Executive Insights With Veronica Bloodworth, Senior Vice President – Technology Service & Operations, AT&T

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TOPIC: 2019 NETWORK PLANNING —
Sharon Vollman, ISE: What are your priorities for network transformation in 2019? What C&E efforts will “move the needle” for AT&T in 2019?

Veronica Bloodworth, AT&T: As a company, AT&T has transformed into a modern media company. We offer premium content (including HBO, TNT, Turner), over-the-top and linear video, high-speed broadband, Ethernet, and wireless services including standards-based mobile 5G, as well as other capabilities. Underneath all these exciting products and services is a top-notch, high-speed network. We understand the importance of our network being available whenever, wherever and for whatever our customers need. To that end, our C&E organization works every day to ensure we plan, engineer, place, and splice, the fiber necessary to connect the network infrastructure that our products ride upon. In July, we will finish up our FCC commitment to build FTTP to 12.5M customer locations.

When disaster strikes, you can also expect this team will be part of the first to respond to ensure we restore
connectivity as quickly as possible. As part of our ongoing support of public safety, another important focus in 2019 is our Band 14 build. FirstNet is bringing first responders increased coverage and capacity and we’re putting Band 14 on tens of thousands of new and existing sites nationwide. The buildout is being done in coordination with states and public safety to give first responders greater access to the connectivity they need, where they need it. We’re still early in the build and have a lot of work left to do but we’re proud of how FirstNet has been delivering for first responders and the communities they serve when help is most needed.

TOPIC: 5G
ISE: AT&T launched its 5G Evolution technology in parts of 400 plus markets in 2018 and expects nationwide coverage in 2019. What is the most challenging part of this initiative? What are some of the lessons you and your team have learned from the process that you didn’t expect to learn?

Bloodworth: We’re building our mobile 5G network on top of the best network in the US, and that’s important because it’s truly an evolution to 5G. Our 5G Evolution technologies serve as the foundation for our 5G network. From the early trial days,we have continued to be focused on standards-based, mobile 5G. We launched our first 12 markets late last year and continue to enhance coverage and expand to more cities.

TOPIC: Flying COWs
ISE: As a response to natural disasters, including Hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018, AT&T’s Flying COW (Cell on Wings) was deployed to provide connectivity in hard-hit areas. What are future plans for Flying COWs? Will they be used only for disaster response? Or, will they expand for wider service delivery uses?

Bloodworth: We use drones for a variety of real-world network applications, such as inspecting network facilities and providing wireless coverage so that customers can connect to the network as part of disaster recovery efforts. In November of 2017, we deployed our helicopter Flying COW (Cell on Wings) in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. This was the first use of a drone delivering LTE service to commercial customers in a real-world disaster recovery situation.

Last year, we used our Flying COW in hurricanes Florence and Michael. Communications are crucial during times like these, and we will continue to explore and deploy when possible innovative solutions, like Flying COWs, to provide service when it matters most.

We also expect A.I. to become an increasingly important component of drones. For example, we’re exploring using A.I. to train a drone to scan a cell tower and automatically detect issues or abnormalities with the equipment. Although it’s in the early stages, this type of technology use shows promise.

TOPIC: SMART CITIES
ISE: How do Smart City efforts challenge the wireline and wireless networks? What are the biggest network infrastructure barriers to deploying all of the network equipment needed for Smart Cities to become BAU?

Bloodworth: Cities need real-time information for optimal, efficient operations. As more smart devices are deployed on the network to support IoT technologies, we’re going to see a significant increase in the amount of data that crosses our network. To support this, we will continue to build out fiber and densify our network with technology like small cells. We’re working with cities across the country to support this next-generation technology and the deployment of Smart Cities solutions.

In addition, we are also bridging the digital divide in communities across the US by providing IoT services such as Internet access, free Wi-Fi and digital kiosks with way-finding, maps, and public transit information.

TOPIC: CULTURE — The Underrated Skill of Being Nice
CNBC says that science backs a claim saying soft skills can boost your career: Studies show that a high level of emotional intelligence, or EQ, can make you wealthy and successful. “Global career development expert, Soulaima Gourani, tells CNBC Make It: “…what makes you most valuable is your ability to cooperate and connect with others. ‘A lot of jobs are going to disappear, but the thing that we will always have that is more important is your emotional intelligence.’” She defines that as having a “good understanding of yourself, self-control, empathy and a natural understanding of people’s decisions, needs and desires.”

ISE: Share your perspective about soft skills and success. How do you empower your team members to be nice and productive in a competitive industry such as ours?

Bloodworth: I agree with Mark Cuban’s view: people hate working and dealing with jerks. When you work at a large company, like AT&T, silos exist, and the key to making that work seamlessly is collaboration. If people don’t work together, then divisions within the organization will surface, and that affects the effectiveness and efficiency of all operations. An important role of a leader at any level here, and something I take to heart, is constantly working to find, highlight, and promote, those who exemplify the character traits we believe are necessary for AT&T to be successful. Collaboration is at the top of the list. Being nice and weeding out haters is right up there as well.

TOPIC: WOMEN IN STEM
In a recent blog you shared: “All too often in this field, there is very little representation from female professionals. Computing skills are the most sought-after in the US job market, with demand growing 3x the national average, yet the gender gap in technology and engineering is getting worse. Despite increased demand for STEM-related jobs, the share of women in the computing workforce has declined from 37% in 1995 to 24% today.” (Data from Girls Who Code). You also presented at the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program via the AT&T Aspire program.

ISE: What was the most inspiring part of that experience? What smaller, but equally important, things can be done by providers who don’t have the resources to create STEM programs (like AT&T’s) for their communities?

Bloodworth: Talk about inspiring — getting to witness high school students who could spend their summer break in a multitude of different ways, many of which I would argue are not resume builders, yet they chose to spend it getting a leg up on their programming skills. All so they can better equip themselves to better compete for a job later on in life. To have such drive, focus and vision at such a young age is just awe-inspiring. And this is something any company can do. At its core, all Girls Who Code needed was a place to meet and some computers to do programming on. You can build from there and take it wherever you want based on your available resources.

TOPIC: MENTORING
ISE: What hands-on things should good mentors do?

Bloodworth: Care enough to make time for those you are mentoring, and when you designate time be committed and truly listen. Be present. Put down your phone or tablet and give 100% of your attention. There is a constant drumbeat of distractions all around us all the time, so giving someone your focus is meaningful and respectful. It demonstrates with actions that you truly value that individual. It’s simply a cornerstone for building the trust necessary to have a successful relationship.

TOPIC: CHANGE
ISE: How do you embrace change and encourage risk-taking across your team?

Bloodworth: Change is inevitable. It is natural to fear the unknown; however, embracing rather than fearing change can be the source of incredible creativity and a catalyst for positive growth. Taking calculated risks is vital to the success of an organization. Some risks pay off, and some don’t, so it must be managed. Some risks show immediate returns and others become a step in the process that leads to success down the road. It’s about creating an environment and work culture where new ideas and approaches are encouraged and rewarded.

TOPIC: LEADERSHIP
ISE: What is your approach to leading teams, and how is it different than that of other leaders? Is there a “secret sauce” to your method? What advice would you give to readers who want to be on your executive team one day?

Bloodworth: Linda Hill hit the nail on the head when she said leadership is about creating a world where people want to belong. At the end of the day, people should feel valued and included. I lead with my heart. While my approach may not be unique, it does fit me, which allows me to be the best leader I can be.

I have found throughout my career that people have more potential than they realize, and they just need somebody to believe in them. A big part of my role is using my knowledge and influence to remove log jams, foster collaboration, and encourage creativity for my team. I also understand the importance of getting out of their way because nobody does it better than our people on the front line.

For me, a successful day is when I’ve helped clear the way for our people to focus and execute on what they do best.

TOPIC: THE FUTURE
ISE: What emerging or disruptive technology excites you the most for the future of the ICT industry?

Bloodworth: The only constant about emerging technologies is change. Change commands that we stay on top of industry news and trends. It keeps us on our heels in a good way and serves as a constant reminder that we can better what is already working and strive for new ideas that turn into exciting technological advances. 5G is an excellent example of the advancement of technology never slowing down, and I can’t wait to see what innovations are unleashed with the new capabilities 5G brings.

TOPIC: SUBTLETIES
ISE: Share your thoughts about this quote: “A boss has the title; a leader has the people.” (Source: Simon Sinek)

Bloodworth: I am completely on board with it. A boss using his or her title to direct a team serves only to be a lid to that team. They will only do exactly what is presented to them and bring nothing more to the table. They’ll only be as good as the ideas of that boss.

A leader whom the people choose to follow will unleash the creativity and the innovation of that team. That team will ultimately do phenomenal things they didn’t think was even possible because they’ll be inspired by that leader — there will be no lid that limits what that team can collectively accomplish.

TOPIC: INSPIRATION
ISE: Share a quote from someone who inspires you.
Bloodworth: “Great leaders never accept the world as it was and always work for the world as it should be.” – Condoleezza Rice

TOPIC: YOU
ISE: What are 3 words that describe you?
Bloodworth: Authentic, passionate, and direct.

TOPIC: SATISFACTION
ISE: Please complete this sentence: Satisfaction is….
Bloodworth: Satisfaction is making a difference.

Resources
For more information about EQ, please visit:
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/12/mark-cuban-one-of-the-most-underrated-business-skills-is-being-nice.html
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/16/ceo-elle-kaplan-eq-can-make-you-successful-according-to-science.html
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/08/why-emotional-intelligence-is-so-important-to-achieving-success-at-work.html

For more information about:
Woman in STEM, please visit Girls Who Code, https://girlswhocode.com/?nabe=6554069360181248:1

Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, https://girlswhocode.com/summer-immersion-programs/?nabe=6554069360181248:1

 

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About Author

Sharon Vollman is Senior Vice President, Editorial Director of ISE magazine. She oversees all editorial processes and staff for ISE magazine, the ISE e-newsletter,www.isemag.com, and leads the educational content development for ISE EXPO and several events. Vollman has created educational partnerships with the major communications and entertainment providers including AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier Communications and Cincinnati Bell. She has covered the telecom industry since 1996, when she joined OSP magazine as editor. Prior to that she worked in advertising with Ogilvy & Mather and CME. Vollman has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/advertising from the University of Iowa.

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