2020 FierceTelecom Rising Star — AT&T's Brenda Laboy

The FierceTelecom editorial team is proud to announce our second annual Rising Stars series, in which we’re profiling up-and-coming executives in the telecom industry. We’ve selected a slate of executives whom we think are on the rise in 2020. 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!

Brenda Laboy is one of millions of Americans helping her kids attend school remotely, but for her, online learning has a special meaning. Laboy knows her work with AT&T's fiber-to-the-home initiative has enabled hundreds of thousands of people to work and learn from home more easily. 

AT&T promised the FCC that it would deliver fiber internet access to roughly 12 million locations as a condition of the carrier's deal to buy DirecTV in 2015. Laboy led a 3,000-person team that delivered 1.5 million residential fiber living units in the West Coast region. "I can't even describe what kind of personal and professional accomplishment I felt when we finished that," Laboy said. 

Of course at the time she had no idea a global pandemic would sequester people at home. Now she sees even more value in the work her team accomplished. "It is a lifesaver for a lot of people working from home, or with kids at home," she said. 

RELATED: AT&T lights 1.6M FTTH customers with services, says it's on track to meet FCC commitments

Laboy currently serves as assistant vice president, Access Construction & Engineering at AT&T California. In this role she manages all wireless and wireline engineering and implementation, including new site builds, small cell, 5G, and business and residential fiber deployments. Until last year, Laboy worked exclusively on wireline projects, but as the wireline and wireless networks converge, leaders like Laboy are taking charge of both.

Laboy said she loves strategic projects and building large-scale networks, an interest she discovered almost by accident. She came to AT&T from USC's MBA program, and started by managing call centers. She took an assignment with a construction engineering team as a "stretch role" and found that she "loved being in the field and being with technicians and customers."

"Moving out into the network side of the business really changed my career," Laboy said. "I really like taking something that's big and breaking it down in pieces and working with a team to achieve that goal ... I like that process of working with a team to do something that they don't think they can do, and pushing forward and achieving that goal."

Before business school, Laboy studied psychology and worked in human resources. She's clearly a people person, and she thinks being open to new ideas is her greatest professional strength. "I spend a lot of time talking with all levels of my organization," she said. "I do my best to bring forward ideas that will help us be better."