Retraining is a Start

I recently had a chat with Carol WilsonEditor at Large at Light Reading. Carol talks to a wide range of service providers, and she pointed out some interesting trends. First is the idea of retraining existing staff to support innovative new technologies. AT&T has made a lot of noise with its Domain 2.0 initiative, and has been working behind the scenes to staff it as well.

“AT&T is probably the best example of mass retraining. They’re working to re-train thousands of people,” she observes. “What they’re trying to do is look at their folks in a different way. Rather than saying, ‘Are you trained to do this specific program or get that specific certification,’ they are asking, ‘What’s your skill set and how can we take that skill set and fit in to what we need in a different way?’”

Go Where the Talent Is

In addition to retraining, service providers have begun to open offices in Silicon Valley to be where the talent is.

Carol says “At the live events we’re trying to talk about technology transformation and invariably this notion of a skills gap comes up. It came up a lot this year. Most recently, we did an event on carrier white box strategies in November in Santa Clara. Skills were a big topic because there was a lot of discussion around the fact that telcos don’t have core IT skills in great abundance, particularly when you start looking at the ability to do things that some folks in Silicon Valley take for granted, such as Chef, Puppet and Docker.”

However, she says moving to Silicon Valley is not always an easy way to add the right personnel — there is a lot of competition for this talent pool from high-profile startups and the big glamor players.

Creating A Fast-Paced Culture

Carol points to AT&T’s Brooks McCorcle and her successful creation of entrepreneurial spirit and thriving start-up businesses within AT&T. Three years ago McCorcle pulled together a small group of top AT&T performers and gave them 90 days to develop a business to meet the needs of the SMB market. That effort jumpstarted what is now the AT&T Partner Exchange, which gives VARs, integrators and managed services providers a means of adding a wide range of AT&T services via network-based application programming interfaces (APIs).

McCorcle continues to operate the AT&T Partner Solutions Group using Agile and DevOps working models, which is quite different than the typical AT&T corporate culture.

Organization Matters

The organizational culture and spirit is probably as important as skills. Last summer Carol wrote about Jared Wray of CenturyLink and his work to reorganize the CenturyLink Cloud organization, which includes the former Savvis group. Wray joined CenturyLink when his company Tier 3 was acquired.

“Wray brought his entrepreneurial mindset to CenturyLink,” Wilson said. “He tore down walls and created work spaces. He told people ‘you are going to work in a DevOps model and work as a team.’ He also ensured that the development teams were getting timely feedback on their projects.”

A Widespread Issue

I have heard a wide range of views on this topic from other operators and I will share more of those in the next post of this series.Here are links to the complete series: Part 1Part 2Part 3.