AT&T Mobility Chief: Elevate Your People’s Tech

Data usage in the AT&T network increased 100,000 percent between 2008 and 2014, largely driven by the use of video.

“Mobile is eating the world, they now say … understand the impact of that fact, or you’ll find yourself disrupted by people who do,” advised Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions.

Before a sold-out crowd of 800 at Tuesday’s 2015 NWA Technology Summit at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, de la Vega discussed “unstoppable tech trends” and why companies must decisively educate their workers.

“Remember: opportunities are often missed because they’re disguised as problems,” de la Vega told attendees of the second annual event.

AT&T is earnestly boosting the technology expertise of its workforce; employees have completed 1.2 million online Nano courses, and the company partnered with Georgia Tech to offer technology-related master’s degrees for $7,000, a fraction of traditional tuition and which the company pays in full, he said.

By 2020, the vast majority of tasks will be performed virtually, de la Vega said, and data security has become the top concern of most every chief information officer.

The AT&T executive was one of 30-plus speakers on summit’s agenda.

Fayetteville entrepreneur John James, the founder of Hayseed Ventures and the founder and former CEO of Acumen Brands, detailed a formula with five variables for determining where to buy online customers — take your gross margin, subtract fulfillment costs, multiply by the conversion rate and then multiply by how many times customers buy and how many friends they tell.

“It’s actually really simple algebra, not rocket science,” James said. “Just don’t sell other people’s stuff online, that’s dumb. The game is to sell stuff that other people don’t sell.”

Mike Malone, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, detailed the highs and lows of local efforts to attract tech talent.

NWA’s cost of living index is 90 percent of the country’s average, and the area has “what I like to call ‘stickiness’ … people may come here reluctantly, but they stay here,” Malone said.

But in 2014, Malone noted that Northwest Technical Institute, the University of Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas Community College combined to confer just 210 tech degrees and certificates.

And, he said, the area continues to suffer from a “myth of what we are; we’re suffering from 200 years of people making fun of hillbillies.”

Jacqui Canney, the executive vice president of the Global People Division for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said employees now have the freedom of a boomerang.

“Now, we want you back after you spend time at Amazon,” Canney said. “Workers are looking for tours of duty, experiences that they thread together in a career path that is no longer traditional.”

More than 200 students from area high schools attended afternoon sessions Tuesday. They heard a message from Gov. Asa Hutchinson about computer science initiatives and discussed training opportunities and tech careers with a variety of local tech professionals including a vice president of technology and modernization at Walmart, the CEO of Rockfish, a developer at RevUnit and the head of Startup Junkie.

The event was produced by the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce and the NWA Tech Council.


Article Source: NWA Business Journal