Episode 55

Shamika and Desmond on the Sun Life Black Excellence Alliance

Shamika Hoyt, Director, Client Management in Health and Risk Solutions and Desmond Glynn, Contracts and Specialty Operations Senior Specialist at Sun Life, discuss their involvement in the Black Excellence Alliance and how the group is positively impacting both their colleagues and communities.

Steve Peacher: Hi everybody thanks for dialing in to this episode of “Three in Five” it's Steve Peacher of SLC Management, and today I’m really interested in this session we're going to be talking about the Black Excellence Alliance with two very active people in that. We've got Shamika Hoyt who serves as chair of the BEA and in her day job is director of client management with health and risk solutions. And we've got Desmond Glynn who is head of membership and growth at the Black Excellence Alliance and in his day job as a contract operations senior specialist in our U.S. business, so guys thanks for taking some time today.

Shamika Hoyt: Thanks for having me.

Desmond Glynn: Thank you.

Steve Peacher: So, Shamika maybe I’ll throw this question to you first, if you could just tell the audience, you know what is the Black Excellence Alliance all about and what's its focus?

Shamika Hoyt: BEA is you know kind of what we say for sure, but BEA is a DE&I network, and it was created to promote events that are relevant to the black and African American Community and our employees. We have just over 900 members and it's steadily growing, and our goal is to create a work environment that allows for growth. We also focus on empowering our employees professionally, physically, mentally, financially, because we have conversations about all those types of topics and it's also a safe space where employees can come to discuss social injustices and ongoings that are happening that affect our community.

Steve Peacher: Let me just do a follow up with you, why do you think it's so important for a corporate entity, a company like Sun Life, especially a global company or in a company with many different offices, why is it important to have an organization like BEA from your perspective?

Shamika Hoyt: Personally I feel because it offers a sense of belonging to marginalized communities, not just us, but other DE&I networks that we have. And it shows that we're seen, that we’re heard and that our voices and our existence here at Sun Life matters. I also think it gives us a place to share our experiences as black and African American professionals and it also creates an opportunity for allyship. So other employees who may not be black or African American can join the events that we have, they can get involved, they can do work here at Sun Life and in our local communities and it just gives each of us, you know, no matter what community you're from, a chance to learn and grow, and you know about each other.

Steve Peacher: So you mentioned you know communities, obviously, a lot of your events may be focused internally on employees, but you're also involved in the community. So Desmond maybe I can throw this to you, what is the involvement and the contribution of BEA to the surrounding communities?

Desmond Glynn: Well the BEA is heavily involved in our communities, we partner with several local organizations that serve our communities and also provide philanthropic support. Some of these organizations include the Roxbury YMCA, the National African American Museum of History and Culture, and NourishKC. Pre-covid, for example, we had an event held by NourishKC in which Sun Life employees there were able to help prepare food and serve the community. We also have a great new mentoring program called the Sun Beam Program in which black high school students from local programs at schools in the Boston, Connecticut and Kansas City areas are paired with black and brown Sun Life professionals. They meet biweekly and cover a range of topics that are beneficial for their professional and personal development. They also get to see black representation at a corporate level. Along with their mentoring, we also have like monthly sessions help with the entire group targeting subjects such as finance, networking, and resume writing. And our ultimate goal for the program is to create a pipeline down the road for potential internships and jobs at Sun Life, which in turn would increase our black representation in Sun Life, so these are a few things that we are doing in the community.

Steve Peacher: Maybe a follow up on this is, we were talking about this bit prior to this call, but Desmond, maybe some examples of some of the events that you've you guys have had recently and also what's on the upcoming calendar, what are some things out there in the near future that are being sponsored by the BEA?

Desmond Glynn: So for recent events we've had the ‘Building Black Wealth’ series which is an awesome four-part series which was led by Michelle M. Venetia from of Our Village Initiative, it continues on June 15 with Black Home Ownership and then it could close on July 13 with Legacy and Asset Protection. And then we have Juneteenth of events which Sunlife is spot sponsoring a Gala and then Saturday June 11 is when the family day is going to be for the Juneteenth. And then Sunday June 19, Juneteenth celebration at the Bushnell Park in Hartford, Connecticut is going to be from one to six. And then we have an upcoming Minority Mental Health Month, so we're going to be having a psychologist to discuss the topic of suicide within the black community, so we have a lot of things to look forward to this year.

Steve Peacher: And if somebody wants to, hears that say ‘okay, I want to get involved,’ can you just tell everybody how, within Sun Life those who are within Sun Life, how do they how they sign up, how do they get involved?

Desmond Glynn: Yeah so all you have to go to is in Workday they have an area where they have for all of the DE&I networks and under there you just choose BE&A and say that you're interested and I will be notified and I will reach out to Shamika and get you added to our list, along with sending you a welcome email and offer you a meeting so that we can have an official welcome one-on-one meeting.

Steve Peacher: Great, let me finish with a question I’ll throw to both of you, and that is obviously you're both really involved, I’m sure have been for some time. Why is that important to you, what does that mean to you to have the involvement with BEA? So, Shamika, maybe I can throw that to you first and I love to hear from Desmond as well?

Shamika Hoyt: For me, I think, being a part of be BEA makes me feel proud, I feel valued, it's rewarding and challenging at the same time. But the events that we have been able to produce and the conversations that we've had about social injustices, and the opportunity to educate ourselves and our allies seems to make it worth it for me. So that's really what BEA means to me it's a place of solace, if you will, where you can still be yourself at work and discuss the things that are going on personally.

Desmond Glynn: And for me, being a part of the BEA has been a great experience as well. Being the membership and growth chair I’ve been able to have some great welcome meetings with people, build great new relationships. And also being a part of the mentor program has been amazingly special to see the impact that we've had on some of the students. There have been students that have expressed appreciation for their mentors helping them with scholarships, writing essays. And also some students that didn't previously have laptops, which we ended up providing as an incentive which will be something that they'll be able to use in college, so all of these contributions really give me an extra edge when I’m work, like okay I’m, not only am I doing my job, but Sun Life is helping allow me to help my community.

Steve Peacher: You know as I listened to the to this set of question answers, and also the conversation that we had before this, you know I’m struck by A.) how active the program is how many interesting the programming, how many interesting things you all have going on. I’m also struck by how many people are involved, with 900 and growing, but then I also think about how many people within Sun Life I don't know about this or haven't signed up yet, and it seems to me there's a ton of potential as people get to know about some of the things I’ve just learned about in terms of the dynamism of the programming. So, first of all I thank you for your involvement in this, because I know it's in addition to everything else you do, and thanks for taking the time to be on this “Three in Five” episode, and thanks everybody for listening to this episode of “Three in Five.”

 

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