AT&T's Jennifer Van Buskirk: I Didn't Plan My Career Path. Should You?

"Look at your career as a long-term campaign," says Van Buskirk.

Jennifer Van Buskirk is president of the Northeast region at AT&T Mobility. (AT&T is No. 4 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list)

Jennifer Van Buskirk / LINKEDIN

I'm often asked how my career path took shape. Did I painstakingly map out a plan and intend to be exactly where I am today? The short answer no, and I wouldn't have done it any other way.

I love where my career has led me so far — and for those of you looking to advance in your profession, here is my counsel on how to get to the next level:

Work hard and deliver results: If there is a glue that holds any good career together, it's hard work. You have to earn your success. No one will hand it to you. You own how much effort and initiative you bring to the table. You are in control of the quality of your work and delivering results. Never stop learning and working to find ways to make yourself more valuable professionally. Depending on your industry, this may mean going back to school to gain an advanced degree, taking classes online to achieve certifications – or simply putting in the hours to lead an important company project. As Ann Landers said, "Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognize them."

Take smart risks: I think of my career as an adventure. I've always taken the high risk/high reward path and routinely embraced positions that pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow. I often coach people to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you are too comfortable, you're stagnant and not learning. This may be some strange genetic defect, but I am most excited about an opportunity when there is a possibility of failure. I see opportunities like these as a competition, and I like winning. The greater the challenge, the greater the reward for success. And, I always have confidence that my team will find a way to win regardless of the challenge.

Be open to opportunities: Plans are great for the short term. For example, when it comes to achieving sales goals, I love seeing people with laser focus — an "eyes on the prize" mentality. But, when it comes to your career, if you lock yourself into a rigid professional plan and put blinders on in order to achieve your goal, you could miss out! My advice? Stay open minded about your career. Learn as much about the business as you can to develop a broad perspective – and don't overlook lateral moves that expand your knowledge and skills. Finally, be flexible about the timing. I've have always taken advantage of opportunities as they've presented themselves — even at inopportune times.

Take a new job working for a smart leader without really knowing what the job entailed? Sure! Start a new venture from scratch to help address a key growth area for the company? I'm in! Move to the Northeast to oversee an enormously talented sales team through an extraordinary change? Yes, please!

Look at your career as a long-term campaign. A well-mapped out plan will get you only so far. Work hard, take smart risks, and don't miss opportunities to expand what you thought was possible in your career. Your next adventure could be your best one yet.

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AT&T and U.S. Air Force Academy Collaborate to Explore Advanced Technologies

Formal 5- Year Agreement Aims to Help U.S. Air Force Keep Pace With, Acquire and Use Commercial Technology.

Originally Published by AT&T.

AT&T* and the U.S. Air Force Academy are working together on networking services and advanced technology capabilities. They entered a 5-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) aimed at boosting the Air Force's use of modern technology at a pace more like the commercial sector.

"Networking is a platform for innovation and mission support," said Lt. Col. Michael Chiaramonte, director of Air Force CyberWorx at the Air Force Academy. "With access to AT&T's resources, we plan to advance our academic and research objectives. By leveraging public-private partnerships with AT&T and our other industry partners, we improve our understanding and use of technology and, ultimately, improve the Air Force's mission capabilities."

The collaboration aims to:

  • Offer knowledge and commercial best practices of cybersecurity, Internet of Things, and other AT&T-led innovations for the Air Force Academy faculty. Such innovations include Smart Base solutions, software-defined networking and 5G.
  • Provide hands-on demonstrations for Academy cadets.
  • Ensure AT&T has greater insight into the vision and technology needs of the U.S. Air Force.
  • Explore opportunities beyond academic interests.

"Our work with the U.S. Air Force Academy will be much like an action-oriented academic 'think tank.' We're here to help the Air Force keep pace with commercial innovation and pinpoint their current and future technology needs," said Rocky Thurston, Client Executive VP, AT&T Public Sector.

Part of the Air Force's larger mission

Partnerships fuel the Academy research program. There are 19 centers and 2 institutes, as well as cadets, faculty and industry all working together for the benefit of tomorrow's Air Force. CyberWorx was established in 2016 as a public-private design center focused on cyber capability. It combines Air Force, academic and industry expertise with state of the art technology and innovative thinking to solve operational problems.

AT&T: How to Build a Culture of Learning

Instead of only providing employees with classroom and web-based training, we're also supplementing those resources with relevant content from social and digital platforms, like social media channels, podcasts and video platforms.

By Jennifer Robertson

Originally Published by AT&T.

Last year, best-selling author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman visited AT&T. During a conversation with employees, he emphasized the importance of continuous learning for employees and employers to succeed in the age of acceleration.

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