“Whatever you build, it’s your legacy.”

LOSING HER MOTHER at the age of six, Noni Gonzalez and her father were left to discover the United States together. She recalls her father, a native of Cuba, learning English himself, emphasizing hard work and education.

Noni Gonzalez never stops building her legacy. Now a recognized Latina leader in the technology industry, she renders the values she learned from her father: never stop improving. Innovating from within, Gonzalez has climbed her way up the corporate leadership latter, lifting her passion and integrity through every rung.

vocesquoteYou can tell a lot about an organization by the people they choose. When I first started at AT&T, I attended a leadership session for Hispanics. I walked in the room and had the opportunity to meet Ralph de la Vega [president and CEO, AT&T Mobility]. One of the things that struck me was that this man has not only come to this meeting, but he had been in California that morning. He returned to make his commitment to this leadership forum and was headed out that night to go back to California. To me, that’s an example of leadership. One of the things he said was, “You lead by example and you lead with integrity.” And he showed it that day for sure.

Trading words with

Noni Gonzalez

Success

Making a difference.

innovation

In order to innovate, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. You have to be willing to fail and it takes courage.

Integrity

[It’s] everything; the baseline to everything you do. You need to maintain it no matter what.

Latina

A force to be reckoned with.

I went to school to be a political science major and had aspirations of becoming an attorney, but I took a role at ADP in a technology sector and fell in love with technology. I was at ADP for more than 10 years. I had the opportunity to work with really large companies, implementing large payroll systems, general ledger systems, and lots of different kinds of software. I got the opportunity to move to Oracle, a technical company. I branched out from payroll and HR and finance systems to CRM systems, supply-chain systems, [and the] call center; again an opportunity to work with really large systems and transform their business.

I’m responsible for the supply chain systems within AT&T and some revenue and time entry systems, and back office finance, including assets. The big pieces are the supply chain. We run both the retail and the network supply chain in my group, whether that’s inventory, replenishment, devices, service depots, insurance, handset subsidies, national retailers, online ordering for devices—we’re really responsible for the entire retail ordering, warehouse systems. On the network side, we’re both wireless and wireline, we’re responsible for all the systems that help plan the equipment out to the field—whether it’s cell towers, or customer premise locations; all sorts of processes that help the business, including transportation management
and warehousing.

We’re absolutely passionate about making sure our customers love what we build. I surround myself with the best of the best. I try to create an atmosphere where we feel we have each other’s backs. If you’re in IT, you’re in it because you like to build stuff. And if you like to build stuff, you want people to like what you build. In order to do that, you have to have the best of the best. A lot of work is at night, committing to long hours way into the evening; we need to have an open environment and atmosphere to build a quality project. I think that’s why my group has been so successful.

Whatever you build, it’s your legacy. It’s there. You have to make sure it’s perfect [and] make sure your customers love it, because it’s something you have to own until the end. In my prior jobs, it’s been very easy for me to go into large corporations and make decisions not knowing anything about any one of the politics. It’s been very easy for me to say “Oh, this is the right thing to do. We should just do it.” When you move into a position like I have with AT&T things change. All of a sudden you are having to build the systems, but you’re also having to support them, own them, be responsible for them, make sure your customers love them. I think that’s been a huge experience for me. It’s made me a better IT professional. It’s made me look at the business, not just the technology. It’s helped me understand my customers. For me, everyone should take a role being inside industry before they go out and consult.

The world has changed. The world has gone mobile. One of the most successful things that we have done, we have enabled a single platform for wireless/wireline network processes to have different business processes and have a single system on the backend. One of the proudest moments for me was winning the [2010] CIO 100 Award for supply chain management platform, because that means we did it right and that AT&T vested in us and that we were able to do what AT&T needed us to do. That was, for me, one of the proudest moments in my career. To be able to serve so many different customers—retail, online, the guys out in the trucks, the guy that builds the cell towers—to have that diversity in all of our customers and be able to do it singularly on one platform is an IT geek’s dream.

Managing across all those businesses, you need a very flat organization, you need to have all of the leads and directors sit around a table in front of a white board and scratch out what the solution is going to be. You have to get rid of all the hierarchies. We don’t have hierarchies. We don’t look at anything by title. We look at everyone by what team they’re on, what project they’re working on. People move across based on expertise and project needs.

I can’t stay the same. I have to constantly be improving and innovating and doing something different, changing things up. I’ve learned that with my job. The people that I work with are very much the same way. They’re not happy with just building something and saying I’ve done my job. They want to build it and then they want to make it better and then make it better. They’re willing to go back and look at [it] and say “you know what, that doesn’t look quite right. Let’s do it differently to make it better.”

I define influence as making a difference. If the work that you’ve done actually makes a difference, then I believe you’ve been successful. I define it in the terms have you made a change. I’ve succeeded when I’ve made a difference in my customer’s lives.

AT&T really makes an effort with customer experience. We’re in the business where we need to create new businesses. We’re in a business where we need to mobilize everything. Our goal is to stay really good at our basics; make sure we have the supplier diversity that we need; deliver the future for our customers; unleashing human capabilities. As always, operating with integrity and trust. end_vocesquote