Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone to Grow with David Hubbard, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Verizon

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Jennifer Simpson Carr: Welcome to the show, David. I’m excited to talk to you today. For our listeners, David and I go way back…

David Hubbard: Many, many years.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: We met for the first time at PMA Marketing Law Conference in Chicago in 2011. I know the name of the conference has changed, but we were kindly introduced by some of my favorite attorneys from Davis+Gilbert, who are still there.

David Hubbard: Yes, Ron Urbach and team.

Listen to Episode 73: Helping the Transgender Community Through The Name Change Project with Samantha Rothaus of Davis+Gilbert LLP

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I know you were a speaker that year. I was there supporting the Davis+Gilbert team. Then recently, we reconnected through a mutual friend, Leslie Wolfson of the Association of Corporate Counsel, New Jersey.

David Hubbard: Indeed, the wonderful woman that Leslie is. I am so grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with you and thankful to Leslie for making it happen.

Can you tell our listeners about your role at Verizon?

I currently serve as the lead for our Consumer Growth and Revenue Legal Team, which means I’m the lawyer for our chief revenue officer for the consumer business. My team and I have the great pleasure of providing support for Verizon’s consumer products and services and then consumer marketing.

Anytime you’re seeing Verizon on TV, from advertisements to social media, to all of our internet, TV, mobile devices, phones, all of our consumer portfolio of products, services, devices, we get the great pleasure of supporting the business on those from a legal perspective. It’s exciting work because it’s constantly changing, and we get to partner with the business very closely, which I’ve enjoyed throughout my career.

Can you tell us more about Verizon’s Legal and Public Policy Diversity Council, and what type of programming the council offers?

We have a long history in our Legal and Public Policy Organization for supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our council started well over a decade ago. In fact, I’ve probably served on it for probably the last 12 or so years. Our mission is simple. We exist to help support the hiring, retention, and advancement of diverse, legal talent, both inside Verizon and externally, where we partner with our law firm partners and industry bar associations.

We do a wide range of programming throughout the department. We have six committees. Our Pipeline and Engagement Committee supports our Legal Internship Program. I have the pleasure of leading and co-chairing that. We have a Communications Committee, which puts out a tremendous amount of content to the organization, focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’re in the midst of a 21-day allyship challenge where people sign up to receive messaging on allyship and programming every day. That includes things to watch internally, videos and clips, fantastic articles and resources. We consistently communicate about the efforts of people in the department and other programming that we have. We have fantastic programs and a content committee where we focus on a variety of programming for the organization. We are doing an anti-Asian hate AAPI reenactment of crucial trials that focus on hate crimes that were committed against our Asian American and Pacific Islander colleagues.

We have viewing parties that are happening throughout the country as well, which is pretty neat and exciting. We bring in a number of speakers to talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion. We try to focus on advancing DEI holistically. We have partnered with a wonderful organization called Meditation For Leadership on a meditation series. We do a monthly series that focuses on various aspects of personal development, including leadership development.

It was hugely important throughout the pandemic to spend some time reflecting on where we were in our lives. The meditation series has been hugely well-received for the organization. We have an international committee as well. We realized that we were very US-centric and we had left out some colleagues with some of our programming. Some of the things that we were focused on here weren’t necessarily resonating with our employees in Asia and in Europe. We created a committee, which has people from across the globe. They focus on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but they’re different and they’re tackling some different issues. They’ve also been really important to help us learn more about our colleagues in other places across the globe.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: Verizon has incredible resources available to its employees. It gives me the indication that they walk the walk. It is not just sharing AAPI resources, but allowing individuals to go through the process of what AAPI hate may look like. That is really putting yourself and your colleagues in the shoes of others, and that’s an incredible way to help that information resonate. I am impressed and it sounds as though that was just an abbreviated version of the resources that Verizon offers.

David Hubbard: We want to make it real. To your point, I think it’s really been important for us and our council over the years, with the great support of Craig Silliman, our general counsel, who has really allowed us to take an industry lead in terms of the types of programming and trying to create a culture in our department that is inclusive, authentic, and intellectually challenging. Yes, you can say that diversity, equity, and inclusion are important, and, yes, you can have some programming, but we have gone deep.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve had courageous conversations that have been very emotional. We created a cohort of empathetic conversations, which are small group conversations, to allow us as colleagues, who do not necessarily have shared experiences in life, to spend time talking to each other about who we are and how we’ve been affected by experiences.

Universally, people have commented that they’ve been so enriched by the opportunity to share, be vulnerable, communicate, and get to know colleagues better, in ways that we didn’t do as much in the workplace. We, Verizon’s employees, have created a unique community and environment that I think we’re all very proud of. Obviously, that takes work. We have to continue to work to have some challenging programming, to be honest with each other, and recognize that we always have room for improvement, but I’m really excited about all that we’ve accomplished over the years.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: Providing employees with an emotionally safe environment where they can have those, as you called them, courageous conversations is so important to personal and professional growth. I appreciate the phrase “courageous conversations,” because when we started this podcast a few years ago, Gina and others encouraged me to have some challenging conversations about DE&I and other topics. My instinct was, “Who am I to talk about that?” It was a challenge for me. I took the step to have those conversations, and I personally feel enriched.

I feel that I have learned so much, and I have become a better ally through these conversations because it has opened doors to learning. I can just imagine the culture that you’ve created, how empathetic and how aware your employees are as colleagues of the issues other groups may be facing, and how to support them in a way that helps them be the best that they can be in their roles and in their lives.

David Hubbard: Yes, absolutely. It is wonderful to hear you say that about your journey with the podcast, Jennifer. I’d like to say that the growth that we experience comes from expanding ourselves. It comes from those times or those places where we’re a little bit uncomfortable. There’s this great book that I love by Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You. It’s really about stepping into those uncomfortable places. Recognizing that in the end, on the other side of going through things, we become better and that our lives and our workplace are no different. In so many ways, much of what we are trying to do is truly create that space of psychological safety, but of challenge. It’s going to be a little bit uncomfortable. Many workplaces don’t want to do that. I’ve really been grateful for the opportunity to have that level of support at Verizon, but also working with colleagues that have the courage to keep pushing and live in a space that can be challenging for us all.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I really appreciate that, and that resonates with me. Because I feel like we’re a small team, we have 12 people right now, full-time, and every single person on this team is committed to learning and growing, even if it is a bit uncomfortable. We know that’s how change happens, so I’m excited to hear about the things that you’re putting into practice at Verizon. I know that you’ve been a big part of that.

You touched on a few topics that I would love to follow up on. The first is mental health. I heard you say that you started a meditation group. I know that the pandemic was a challenge for everyone in unique ways.

What were some of the challenges you faced as in-house counsel at a mega-company during the pandemic, and how did you overcome them? How are you still getting through them?

I think it is an ongoing journey because we’ve entered a new normal. In the new normal, most of us are in a hybrid working environment now, and I suspect that will be that way for years to come. What that really means for all of us is a period of change.

The pandemic was forced change. I can recall leaving the office at the time of coaching basketball, and we had a game that was canceled that night of March 12th, 2020. The thought was, “Wow. They canceled something in the NBA, too.” We were told that we’re going home from work, that we’re not coming back to the office tomorrow. But in a couple of weeks, we’ll all be back. In a week or two, we’ll move right back to normal. You know, what you resist persists in many ways. We all resisted the fact that this was going to be some life change, that we were going to go many months to two years before we were even back and working in the office again.

As such, you had so many people who were dealing with family issues, childcare concerns. There was one period when my wife and I were both here working out of the house. Both of our twin boys were here doing schooling remotely. We’re all on video calls; they’re in classrooms and on calls. We weren’t moving. We were just here in our house day after day, week after week, month after month. That was challenging.

We were all going through similar things. That was just my journey, but everybody was going through it. Those were challenges to our way of life. Candidly, the mentality that I had to have that worked for me was, “I’ve got to embrace this.” I’ve got to embrace the fact that I’m going through a period of change and get to know myself a little bit better because I had more time with myself than I ever could have possibly imagined at times. I got to the weekend and there was no place to go. Restaurants weren’t open. We weren’t traveling. We weren’t getting away. There weren’t sporting events. So, I was home. I was reading, I was meditating, and I was able to get to know myself better. The pandemic worked out well for me in that respect. I feel like I grew a lot in terms of the whole “know thyself” model of life, and I realized how I’m fueled by strengthening my mind in ways that I hadn’t before.

At the same time, as a leader, I have a team of people and attorneys who are all on a personal journey, and who were all dealing with things differently. We had people in our families that went through COVID and health crises. We had mental health challenges with people who were going through bouts of loneliness, depression, alcohol abuse, and other things. I’m not personally saying our team. These were just the realities that everybody was dealing with, and we had to make space for that. The fact that this is a change and we’ve got to get used to it. People had fatigue. We’re looking at each other on Zoom and computer calls all day, and we’re seeing kids run around in the background and dogs and animals.

One of the things I said to my team was, we had to make all of that okay, because that is the reality we are living. You have to make it all okay, and we had to embrace the window that we got into each other’s lives that we didn’t have before. Not only did I learn more about myself, but I learned a lot more about my colleagues and their home lives.

I think I mentioned the meditation series that we did. That was really important, but one of the things that I did the most was increase and improve my meditation practice, as well as a practice of thinking more about other people too, whether you call that love and kindness or the likes of Tonglen.

Trying to bring that to the workplace was important. I wanted to bring positive energy to my team in the midst of a time when we were seeing negativity on the news constantly. I wanted to do my part to bring a vibe of positivity every day and try to stimulate happiness and joy. Facilitating happiness and joy – what better role to play in an organization than being the type of leader that tries to do that? Whether I succeed or not, I don’t know, but that had to be an intentional aspect of the way to run a call.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I don’t work with you every day, but several weeks ago, you and I had a quick prep call. It was very late in the day, and you had a smile on your face and you were so uplifting. Partway through the call, you told me that your commitment that day was “joy.” It was a long day for me, and I will tell you, it really resonated with me that you are a senior executive at a major company, and at four o’clock on a Monday or Tuesday, you got on may be your last call of the day, and you brought joy to that call. You made that call such a nice experience for me, and it resonated with me that you had committed to joy in the morning. You pick something that you want to bring to your day, the impact that you are having on your colleagues. That’s amazing.

David Hubbard: Thank you for saying that, Jennifer. I am trying to be intentional in life. To your point, I try to focus on joy and happiness and laughter. I have created a practice of saying, intentionally, “What do you want to do? What do you want to communicate?” For my journey this week, I want to let peace and happiness speak through me. Because all we’re seeking in life is the ability to be happy.

There’s this Rumi quote – “Wherever I am, I am fine.” My interpretation of that right now is, regardless of the circumstance of the day, I am always going to be okay and I’m better than okay. It’s like when I’m talking to my kids and I’m like, “How was your day?” and they’re like, “Ah, it’s fine.” I’m like, “Well, it’s got to be more than that. Can you give me a little bit? Did good things happen today? Did bad things happen today?”

By and large, I have been immeasurably blessed in my life. I have had wonderful experiences. I’ve got this fantastic family. I work with tremendous colleagues who inspire me, who teach me, who educate me. I am living this wonderfully incredible dream. When I remind myself that this is a wonderful, wonderful world to wake up in, despite the problems.

We had a weekend of horror in Buffalo, where a white supremacist ideology that he quoted when he went into a store and shot people. There are horrible things that happen, but we live in a wonderful world, nevertheless. I don’t say that to make light of the fact that it exists, but in the face of horror, we do have to find that light that keeps us going, that keeps us positive. I want to help be part of that positivity.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I really appreciate you acknowledging the tragedy that occurred over the weekend, and certainly right now, it’s on everyone’s mind.

I agree with your point. It is sometimes hard to do, but if you can dig down deep and identify some bright lights in this world, they are there. Something that you said earlier about being in the home so much during the pandemic resonated with me.

People that know me know that my parents live with us. They moved in after they retired, and I have a seven-year-old. There was a point in time when I felt so drained, and I was not going outside. I walked up the stairs at one point, and barefoot because we were all working from home. My mom looked at me and said, “You haven’t been outside in three days. Please go for a walk.”

The thought of putting shoes and socks on was exhausting to me at that time. I looked at my daughter, and I thought she probably needs this too. I said, “Why don’t we throw on some flip-flops and take a walk?”

We walked around the block, we talked, and that became what she now calls our “flip-flop walk.” She would wait for me to finish work. She would wait for me to come up the stairs, and she’d have our flip-flops by the door and say, “Are we going to go on our flip-flop walk now?”

During this time that was so heavy – we couldn’t leave the house, people were wearing masks, and my husband was the only one in our home going to the grocery shopping – the end of the day, which was so long for me, turned into a time that I looked forward to. Because there was a bright light waiting at the front door with my flip-flops. We would just go walk around the block and pick flowers and talk.

David Hubbard: That’s great.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I appreciate you sharing that perspective because that moment in the pandemic changed my perspective and helped me think about where I can find the joy in the day that we had, regardless of being “stuck inside.”

David Hubbard: That’s beautiful. The forced slowdown of the pandemic brought me so much time with my family far more than I realized I was missing. I love sports, and I’ve had the pleasure of coaching my boys for many years in basketball and soccer. I’ve always made it a point to get to their games.

But what I didn’t realize is that I was missing daily dinner constantly, because I was in the office. I’m rushing home and we’re just throwing something in. My wife would cook some wonderful meals, and they had eaten it. Here I come, catching up right before they go to bed. Well, having two years straight of dinner with the family and the conversations and time we were able to spend, I’m so grateful for the ability to just slow down and realize how important that time is. I was missing a ton of it. What a wonderful reminder of what we have right here all the time, that we sometimes just don’t pay enough attention to. 

Are there any resources that you’d recommend for anyone looking for information on meditation or mental health?

For people in the corporate world that we are in, I highly recommend reading the resources that Meditation 4 Leadership makes available. They have tremendous resources on their website. I will tell you, their partnership has been tremendous for us in our organization, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t start there.

We mentioned our lovely friend, Leslie Wolfson, and I do have the pleasure of serving on the ACC New Jersey board. I’ve worked with Leslie a bunch on programming, which includes the mental health program that she’s put together for ACC New Jersey. We’re currently actually working on doing a meditation series later this summer.

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I think there are some fantastic podcasts, whether it’s Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday podcast, Brené Brown, Lewis Howes’ Schools of Greatness, or The One You Feed. There’s so much wisdom that is right at our fingertips when we get some time to just tap in. I read this book called The Daily Stoic every day, and there’s also a Daily Stoic podcast that I highly recommend. The author is Ryan Holiday. It’s called 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living. It’s a short book. I have committed a practice of reading and listening to a number of things to get in the right frame of mind. I highly recommend that for other people too.

My practice might not work for many, but find your own practice. I love gospel music. I just listened to this gospel song this morning called Wait On You. That was part of my Peloton ride, but now that’s part of my process. I love that song. It makes me happy and it brings me joy. If I can hear it at 6:45 in the morning, that’s going to help set the tone for my day, and so it’s now part of the process.

Who is your favorite Peloton instructor?

Oh. That’s tough. I used to do a number of Chase Tucker classes before he left Peloton. He has a similar philosophy in life to me, which is focusing on positivity and sharing words of wisdom. All the instructors are great. I love Robin’s courses. I love Jess Sims and her courses. I love Jermaine Johnson. I love Kendall.

I can’t say I do a ton of yoga, but I do the meditations there, too. Chelsea Jackson Roberts, a tremendous instructor. Aditi and her meditations. I’ve tested most of the instructors by now, and I can’t say I’ve found someone who I don’t like or resonate with. When I started, I used to do a bunch of Alex Toussaint rides and really enjoyed his intensity.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I got a shoutout on my 100th ride by Alex and I have the moment he said my name framed near my Peloton.

David Hubbard: That’s great. More Peloton stories to come.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I want to talk a little bit more about the Council. You mentioned that your goals are attracting and retaining diverse talent. I had the great pleasure of hearing you speak at LegalWeek earlier this year, and your session was on prioritizing actionable DE&I metrics that matter. A lot of the conversation revolved around the retention part, which I found fantastic. You spoke on opportunities as a colleague, as a leader, as a mentor, to open doors and provide opportunities and exposure for your diverse colleagues, so they’re in front of the people who can bring them up through the ranks and support their growth.

Can you talk about the responsibility we each have to lift each other up and open doors for one another?

As a young Black attorney many years ago, I didn’t see enough people who looked like me. I didn’t have attorneys in my family to speak to and get some guidance and advice. I felt like I was playing it by ear and trying to figure it out as I went.

My parents have always said part of their journey was to provide opportunities for me that I didn’t have. If I extrapolate that into the professional world, as someone who has been practicing in this field for a good while, I feel obligated and honored to be able to support the next generation through providing access, guidance, wisdom, and information to young attorneys on their way. Because I remember what it was like to be on that journey.

That’s one of the reasons we’ve focused on diverse talent with our pipeline internship program that we have at Verizon. We’ve also partnered with a number of law firms to provide those same opportunities, and we have executive sessions with interns as well. It’s so rewarding to provide an opportunity and guide the journeys of young attorneys.

It’s been an enriching experience, and I know we’ve made a tremendous difference over the years. I see some of our interns who’ve got these promising careers at wonderful, big firms and some have gone other paths, but they’re practicing law and speak highly of the time that they’ve shared. I believe in CANEI, which is constant and never-ending improvement.

This year, we focused on an HBCU pre-law internship. We are partnering with Greenberg Traurig to start a program that focuses on HBCU students while they’re in college and provide an internship opportunity for them as they’re preparing for law school. We’re giving them a chance to understand what corporate in-house practice is like with Verizon, as well as major law firm practice at a wonderful firm like Greenberg Traurig.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the fact that we have an Engaged Excellence Program. This is not for college students or even law students; it’s actually for diverse associates and young partners at law firms. We connect them with people internally and have them speak on their areas of expertise. They’ll put on a CLE at Verizon or in a broader forum, where people get to see this fantastic talent and develop those relationships and networking.

Sometimes proximity and exposure are all that we really need, and those are efforts to increase and enhance proximity and exposure of diverse talent to opportunities like this.

Could you tell us about Sweet Reads and where people can learn more?

 You can learn more about it on sweetreads.org. Also, you can find Sweet Reads on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. My wonderful wife, Tamiko Hubbard, is the executive director.

I think Sweet Reads is the most impactful work that we do. We were able to witness our boys light up when they started reading books. Their worlds changed. Their imagination changed. Forget about just the academic things. Their vocabulary increased. Their desire to read and learn and their ambition for knowledge increased as they were reading books as three-year-olds and four-year-olds and five-year-olds.

There are a number of people, mainly underserved and unfortunately far too often people of color, in this country that don’t have access to books – just books to read, to stimulate the minds of children. Sweet Reads exists for that purpose. It is to help get books in the hands of children, to inspire a lifelong journey and love of reading and learning.

We’ve had wonderful partnerships with Barnes & Noble and a number of organizations like Success in Motion, and we’ve partnered with schools all throughout New York City. We’ve had the pleasure of delivering books throughout the Northeast, to Missouri, to Puerto Rico, to Haiti, to Nigeria, to Ghana. We’ve helped build libraries in these places, so students have access to books. We appreciate any donations, support, or partnership that people have and see fit. It is a tremendous journey, and it is our way of trying to have a positive impact on our greater community.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: Thank you so much for joining me today. I appreciate you being so candid, open, and honest about the pandemic and other things going on in the world.

About David Hubbard

David Hubbard serves as Vice President & Deputy General Counsel for Verizon Communications. He is located in Basking Ridge, New Jersey and leads Verizon’s Consumer Marketing, Products, Growth and Revenue legal team which provides support for Verizon’s portfolio of Consumer businesses including Verizon Wireless, Verizon Telecom, Verizon Consumer Markets, and Visible, among others. He and his team provide support to Verizon Consumer Group’s Chief Revenue Officer and are responsible for providing legal counsel and guidance for all consumer products, devices and services; business initiatives and national advertising and marketing campaigns targeting consumers in all media; marketing strategy; advertising litigation; regulatory and network compliance; promotions; sweepstakes; external communications; corporate responsibility and compliance with state and federal regulations as well as applicable consumer protection laws. In addition to the above, Mr. Hubbard previously led Verizon’s Intellectual Property and Digital media legal teams and served as the General Counsel for the Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon which is dedicated to solving critical social issues in the areas of education, healthcare and energy management, particularly in underserved communities.

Prior to joining Verizon, Mr. Hubbard was an associate with Kelley Drye & Warren LLP (formerly Collier Shannon Scott, LLP) in Washington, DC. He earned his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A., cum laude, from the University of Maryland at College Park, where he was a Phi Beta Kappa and Benjamin Banneker Scholar. He currently serves on board of directors for a number of organizations including: the Better Business Bureaus National Programs Organization –which is dedicated to fostering trust, innovation and competition through self-regulation, monitoring, and dispute resolution; the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York — which fosters honest and responsive relationships between  businesses and consumers; Brightpoint Care — a leading nonprofit provider of high-quality medical and mental health care as well as social support services to people, families and communities challenged by health disparities; Employment Horizons — a not-for-profit agency providing comprehensive employment, training and job placement services to people with disabilities and other disadvantages; and the Association of Corporate Council of New Jersey — which provides legal education, networking, pro bono opportunities and career advancement.  In addition, he and his wife, Tamiko Hubbard, co-founded Sweet Reads, a literacy-based non-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring an early love of reading by providing children in underserved communities with books.

Mr. Hubbard is the Co-chair of Verizon’s Public Policy, Legal, & Security Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, and also oversees Verizon’s Legal Internship Program. He is a member of the Maryland Bar Association, District of Columbia Bar Association, National Bar Association, and American Bar Association where he previously served as co-chair of the Section of Litigation Internet & Privacy Committee. He is also a recent recipient of Verizon’s Credo award in July 2020, which honors employees who exemplify Verizon’s core values action and have a positive mark on their teammates, Verizon’s customers and our communities in a significant way. He was also named to the Lawyers of Color “Hot List” in 2014, featured in Modern Counsel Magazine in 2016, highlighted as one of America’s most influential Black Lawyers by Savoy magazine in 2018, and one of the Nation’s Best Lawyers of Color in 2019.

Learn More and Connect 

David Hubbard

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-hubbard-8a05a47/

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