It takes a tremendous amount of dedication and perseverance to climb the corporate ladder at your workplace. Twenty-two years ago, Krista Bourne started at Verizon Consumer Group in its mailroom where she began to discover the needs of the company’s large customer base. Now, she’s a part of leading how the business runs daily to ensure it’s upholding its mission of quality service for over 100 million customers.
After having more than 10 roles to her name at Verizon Consumer Group, Bourne now holds the title of chief operating officer (COO) — making her the first Black woman to be in the role at the company. According to the c-suite executive, her drive to enact positive change is what helped her have a tunnel vision of reaching where she is now in her career.
“I charted my career to ensure that in every role I’ve had, through customer service, retail sales, and operations, I’ve been able to drive positive change through customer feedback,” she told AfroTech. “Now, I’m at the level where I get to drive transformative change for the entire Verizon Consumer Group. That’s 100 million customers using our services every single day.”
Bourne spoke with us about her roadmap to becoming COO, how her mission connects with Verizon’s, and the overall impact she hopes to leave on Black women through her story.
AfroTech: What would you say has kept you grounded while being at Verizon and working your way up for over 20 years?
Krista Bourne: I determined early on that I wanted to learn about the business and drive positive change through customer feedback. That is the way it started for me 22 years ago in the mailroom, reading about the issues customers contacted us about. I charted my career to ensure that in every role I’ve had, through customer service, retail sales and operations, I’ve been able to drive positive change through customer feedback. Now, I’m at the level where I get to drive transformative change for the entire Verizon Consumer Group. That’s 100 million customers using our services every single day.
To move through the organization, I established boundaries, such as how I spent my time that gave me the space to be the best I could be both personally and professionally while getting the most out of my career.
On a personal level, I wanted to be able to give my two children the gift of a debt-free college education. I’m very proud to say that my son, Daron, is a graduate of Howard University and my daughter, Jada, is currently an HU student.
AT: What specifically about the company aligns with you and what you strive for within your career?
Bourne: Verizon offers a wide range of career opportunities. While I have spent my entire 22 years on the consumer side, I have gained so much experience across more than 10 roles that I’ve held.
I also align with Verizon’s views on social impact and the commitment to diversity and inclusion. As a Black Woman, mentoring and uplifting women and people of color are important to me. Using my influence to make room at the table for others and prepare others to be at the table has been very rewarding and is necessary in order for us to evolve our world to a more equitable place.
AT: After reaching your recent milestone of 30 days as COO, what has been your biggest takeaway from the experience thus far?
Bourne: My biggest takeaway is that there is still so much for me to learn. To try to understand concepts and be able to connect them to other concepts, I like to dig deep. Simultaneously, there’s so much going on in the world such as new consumer trends resulting from the pandemic, workplace transformations, supply chain issues, and more. So while I’m learning, things are changing, but it all interconnects. It’s very exciting!
AT: Being the first in any big position typically comes along with some form of pressure. When you first learned that you landed the role, did you go through any level of imposter syndrome or did it instantly feel like your destiny?
Bourne: My role comes with a lot of responsibility, but when I got the job, my feelings weren’t as extreme as imposter syndrome or a feeling of destiny. I knew landing the role was the result of a combination of my past achievements and my potential to lead the team in the best direction. I have overcome many perceived obstacles throughout my career. From not having a college degree to navigating unspoken rules like networking and connecting through small talk. Experience has taught me that my ability to learn is one of my greatest strengths.
While I know that I am stepping into something really big, I embrace that I have a lot to learn. My colleagues will tell you that I am not afraid to ask questions and ask even more until I feel like I’ve got it. Being an eager learner has served me well.
AT: What do you hope young Black women learn from your journey at Verizon?
Bourne: I want them to know that whatever they desire for their career is within their reach. Sometimes we have to see something to believe that it is possible. I didn’t have a lot of role models, people who looked like me or enjoyed the same things I did. If my journey has been a vision of what’s possible for someone else, then I am honored to play that role.