Rocky Thurston joined the federal government business unit of AT&T in June as client executive vice president and focuses on activity in the segment’s Air Force market and others in the military.
Thurston himself is a veteran of the Air Force as a retired flight engineer and held a managing director role at Accenture‘s federal services subsidiary for the three years prior to AT&T.
ExecutiveBiz caught up with Thurston for this conversation to catch up on his agenda since he started at the telecommunications contractor, technology trends in government he observes daily and the one area he hears about the most from agencies.
ExecutiveBiz: What have you focused on since you’ve joined AT&T?
Rocky Thurston: The experience of joining AT&T, with its world-class leadership, talent, and capabilities is astonishing and surprising in all the right ways. We are reshaping the way companies around the world connect and do business. We help clients simplify their work. We bring new technology that changes the way business gets done.
We are the leader in mobility, cyber security, the Internet of Things, cloud and other technologies important to our clients today. I spent my first 90 days getting better acquainted with the talent and innovation that we provide so that I can quickly help our customers transform their businesses with our capabilities.
ExecutiveBiz: How would you describe your role as client executive vice president?
Rocky Thurston: We are hyper-focused on clients. I am laser-focused on helping clients transform their businesses through our networking services and advanced IP-based services including mobility, cloud, cyber, and IoT. My key responsibilities are to support customers within AT&T Government Solutions, like the Air Force.
I served in the Air Force. I’m a passionate advocate for the Air Force; it runs through my veins. It is a great pleasure and honor to serve the Air Force as an AT&T executive.
ExecutiveBiz: What type of demand from customers gets most of your attention?
Rocky Thurston: Our customer conversations typically begin with mobility. At the very center of mobility are our network and endpoint connections. It is important to us that we help our customers understand how our innovations can bring benefits that help them achieve their missions with the emphasis on mobility, cloud, cyber, IoT and legacy system transformation.
We are having daily conversations with customers around the world about the possibilities we can enable for them. More recently, these conversations are around software-defined networks because a lot of our clients are looking to do more with less. Software is a revolution in network because it allows our clients, like the Air Force, to maximize their responsiveness, to be more efficient and to provide additional security.
ExecutiveBiz: What telecom trends are prominent in government right now?
Rocky Thurston: While our roots are in the traditional telecom industry, we are so much more than that now with innovations and solutions that help address trends in government and around the globe. Mobility is one of several key trends driving government now. Other trends include secure access to the cloud and IoT.
In the Air Force, for example, they want IoT solutions that can help them achieve their missions more efficiently and effectively: solutions that can support flight maintenance and space logistics, or help them make the most of the huge amounts of data and information that connected devices and sensors can deliver.
That is what the Internet of Things is about. Government agencies can analyze data fed from connected sensors to enable better decision-making capabilities for their leaders.
ExecutiveBiz: Where do you see opportunity for more public-private sector collaboration?
Rocky Thurston: Cybersecurity is an area where public-private sector collaboration can yield significant benefits. Commercial companies and government agencies face similar threats. Under certain conditions, agencies can share cyber threat information with the private sector and vice versa to create a richer picture of those threats. By sharing threat information, companies and agencies can detect and mitigate threats before they become problems.
In addition to that, more agencies are adopting cloud systems. They will want to innovate within the cloud. A primary need among agencies is to connect securely to a variety of cloud systems like hybrid or public-private clouds in a way that will allow them easy access and ease of use. We have a product called AT&T NetBond that offers this type of solution. NetBond is a highly secure on-ramp to the most popular cloud platforms in the world.
ExecutiveBiz: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Rocky Thurston: We have been around for 130 years and have stood the test of time. We are a part of the fabric of this country and a key, trusted partner to government. We have our state-of-the-art global network as a backbone. We are constantly innovating with and on top of our network. Our five innovation centers are backed with an investment of over $100 million and the participation of several major telecommunications and IT companies.
There, we work with developers, startups and other companies to move ideas to the marketplace faster. We provide highly secure connections to 124 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. and more than 3.5 million businesses. More than 23 million devices are connected on our network as of the second quarter of 2015. At the core of this is security.
In the past two years, the volume of data that we analyze has increased by about 60 percent, largely due to the increase of video data. Our network carries more than 100 petabytes of data across the network every day. We use our global network, innovations, and expertise to help government agencies maximize the benefits of a truly connected world for greater efficiencies and to achieve mission objectives.