Pam Parisian (2015)
Serving 34 years at AT&T and its predecessor companies, Pam Parisian was named the new CIO in September 2014. She is responsible for the technology development of the supporting systems that enable ordering, care, rating and billing for the Mobility, Business and Home Solutions businesses. Prior to this role, she had a number of leadership positions AT&T’s Technology Development Organization.
During her time at AT&T, Pam has made exceptional contributions to improve customer experience by harnessing technology and data to re-define the way customers interact with AT&T. She led the charge of turning customer transactions into interactions by developing a suite of innovative solutions that created a knowledge-enabled workforce, improving the customer experience from beginning to end. Under Pam’s leadership, AT&T combined mobile self-service options that blurred the lines between the physical and digital with customer care analytics to empower systems that help the company understand the customer interactions and how they are impact customers.
As a result, AT&T now has the ability to answer customer questions faster and even predict why customers are calling. This enables the company to adjust business strategies in real time and continually improve AT&T’s touch points with customers in an unprecedented way. The impact of Pam’s groundbreaking approach to technology and the customer has been recognized as best-in-class by recognizable independent studies such as J.D. Power and Fortunes Most Admired – setting a standard across the industry.
As a senior female executive in a historically male-dominated role, Pam places great focus in encouraging and facilitating the recruitment, development, advancement and retention of women in STEM fields. By opening doors to educational and networking opportunities, Pam continually inspires women to develop their leadership capabilities, seize career growth opportunities and increase their knowledge in technology.
At AT&T, we know the tech industry needs a capable and diverse pipeline of people to fill 21st century jobs. Almost three-fourths of our new hires begin their careers with us in a technology-centric position. Now, the need for qualified employees in STEM disciplines is outpacing their availability. That’s why we’ve given more than $103 million to support STEM initiatives since 1987. From our employees who e-mentor students in math and science to supporting afterschool programs and robotics competitions, we’re investing in STEM. Through AT&T Aspire, our signature education initiative, we’re collaborating with Udacity on the Nanodegree program to provide fast, affordable and accessible online training for high-demand tech jobs. We’re also reskilling our own workforce with courses in emerging technology, cybersecurity, network transformation, and others to prepare for them for our changing business needs. Just last year, AT&T invested more than $250 million in employee training.
When I first started out, I didn’t know I wanted to pursue a career in STEM. In fact, I started at the very bottom, as the assistant to the assistant of a district manager. The job wasn’t glamorous… I vividly remember being asked to organize a dark musty file room and thinking, “If this is what they need me to do, I am going to whip this room into shape like nobody’s business.” That attitude led to more opportunities opening up for me, leading to a wonderful career in technology. Today, I still approach every job like this and urge others to do so as well. Those who succeed in technology are not afraid to roll up their sleeves, take on challenges and leave things better than the way they found them.
Throughout my tenure at AT&T and in the industry, the moments I’ve had to mentor someone have been especially rewarding. There is immense power in mentoring and I have seen it in many instances firsthand – marked with support from family and colleagues. In addition to building mentor relationships with, I also act as an advisor on the AT&T Women in Technology (AWT) organization and a vocal advocate of STEM education for high school students. It is crucial to introduce students, especially girls, to STEM fields at an early age as they develop curiosities and skills in a wide range of topics. How else will they learn about the possibilities?
As an advisor of AWT, I have the pleasure of participating in the recruitment, development, advancement and retention of women in STEM through educational and networking opportunities. AWT is a great avenue to inspire women to develop leadership capabilities and seize growth opportunities. From my experiences working in technology and engineering, I understand that through struggles come success and it is key for women to grasp that early in their careers and not feel discouraged.
One way that AT&T is supporting STEM education for youth is through AT&T Aspire. AT&T Aspire is a program that brings together AT&T employees, nonprofits and community members to help equip students with the skills they need to lead the digital, global economy. The company is investing in innovative education organizations, tools and solutions; and employing technology and capabilities that are unique to our company to make a positive impact on education.
Every student deserves opportunities to reach his or her full potential. By removing barriers, sparking innovative solutions and making connections, we can help every student achieve a bright, successful future.
I’m proud to be a part of a company that invests so heavily in our future workforce. Aspire has given me the opportunity to connect directly with high school students by bringing them to our office to learn and experience STEM jobs firsthand. These experiences allow students to connect what they learn in school to a career in a tangible way, which sparks excitement for their futures. As leaders in STEM fields, particularly female leaders, it is our responsibility to cultivate girls’ interest and curiosity in these fields. Not only do they need to know that they can have a career in science and technology, but they need to understand that they can succeed and have advocates who will help them.
In addition to encouraging women in STEM throughout their careers, I enjoy spending time coaching those in my own backyard – my team. Because many of them face some of the same challenges I’ve encountered in my professional journey, I love taking time to sit down and share my experiences and learnings to help them grow.
It is essential to provide your team members with developmental opportunities, which is crucial to their success. In one-on-one mentoring meetings, I strive to create an open atmosphere conducive for engagement and learning on both sides. Once I have learned more about my team, I will assign team members to high-profile projects where they have the chance to apply their knowledge and skill, as well as grow as leaders. Of the many mentoring relationships I have developed with team members, three have even resulted in promotions of my direct reports to the executive level in the past two years – a notable achievement at AT&T. I feel extremely proud of the successes and advancements like these because they are a testament to the power of mentoring.
In my 34 years at AT&T, there have been few organizations within the company that have seen as much change as the Technology Development team. However, rather than being intimidated or challenged by change, I embrace it – simply breaking down what may seem big and unknown into incremental challenges, or “inches.” Over time, those inches added up to a complete response and allowed my team and me to make adjustments along the way.
It is important to be an ambassador of change, and anyone can do this by volunteering for big and uncertain challenges. These risks enable the person to stretch his or her limits and adapt in various environments, some more uncomfortable than others. People have to bring everything they have to the table – earning every bit of recognition, promotions or whatever they may be seeking.