Taking a Stand for Success
“My goal is to leave the world a better place,” says Tekisha Thomas. “I enjoy working hard, being an advocate for myself and others, and leading the next generation to succeed through mentorship.” For someone who has not been out of school for very long, Thomas has set some lofty aspirations.
Since graduating with an M.B.A. in marketing two years ago, Thomas has been a strategic account manager at Microsoft in the company’s advertising department. She works alongside advertisers to understand their business objectives (or key performance indicators) and help them to optimize ad campaigns running on the Microsoft platform to reach their goals. This can be achieved in several ways. Through client presentations, training, or creating data stories to help with overall growth.
Thomas says her years at New York Institute of Technology prepared her for the challenges she faces at her job. “I have always had a love-hate relationship with group projects,” she says. But it was precisely this training that gave her the skills she needs to be an effective manager in a high paced, high stakes environment. “I loved the hands-on work that we were given at New York Tech. We not only learned how to create a great marketing plan, but how to sell it.”
In addition to her heavy workload, Thomas is also committed to advancing diversity and allyship. At Microsoft, she is also the chairperson for an Employee Resource Group—Blacks at Microsoft New York/New Jersey chapter. “My job is to help with employee retention, create a diverse pipeline, and manage community relations for the metro area,” she says.
On February 4, 2019, in honor of Black History Month, Tekisha Thomas was selected to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange because of her work with the New York/New Jersey chapter of Blacks at Microsoft.
She recently led Microsoft’s Annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit. “A hot topic I continually hear about is allyship, but we realized there was a gap between understanding allyship and how to activate it in your life and the workplace,” she says. Thomas developed the Guide to Allyship to bridge the gap. “We put employees and clients on an actual obstacle course, with barriers and even ‘actors,’ which help them understand the effects of microaggressions. It was followed by a panel discussion to dive deeper into how to activate allyship for all.”
Thomas doesn’t leave her passion for diversity and allyship in the office. Earlier this year, she and her partner Samantha Yuen Mak founded INCLUDE ME 2 (Identifying New Cycles of Learning to Unleash Diverse Evolution through Meaningful Events), a human-centric diversity and inclusion consulting agency. “Our purpose is to bring events like the Guide to Allyship to other companies that need help finding interpersonal connections among their employee group,” she says. The company works with small to large businesses to create immersive experiences and facilitate cultural shifts within organizations.
Exercises like the Guide to Allyship and others provided by INCLUDE ME 2, allow people to experience the discomfort felt by minorities when they are the target of microaggressions and other problematic behavior. “Through these feelings, we are able to unpeel layers of unconscious bias and move towards a world or workplace where everyone feels they have the right to belong and can bring their authentic selves to work,” she says.
Thomas has always been committed to bringing her authentic self to the forefront of every experience. She credits her supportive family as a big part of her inspiration. “My mom grew up in homeless shelters throughout New York City, and my father is an immigrant from Jamaica who also grew up in poor environments,” she says. “Seeing what they established when the odds of the world were against them is the energy I dig into daily.”
For Thomas, her education has been the key needed to unlock doors. “Standing by my belief system has never failed me,” she says. “In this world, we need to find strength in people’s courageousness to be themselves every day and encourage others to be brave enough to step into their greatness.”