Joshua Barrett didn’t think he’d ever be in a management position for a Comcast help desk call center in Colorado Springs. The 30-year-old began his professional life working in retail in Minnesota. But for the last 2½ years, he’s led a team of employees for the telecommunications conglomerate. Barrett is also a digital artist in his spare time and is a member of the current cohort of Leadership Pikes Peak. He lives with his wife, Dani, a tattoo artist, in Colorado Springs. The Business Journal caught up with Barrett to discuss Colorado Springs, COVID-19 and life as a Millennial professional.
Talk about your role at Comcast.
[Comcast has] agents that assist our customers directly. My employees assist those agents whenever they run into [problems]. When you call Comcast and [have] questions about your service, you need a new package and pricing, or you’re just trying toget set up, we have agents that help with that. But when those sales agents or loyalty team members end up [running into] roadblocks, ... my employees will assist that caller so that the customer doesn’t have to suffer waiting an hour for them to find a resolution. My team will come in and fix [the problem] so the sales or loyalty agent can get back to the caller and continue to provide an excellent customer experience.
How did you land in Colorado Springs?
I just recently moved here about a year ago from Minnesota. [I’ve] been with Comcast Corporation for about nine years now, and they had an opening in Colorado Springs. Minnesota was getting a little too cold for my taste so I thought I’d come check out Colorado Springs. Going through one of these Colorado winters, it’s a lot better than way up north.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
I get to help somebody every day. And whether it’s directly with a customer, another employee, or just my team members, I actually get to help and try to make changes for people. So I enjoy that the most.
Would you have thought 10 years ago that this is the job you would have?
To be honest with you, no. Ten years ago, I hadn’t even considered it. I was a supervisor at thrift stores and really stayed in the retail space, but somebody who worked for Comcast said, ‘Hey, you’re unhappy with your job. Why don’t you give Comcast a try?’ And I’m thankful for them that they brought that up to me because I joined and never looked back. And it’s been a great company to work for the last almost 10 years.
What position did you start with at Comcast?
I was one of the retention agents or like loyalty agents. So I started in helping people out when their services weren’t quite right, trying to find the right fit. So I started at entry level, and then just worked my way up.
What advice do you give to employees dealing with upset or stressed customers?
Imagine you or somebody that you know is on the other side of that line. If it’s your mother, your grandmother, father, son, brother, whatever it is, imagine that person on the other side is someone you care about, and treat them as such.
Has there any been anything that has really surprised you about the position you’re in?
From pretty much always being a frontline employee in other positions, [it’s surprised me] how much the senior leadership team actually cares about the frontline employees, the day-to-day. Usually in the front line, you just see ‘Here’s this big company I work for.’ Once you start moving up, you can actually meet the people who are making the decisions on behalf of the company. And they really have our best interests at heart. So that was kind of
surprising to see.
Comcast is a very large corporation. What do you think makes them successful at caring for employees?
I think it’s just a total culture shift, focusing on happy employees, happy customers. One thing we say is the customer experience will be our best product. And that’s not just for our customers, but also our employees as well. We want to make sure that every day that you come in, you’re excited to be there, and you want to do a good job for yourself as well as the people we support.
How has the pandemic affected your work?
Now we are in a working home space. So that was a new challenge to really overcome. And make sure that we were still there for our customers, while making sure that our employees were safe, and following any sort of mandates or guidelines from the government for a safe work environment.
How have you managed, as a manager and a supervisor, to help your employees navigate the last eight months?
Just having an open mind, essentially, being adaptable, flexible to change, and just being transparent. If there’s something I do or don’t know, I let them know. I don’t try to keep anything from them, or anything like that. We’ve come together almost closer as a team even though we are farther apart.
Do you think there’s anything in your path that really prepared you unknowingly to be in a manager position right now, during a global pandemic?
I guess the only thing I could tie it to is when I was in retail, any position I did have was very customer service focused. So just being able to get through to people and connect has kind of been the best preparation you could get, just being able to meet people on their level. Having that open communication that if [employees] are stressed out, they can tell me about it. They don’t have to just kind of fight through it. And we do have a lot of programs for employees that if they do have stress, they can get help if they need it.
Is that more important right now?
Absolutely. Because that’s something we have every year, but this year is definitely an important one to have employer guidance, resources, and even mental health resources. If the employee has our insurance, they will be able to get free sessions of guidance with a therapist to help [them] balance what’s going on in the world right now. Or, you know, we’ve had this for many years, just anything that might be going on in their personal lives to kind of help prepare them or at least give them a safe space to express themselves.
What career advice would you have for a young professional trying to figure things out?
Keep an open mind and work hard at the job you have, because if you can buckle down, work hard, do a good job, opportunities will open up. Maybe the plan that you have initially isn’t the plan you’re going to have five to 10 years from now, but just trust your gut, and do the best you can where you’re at.
What about advice on making that progression from entry level to management?
Really believe in your company. Believe in your company’s message, believe in what they stand for and be a part of that. You can lead from your seat, even if you’re not a leader. So, you can help people you work alongside, coach people that you work alongside, and just build people up. And in turn, that will give you great rewards.
What is one of the key ways that you keep checking in with yourself to make sure that you are growing professionally wherever you are?
Essentially, if I’m not learning something new. I need to be growing, whether that’s doing school outside of the regular work week or learning new aspects for the company I work for or the job at hand.
What are some of your larger career goals as you see the next decade unfolding?
I would like to pursue something in human resources. Around Comcast, we have made a $100 million commitment to diversity and inclusion, just accepting people, essentially. I would like to go to human resources to really help build that culture or build that environment. [It’s important to me] because I’ve had times where for different reasons, people judge me, people have excluded me from certain things. I feel like people shouldn’t be excluded, people should be able to be who they are, how they are. And we should just accept them and love them for it.