In our series “Jump-start Your Job Search,” BU Today brings you short interviews with BU alums who are leaders in their field, such as banking, advertising, tech start-ups, journalism, or nonprofit organizations.
They talk about how they got to be where they are, mistakes they’ve made, and what they’ve taken away from those mistakes. They tell us what they look for when hiring and offer advice for those just embarking on a career.
This week our featured alum is Loretta Walker (Questrom’80), vice president, external affairs, employee engagement, and communications at AT&T California. Walker heads the company’s local government and community affairs initiatives in 16 counties in the state’s North Bay, East Bay, and Central Valley. In that position, she is the chief decision maker for public policy and philanthropic initiatives affecting over seven million people.
Walker previously was the vice president and general manager of the telecommunications giant’s Sacramento/Fresno/Nevada market areas, where she was responsible for consumer marketing, alternate channel sales, and operations to Northern and Central California and Nevada customers. Her job involved customer care and growing revenues. Walker was named one of the San Francisco Business Times Most Influential Women in Business each year from 2009 to 2012.
BU Today: How did you rise to your position at AT&T?
Walker: I believe many of my opportunities have been due to my natural desire to take on ambiguous assignments and make them a reality. Many of these assignments have truly been character building efforts that allowed me to grow not only in business as a leader, but as a wife, mother, and person. Working for a leader like AT&T, in such a fast-paced industry, offers so much diversity and many opportunities to develop your talent. As a result, I was able to learn so much about our industry and develop skill sets that define the leader and colleague I am today.
What qualities do you look for in the people you hire?
We look for dynamic, talented individuals who are passionate about technology, innovation, and collaboration.
What important things must job candidates do to get hired?
Most important, candidates must apply early. A common mistake of job seekers is procrastinating about applying for and pursuing opportunities of interest.
What are some typical questions you ask an applicant during an interview?
Typically, questions that allow us to learn more about a candidate’s previous work experience, whether it be industry- or academic-related, and how the candidate would apply those experiences and skills to a career at AT&T. It is also fascinating to hear more about a candidate’s passions and goals.
What are some common mistakes interviewees make?
Not being prepared is a big one. Come prepared to discuss the job or internship opportunity as well as the current goals and initiatives of the company that you are interviewing with. It shows that you have done your homework and that you are truly interested in the opportunity.
What mistakes have you made during your career, and what lessons have you learned from them?
The one mistake that impacted me the most as a leader is believing that I had to have the answers. I learned very quickly that it’s just as valuable to know the right questions to ask.
When you went to BU, did you have an idea what you wanted to do for a career?
Yes, I did know that I wanted to pursue the business route, and I also had a passion for marketing.
What advice would you give someone in the first weeks of a job?
I’d advise a new hire that it’s never too soon to make sure you are in alignment with job expectations and to be certain you have a clear understanding as to how you will be measured against agreed-upon goals.
How can graduates best prepare themselves to advance to a high-level job in corporate communications?
I don’t believe there is just one way to advance to a high-level position. But I do know that flexibility and continuous learning are essential. If you really think about it, I am a marketing and sales professional who specializes in public policy and employee engagement and communications. I have been very fortunate to have successfully acquired regulatory, competitive analysis, marketing, and public affairs skills, as well as sales experience in wireless, VoIP [voice-over Internet Protocol], broadband, and television areas of the communications industry. So in interacting with employees in different disciplines at AT&T, I always have some frame of reference for each business unit.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career, and why?
Throughout my life I have been very fortunate to have had many mentors, sponsors, and great leaders and colleagues. But I have to tell you, it was my mother who first provided the vision that I was capable of doing whatever my heart desired, and secondarily, my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Richardson, who coached and encouraged me to take the path untraveled.
Are you an alum who would like to be interviewed for BU Today’s “Jump-start Your Job Search” series? Email John O’Rourke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read other stories in our “Jump-start Your Job Search” series here.1 Comments