Women In Comms

The Collaboration Imperative

There is a word that keeps popping up in any comms-related discussion I've had lately (and no it's not SDN, NFV or big data, although they won't stop popping up either). It's collaboration.

When it comes to the skills that are needed to navigate the move to virtualization, cloud and software-defined networks, collaboration is at the top of the list. This skill -- the ability to effectively communicate and work well with others, often across silos -- is more important than any technical talent, it would seem.

Collaboration can come in many forms too: To break down organizational silos, which is necessary for any company that wants a complete view of the customer experience, collaboration must take place. To take advantage of big data analytics, networks teams must collaborate with marketing folks. To drive innovation within a legacy carrier, collaborate with a startup. To truly understand what a customer wants... collaborate with the customer!

You get the point. Collaboration is more important than ever. (See Women in Telecom: Collaboration Critical to New IP.)

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s President of Partner Solutions Brooks McCorcle reaffirmed this on a recent radio show on The New IP, noting that working with agile technology requires looking at the world in a new way. It requires an open culture and a willingness to operate differently. (See The Winds of Change and AT&T Takes 'Startup Mentality' to Wholesale.)

"A culture based on true collaboration looks different from old hierarchies of the past," she said on the show. "In our business, it's all about collaboration. There is no one here at AT&T that can do anything by him or herself. It's totally collaborative."

AT&T's Brooks McCorcle will be a keynote speaker at Light Reading's upcoming Women in Comms breakfast in Dallas ahead of the NFV Everywhere show on September 16. If you're a woman in the industry, please join us by registering here!

So how can wireless operators create this culture of collaboration? Locking engineers in a room with coders, marketing folks and HR probably isn't a good idea. Employees can typically see through forced or fake attempts at culture.

McCorcle suggests it's about empowering employees to make decisions, even if they end up being the wrong decisions, which can be quickly moved on from. She says it also takes providing resources to stay current with the skills needed to adapt to technology changes, even if that means "reskilling" employee talents. (See New Skills Needed as Telecom, IT Collide.)

I would add that it also requires having a diversity of people with a diversity of viewpoints involved in every discussion. That includes women, who often excel at collaboration, and those with different backgrounds, both professional and personal. (See Women in Tech: People Skills Trump Tech Skills .)

All those intangibles like adaptability, communication skills, problem solving and, again, collaboration, are just as important -- if not more so -- as technical know-how in the communications industry today.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

thebulk 7/31/2015 | 1:56:01 PM
Re: Diving for Data I can see the point about not in pairs, its much easier to point fingers when there are just two of you. 
Sarah Thomas 7/31/2015 | 10:42:29 AM
Re: Well, no But there's a difference between, say, letting events fail and canceling them entirely versus finding new ways to make them successful -- ie. try a new format; if it doesn't work, try another versus try a new format; if it doesn't work, cancel the show and fire everyone. Just a random example I made up.
mendyk 7/31/2015 | 10:38:01 AM
Re: Well, no The concept of being dismissive about failure ("if you're not failing, you're not trying") is ingrained in the Silicon Valley-insipred mindset, but as we learned in our time at Uncle Buck's Mortuary there is a tipping point for the number of failures in any group, and that tipping point isn't always easy to see until you're on the wrong side of it.
Sarah Thomas 7/31/2015 | 9:37:48 AM
Re: Well, no She's referring to the whole startup mentality of "failing fast" and often and creating a culture where employees aren't afraid to take risks. Obviously a decision that leads to a DDOS attack or hack can't be moved on from quickly (but you can learn from it!), but decisions around new features to an app probably can be. Throw it out there; see what sticks.

There is no moving on from a vegan burrito though.

jabailo 7/31/2015 | 9:31:56 AM
Diving for Data I was speaking to someone who did a lot of diving.  He said he would never dive two at a time.  He'd dive alone, or in a team of three, but not two people.   The reason is when two people dive, one always thinks the other has taken care of something that should have been.  

I don't know if this is true, but it sounds right.  Sometimes you get into a tug of war between two parties, and bringing in more helps stir the pot.

Like right now, I have a client situation where routing from them to my web service is causing issues.   They get timeouts during critical hours.   But when we test it's always good.   They say its our server.  We say it's their gateway.

Then we brought in our ISP's networking engineers.  They made the same accusations.  Then they blamed ingress from their trunk ISP's network.   Now it seems like routing is the problem.  One location tests at very fast speeds. Another times out.  Unfortunately the client is the one who times out.

I threw out "SDN" at the team and asked if they were using it and if so couldn't they adjust my virtual server location to optimize for the client instead of me.

No response so far.  Not sure if the tech has made it into the mainstream.  Or even the acronyms! At least here.

mendyk 7/31/2015 | 9:20:12 AM
Well, no Not all wrong decisions can be "quickly moved on from." Unless we're talking about inconsequential decisions, like whether to have the vegan burrito or the carnivore platter for lunch.
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