ISE Q&A With Brooks McCorcle, President, AT&T Partner Solutions

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Her Take on B2B2B, Crowdsourcing the Search for Talent, and Being a Recovering Perfectionist

As President of AT&T Partner Solutions, Brooks McCorcle is reinventing how AT&T thinks about distribution, and is offering customers more choices in how to build, grow, and profit with the AT&T Global Network. She infuses the AT&T Foundry® principles of openness, collaboration, innovation, and agility into the culture of her organization. The breadth of her experience, combined with her passion and boundless energy, makes her a respected leader who inspires teams and delivers results.

AT&T Partner Solutions brings to the channel 3 different go-to-market models: 1.) AT&T Partner Exchange® reseller program, 2.) AT&T Wholesale (including Global Wholesale), and 3.) ACC Business (an alternate sales agent program). Bringing these 3 models together under 1 organization has helped bring agents, solution providers, and wholesale customers more flexibility to choose how they want to work with AT&T.

ISE magazine: Explain what you do for a living in 20 words or fewer.
McCorcle: I lead a business unit with $6.2 billion in annualized revenues that focuses on third-party distribution for the business market.

ISE: Tell us the most extraordinary/unusual experience you’ve had in your telecom career.
McCorcle: About 3-1/2 years ago, I received a call from AT&T’s CEO for Business Solutions. Given I led a consumer team at the time, I knew in that instant that my career was likely to take a turn, and I was right! Waiting for me on the other end of the line was the opportunity to create a completely new way for AT&T to go to market, serving mid-market business customers through other companies — think business-to-business-to-business (B2B2B).

Now, I had experience in consumer sales and marketing, finance, and investor relations roles over my 25 years with AT&T, including having launched new products, new lines of business, and leading large operations. But, not for business customers. This was unknown territory for me. When I pointed out, “You realize I don’t have any experience in the business market,” he simply said, “That’s precisely why we chose you.”

As it turned out, I was unencumbered by the traditional confines of how business was done, allowing me to approach the opportunity in a new and different way. It was uncomfortable and exciting all at the same time. And with the chance to take on a new challenge at my fingertips, I raised my hand.

Since that call, I crowdsourced a team of top talent from different functions across the company, and together, we created a first-of-its-kind reseller program from scratch. We launched the reseller program, AT&T Partner Exchange®, in 90 days, and signed multiple customers on our very first day in the market.

It’s been influential both in the industry and the company. Other vendor programs are beginning to mirror what we’ve created. And in October 2014, our wholesale business and an agent-based model were added to my portfolio, leading to the launch of AT&T Partner Solutions. This new organization has allowed me to expand the innovative culture, thinking, and technology we employ in AT&T Partner Exchange across other indirect business models in the company. It’s been an incredible experience that continues to stretch me each and every day.

ISE: How did you employ crowdsourcing to attract talent? How did that work out — and would you change it in any way?
McCorcle: Crowdsourcing talent was the first step I took after accepting the challenge to build a completely new business model for AT&T. I wanted to create something completely different, and I knew that I didn’t have all of the answers or skills needed to make it a reality on my own.

I picked up the phone and called leaders from a variety of functions across the company, asking to borrow their best and brightest talent. By the time I was done, I had amassed a group of 30 of the smartest folks from different backgrounds within AT&T, representing all the roles needed to stand up a business. We started in a small, blue room at one of the AT&T Foundry innovation centers in Plano, Texas, where the principles of agility, openness, innovation, and collaboration were paramount. Today, still co-located at the AT&T Foundry, we’ve grown tremendously in terms of customers, leaders, and space, with roughly 60,000 square-feet dedicated to AT&T Partner Solutions.

A majority of the original 30 have since rotated to different positions within the company, which I couldn’t be more proud to see. They are continuing to grow in their leadership while spreading the culture of what we developed together to help transform other parts of the business.

ISE: Name 3 things you look for in the talent you hope to attract.
McCorcle: Whether it was the 30 I crowdsourced or the new talent we bring in today, 3 of the top traits I look for are 1.) curiosity to inspire innovation, 2.) agility to stay ahead of the market, and 3.) accountability to foster trust across the team. I believe in lifelong learning and retooling, so, for me, the potential and passion you bring to the job far outweighs how many boxes on the required list of skills you’re able to check.

ISE: What are some ways you keep your team members engaged?
McCorcle: I strongly believe that a creative, curious culture is a hard asset, and not one that can be easily replicated. The AT&T Partner Solutions team is encouraged to ask What would it take? — not Can we do it? And our open, collaborative environment empowers everyone across all levels and functions to speak up, make decisions, push the boundaries, and contribute to results.

To stay engaged, it’s essential that everyone feels ownership and pride of the shared goal, so not only do I aim to be transparent in my communication, but I also work to foster trust and accountability within the team. This happens naturally as we innovate and solve problems together. But to make it even more meaningful, our culture has created a true community that encourages people to connect on a variety of levels — whether it’s food trucks we bring in for lunch, celebrating personal and professional milestones, game tables that infuse fun competition into the day, or community service projects that extend outside of the working hours.

It’s also incredibly important to show appreciation for the team’s hard work and commitment to results. We celebrate each and every win, which only heightens the team’s excitement in and engagement around reaching our defined goals.

ISE: Share your favorite book, and why it’s top on your list.
McCorcle: The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble is one of my favorites. It is both a strategic guide for turning new ideas into meaningful innovation, as well as a practical how-to guide for how to execute that strategy, from defining the opportunity, to picking the team, to setting the common purpose, to measuring success and learning. I paired key learnings from this book with guidance from my team, peers, and mentors to successfully execute my vision for the program.

Referencing back to the authors’ work, I try to continuously put a new lens on as I view the needs of the marketplace, keeping my ideas and approach fresh.

ISE: You’ve referred to yourself as a recovering perfectionist. I’m sure some of our readers would like to join you on that road to recovery. Please share some of your past perfectionistic challenges and how you’re changing for the better personally and professionally?
McCorcle: You know, I think there is a false belief that when we start out in our careers or look to advance in our careers, we think we have to be perfect. It’s natural to not want to make a mistake, and it’s frightening to take on something new when we don’t feel 110% qualified.

The need to be perfect is paralyzing, and, as a former “gold star junkie”, I can tell you firsthand that being perfect doesn’t always equate to being successful. With the pace that technology moves, there is more risk in not making a decision and missing a market cycle than making a strategically calculated move — even if your solution or recommendation isn’t perfect. You just need to be prepared to adjust as you go.

And when you make a mistake, learn from it and move on. This is always harder than it sounds. Especially since practicing perfectionists tend to hold on to their mistakes, dwelling on what they could have done better and worrying that their sterling record is now marred beyond recovery. But the sooner you can put it behind you, the sooner you can turn your full attention back to what matters — creating results for the business.

It’s also important to realize that the more responsibilities you take on, the less time you will have to spend on each. So surround yourself with a strong, smart team that you can trust, and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve when you’re not weighed down by the need to personally have all the answers.

ISE: Building the next generation of women leaders in the ICT industry is critical. What would you like to see the industry do to help achieve that goal? What would you like to do personally to help?
McCorcle: When you look at the many studies out there, it paints a bleak picture of tech’s ability to both attract and keep women in the industry. In order to build the next generation of women leaders, we need to nurture an environment that encourages their success — one that prompts them to stay rather than leave.

I’m proud to work for a company that truly enables women to reach their highest potential. With men and women working together to create meaningful change, I believe we’re setting an example for the industry. Because the reality is, it takes both men and women to build the next generation of women leaders.

Personally and organizationally, we all have a role to play. Whether it’s introducing young girls to the possibilities of tech, creating a welcoming environment for young women as they enter ICT studies and careers, or serving as a mentor for others to help them understand their potential, we can all make a difference.

I’d also like to put it out there that you don’t have to come from tech to succeed in tech. So if you’ve been holding yourself back from exploring an opportunity because you feel you don’t have the background, raise your hand. And if you’re a hiring manager, I’d implore you to look beyond a candidate’s current skills to the candidate’s potential.

As a proof point to this, the technical lead in charge of creating automation and self-service tools for AT&T Partner Solutions has a background in business, but not necessarily a technical background. I saw her ability to look at things differently and appreciated her tenacity to solve problems, so I hired her. As a result, she’s created technology solutions that make it easier to do business with us, streamlining and simplifying complex processes for our customers. Moreover, her work earned her the 2016 Black Engineer of the Year Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution. It’s amazing what can happen when you give someone a chance and provide them with an environment to succeed.

Over her 25-year tenure with AT&T and its predecessor companies, Brooks McCorcle has held positions in Mergers & Acquisitions and Finance, and executive positions in Consumer Marketing, Customer Care and Sales. Previously, she led Investor Relations for AT&T, where she directed financial communications and maintained relationships with institutional investors and analysts around the world. Brooks has garnered more than 20 accolades for her innovative channel approach, including Global Telecoms Business’ 50 Women to Watch in Telecom in 2015; FierceTelecom’s Women in Wireline 2015; Dallas Business Journal’s 2015 North Texas Women in Technology Award; CRN’s 2014, 2015 and 2016 Channel Chiefs: The 50 Most Influential; and The VAR Guy’s Top 50 Channel Influencers for 2015.

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About Author

Janice Oliva is President and Assistant Editor for ISE magazine and ISE EXPO. Email: joliva@isemag.com

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