AT&T's Donovan: Our workforce is 'reskilling' to be data scientists

As AT&T (NYSE: T) moves forward with its virtualization program, the service provider must retrain its workforce to become more familiar with the software-driven environment it is creating through its implementation of SDN and NFV in its network.

John Donovan, chief strategy officer and president of technology and operations for AT&T, told FierceTelecom in areas like big data, the service provider will be helping existing employees who have worked on TDM functions to become experts in data.

"We know we're going to need more data scientists over the next few years," Donovan said. "The reality is we'll have more slots than there will be folks in the job market to fill. We have employees reskilling themselves after spending years focusing on legacy products and environments, such as TDM switching, to become data scientists."

Making this transition for employees won't be an easy task, particularly for a company the size of AT&T. To help prepare its workforce for the next generation of its network architecture, AT&T is providing educational tools and ongoing training.

"On the challenge side, we've faced in our workforce reskilling effort is the experience loop -- you can't get staffed if you don't have experience, and you can't get experience if you don't get staffed," Donovan said. "So, to address this challenge, we offer apprenticeships to provide on-the-job training. Employees are selected based on future role, specialization, and progress on their skills pivot and matched with strategic, meaningful work."

Given the goals it has set to virtualize its network, this ongoing retraining is of the essence for AT&T's workforce. Consider the fact that in 2016, the service provider set a goal to migrate 30 percent of AT&T's applications into a private cloud.

What's compelling about this goal is that it set the 2015 by virtualizing 5.7 percent of its network in 2015.

Additionally, AT&T plans to transition 60 percent of its strategic IT applications into the cloud at end of 2015 with a target of reaching 80 percent by end of this year.

Donovan said that it's "on schedule to switch over the rest in 2017."

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AT&T's Donovan: 2016 is a critical year in virtualizing our network
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AT&T's Donovan: We'll migrate 80% of our apps into the cloud by end of 2016
AT&T will launch SDN service in 63 countries simultaneously this year, de la Vega says
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