Susan Bick joined AT&T 20 years ago and has spent much of her career in various roles within IT. She's been a production support person, a coder and a project manager, to name just a few.
But the IT world she entered when she started at the telecom giant in the late 1990s bears little resemblance to the company she works for today. Over the last decade, AT&T's business has been changing at warp speed, moving from a voice network to a data network, from hardware to the cloud and from a landline business to a mobile-first enterprise.
The transformation has provided the 133-year-old Dallas-based phone company with myriad ways to stay competitive in a brutal industry. But beginning in 2008, when executives started examining the kind of workforce skills AT&T would need to thrive in this new mobile- and software-centric world, they faced a stark reality: The company just didn't have enough of the talent it needed.
With one of the largest workforces in the world, its research showed that only about half of AT&T's 250,000 employees had the necessary science, technology, engineering and math skills the company required. What's more, 100,000 workers were in jobs having to do with hardware functions that probably wouldn't exist in the next decade.
The discovery presented AT&T with two daunting options, explains Bill Blase, senior executive vice president of human resources. "We could go out and try to hire all these software and engineering people and probably pay through the nose to get them, but even that wouldn't have been adequate," he explains. "Or we could try to reskill our existing workforce so they could be competent in the technology and the skills required to run the business going forward."