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The Face Behind the Internal Incubator: Zach T.

Have you ever wondered who’s the Face Behind Internal Incubator? Check out our latest article highlighting the man behind the curtain, Zach T (he/him), Associate Manager, Employee Engagement, Events & Innovations.

“As a kid, if you would have told me I would be working a corporate job, I would have said no way!”

Growing up in the small town of Berrien Springs, in S.W. Michigan (a legit village and population of a little over 1,800), Zach had bigger dreams of becoming an actor.

“I loved being on stage making people smile and laugh, it came naturally to me and just felt right,” he said.

This passion led Zach to pursuing a career as a performer working for Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Live, and Disneyland with the idea of corporate life nowhere in sight. Little did he know that he would be doing the unthinkable very soon.

“Basically, my contract was ending, and I needed a job. A friend mentioned to me that Taco Bell was hiring for a short-term contractor role that was more customer service-based, so I didn’t think I’d stay too long.”

The role was in Taco Bell’s operations department, meaning Zach had to call restaurants and inform the restaurant leaders of incoming new technology.

“Was I tech savvy? (Get it? Cause I used to portray Captain Jack Sparrow?) ... not at all, but using my skills as an actor, I created my own script and used the art of storytelling to help our teams understand the new system.”

As Zach was navigating the corporate environment, he was really growing his skills and falling in love with the brand. So, when a job opened within the Human Resources (HR) department, he ran for the opportunity and landed the role. It was an employee engagement role that leaned into his creative side and helped employees feel like they had a sense of belonging at The Bell.

Right off the bat, Zach started taking on many exciting projects. One of them was helping create Live Más Pride, Taco Bell’s first Business Employee Resource Groups (BERG), proving to be a pioneering moment for the brand.

“Back in 2020, some of us had already formed a small group doing events for Pride month. We just didn’t have the name. With everything that was happening at that time, Taco Bell decided to take action and officially create BERGs. We filled out a formal application for ‘Live Más Pride’, making us the first-ever BERG at Taco Bell.”

At the same time, the CEO Mark King, had just launched his vision of Restless Creativity.

Restless Creativity is this fiery spirit to empower Taco Bell employees to channel their creativity and pursue the impossible. So, when Mark came to us with a mission to bring his vision to life, Natasha (our fearless leader) and I put our heads together and long story short, the Internal Incubator program was born. This program invites everyone – all levels, all corners of the business – to help solve a business challenge. I’ve been fortunate enough to see the entire process and evolve the program every year.”

Speaking of evolution, Internal Incubator has gone through some major changes which has made the program even more fire!

“When we first started, the eight-hour virtual workshop only involved the five-step design process and solving the business challenge. With Internal Incubator 2.0 in-person, we held a panel with corporate field members to speak on the challenge, created an excursion for an immersive experience, and dedicated an entire day to brainstorming bold solutions.”

Since launching, Taco Bell has held seven different sessions focused on different challenges which has led to several ideas coming to life post-Incubator such as Menu Blast and the Employee Lounge... just to name a few (with more coming soon).

For Zach, this groundbreaking experience has taught him about the business, his own leadership style and ability to work in a cross functional environment.

“[This experience] has taught me how one can break through self-imposed limitations of saying ‘but no’ by replacing it with ‘Yes And’. This phrase causes a culture shift within yourself that breaks the mold of conventional thinking. It forces you to start accepting the fact that you can always build on whatever idea you have and make it reality. The possibilities are endless when a program like this unlocks abilities people didn’t know they had.”

As much as Zach loves the captivating ideas that come out of Internal Incubator each year, his favorite part is seeing the participants grow in their personal and professional lives.

“I love seeing people experience their ‘A-ha’ moment and understanding how it has impacted individuals. You can tell that they really feel inspired to make a change outside of day-to-day roles post-Incubator.”

Looking to the future, Taco Bell hopes to build out an Internal Incubator playbook to expand the program even more.

“Innovation is never-ending, so giving power to the people to create business solutions showcases that good ideas come from anywhere, the core of Restless Creativity. Most people put all of their focus on improving the skills they lack, but I always advise to focus on the things you are also good at. By nurturing my strengths, I’ve grown in unexpected ways, and everyone can too if they give it a shot,” said Zach.

This year, Internal Incubator kicked off on July 17-18 in Huntington Beach, CA with a focus on Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Taco Bell will host this new group of re-energized employees to use the power of collective creativity to solve this question: How can Taco Bell continue to strive to be the most inclusive place to work? Participants will be encouraged to come up with ideas that advance Taco Bell’s recruitment, retention, and engagement strategy to ultimately create a more inclusive environment at the Bell.

Stay tuned for more...

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Celebrate Pride Month.