Kay Kapoor joined AT&T in March 2013 to lead the telecommunications company’s federal business, which has seen several other GovCon and public sector veterans join the organization’s leadership team since then.
Kapoor, herself a 25-year telecommunications and contracting veteran, is the recipient of this year’s ACT-IAC Janice K. Mendenhall Spirit of Leadership Award in recognition of her mentorship efforts throughout the year.
She recently caught up with ExecutiveBiz to discuss the role mentors play in her own career, how she works to continue encouragement of future leaders and cloud and mobility technology initiatives at agencies.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you encourage and mentor younger generations of emerging GovCon leaders?
Kay Kapoor: A foundation of mutual trust is the underpinning of all effective mentoring relationships. Both parties must earn it from each other very early on. Typically, the trust is already built before the mentor and protege being their work together.
At the same time, the key to a strong mentoring relationship is an eager protege. A thirst for knowledge and a willingness to explore new ideas are the catalysts of successful mentoring relationships. The protege must drive the mentoring relationship, not the other way around.
I currently mentor several different professionals at various levels in their respective careers, both in industry and in government, each of whom is clearly passionate about their own career path and hungry to learn. I have also spoken publicly about the value of mentoring, most recently to a gathering of students, faculty, and regional business leaders at my alma mater, the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University.
I have provided one of my proteges the opportunity to “shadow” me to get a close up look at executive decision making and leadership. In another recent instance, I was able to guide a reluctant protege to take calculated risks and step outside his comfort zone as a manager of people.
More than a commitment of time, a mentor needs to be selfless and 100-percent committed to the protege’s success – in whatever way the protege defines success. In this relationship, that’s the only “ROI.”
ExecutiveBiz: Did you have someone who mentored you in your career? How did it impact you and your career?
Kay Kapoor: I did not realize the importance of mentors early on in my career. But just as I reached a point in my career where I felt my progress had stalled, a friend reached out to me and helped me into my first mentoring relationship as a protege.
Over the years, I have been a beneficiary of several mentoring relationships. I am grateful to those mentors for their generosity of ideas, advice, relationships, and wisdom.
Mentors have helped me see the bigger picture in certain circumstances and have also taught me invaluable advice about core leadership principles. A key benefit of the mentoring relationships in which I was the protege was the attainment of a certain amount of self-confidence and learning to trust my instincts.
I have also been the beneficiary of sponsors. Sponsors are those within an organization with access and reach; typically the most senior executives leading the organization. Sponsors have the ability to affect real change and dramatically improve the careers of those they sponsor.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some untapped areas of cloud and mobility that agencies are working towards? What is industry’s role in that?
Kay Kapoor: We live in an “always-on and always-connected” world. government agencies see cloud and mobility as technologies that are helping them adapt to this world to deliver vital data and information to citizens, government workers and our armed forces in ways that could never be imagined just a few years ago. When it comes to the cloud, agencies clearly understand that this model of computing can help them to more quickly deliver new functionality at lower cost with improved performance, securely, to improve mission outcomes.
Today, we have a capability that we call AT&T NetBond. It allows government agencies to virtually extend their private network to access and use cloud services in a consumption-based model. In doing so, they can benefit from enterprise-grade security protections as well as speed, flexibility and cost advantages.
On the mobility side, agencies are seeing powerful applications in the private sector and seeking our help in adopting those capabilities. Examples include the emergence of the connected car and fleet management, where companies are using mobility services to track the location, usage characteristics and performance of their vehicular fleets. The implication for government agencies and their fleets, whether they are for delivery services or military deployment, are enormous.
Also, shipping companies are now using mobility services to track cargo containers, including location, container temperature, and the status of perishable and non-perishable goods. These capabilities hold enormous potential for government agencies.
I believe the role of industry is to inform and innovate with government agencies to help them efficiently and effectively accomplish their missions.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you see the government telecom market shaping itself over the next few years?
Kay Kapoor: We see the government telecom market moving quickly to become “mobile first.” It’s the mobilization of government services and includes mobile-to-mobile communications, cybersecurity, machine-to-machine connectivity and the advent of the Internet of Things. The opportunity is here and now for government to innovate with telecom-led mobility services and applications that can deliver updated information about taxes, health benefits, disability benefits, emergency notifications, and other government-to-citizen communications.
This extends beyond enabling and empowering U.S. citizens to equipping our military in theater with capabilities that help them stay safe while defending our freedoms.
We are a world transfixed by mobile devices and they have quickly become the go-to source for communication, information, and transacting all manner of business. The federal government sees the opportunity and agencies are moving in that direction with our help and technologies. Mobile is a logical way for government to reach its constituents anywhere in the world.
ExecutiveBiz: Where do you want AT&T’s federal business to be within that same time frame?
Kay Kapoor: Needless to say, we want our government business to continue its momentum and growth trajectory and to reinforce our position as a trusted partner and preeminent technology solutions provider in the federal market. We are a market leader in the private sector in connected cars, connected devices, machine-to-machine capabilities, and all things mobility related and we own and manage a highly-secure global network that is one of the world’s largest.
We also continue to invest more in the U.S. than any other public company. From 2008 to 2013 we invested more than $140 billion in wireless acquisitions and spectrum purchases.
As federal agencies mobilize their missions, we hope to be their partner of choice to help them minimize risk with cost effective, secure, and reliable technology solutions.