Connecting with AT&T

Posted on Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Jerry Fuentes entertained lofty aspirations. He had an undergraduate degree and a management position with AT&T. He wanted to rise higher. And friends and colleagues told him he had strong leadership skills.

But to advance to an executive level, Fuentes needed a postgraduate degree. The challenge was to earn an MBA while managing responsibilities at the office and at home as a husband and father.

How could he do that?

The Weekend College program at Our Lady of the Lake University provided the answer. Armed with an MBA (1989) and extraordinary leadership skills, Fuentes rose through the company to become president of AT&T Arizona and New Mexico.

“I used a lot of what I learned at Weekend College to build my career and get promoted a number of times after that,” says Fuentes, 58, a 1974 graduate of Harlandale High School. “I knew I had the capacity to be a leader within the company. I had done really well early in my career. But I didn’t have the degree I needed to be a serious candidate.”

As president, Fuentes leads the company’s legislative, regulatory and external affairs activities in Arizona and New Mexico. He also represents AT&T in civic and community organizations.

In 33 years with the company, Fuentes has served in the comptroller’s office, human relations, information systems and marketing and external affairs. Before he became president, Fuentes served as assistant vice president for External Affairs.

He reflects warmly on his days at OLLU.

“I felt very much at home at Our Lady of the Lake,” Fuentes says. “I felt I was more in a community, grassroots university. I felt like I counted. I didn’t feel like a number. It wasn’t like I was walking into a classroom with 300 students. I was one of 20 people in the room getting lots of personal attention. It was the right size for me.”

Fuentes is one of many OLLU alumni who have helped AT&T grow into the world’s 21st largest company by market value.

Others include:

Sherry Ramsey

Ramsey started with AT&T as a summer intern 37 years ago. Today, she’s an assistant vice president for public policy, working in the Chief Privacy Officer’s group. “In addition to watching over our AT&T privacy policy, I work closely with our various product and service development groups to make sure we implement ‘Privacy by Design,’” says Ramsey (MBA 1997).

“That means building in privacy considerations from the beginning of development of a new product or service. I love my job because I get to deal with so many different people and organizations.”

She remains grateful for her MBA. “The professors were able to clearly show how the classroom learning and team exercises would have direct application to teamwork at AT&T,” she says. “Those team assignments helped to strengthen my collaborative skills. Today’s environment is all about agility, flexibility and collaboration.”

Brian Sands

Six years after earning his MBA from OLLU in 1999, Sands decided to make a career change. To gauge potential job opportunities, Sands sought advice from a network of AT&T friends he’d met at OLLU.

The outreach proved fortuitous. Sands connected with AT&T and used his MBA skills to serve. As associate director for executive compensation, Sands manages a team that provides compensation and benefits support for approximately 1,800 active and retired officers and senior managers. “I develop strategic internal and external vendor/third party relationships to ensure a high level of support for executives,” he says.

OLLU prepared him well. “While we learned from professors and textbooks,” he says, “a lot of the knowledge came from the experiences of students, as most were management level employees at USAA or AT&T. It allowed me to see how the textbook information and my classmates’ experience translated into real world situations.”

Daniel Abrego

Forty one years ago, Abrego began working for AT&T as a stockman, loading trucks from 2 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. He could not have known then that he would earn three degrees from OLLU while working for the company. Or that he would rise to become a signature client service executive.

But he did. Abrego’s journey at AT&T included a considerable education from OLLU. He earned a Bachelor of Applied Studies in 1994, an MBA in 1997 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 2004 – all through the Weekend College program. OLLU, he says, taught him how to develop critical thinking solutions and speak knowledgeably with executive leadership teams.

“I work with high profile revenue customers from USAA and Clear Channel,” Abrego says. “I assist customer executives on escalating network reliability and availability issues.”

Leticia Diaz

In 43 years with AT&T, Diaz has enjoyed a wonderfully diverse career. She started as an office mail runner, straight out of high school in 1970. She worked as a secretary and stenographer.

As the years passed, Diaz worked in the commercial department, the legal department, the marketing department, the property tax office and finance department. Along the way, she began the Weekend College program at OLLU and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1996 and an MBA in 2001.

A combination of experience and education has led to her current position: lead tax accountant. “I really enjoyed studying at the Lake,” Diaz says. “I’ve enjoyed my time with AT&T. It’s been a very good company. It’s given me the opportunity to work in a lot of areas and carry forward knowledge from department to department.”

Yolanda Salazar

Salazar has served AT&T with distinction for 43 years. In her current role as senior client services program manager, Salazar manages a team of nearly a dozen project managers.

“I work with large business customers who have contracted to have all their telecommunications and data services monitored and managed by AT&T,” she says. “I work with the attorney and team that negotiated the contract to determine what we sold the customer. I turn that contract language into a project plan and work with internal AT&T groups to ensure we transition the customer’s equipment to AT&T.”

In 1970, Salazar began as a telephone operator. She had only a diploma from Thomas Jefferson High School. Over the years, she attended Weekend College and emerged with three degrees: a bachelor’s degree in management (1990), an MBA (2001) and a PhD in Leadership Studies (2011).

Alex Aguilar

Alex Aguilar joined AT&T six years ago as a senior auditor in Dallas. Today he’s a senior auditor manager, supervising a team of three that performs audits to ensure operations are working as designed.

“I love it,” he says.

While Aguilar was working for another company in San Antonio, his wife held a job with AT&T. They had an opportunity to relocate to Dallas when AT&T headquarters moved there. Aguilar applied with AT&T and was hired. “It’s been a great opportunity for my career,” he says.

OLLU provided Aguilar (BBA 2001) a swift path into an auditing career. “My tax professor guided me into an audit position with a firm in San Antonio,” he says. “It started as an internship and grew into a job before I graduated.”

Larry Shipley

Shipley held a job with the University of Texas Health Science Center when he enrolled at OLLU’s Weekend College program. Before he earned his MBA in 2000, though, Shipley went to work for AT&T.

“I’m an integrated solutions director,” says Shipley, who also earned a BBA from OLLU in 1997. “I manage a team of guys in South Texas and Oklahoma who are technical sales consultants for our large and mid-size companies and customers.”

He credits OLLU for his success at AT&T. “The job I do requires a combination of good management, communication and finance skills,” he says. “All these were refined through the classes I took at OLLU and were reinforced through learning team projects that were a part of every class. My focus in electronic commerce gave me cutting edge experience in the IT industry, which is the core of what my team supports today.”

Sandra Moreno

Moreno had such a good experience at OLLU (MBA 2000), she decided to come back. She is pursuing a PhD in Leadership Studies while working as a senior equal employment opportunity (EEO) consultant for AT&T.

She is responsible for ensuring that AT&T’s EEO programs are in compliance with legislation and the company’s policies. Her MBA proved invaluable.

“OLLU prepared me in building a solid foundation for the exchange of knowledge in my current role,” she says. “It’s been so rewarding for me when I’ve been able to share and coach employees to understand that when you motivate and influence people in a way that aligns with the organization’s vision, strategy and needs, it can have a significant impact on everyone’s success.”

Grace Gonzales

OLLU provided more than an education for Gonzalez. The University provided a friend in the Weekend College program who helped her land a job with AT&T – 16 years after she graduated.

Gonzales (BA Sociology 1976) started with AT&T in 1992. In December 2013, she retired as an assistant senior manager in the Network, Planning and Engineering Department.

“I maintained personnel history binders, processed invoices, ordered supplies and handled payroll and administrative duties,” she says. “AT&T is truly a great company to work for. I would still be working there if they had not offered a very attractive ‘retirement package.’ I was able to retire four years earlier than I planned!”

Gonzales treasures her time at OLLU. “My professors always guided me through the process of preservation,” she says. “A special thanks goes to Sister Frances Jerome Wood, my adviser who never gave up on me.”