Dr. Charles Thomas Jr.
Vice President, Data Intelligence
Emerging Leader Nominee
1. Why do you believe CSR is an important part of your personal brand?
CSR is important to my existence because it reaffirms the power and importance of community. Throughout my journey, I have learned to value the necessity of corporate social responsibility because we cannot create sustainable success as individuals. As an African proverb teaches us, “Sticks in a bundle are stronger together.” CSR is important for me because it allows me to consistently demonstrate the values that I espouse. My active participation in life through various CSR related engagements affords me voluminous opportunities to engage with others in meaningful ways in an attempt to offer value. CSR is also important to me because it allows me to give and teach – two very important characteristics of my human existence. Dr. Maya Angelou challenges us to give when we get and teach when we learn. I take that clarion call very seriously. I am mindful that although I enter many events, organizations, and engagements as an individual, I know that I stand on the shoulders of the best of those that came before me. CSR engagement allows me to practice what I teach.
2. Do you believe that the CSR work you participate in should be affiliated with the work you/your company does?
I do not believe that my CSR work has to be affiliated with the work that my company does. My experiences indicate that it is usually easier to garner company support if one’s CSR activities are affiliated with the company’s work, but it is not a necessary condition for valuable CSR engagement. In my case, my personal values and my company’s values align. As a result, I have been successful in getting my company to support various organizations due to my personal engagement. Overall, CSR engagement should speak to the individual and should not be forced. One’s CSR work should reflect his/her belief system and values as well as align with his/her aptitude, abilities, and commitment to the pursuit of excellence within the chosen domain.
3. Do you believe contributing back to the community allows you to have a deeper connection with your clients/customers?
Yes. I very rarely speak in absolutes, but the answer to that question is undeniable. Contributing to the community definitely allows an individual to have a deeper connection with clients and customers. A civic and philanthropically minded individual understands that holistically, we are much better and much more powerful together than we are as individuals. A civic and philanthropically minded individual thinks systemically and works to connect the dots in ways that offer sustainable value to others. As an individual, I am certain that my civic and philanthropic engagement has deepened connections with my customers. A couple of months ago during a customer meeting, a team member asked me about a community event that I attended. After I explained the power and purpose of the organization, the customer called me into his office and informed me of his desire to engage at a much deeper and meaningful level within his home and community. I offered a few suggestions, brokered a few virtual introductions, and thought nothing of it. Last week, that same individual asked to speak with me again. With tears and sincerity in his eyes, he affirmed that his civic engagements have proven to be life transformative. He shared with me that prior to our talk he felt lost and was contemplating suicide because he felt devalued and forgotten. Unbeknownst to me, a few kind words and few suggestions made a real difference in someone’s life. So, again I say categorically and without hesitation, YES, contributing back to the community allows you to have a deeper connection with clients/customers.
4. What are some events or causes that inspire you?
Many events and causes inspire me to be better and do better. The three causes that have remained the most salient in my mind and continue to pull me into active participation over the last few years are social (e.g., race relations, mass incarceration, homelessness, domestic violence), health related (e.g., Make-A-Wish foundation, Alzheimer’s association, other mental/physical health organizations), and educational. My personal and professional experiences have given me deep insight into how those various causes can be interrelated and how understanding the inner workings of those domains can lead to effective humanistic problem solving. The more educated we are about issues of importance, the higher the likelihood that we are able to offer practical solutions that match the complexity, magnitude, and variety of the issues that we, as a collective, face within the social, health, and educational realms.
5. What advice would you give to individuals trying to find a cause in which to participate?
For individuals who are trying to find a cause in which to participate, I suggest that they give of themselves until something resonates. I suggest that they engage in critical self-examination, thoughtfully ask how they can be of value and service to others, and then proceed accordingly. In order to get in the game, an individual has to get near the game. The only way that can happen is by simply doing. There is no substitute for action. Well done is much better than well said. Finally, as we are all only travelers in this realm for a short period of time, I would offer to individuals trying to find a cause in which to participate the words of Etienne De Grellet – “I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to another human being, let me do it now. Let me neither defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”