AT&T’s Jalayna Bolden secured $3.1B for Black businesses during the pandemic

Jalayna Bolden (Photo courtesy of For Beauty Sake by Tavia Whitlowe)

Jalayna Bolden graduated from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She currently leads the AT&T supplier diversity team, which ensures AT&T maintains a diverse supplier base of minority, women, service-disabled veterans and LGBTQ+-led businesses. Bolden’s passion for supporting minority-owned businesses started as a federal contracting officer for the U.S. Department of Defense. She went on to earn her MBA in Finance from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.

What sets AT&T’s supplier diversity program apart from other corporations?

Our program began in 1968. In 52 years, we have spent more than $187 billion with women and minority-owned segments. Currently, AT&T has one of the top supplier diversity programs in the country. We were one of the inaugural members of the Billion Dollar Roundtable, an organization comprised of a very select group of corporations that spend $1 billion annually with women and minority-owned suppliers.

What are you most proud of about your career at AT&T?

Being a part of our company’s transformation from a telephone company to a modern technology, media and telecommunications company, and offering products and services that change the way we work and play, [as well as] AT&T’s commitment to spend $3 billion with Black-owned businesses by the end of 2020. I led the strategy and efforts to meet the goal, which we surpassed. We ended up spending $3.1 billion.

How did the $3 billion commitment to Black suppliers begin?

We realized the world was changing. The economic inequalities in the U.S. became more apparent and we knew, as a leader among Fortune 10 companies, we had a voice and could make a difference — so we researched and realized that within the Black segment, there were opportunities to increase the number of suppliers within our global supply chain, as well as the amount we were spending.

What advice do you have for diverse businesses seeking to become an AT&T supplier?

The first thing I would say is to do your homework to understand what our current business focus is and then how your company’s product or service can support us. We are very dynamic, and we are transforming various aspects of our business.

Also, be able to articulate your business proposition. Make sure that your company can bring complementary, or new, innovative solutions to the table. Sell us a solution, not just a product or service.

Make sure your company is certified diverse by a third-party certification organization. We rely on organizations like the National Minority Supplier Development Council or Women’s Business Enterprise National Council to provide certification services. Make sure to visit our website to find out more about our program.

What’s next for supplier diversity at AT&T?

This year, we are focusing on finding more qualified, diverse businesses with capabilities in our emerging areas: Enhanced 5G, fiber and First Net. We will also continue to grow the number of subcontracting opportunities for diverse companies.

To watch Jalayna’s interview with Munson Steed, CEO of Rolling Out, click page 2.

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