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Juanita Coley: Thank you so much Ebony for being with me today. Tell us a little bit more about yourself. Introduce yourself. Tell us more about you.

Ebony Langston: Thank you for having me. I was backstage jam into the intro. So, I'm super excited to be here Juanita, so I am Ebony Langston, and I am the executive director of licensing and operations at TTEC. I work within our healthcare vertical. And I partner with clients to provide a combination of digital and people solutions to optimize sales and customer service.

Juanita Coley: That is awesome. That is super awesome. And I'm so excited. So, wasn't pre-planned like this. I think about things a lot I'm always in my head. And so, I was thinking about how fitting it was that it is, Women's History Month, is it today or is it yesterday, and my days get mixed up?

Ebony Langston: It was yesterday. Yesterday was International Women's Day, but the whole month is a celebration.

Juanita Coley: Is a celebration right. And so, I thought it was so fitting to have you on this week on this episode, because I've been just watching your career, we used to work together and most people don't know this. So, I'll kind of give the backstory, we work together at UnitedHealthcare. Some while back when I was running the Command Center, and I was just always interested in how you lead the team; how responsive you were to our requests in the command center and just working together in so I have been following you since then. So, I'm just so impressed with your career, how you've been able to navigate the corporate ladder, and corporate structure, and all of those good things. So, it's women's History Month. So, you ready to do this?

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Ebony Langston: I'm ready. And I have to say, I remember those days, anyone working in Caucus, and you're nothing without your workforce team. So, I need to hold it down for us.

Juanita Coley: It was some fun days for sure. Alright. So, let's get into it. I know you said you are over licensing, you're the executive director. But tell me a little bit more about what that role does at TTEC.

Ebony Langston: Yes. So, I play a dual role. So, part of my job is within operations, part of it is within licensing. So, within the licensing team, I manage the group that helps people gain a new career within the healthcare licensing space. So, me and my team run what's called the College of Insurance at TTEC , where we help people go through the process to get their residential health insurance license, we support several different licenses, Health Insurance, Property and Casualty, and Claims Adjuster licenses. So, if that's the career you're interested in, we're here to help support you through the entire process of training, applying with the states, and then ultimately getting you on a program to support one of our clients in those areas. And then on the operation side, as I said, I work in the healthcare vertical, and I partner mainly with healthcare payers, in their strategies around new member acquisition, retention, and services. So, I partner with them to help identify opportunities for optimization in the sales process and the customer experience and to gain as many members as we can each enrollment season.

Juanita Coley: That's phenomenal. And it makes me think of a question that I wasn't thinking of earlier. So, I'm just going to go right into that question. How do the College of insurance and all of those things that you're doing on the recruiting and the learning side and making sure that you have the right people in the right places and all of those things? How does diversity play a part in even the training curriculum that you're creating, and the product, or the service that the consumer gets on the end? Like the end game, Okay, well, we have this type of trainer or we have this type of diverse training program and so because of that we get this type of result. Do you see a difference between you leading that program, the result that you get?

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Ebony Langston: I think from a training perspective, thinking about diversity, the whole bonus of having a diverse workforce is that you have a diverse set of perspectives and thought experiences. And from a training perspective, when you're leading a group of people, you also have to remember that you have a diverse set of learning styles. So, we try to incorporate within the training, different types of learning methodologies. Some instructor-led, some self-paced, some what we call real play bots, where people have the opportunity to practice on their own. It's about putting in different types of learning opportunities that might match different learning styles. So, people don't get bored in their experience, especially in our College of insurance, I have a great manager who's super creative, her team is always coming up with new ways to present what can be very dry material at times. But to make it exciting, again, appeal to those very different learning styles. I think it's key when you're thinking about training new hires.

Juanita Coley: You tapped into something really good there, you said, to be able to present material that can kind of seem dry, I think having diversity in the training program, the training material, the training leadership, just the whole gamut. Being able to have a diverse sphere of that allows us to be able to then get a product in or service that is going to be a representation of a diverse consumer base. And how you train that I've never thought about diversity from a training perspective. Having the instructor-led, because you're right, people do learn differently. And so, by having that diversity and training, you're able to connect differently with have material see being different to the person that you're training, I think that's important. Yes, that's good stuff.

So, I was reading an article from Mercer, from 2020. And it said that only 2% of executives are African American, as opposed to 85% white counterparts. And so, as I said, I've been following your career, I think it's so impressive what you've been able to do. What have you done to become part of that 2%?

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Ebony Langston: Yes, I've seen similar articles. And it's just a sad number. And I think it was McKinsey put out a new report earlier this year that indicated on our current trajectory, it would take 95 years for black employees to reach talent parity. And it boggles the mind as things have changed, and opportunities have come, we still have so far to go. So, in my career, I would say, one, I've been very fortunate to be around a lot of good leaders who had a vested interest in my success and so I'm thankful for every one of them. And one in particular, that stands out because she helped me change my mindset from waiting on an opportunity to present itself to proactively going out and seeking an opportunity and knowing what I brought to the table and being able to share that value with others around me that were outside of what was my normal scope, finding those opportunities to share value, and bring value to the organization in other ways.

And so that was a mindset shift for me that I didn't have to wait around for people to give me an opportunity, I could proactively seek out and share with people what I could do. And so, I've kind of taken that and raised my hand whenever I could to have an opportunity to help contribute more in my current role and things outside of the organization, what some may think of as extracurriculars, but people have to remember you get a lot of visibility in those extracurricular type of activities, and any chance you get to share your thoughts and what you can bring to the table to someone who's outside of your normal vertical. You should take advantage of that. Having mentors along the way has been important. And then having sponsors so everyone should have both mentors and sponsors in their camp. Mentors help you bounce ideas of off and share their experience or how they may have solved certain problems. But a sponsor is someone who's helping you and pulling you up along the way. So, seek out a mentor and a sponsor.

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Juanita Coley: It's so many, I'm not going to be able to let you just go so. So, many gems just right there like three, that's just notable one, you said that you had a mentor and that they were vested in your success, you had to do a mindset shift that not waiting on the opportunity to come to you, but creating the opportunity and showing the value. And that made me think about something I used to always tell my team or I just say a period. But I remember specifically saying this to the individual before, you can judge me on my leadership later but someone told me one time, that's not in my job description.

And I was so flabbergasted because I always say, well, it'll never be in your job description, because I don't know if you can do what it takes. And so, I always think about things that I've done, you say you did a lot of extracurricular things, showing value, finding things, okay, what can I do? How can I show more and more value? A lot of times, that means that you have to go outside of what's in your job description so that they can even see that it's a need in the first place. And when you begin to do those extracurricular things, then your employer or it's almost like when you think about entrepreneurship, a good entrepreneur they just saw a need, and they feel the need. And then they made a business model out of it. And so, the same thing in the career. So, you said that that was a gem. So, you have to shift your perspective on that.

Ebony Langston: You do and it's a balance because you don't want people taking advantage of you doing everything for free. But you have to find opportunities and take opportunities to do more than what's expected for people to know you can even do that thing. Otherwise, how will they know?

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Juanita Coley: Now, how do you do that? How do you do the balance? I raised my hand all the time. I am an extremist. So, I'm either hot or cold. I struggle with the balance thing. So, how do you do the balanced part where you're not doing too much? Or you're not being taken advantage of because they just know your service Sally. You going to do every single thing. You got to go above and beyond and not be recognized and compensated for that. But you do enough to let them know, I do have this skill set. And I can add more value than just the service role I could be a leader.

Ebony Langston: That's a good question. It's a really good question. I think the answer is at the point, it stops mutually benefiting you as well. So, if you're providing your value your services outside of your scope, you are getting something out of that, too. You're getting visibility, and you're getting learning opportunities, hopefully, you're getting to work with new people. So, you're sharpening those skills and your team building. And I think if there becomes a point where you stop learning or benefiting from those activities, then you raise your hand and say I can't continue doing this without some sort of formal official role change, or find another opportunity to do something then.

Juanita Coley: That is a tough one. Because I think that's so good because you are learning, while you're adding value. I think when you're doing new things, you are learning, you're developing a skill set. And so, I think that is good wisdom and practical wisdom that at the point that is no longer I'm not learning anymore. Like you couldn't do this without me in this role, that I'm unofficially in. And so no longer am I learning I'm running the team or I'm running the department without any sense of title or position or whatever, the compensation. And so, I'm not learning anymore.

Ebony Langston: It's hard, I wouldn't say I've nailed it every time but I think that's it when you start benefiting.

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Juanita Coley: I wonder what the general public thinks about that. I got to do some kind of poll now. Now I want to know the answer to that question from other people, and if you guys are tuning in live, definitely let us know at what point do you stop. Because I'm big, I'm a big advocate for add value, find the purpose in it. And when you find the purpose, then Chase purpose, pay will come, that's a byproduct of just being valuable. But again, I am extremist so I will be two years into a project because I'm chasing purpose and look up and be like, yes, you how it is I’ll do the role. I'm fine.

This is crazy stuff. So, the Mercer study that I was asking the question about was talking about how African Americans make up the majority of support roles. And I think that goes to what you're saying is that show we'll add the value, but we have a hard time drawing the line and transitioning into the, I think I'm good to lead now. Or no, I'm good to lead and having those tough conversations. And doesn't even have to be a tough conversation. Why can't we just be in the roles that we're supporting or we're running anyway? What have you done in your career? I'm interested in your career, what have you done? Because, again, it's 2% that make it to these executive roles. And so clearly, you're doing something right.

Ebony Langston: Yes, that is such a complex question and answer, because I think there are so many institutional things wrong, that are contributing to that phenomenon. You do see a lot of black employees in the frontlines are very early, team lead supervisor, tight levels of leadership, particularly in industries like retail hospitality, contact center, and then the ability to move up does start to slow down. So, I think, again, I talked about having mentors and sponsors, and from an individual level as far as what you can do without changing the challenge in the institution, whichever one should do.

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It is having those mentors and sponsors in your life, particularly a sponsor, because as I said, having a sponsor is someone who can evangelize on your behalf, who is sharing your value with other people on your behalf, and helping you to build that story in that narrative in that personal brand, throughout the organization or industry that you're in. So, I encourage people to seek a sponsor and someone that they trust, who will speak on their behalf for them and help them get that next opportunity. And I think each one of us in a leadership role can do the same for someone behind us, it's reach down and sponsor someone. So, I challenged everyone if you're not sponsoring someone today. Make that your goal before the end of the month.<