As most companies around the world embrace a digital culture, we wonder what is the role of UX in this process. For that, we spoke with Daniela Jorge who manages a team of 500 designers at AT&T, the 2nd largest cell phone provider in the U.S. She talks about leadership, AT&T’s presence in Latin America and the transformation of the telecom industry.
BayBrazil: You are in a strategic position helping AT&T in shop, service, support of user experience and content implementation. How have design and UX improved the company’s ability to engage with its customers?
Daniela: Our UX team follows standard practices such as user research throughout the lifecycle of a project as well as ideation sessions to help identify the best solution. These practices have helped to disseminate a deep understanding of our customers so that we can better serve them across key points of their relationship with AT&T. We are constantly striving to simplify the experience of shopping for a phone or data plan, for instance, so that users are confident about their decisions when using digital which is primarily a self-service channel. We still have plenty of opportunity to simplify our experiences and leverage personalization to better serve our customers but we’re constantly investing in improving key digital tasks.
BayBrazil: In 2014 AT&T’s CIO said that customer relations will be 80% digital by 2020. Is this goal attainable?Daniela: While I believe it’s important for companies that are going through a digital transformation to set an ambitious goal, I also believe that our goal is supported by overall trends. For instance, I can’t remember the last time that I visited my bank’s branch or called an airline. That said, our primary goal is to serve customers in the way they prefer to be served. If someone would rather visit a store to shop for a new phone and then use the myAT&T app to pay their bill, then we want to make sure those experiences are the best they can be regardless of channel. But we’re definitely seeing a shift to digital for certain types of tasks as well as interactions that are primarily digital only such as checking data usage or ordering PPV.
BayBrazil: AT&T operates mainly in the U.S. but last year acquired Iusacell and Nextel, from Mexico. Are Brazil and other Latin American markets in the company’s radar?
Daniela: As you mentioned, AT&T is building its presence in Mexico as well as enabling Mexican customers to use their individual plans for voice, data, and messaging while in the U.S. with no added charge, and to call friends and family in the U.S. who are on the AT&T network. Also, with DIRECTV, we have 19 million pay TV subscribers in Central and South America. In one of our recent leadership events, the introductions were in English, Spanish, and Portuguese!
BayBrazil: You lead a team of more than 500 designers, producers, writers. Tell us about the experience of managing teams located in different states.
Daniela: Prior to AT&T, I had always managed teams that were primarily co-located at headquarters so that was definitely a big shift. I’m here in the Bay Area while the majority of my team is located in three of our main hubs, Atlanta, GA, Bothell, WA, Dallas, TX as well as 10+ additional locations. I was reading recently that it is important for a company to decide whether it will have an office culture or a remote culture. AT&T somehow manages to balance both quite well. All meetings include teleconferencing and screen sharing capabilities. Many meetings are done over video conference. And even for those who live near a hub, we have a fairly flexible telecommuting policy. For me personally, I also visit our main offices as much as possible to ensure that there’s some amount of face-to-face interaction with my peers and my team.
BayBrazil: You’ve been working in large corporations for over 15 years. Are you seeing more women in leadership positions?
Daniela: I have definitely seen a positive shift in the past 20 years, albeit not as significant as I’d like it to be. When I think about my experience in tech companies here in the Valley, I still see a disproportionate number of females in leadership positions. That was actually a pleasant surprise at AT&T where I have noticed more diversity. It reminded me of my first job at another traditional company, Kodak, where there seemed to be more females and other minority in leadership roles. My only theory for this discrepancy is that companies like AT&T invest quite a bit in growing leaders regardless of your background, in terms of education or functional expertise, while here in the Valley we tend to see more leaders with an engineering or business background.
BayBrazil: The connectivity of cars, office and home devices are transforming the telecom industry. What are the innovations that will impact your industry the most?
Daniela: I loved watching The Jetsons growing up and I can’t believe we’re getting closer and closer to living like them. There’s no better place to be than a company like AT&T to watch the convergence of all of the innovations around connectivity. From using my phone to lock my door and program my house lights, to being able to watch my favorite show on my tablet while I’m traveling, and being able to automatically get directions to my meeting because my calendar is synched with my car. In addition, we’re also seeing game changing transformation on the enterprise side. Domain 2.0 is an initiative where we are virtualizing more than 75 percent of our network by 2020 using software-driven architecture which enables us to handle network tasks remotely and much faster.
BayBrazil: You’ve been mentoring some Brazilian startups. How has the entrepreneurial ecosystem changed from the time you left Brazil?
Daniela: I’ve been here in the US since 1990 so the changes have been quite significant. Everything from government incentives for small businesses such as Sebrae to the number of VCs investing in Brazilian start-ups. I believe that Brazilians have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and are extremely creative about identifying niche needs and building a business around those. Additionally, the internet has helped not just traditional tech startups but small business owners connect with their customers in a completely different level. I am an advisor at GetNinjas where we help connect service providers with those seeking services from plumbing to web design. GetNinjas is not only an example of a successful Brazilian startup but also one that supports Brazil’s entrepreneurial culture. As an expat who has called Silicon Valley home for the past 17 years, It’s also extremely gratifying to participate in BayBrazil where the best minds of Silicon Valley and Brazil can come together to keep feeding this innovation engine.