Black History Month Employee Spotlight: Joyce Christanio Is Leading the Charge for Change With the Nexttech Diversity Program

Feb 11, 2022 12:00 PM ET
Summary: 

A standout from T‑Mobile’s Procurement & Supply team is helping drive the company’s hugely successful NextTech Diversity Program as it enters its second year with expanded training courses and larger class sizes. In recognition of Black History Month, here she tells us about what drives her and her hopes for the future of the program.

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Joyce Christanio, senior program manager for supplier diversity at T-Mobile, often speaks of purpose. The work she is involved with has a meaningful purpose, and the responsibility that comes with it isn’t lost on her.

“Our procurement team under Chief Procurement Officer Mike Simpson and Vice President Stephanie Owen is determined to provide leadership when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. Internally as well as with suppliers that conduct business with T-Mobile,” says Joyce. “We’re setting new standards for the wireless industry and beyond -- and changing the way companies recruit talent is a huge part of that.”

As someone who lost a brother to gun violence, Joyce is passionate about the NextTech Diversity Program she manages within her larger role at the company.

“We must realize that supporting these types of programs can reduce crime,” she says.

T-Mobile launched the NextTech Diversity Program last year to provide career training and job placement for hundreds of diverse candidates, helping them take on meaningful employment within the telecommunications industry. The launch coincided with an announcement that T-Mobile shares the responsibility of closing the industry’s diversity gap.

The 5G revolution is expected to create or transform up to an astounding 16 million full-time, part-time and temporary jobs directly and indirectly between 2021 to 2025 in the United States. It is estimated that 20,000 field technicians and trained tower crew workers are needed to help build 5G for all wireless providers. But people of color comprise a disproportionately small percentage of all network technicians and field crews, and Christanio says the NextTech Diversity Program — which has two paths to employment with its Technician Program and Commercial Equipment Driver’s Program — creates an important bridge between an industry that needs new workers and a workforce that is underrepresented.

At the beginning of February, Christanio and other supporters of the program celebrated its first anniversary, boasting a 100 percent graduation and career placement rate of its original technicians class of 50 students. For 2022, T-Mobile recently announced its commitment to doubling the 2022 NextTech Diversity’s Technician Program class as well as expanding its more recent Equipment Driver’s Program.

We spoke with Joyce from her home of Kansas City, Missouri where she was recently recognized by The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City for 32 years of service assisting minority, women and veteran owned businesses.

It’s clear speaking with you that you believe to the core in the benefits of this program. Can you share where that confidence in the work comes from?

I am so proud to be managing an exciting T-Mobile program aimed at supporting women and men of color within under-represented communities. I can personally identify and whole-heartedly embrace this program because, as a youth, I too lived in an under-represented community. Being privy to unfortunate situations occurring in inner-city communities, such as drug deals, neighbors with addictions, robberies and losing a brother to senseless gun violence, I understand the importance of lending a hand to others to improve their lifestyles. While everyone can’t afford a college education, this program provides individuals a hand to exceed a minimum wage salary resulting in sustainable careers.

The NextTech Diversity Program has two focus areas: telecom technicians and equipment drivers. Can you explain how you partner with local trade schools to make the program successful?

The NextTech Program was created in January 2021 to fund the training and job placement of women and men of color to become telecom technicians. T-Mobile’s chief procurement officer, Mike Simpson, recognized the need to diversify the pipeline of candidates. We partnered with telecom trade school Learning Alliance Corporation (LAC), which oversaw the recruitment, training, certification and job placement of 50 LAC graduates to 32 different network-building companies last year. Later, in September, T-Mobile’s Vice President of network supply chain, Bob Vorlicek, recognized the need to also diversify the pool of commercial drivers. Therefore, with NextTech being the trademarked program name, we now have two focus areas: NextTech Technician Program run by LAC in Tampa, and NextTech Equipment Driver’s Program that we partnered with New Reflections Technical Institute to manage in Kansas City, Missouri. Both programs are aimed at funding the training and job placement of hundreds of women and men of color through 2025.

Throughout 2022, The Learning Alliance Corporation will continue that work for 100 new network technician candidates, while New Reflections Technical Institute will do the same for the 70 new network equipment driver candidates. How does it feel to see these increased number of spots opening up for candidates?

As T-Mobile aims to grow both programs, we are demonstrating our commitment to diversify talent pipelines and ensure continued sustainable positions in the communities that we serve. Additionally, technicians and drivers are the engine behind our 5G world. For us to use our handsets to talk, text, access and deposit funds into our bank accounts, take precious family photos and watch movies — to name a few things we rely on them for every day. It takes technicians to build out the 5G network and drivers to transport the network equipment to T-Mobile’s 5G cell sites. This is why T-Mobile is recommending every company that relies on use of a mobile device to stand with us in one united front to join this program and demonstrate their commitment to embracing diversity, equity and inclusion. Companies can learn more by logging onto nexttechdiversity.com.

Have you seen for yourself first-hand how this program can positively impact someone?

This program is special to me because it’s a way of giving back to a less fortunate group of individuals who may not have a career path or funding to pursue a career. I have witnessed graduates of the program crying as they thanked T-Mobile for funding their training. One graduate stated he didn’t know where he’d be in life if it weren’t for this program. This program directly helps inner-city youth with no direction in life, no sustainable job to make a decent living who, too often, land in jail. These programs produce jobs to hopefully prevent jail sentences. Additionally, we’re evaluating opportunities to include “returning citizens” – people released from incarceration - as part of these programs to encourage their full and successful reintegration into society. I’m thankful our T-Mobile executives put their trust in me to develop and lead such a rewarding program. I believe it enhances T-Mobile’s brand, and it enhances my life as well.