AT&T’s Latoya Henry on Breaking Barriers Across Generations

Originally published at AT&T is a Hall of Fame company.


Resilience. Confidence. Endurance. Limitless Abundance. Breakthrough. Tenacity.

These are just a few words that I have witnessed throughout my life journey. Watching women like my mother break barriers and pave the way has given me permission to be authentically me in everything that I do. It’s who I am. I am stronger and wiser because of these women.

My mother broke the mold when she created me. It is her teaching, outpouring of love and great mentorship that has helped to shape the woman I am today. I have instilled these same fundamental values of generational excellence in my daughter. She is also a force to be reckoned with. I am honored to be her mother as I watch her lead the way in breaking down her own barriers.

Finding My Passions

Growing up near the Brightmoor area of Detroit, Michigan, I witnessed firsthand the impact drugs and violence had on the neighborhood. I was eight years old when I heard my first round of gunshots in the lower level where I lived. Devastated and confused, I watched the paramedics rush my father out of the house on a stretcher.

Crime, drugs, you name it. I’ve seen quite a bit. I’ve always had a passion for taking a stand, making a difference in my community and educating others. I continued to work in the Detroit community and became a respected leader. I decided to attend Central Michigan University to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Interpersonal and Public Communications; Mathematics to become a teacher.

I learned about resilience during the second semester of my freshman year. After a near-death experience that led to emergency surgery, a blood transfusion and 28 stitches, the doctors told my parents it was a miracle I was still alive. I knew God had bigger plans and that I was destined for greatness. I took a semester off from school to fully recover, then returned to school to finish my undergraduate degree. By the time I was 24, I had earned my master’s degree from Wayne State University. Having a second chance at life gave me purpose and hope. My faith grew stronger, and I was determined to go after my dreams.

My passion for educating others came to fruition when I became a teacher in the Detroit Public School District. I found myself in an all too familiar environment. The gang presence was strong and every other day one of my students was in a fight for their life trying to survive the streets. By my fifth year of teaching, I had attended one too many funerals. I remember being emotionally exhausted and never having the energy to play with my one-year-old daughter, Jala. That’s when I knew it was time for a change.

Beginning My #LifeAtATT

In the spirit of full transparency, AT&T was not on my radar for a job. Well, that was until an AT&T retiree convinced me otherwise. Growing up, I admired my mother because she was the smartest person ever. She was full of grace and poise, knew the corporate jargon and took care of her team. Leadership loved her. My mother was an Area Manager in the TIRKS group at (Michigan Bell, Ameritech) AT&T. Yes, I’m a second-generation (Michigan) Bell baby.

I started my AT&T career in the DSL call center in Detroit. Listen, if you can survive the call center life, you can work anywhere in the world. LOL! Those were some of the best times of my career, but I quickly sensed the competitiveness of the job and did not want to become a product of my environment. If there is one thing I learned early in my AT&T career, it is not to let anyone define you or put you in a box. I had big plans and I knew I was going to the top!

I relocated to Dallas, Texas as an Operations Manager in U-verse Tier 2. I was also a Quality M&P Manager and Chief of Staff. I worked in the Network organization for half of my AT&T career. Then the unexpected happened: I received a surplus notice. This is my first time publicly talking about it. What was meant to break me, saved me and landed me the perfect match in Corporate Communications. I call it a blessing in disguise. From that moment on, I took control of my journey. I became very vocal about the trajectory of my career. I didn’t necessarily have an ideal role. My focus was to showcase my talents and create jobs for myself. It’s true! That is how I ended up writing, producing and being on-air talent for Around the Globe and other newscasts.

I Am a M.A.G.N.E.T.

People often think there’s a secret to my success. The real answer? I just bring my full self to work every day. I don’t pretend to fit in, I am unapologetically and authentically me, that is the secret. I don’t look for excuses or let my past experiences define my future. I like to think of myself as a magnet. I attract all things that are positive and will elevate me to the next level.

Mentors are an amazing gift to yourself and career
Always be a continuous learner
Give back time in the community and to others
Network with people outside of your team and organization
Evolve and keep a positive mindset
The power in saying YES will take you places you’ve never imagined

I have experienced it all from surplus notices, being overlooked on promotions and opportunities and microaggressions of every kind, but none of those situations define who I am. All those things happened for a reason. It rebirthed that purpose that I found after my surgery in college. It pushed me into greater things and I found my destiny. I learned my worth, excelled in the areas where I added value and developed confidence that no one can take from me.

This is year 13 at AT&T and I absolutely LOVE what I do inside and outside of work. I am a Lead Manager of Communications and Public Relations on the Employee Communications team. I find creative ways to tell employee’s story. I’m a culture changer.

I found my voice and I use my platform to inspire others. Don’t let a rating, end of the year conversation, or the perception of others change your focus. You have it in you to be great, so go after everything you want. I could easily have given up, but my purpose is bigger than me and I have a 14-year-old daughter watching my every move.

I am an ordinary woman with an extraordinary story, ready to conquer my next endeavor.