Gearing up for the cloud, AT&T tells Its workers: adapt, or else

Randall Stephenson, the chief and chairman of AT&T Corp. He is reinventing the company for a cloud-heavy future.

Today, Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and CEO, is trying to reinvent the company so it can compete more deftly. Not that long ago it had to fight for business with other phone companies and cellular carriers. Then the Internet and cloud computing came along, and AT&T found itself in a tussle with a whole bunch of companies.

AT&T’s competitors are not just Verizon and Sprint, but also tech giants like Amazon and Google. For the company to survive in this environment, Mr. Stephenson needs to retrain its 280,000 employees so they can improve their coding skills, or learn them, and make quick business decisions based on a fire hose of data coming into the company.

“There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop,” he said in a recent interview at AT&T’s Dallas headquarters. People who do not spend five to 10 hours a week in online learning, he added, “will obsolete themselves with the technology.”

In an ambitious corporate education program that started about two years ago, he is offering to pay for classes (at least some of them) to help employees modernize their skills. But there’s a catch: They have to take these classes on their own time and sometimes pay for them with their own money. To Mr. Stephenson, it should be an easy choice for most workers: Learn new skills or find your career choices are very limited.

In 2012, Mr. Stephenson realized, much to his dismay, that his staff was woefully unschooled for the new technology. Vision 2020, as the company calls it, is a program that combines online and classroom-based course work in subjects like digital networking and data science, as well as a look at old skills that can be transferred to new careers.

Everything at AT&T is changing, from the services customers are offered to the way they are charged for them. One service called Network on Demand, for example, allows customers to increase the size of their Internet pipes without calling a technician, something that used to take weeks. And Mr. Stephenson’s employees have to be able to deal with all that. “If we can’t do it, mark my words, in three years we’ll be managing decline,” he said.

Source: “The New York Times”. Full story

© 2016 The New York Times Company. Photo: Brandon Thibodeau.




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