestic private companies to large multinational public companies in the telecommunications, media and entertainment to diversified manufacturing industries. She also serves on the firm's Northeast Black Professional Network's (EY employee resource group) steering committee as well as the New York City Diversity and Inclusion Council.

Additionally, Molly serves as the Audit Committee Chair and Director of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Foundation and a current member of the USTA National Junior Tennis & Learning Committee, International Women's Forum New Jersey Chapter and Baruch College Zicklin School of Business, Dean's Advisory Council. Molly received her BBA degree in accounting from Baruch College and is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in New York and New Jersey.

DI: Why is diversity and inclusion important to you?

Molly John: I migrated to New York to attend college from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a small island to a large city where the racial makeup was significantly different from what I was accustomed. I was lucky to work with great teams throughout my career that made me feel included and like I belonged. As an audit partner at EY, I help my clients reach solutions to their complex problems.Numerous studies have shown that diverse teams perform better and discover better solutions than homogenous teams. A lack of diversity and inclusion puts companies and teams at a competitive disadvantage and here at EY, our clients are seeking the best answers and expect that our client serving teams.

DI: How do your mentors and your sponsors help you in your career? And were you a good mentee? And could you have advanced without a sponsor?

Molly John: My mentors and sponsors provided me with candid feedback that enabled me to leverage my strengths and recognize my weaknesses. They also challenged me constantly to seek and take on responsibilities that were outside my comfort zone. I recognized that my mentors/sponsors were making an investment in me and my career; thus I made it a point to truly listen to feedback and accept any type of coaching with an open mind. Although I could have advanced without my sponsors, my path would have been much different and likely more challenging to navigate without their support. Even as a partner today, I still rely heavily on my group of mentors and sponsors as I progress in my career because you never really learn it all.

DI: What kinds of things would you recommend that people do to stay on top of their game, and to signal to people that they are worthy of investment?

Molly John: First and foremost, be good at what you do. In other words "do your job". If you don't, you will be hard pressed to find someone to either invest in or sponsor you. Second, remain curious and continue to be an avid learner and consumer of information. Make sure you understand what is happening in your own industry as well as what's occurring in your client's sector or industry. Third, expand your network and seek out opportunities to showcase yourself. Let others know about you and get to see how valuable you are, which will in turn lead to new and different opportunities.

DI: What advice would you provide for people seeking to expand their career at a company where they already are, or as they navigate different organizations?

Molly John: Be a sponge! Identify and connect with individuals within the organization that are succeeding and excelling. Observe, ask and understand what they are doing to stand out from others and apply those similar techniques in a manner that is consistent with your authentic self.

DI: What advice can you give on developing executive presence?

Molly John: Executive presence can be learned and perfected through practice. Look around your organization, church, bank, family members, and so on, for those individuals that have executive presence; and, based on your observations, identify the critical attributes such as confidence, poise, articulation, appearance, facial expressions, body language, among other characteristics that form 'executive presence' and incorporate those attributes into your interactions in a natural manner that works best for yourself.

DI: How do you define success, and what career advice do you have for being successful?

Molly John: I define success by the amount of growth I experience in my career. I have found that some of the greatest successes are born out of failure. From an advice perspective, I suggest that individuals seek out challenging opportunities and learn as much as they can from them.

DI: What advice would you provide for people seeking to grow and get promoted at their current company?

Molly John: Take calculated risks and step outside your comfort zone. You may find yourself lulled into a false sense of security because you are doing your current job well. In my mind, growth often comes when challenged to execute and succeed on tasks that are outside your comfort zone. Seek out these tasks, embrace the discomfort, leverage your network to identify and acquire the necessary tools and execute to the best of your ability. Then do it again and again.

Accenture's Rah Thomas: 'Bold Leadership is Really About Empowering People'

Thomas is a Managing Director in Accenture's Infrastructure Operations practice and a leader of the African American employee resource group. He gives his take on the value of diversity and inclusion.

By Alana Winns and Christian Carew

As a Managing Director at Accenture (No. 14 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list), Rahnold "Rah" Thomas' primary focus is Digital Workplace Transformation and Infrastructure Transformation to the cloud.

The 37 year old is also the national co-lead for the African American employee resource group. Thomas works across all inclusion and diversity work streams, meeting with senior executives to improve recruitment, progression and retention of top talent.

He is a graduate of Syracuse University.

Comcast NBCUniversal's Juan Otero: Diversity & Inclusion Have Always Been at the Heart of My Journey

Otero talks with DiversityInc about his position, the importance of mentoring and sponsoring, and offers career advice.

Juan Otero recently began his new role as vice president of Corporate Diversity & Inclusion at Comcast NBCUniversal (No. 7 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list).

Otero's impressive career has included many roles, such as serving as deputy director at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, and working in various positions at Comcast, all of which helped inspire his advocacy for inclusive environments.

“As I think about my professional journey, and the opportunities that have come my way, diversity and inclusion have always been at the heart of it," he said.

“I think a lot of that comes from my parents, who grew up in a world where they were not so welcomed when they came to the United States."

Otero's parents came to New York City from Ponce, Puerto Rico, and he was born and raised in the South Bronx. Otero explained that his father was identified as a special needs student by the public school system, simply because Spanish was his first language. This created obstacles for him throughout his education, and had a strong impact on how Otero was raised.

“That's what they did with Spanish speakers," he said.

As a result, Otero's father did not want his son to speak his native language, because he wanted him to assimilate into American culture. It wasn't until later in life that Otero learned to speak Spanish.

“So, it's a very personal thing for me to see this transformation of the United States — how we now talk about the ties that bind us and the things that make us unique," he said.

“Diversity & Inclusion is that important piece that helps drive the conversation."

'Placing D&I in the DNA of a Corporate Entity'

Otero oversees the strategy and implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives across Comcast NBCUniversal in five focus areas: governance, workforce, procurement, programming and community impact.

He also works closely with Comcast's Executive Internal Diversity Council, its Workforce Diversity & Inclusion team and the external Comcast NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Advisory Council.

Otero, who has been with the company since 2009, previously served as vice president of federal government affairs responsible for federal legislative advocacy with members of Congress and the Administration. He was also responsible for developing strategies for achieving corporate legislative objectives.

“Having been a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, having worked in various roles at Comcast, it's always been, for me, a fascinating dialogue watching the intersection of public policy and issues around diversity and inclusion, and how they manifest themselves into American life," Otero said.

He will continue to utilize his legislative skillset of “messaging, educating and supporting efforts to make change."

Otero added that he has been “very close to our D&I efforts from the beginning, when we started this journey at Comcast," and he has been fortunate to see the company's growth and evolution to becoming an innovator in the D&I space.

In 2017, Comcast moved up 10 spots on the DiversityInc Top 50 list.

“With the support of our senior leadership, David Cohen [senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer] and Brian Roberts [chairman and CEO], D&I is embedded in our business and culture."

Otero also said the process involves “having strategic engagement, both internally and externally, with national leaders and our joint diversity advisory council."

“It's many, many moving parts that have so many of our business leaders driving it," he added. “But it's certainly a commitment that is here to stay and one that we have to continue to always make progress on."

Mentoring and Sponsorship

Otero admitted that when he was younger, he was “an absolutely dreadful" mentee.

He explained that he initially fought the mentorship process because “I always thought that I didn't need it."

“But once I got involved in the process and went through the process," Otero explained, “There were so many key learnings that I still hold today."

Now, Otero said he seeks the advice of his mentors and sponsors everyday.

“In my Comcast life, I've had amazing friends, leaders…I still do," he said. “They have really helped guide and shape my path."

Otero currently serves on the executive committee of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, providing leadership development programs and educational services to students and young emerging Latino leaders.

“I was a product of CHCI," Otero said. “Candidly, I was a poor kid from the South Bronx. I wanted to go to D.C. and I wanted to experience that world. Because companies like Comcast sponsor fellows and internships, people like me get the opportunity to spend a year working on Capitol Hill."

He said being on the committee “is a labor of love."

“CHCI has created so many amazing leaders," he said. “And touched so many kids."

Otero works with the students in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal.

“I don't believe you just write the check," he said. "I think that you make sure that you connect with these kids and stay in contact with them and help give them the network that they need."

Otero also serves on the boards of Make Room USA and the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute.

Career Advice

In regard to advice for those just starting out in their career, Otero said it's important to figure out what you're passionate about.

“I knew that I loved the law and I wanted a law degree," said Otero, who holds a J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a M.P.A. from American University.

“I knew I liked public policy, so I worked toward those things."

He also said to be a continuous learner.

“It's knowing what you're passionate about and educating yourself about it over and over again," Otero said. “Never get stagnant in terms of your brain power."

The advice he offers to those already in the workforce is to know when it's time to reinvent oneself.

“I had a really amazing job in D.C.," Otero explained. “I think I was pretty good at it. I enjoyed the work, but I needed that next challenge."

He said when the D&I opportunity came forth, he asked himself the question, “Am I ready to challenge myself with the next role?'"

If you're considering a new challenge, Otero said to also reflect upon the question, “Am I working in place or am I managing my own career?"

As managing one's career is “something that only you are responsible for, at the end of the day," he said.

EY's Sam Johnson: 'Sponsors Put Their Chips on the Table to Help You Get to the Next Level'

Sam Johnson, EY's Americas Vice Chair and Southeast Region Managing Partner, talks about the importance of sponsors, his passion for early childhood education and why it's critical for Black and Latino kids to get involved in STEM early.

By Alana Winns and Christian Carew

Sam Johnson is the Americas Vice Chair and Southeast Region Managing Partner for EY. He is responsible for 19 offices housing more than 5,000 employees spanning across various markets and industries. During his 20-year tenure at EY, Sam has also served as the Global Client Service Partner and Senior Advisory Partner on several Fortune 500 accounts. While Sam's leadership roles validate his business acumen, his commitment to building and sustaining a strong diverse and inclusive people culture is his passion. He has received various accolades regarding his people impact, including being recognized by Savoy Magazine as a Top 100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America.

Sam's Passion for Early Childhood Education

Why Black and Latino Kids Need to be Involved in STEM


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