2019 FierceTelecom Rising Star — AT&T’s Amy Wheelus

AT&T's Amy Wheelus (AT&T)

The FierceTelecom editorial team is proud to announce our Rising Stars series in which we’re profiling up-and-coming executives in the telecom industry. We’ve selected a slate of executives from services providers, public cloud companies and telco vendors whom we think are on the rise in 2019. We’ll be doling out the names of our winners, two per day, so that our readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. And next week, we’ll post a Rising Stars poll, giving everyone the opportunity to vote for their favorite top executive to watch in the FierceTelecom ecosystem. We hope you enjoy the series!

When Amy Wheelus graduated from Georgia Tech with an industrial engineering degree she quickly found a job working for AT&T. At that time the company was consolidating its engineering in Atlanta, and her degree was a good fit for working with the company’s central office design.

Starting on the ground floor at AT&T helped Wheelus gain an in-depth knowledge of the network, which has been instrumental to her career.

During her tenure with AT&T, Wheelus supervised the construction of web hosting data centers and helped modernize AT&T’s central office infrastructure. She also led the team that developed the first virtualized network functions using AT&T’s ECOMP platform and she expanded AT&T’s VoLTE service. She also worked on AT&T’s long-haul transport network. “I’ve done everything from building buildings to starting new businesses,” Wheelus said.

Her biggest opportunity, however, was in 2014 when AT&T Labs President and CTO Andre Fuetsch asked her to lead the software-defined networking program. She calls the move a “springboard” that helped take her career to the next level. “It was the first time I had true line responsibility for a development team,” she said. “I had operations and engineering experience but I had not done software development …. I’m very proud of the team.”

After spending two years heading up the company’s SDN efforts, Wheelus was promoted to her current position as VP of network cloud where she handles projects such as Airship.

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She credits much of her success to mentors within AT&T that helped her evolve during her career.  Bill Hogg, the former president of technology operations at AT&T who retired in 2018, was particularly helpful in getting her visibility within the company.  “He became a mentor and friend,” Wheelus said.  Also, Kris Rinne, former SVP of network technology at AT&T who retired in 2014, was another key person in her career. “I learned a tremendous amount from her,” she said.

Today Wheelus’ biggest challenge is creating a simplified and modular approach to the network cloud and avoiding what she calls the “shiny toy syndrome” — deploying the latest technology just for the sake of it.