As a 26-year veteran of the telecommunications industry, Michael Heath has pretty much seen it all. “I started just before the divestiture of the Bell System, so I've seen all the changes over the past 20-plus years,” says Heath. Having worked for large corporations such as Qwest and several small start-ups, Heath came on board AT&T this past year and soon became vice president of sales for AT&T Government Solutions “” a unit with 4,000 employees that’s solely dedicated to meeting the needs of the federal government. As he wraps up his first year with AT&T, Heath fills us in on how he’s shaping an integrated sales force to address the mission-critical needs of the federal government.
You're new to the Federal space. Tell us a little about what you have found so far.
Michael Heath: Two things. First of all, I have been impressed and amazed at just how much thought leadership there is for IT with the federal agency customers I've been calling on in this space. I have encountered very forward-thinking CIOs looking for the next best idea for putting together a network or a security solution. I've been very impressed with their long-term planning on both fronts. Second of all, the amount of time and investment that agencies are putting into the IT space “” they are taking a very sophisticated approach. Being new to the federal segment, I wasn't sure what to expect there, but what we're doing here in the federal segment certainly rivals my experience working with the Fortune 500 and is, in some cases, much more sophisticated.
What top priorities do you work on daily?
Michael Heath: I'm working with our customers to help them shape their thinking and decide what their network strategy will be. There are a lot of statements of work out there for Networx, the GSA's 10-year, $20 billion contract vehicle that allows AT&T and others to provide a full range of telecommunications and related network services to federal government agencies, that we are involved in right now. Over the past three months, we've been very busy responding to those SOWs by sending proposals to customers, etc. AT&T has been very successful with Networx “” for example, AT&T has announced more than $700 million in Networx awards with customers such as the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
What's your biggest challenge in business right now?
Michael Heath: The Networx conversations with customers, specifically transition versus transformation. How does a federal agency CIO transition its network so it can transform the way it serves its citizens, whether it is providing a secure network for its workforce to telework or enabling citizens to file their takes online? Those are challenging discussions with CIOs because many times it's new ground they're breaking.
How has AT&T been looking at the cyber initiative and what opportunities do you see there?
Michael Heath: It's such a broad initiative. Every CIO that we've talked to is worried about security. There is a common concern about security, but there are many different thoughts across agencies on how to address cyber security threats. So AT&T takes a specialized approach to each customer's security situation, whether it is an existing security solution or the situation requires a brand new security solution to overlay on its network. Because every federal agency can now use Networx to address GSA's Trusted Internet Connections initiative, AT&T is well positioned to help because we offer more services to federal agencies on the Networx contract and can offer all TIC component service elements via Networx, such as Managed Internet Services, Managed Firewall Services and Managed Intrusion Detection Services.
What do you think your business unit will look like in two years?
Michael Heath: We'll be on the back end of implementing Networx transition from agencies such as Treasury, Veterans and dozens of others. AT&T will also be talking with many of those agencies about other things they want to do with their network architectures in addition to the original Networx transition. It could be new security overlays, data center solutions or disaster recovery, business continuity solutions. Once we get through this Networx wave, there will be a lot of new networks to design and install over the next couple of years, leading to other discussions about what applications our customers can put on those networks to drive more efficiency and reliability.
What advice would you give a small business wanting to partner with AT&T Government Solutions?
Michael Heath: Tell us what you can do for the customer, and take us through your capabilities so we can understand your value proposition. Help us rationalize how we can take these capabilities and integrate them into what we are doing for the client so we can provide a nice robust solution for the customer.
What is something most people are surprised to learn about AT&T Government Solutions?
Michael Heath: We have fully integrated our mobility sales teams and our wireline sales teams into one. So when we are talking to a customer, we can bring that whole portfolio with one account team to the customer. Customers like that, and I think many are surprised because not too many in the industry are doing that.
What's something most people are surprised to learn about you?
Michael Heath: I’ve been pedal to the metal here for the past 12 months, as you would expect in any new job. Being new to the D.C. area has been an exciting opportunity to explore. I think people are surprised at how much time I like to spend outdoors, checking out the sights and taking in all that the area has to offer. We’re so busy in this business, and in this industry, it’s important to find some balance.
Interview with Michael Heath was conducted by JD Kathuria
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