Sherry Charles was promoted to vice president of federal sales for AT&T’s government solutions business unit Feb. 1.
She represents the company“™s information technology and professional services offerings in the federal space, leveraging her experience in sales and marketing roles to lead the unit’s sales teams.
The telecommunications veteran recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about her experience in AT&T’s public and private sector divisions, changes in the federal space and how AT&T can take advantage of those market changes.
ExecutiveBiz: How have your roles in marketing and sales roles with AT&T differed and how does your experience in the marketing industry benefit the way you manage your current duties?
Sherry Charles: I“™ve been in the telecommunications industry for about 18 years ““ 10 of those years with AT&T. Prior to AT&T, I spent eight years with Concert Communications, a joint venture that served the global needs of multinational companies. British Telecom and AT&T owned Concert Communications at the time of its divesture in 2002, which is really how I ended up with AT&T.
I“™ve held a wide variety of roles since joining AT&T, ranging from business development and strategy to field marketing and specialist sales. I think these different experiences have helped me bring a complimentary perspective to effectively support the federal government as a customer. Two examples come to mind.
First, a large part of my field marketing experience was spent supporting AT&T“™s public sector clients. I am able to rapidly leverage my knowledge of these markets and the knowledge of AT&T“™s capabilities to draw a direct correlation to the technology drivers, the priorities, and the requirements of our federal government customers. This has really enabled me to hit the ground running in my new role.
Secondly, my wholesale sales and marketing experience is really proving to be extremely valuable. Contrary to what most perceptions may be, operating wholesale and retail businesses inside of the same company is very challenging. Imagine trying to meet the service needs of some of your largest competitors, which is our job from a wholesale perspective. I believe that experience has fully prepared me to address the complex solution needs and the competitive procurement processes to effectively support our federal government clients.
ExecutiveBiz: What attracted you about joining the company’s public sector division and how does the company plan to grow its offerings and customer base?
Sherry Charles: I have been intimately involved over the last several years in developing the market strategies and technology solutions that support our AT&T public sector business, which includes federal, state, and local governments, as well as for education and healthcare clients. I think moving from a marketing role into a sales role has been quite a natural progression for me. I am very much looking forward to a direct day-to-day relationship with customers.
The federal government is about to undergo a significant technology transformation, as they move current infrastructure to cloud-based services, and start to embrace the power of mobile technologies and solutions. This is going to fundamentally change the way the federal government delivers services to their constituents and employees, and drive benefits such as enabling inner-agency collaboration and productivity.
Our plan is to grow by continuing to offer a competitive product portfolio to the government, providing innovative, cost-effective solutions and professional services to meet an agency“™s broad spectrum of requirements. I personally believe AT&T is well positioned to help agencies implement innovative technologies that will deliver real value for them.
ExecutiveBiz: Do the growth areas the company expects reflect changes in the market and how do you expect those changes to continue to evolve the way AT&T does business and how the government functions?
Sherry Charles: AT&T is continuing to see growth in several areas, including cybersecurity, mobility, and cloud services, along with more traditional Internet Protocol-based services, like Voice-over-IP. These growth areas reflect the priorities for the federal government, as it continues to mobilize its workforce and move toward the cloud. This is going to help them transform their business processes along the way. It“™s a very powerful proposition for the customer as AT&T begins to deliver real-time communication and collaboration, regardless of location or device. I think what will remain paramount for the federal government in shifting to these services is ensuring security throughout its network, and that will remain a priority for us. We believe it is one of our differentiating capabilities.
At the end of the day, cost continues to be a key driver for the federal government. At AT&T, we look to drive improvements for clients through cost management and operational efficiencies in our own products and services. Additionally, we seek to support the federal government through our various contract vehicles with the best products and services at the optimal price for the value they receive.
We are in a continuous dialogue with our customers. In our role as a federal IT provider, we build solutions to help our customers meet the needs of their missions, their employees, and their constituents. We are constantly evolving our products and services to meet those dynamic needs.
ExecutiveBiz How does AT&T approach providing cyber and mobile solutions to the government and does this approach differ greatly from the approach it uses for its commercial business?
Sherry Charles: Cybersecurity is a complex challenge, and it requires a collaborative approach and a collective effort from those across the IT industry and government. Congress is debating this issue, and the legislative process continues to move forward. AT&T will continue to work with the Congress and others to keep consumers and businesses safe from cyber threats.
In terms of mobility, many businesses view those solutions as tools that can help increase efficiency and improve productivity, but at AT&T, we see mobility differently. We see it as a critical asset for driving revenue generation and a competitive advantage. In the federal government, we believe that mobility is changing the way agency workforces serve their citizens and accomplish the mission of their agency. Mobile computing, smartphones, and mobile applications will give agency workforces the ability to be productive outside the office and to collaborate effectively. It also provides the agency new ways of delivering applications and services in a way that citizens want and expect to consume them.
However, you cannot discuss increased use of mobility without talking about security. At AT&T, we see mobile security as that next frontier. With our dependence on mobility growing at a tremendous rate, it means there“™s a need to provide protection from attacks at the device layer, the service layer, and the infrastructure layer. AT&T is ensuring that security is paramount across the mobile network architecture and focused on helping agencies address government security requirements and enabling mobile agency employees to leverage mobile computing securely.
Our approach to our government business may be unique in terms of the required level of security or the contracting approaches. However, our goal when working with a customer, whether commercial or government, is to help them transform their businesses into real-time adaptive enterprises in which people, processes, and assets are always connected and always available.
ExecutiveBiz: The company has a prime contract under the GSA Connections II contract. Can you speak to the type of work the company is competing for and how AT&T is ensuring wins on the contract?
Sherry Charles: AT&T was very happy to be awarded a prime contract under the GSA Connections II contract last November. Since it was awarded just last Fall, we“™re pretty early in the game. To date, we have seen some diverse requirements coming in from a broad range of agencies, ranging from structured cabling to PBX maintenance. What we are most excited about are the integrative opportunities where agencies are seeking turnkey building and campus telecommunication solutions.
When you think about Connections II as the sister contract to Networx, this pairing allows us to offer end-to-end solution capabilities for customers in need of both professional services along with our traditional or advanced telecommunication services. It affords us the flexibility and opportunity to provide the customer with access to a single provider for a broad range of integrated IT and telecommunication solutions.
ExecutiveBiz: I saw you are a New Orleans native. How are you liking living in the Washington, DC area and working to support the government space?
Sherry Charles: While I was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, I have actually lived in the D.C. area for almost my full 18-year career in the telecommunications industry. New Orleans will always be home. That is where my husband and my families live. My husband and I have two children, a son who is in medical school at Tulane in New Orleans, and a daughter who just turned four. Raising kids on those two ends of the spectrum really keep us on our toes! It“™s great to now be directly involved in the IT community supporting the federal government and being a part of that energy and focus here in the D.C. area.