Two ERG Presidents Share How to Make Impactful Changes, Lift Others Up, and Grow Communities

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Alicia Schalla and Niki Garcia. Photos courtesy of DISH.

Alicia Schalla and Niki Garcia. Photos courtesy of DISH.

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When Alicia Schalla began her career at DISH, she was five months pregnant. “I was searching for a community,” she recalls, “and I found a small group called the Working Moms Group.” However, this group wouldn’t stay small for long. After the DISH Women’s Network launched, “the small group I joined to find a community turned into a larger community than I could have ever imagined,” notes Schalla. 

The group transformed into the Empowered Parents Network (EPN), the legal guardian and caregiver employee resource group (ERG) at DISH. And Schalla was at the center of this change. Now, in addition to her role as Program Manager II, Schalla tells us that she wears another hat within the company as the current president of this network.

“I am proud to have been a part of growing this organization to further serve and advocate for parents, guardians, and caregivers at DISH,” shares Schalla. “We have the opportunity to not only provide resources and community to our colleagues, but to make impactful changes to company policy to better serve and elevate parents throughout DISH.”

Schalla and the EPN group. Photo courtesy of DISH.

In her role as president, Schalla is focused on opening up lines of communication and connecting with people who were in the same situation she was so that DISH team members can continue to support one another and lift each other up.

This spirit of togetherness and empowering your colleagues is shared by Schalla’s coworker and fellow ERG leader, Niki Garcia. In addition to her role as a Senior TA Training and Communications Specialist, Garcia is also the President of the DISH Women's Network (DWN). “DWN is an employee resource group that strives to empower women to become leaders and create an inclusive work environment,” shares Garcia.

“DWN is committed to supporting the growth and success of members through training, networking, and mentorship as well as advocating for organizational change on behalf of women and underrepresented groups,” she explains.

Niki Garcia and a member of the DWN group. Photo courtesy of DISH.

Reflecting on her own journey to ERG leadership, Garcia tells us that she decided to accept the role as DWN president to “carry the torch” and “ensure that women at DISH have a significant community of support, allyship, and educational opportunities to create a inclusive and equitable environment for women in the workforce.”

“This role is an honor and a privilege to help define what equality in the workforce looks like at DISH and for the future women who choose to lead at DISH,” says Garcia. “As the percentage of women in the workforce continues to increase dramatically, we must ensure that equal compensation, opportunity, and equity are valued.” She emphasizes that ERGs like DWN help ensure that women will have an equitable seat at the table today and into the future.

Here, we got a chance to learn more about Schalla and Garcia’s career journeys, how they are empowering other women, why they like working at DISH, and more. Read on to see what they had to say.

To start, please share a few more details about your career journey and growth.

Schalla: I started my career as a HR professional in the nonprofit sphere. In 2017, I decided to branch out and focus further on recruitment, so I started with DISH as a contractor. A few months in, my leadership saw potential in me and pushed me to apply for a role that our larger team was hiring for. I had no experience and no idea what program management was, but five years later, I am so happy to have found a role that suits my skill set. I am always looking for opportunities to learn and grow as a person and professional; we’ll see what the future holds!

Garcia: My career has taken many twists and turns. I spent the majority of my career in government, from early education to the state department of corrections, as an educator and training coordinator. One of the greatest impacts in my career was learning emotional intelligence and applying it to learning models and relationships. Early in my corrections career, I had a female leader model her strength, compassion, and tenacity daily. I learned from her to always be my authentic self and consistently demonstrate fair and empathic leadership.  

My mom was also one of the greatest impacts on my career ambitions. She was a fiery go-getter. As a single mother, she often had to take me to meetings and the office on weekends. I grew a fondness for hard work and dedication from watching her.  

As you grow your career, how do you ensure that you are lifting other women up with you?

Schalla: Women, People of Color, first gen, and those from low SES backgrounds — there are so many people who we should lift up with us. Personally, I focus on building genuine connections and surrounding myself with people who are different from me. I search for and build communities, such as the Empowered Parents Network. 

As we continue to diversify the workplace, we are all learning that teamwork, not individualism, is what makes projects work. Share information, keep stakeholders in the loop, be a part of looking at who is in the room and who is not. Realize who is speaking and who isn’t. Then, give space. 

I’m ambitious, and I always have a professional development goal. But, the thing that truly makes me happiest is seeing what I’ve contributed to helping others succeed. Because when your team, department, and partners are excellent, it reflects on you, too! 

Garcia: I’ve spent more time being intentional about this. Recently, I searched for an emerging woman who is looking for the opportunity to improve her skills. I want to help her believe in herself and take her on a learning journey of self-discovery, including guiding her in speaking opportunities, inviting her to take on extra responsibilities, and ensuring that she is given opportunities to present herself in front of others.  

In addition, I think it’s really important to embrace allyship. There will only be change if we focus on allyship and provide opportunities for education and awareness of how important change is for everyone

That’s amazing! Stepping back a little, how does DISH support women on a company-wide level?

Schalla: DISH has made a serious effort to bring diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to the forefront of how we operate. I started this work when I began my career in HR, so I see that there is so much room to grow across all companies in the U.S., not just DISH. However, DISH is making it a priority to train leaders on how to positively impact their teams and results by not only embracing but empowering diverse people to thrive. We have a long road ahead of us, but I am proud of the steps that have been taken over the last few years. 

Garcia:  DISH listens to our needs. The willingness to listen and address our needs where and when they can is amazing. One example is that DISH ensured that hygiene products are readily accessible in every nonbinary and woman’s bathroom at all locations, including the field. This is a very simple way they show that they care. If it is important to you, it’s important to all of us.  

Is there anything else that you’d like to mention?

Schalla: Ask. For. Help.

Seriously. It took me too far into my career of saying “yes, yes, yes” and trying to do everything to realize it’s never sustainable. My favorite thing we say to each other when we start to get overwhelmed is, “we are a team!” Ask for help, and support each other

Garcia:  DISH is a unique company. It’s in a forever startup mentality, and this can be incredibly exciting and invigorating, but it does require team members to have grit and tenacity. If you are someone who wants to be part of something that is unique, innovative, and changing the way the world communicates, DISH is for you

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