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This week our guest is Chris Jones from AT&T. He’s the AVP of Channel Sales, for AT&T and ACC Business. Chris has been with AT&T for 28 years. We laughed a little bit about one or two little breakups they had where he tried something else, but he’s been there almost straight for 30 years.
Over the years, he’s been in multiple roles including channel sales, marketing, and strategy, and he even spent time in wireless. Just a different story than what you hear about folks in this fast-moving tech space where we’re jumping all over the place.
AT&T’s Pandemic Response and Preparedness
We started off talked a bit about the start of the pandemic when he was on vacation in Mexico.
His son called him from college to let him know that you know, they were canceling classes. He got back into the US right before things shut down to walk into the news that our biggest show of the year in our industry, Channel Partners was also being canceled. That year, AT&T was the title sponsor which made it surreal.
Chris jumped straight from vacation to the lockdown. During our conversation, he shares how they were very prepped as a tech company. Most of their workers were able to work from home, but they had people who had to go in as they were running fiber to buildings. Those employees were considered essential workers.
This is really kind of the heartbeat of the pandemic response. Also, we talked about what the pandemic would’ve looked like in 1990. If not for those essential workers focusing on connectivity. If we didn’t have the internet if we didn’t have this level of access. and I believe the economy would’ve shut down.
Also, Chris shared some interesting stories about what AT&T calls tabletop exercises. It’s, it’s sort of a methodology where the execs in the business get together and throw the chess pieces on the table. They zombie apocalypse plan, if you will, and talk about how they would do it.
Thanks to the tabletop exercises they felt more prepared than most because frankly, we, we had that level of pandemic emergency planning and they got to test some of those plans. It’s something we’ve not heard from many other vendors and, and haven’t seen in a lot of other businesses.
Virtual Desktop and Adoption of Technology
Plus, we spent quite a bit of time talking about virtual desktops and how they are used internally at AT&T to support bringing your own device. He did say though that the tools were available, but people really didn’t understand it, and really didn’t see the value until the pandemic pushed adoption forward.
What’s interesting is how that shifted how people work, and today most people inside at AT&T will not live without the convenience of the flexibility of their virtual desktop. But it is an interesting parallel that we, we’ve seen with some of the other episodes that we’ve had lately where we’ve talked about the pandemic, sort of forcing people to learn how to use the technology.
What Corporate Culture Loses in a Virtual World
Also, we discussed culture and what was lost in the pandemic. For Chris, it really focused on new employee onboarding. He’s, concerned as I am, and many others are about sort of a potential generation of workers without having had the ability to interact one on one as part of their teams.
A really good example he gave was about how you get to know people in small talk and when you walk into a conference room, you sort of pair off. That’s when you can talk about your kids and, you know, taking your kids to school and what happened that weekend and sports teams. That’s really hard to do when the entire room is sort of flat and in a web conference together.
Chris felt it creates a much more mechanical relationship because you can’t do that small talk, You can’t do those breakouts, and frankly, people just feel like it’s easier to be mean online.
Thinking Like a CTO
He, already felt that everyone in the business needs to start thinking like a CTO, at least in terms of thinking about the business, how it uses, the tools it has, why it has them, you know, everybody being a good consumer, if you will, of the technical capabilities that the business is.
We talked a little bit about AT&T pre-pandemic. They were already thinking about sort of refocusing the business on its roots, a little less entertainment, you know entertainment networks, television, and more around what was at the basis of AT&T being a connectivity company, which is really that essential work that he was talking about in the pandemic.
This was a compelling conversation with a seasoned executive from one of the titans of the industry. And you’ll, you’ll see that even at that size, Chris and his peers, they’ve dealt with a lot of the same concerns, had to make a lot of the same kinds of tough business decisions that you’ve had to make in your business, regardless how large or small you are.
You can listen to the whole episode on your favorite podcasting platform and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.
Chris leads the AT&T Alliance Channel Technology Distributors organization, focused on growth for AT&T Business and ACC Business. His organization is solely dedicated to supporting Technology Distributors, Channel Partners, and their customers. This includes organizational strategy & evolution, sales production, operations, process automation, and sales effectiveness. Chris has been instrumental in implementing innovative strategies and thought leadership to shape and transform the program. His efforts have led to significant YOY revenue growth in the segment, and his efforts have led to a vastly improved Channel Partner experience.