“Your company may have a great HR department, but I guarantee you there’s only one person who cares about your career. That’s you,” William “Bill” Hague, EVP — AT&T Mobility & Consumer Markets, told a group of students on Nov. 8 as part of the International Business Association Speaker Series. “Every day you’re out there you have to think about your career.”
Hague, who’s global career began with a three-year stint in the Peace Corps, spoke candidly to students about what life teaches that business school may not.
First and foremost, he noted, “What’s going to make you successful is not being scared to fail.” Not making a decision is a decision, he reminded, and doing so gives you only a 50/50 chance of getting it right. The odds are much better if you go ahead and make a well-informed decision.
And that annoying person — that friend of a friend that always seems to get in the way and slow things down? They exist in the business world, too.
“They’re not going away,” Hague said, recalling a moment in his career where he tired to work around a troublesome co-worker only to find out the co-worker’s 30-year friendship with the CEO held more currency than Hague’s work ethic. Hague ended up getting transferred.
“You have to figure out how to deal with [those people],” he explained.
Hague has also learned to leverage his relationships. Whether these relationships are established while sharing a few beers in Togo, West Africa or meeting with the head of a public utility commission to spell out the decision-making on a project, there are times when deals get done based “100 percent on relationships,” he said. “Build them.”
It’s also important to “be a flag-waving patriot of wherever you go,” he said. And not only to be a champion of the organization, but to work really, really hard.
“You have that work/life question to ask yourself,” Hague said, noting that his boss, Ralph de la Vega, President and CEO — AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, regularly arrives at the office before 6 a.m. and stays until after 6 p.m.
“It takes that level of commitment to be that successful.” He advised the students to stay in good shape and, once a week, to do something “hard and lonely,” such as going for a run in the rain at 4:30 a.m.
“Make yourself cowboy tough,” he said.
Hague also stressed doing the right thing. Integrity is about the long-term picture, he explained, not short term gains. He also advised the students to seize their Jason Lezak moment.
Lezak was the anchor member of the 2008 Olympic Gold-Medal-winning relay team, a victory that helped catapult fellow swimmer and relay member Michael Phelps to rock star status by securing one of his record-setting eight gold medals of the games. Before Lezak dove into the water, however, a gold medal looked unlikely. He was nearly a body length behind the first place team.
But he decided to go for it.
Lezak swam the fastest 100-meter split in history and in the process, won a gold medal for himself and his teammates.
“You will have your Jason Lezak moment,” Hauge told the students. “Go for it.”
– Allison Shirreffs