If You Want To Make A Difference, Act
Rose Stuckey Kirk is chief corporate social responsibility officer for Verizon and a senior executive within the marketing organization where she oversees the strategic direction for all of Verizon’s social impact marketing activity. In addition, Rose is responsible for the company’s CSR investment strategy and programmatic buildout. Rose is an award-winning journalist and marketer and is executive producer of the documentary Without A Net: The Digital Divide in America.She has held numerous leadership positions in wholesale, operations, sales and customer service, product development and marketing. Additionally, she has served as lecturer, panelist and guest speaker on a host of topics including mobility in education, women in the workplace, and the role of corporations in creating a sustainable future.
I had the opportunity to interview Rose recently. Here are the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and its impact on your life. Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Rose Kirk: I grew up in Arkansas with a loving family built on strong American values. My parents had eight children and they instilled in us the importance of hard work, treating others with kindness and always striving to be our best possible selves.
I remember a day from my childhood that has forever impacted my life: I arrived at the first day of school in 6th grade without pencil or paper. My teacher, Mrs. Alma Jackson, chided our class, took out sharpened pencils and gave them to us, had the one child who had brought a notebook to class share her paper with us and all the while she lectured us. This moment, which I still remember so vividly, became one of the most defining moments in my life: it taught me the importance of being prepared and having the right tools. I think about that preparation when I show up for everything from one on one meetings with junior members of my team to speaking at the UN about our work in sustainability.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Kirk: Words have always been my strong suit and I started my career as a journalist. So, when I was ready to move on from journalism, I decided to pursue marketing and communications at a company that had the resources to do impactful things for society. I embarked on a fascinating and fulfilling professional journey, much of it here at Verizon. Today, I’m privileged to be Verizon’s Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer and President of the Verizon Foundation. It’s the combination I craved—to be a part of a company that is helping people and the planet because it is the right thing to do and good for business.
One of the most recent examples I’ve seen is Jeremiah, a young student from one of our Verizon Innovative Learning schools in Cleveland where we’ve brought educational experiences powered by 5G to life. Jeremiah had never seen a shooting star because there is too much air pollution in his area, but, for the first time in his life, and using a 5G-powered app in his classroom, he has seen full galaxies. If giving children the power to see the stars and creating a more digitally inclusive society isn’t making a true impact, I don’t know what is.
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice you have received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Kirk: Whether in education, nonprofit, business, media, policy or another industry, the individuals who have influenced me the most are the innovators—the leaders and change-makers who are pulsing the world forward. Those who don’t just talk—who act. They innovate because they want to lift up everyone around them. They are focused on bettering people and the planet and they know how to do it in a way that drives business goals.
In watching them, I realized very early that what matters is creating and driving change in a way that helps people all around you to rise up, and have more positive, meaningful experiences at work, at home and in their communities.
Griffin: Please give me the top three bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo.
- Honesty: always, no exceptions ever.
- Integrity: because leadership is all about transparency
- Purpose: what are you doing to make the world a better place?
Griffin: Please share with us any personal setbacks, obstacles and challenges you’ve faced since joining Verizon.
Kirk: Verizon is a company that is constantly changing, evolving, reinventing itself and demanding more of every individual. It can be challenging to keep pace with that change. But, despite the challenges and the moments of frustration and uncertainty, staying steady is the best solution to managing it all.
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious women who want to rise?
Kirk: I would tell them to think about their lives and their careers from a holistic point of view. Meaning to think of their whole selves. This is what sparks their creativity, brilliance and passion. I’d remind them they are all women who are rising, with a heritage and a legacy they will leave behind. Fill yourselves up, plant yourselves in that and make your roots deep, and ensure that your heart is always full.
And network! Do your research on companies and job opportunities and talk to everyone.