As executive vice president and CEO of Verizon Business, a global leader in 5G technology serving 97 percent of Fortune 500 companies, Tami Erwin is recognized widely for her strategic impact, marketing and operations focus, technical savvy, and passion for people-centric approach. Erwin and her team help businesses, governments, and communities reimagine their employee, supply chain, and end-customer experiences. Prior to her current role, Erwin was the head of operations for Verizon Wireless and led Verizon Fios, the nation’s largest residential and commercial fiber network that was crucial to the evolution and growth of Verizon’s wireline and wireless business segments.
Erwin has always championed engagement and development programs that help women and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) grow their skills and networks. Erwin also is the advisor to Verizon’s Veterans employee resource group that works with over 10,0000 veterans, active reservists, and military families.
Originally from Seattle, Washington, Erwin and her husband, Darrell, have two adult children and now call New Jersey home.
What has been the biggest challenge or opportunity for technology companies when dealing with the pandemic?
The pandemic permanently has changed what it means to be at work. Put simply, work no longer is a place you go—it’s what you do. Hybrid working, and the ability to work from anywhere, is here to stay. That has raised challenges for businesses. A huge part of this shift has been facilitated by our capacity to invent new ways of working fit for the digital age, like video conferencing, cloud, and instant messaging. All of this ladders up to how technology can facilitate new behaviors and patterns that can benefit the workforce. At its core, this transformational change is anchored to three things: reliability, performance, and security. This fundamentally changes what it means to be safe, secure, and online—and that is a challenge we’re working to tackle at Verizon, as well as with our customers.
Having held leadership roles both at Verizon’s wireless and wireline sides of the business, what do you see as the key areas of growth for the company?
5G is the catalyst for the future of our business. We have built a 5G network that matters, and provides real-world, 5G-enabled solutions today-and we’re just getting started. Our goal is to be the most trusted and innovative end-to-end partner for our customers, helping them with their needs today, while readying them for future innovation as we enter the 5G era. Today, we are the only B2B player live and in-market with 5G mobility, fixed wireless access, and mobile edge compute for our small and medium business, global enterprise, and public sector customers.
We continue to evolve our organization, internally and through disruptive partnerships, to meet the needs of our customers and the opportunity ahead for all businesses. For example, we just introduced a new head of Industrial IoT and Autos. Recently, we announced a groundbreaking new partnership with Amazon’s Project Kuiper to use Verizon’s 5G network and their LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite constellation to reach underserved and rural communities across the globe, and serve the growing needs of domestic and global enterprises. This is an exciting time for business with the demand for our 5G and mobile edge compute platform, along with the rapidly growing ecosystem we are building that will scale new ways of working and serving customers. Drawing on my deep background at Verizon has been important as the world accelerates digitization.
With the advent and promise of 5G, do you think that this could be a driver for convergence (to some extent) between wireless and wireline?
With Verizon’s 5G, businesses across industries have accelerated their digitization and are innovating new approaches to entire verticals, including lots of exciting 5G applications that leverage real-time analytics such as smart factories, smart cars, smart cities, IoT, and augmented and virtual reality. With all that potential, the convergence of the employee and customer experience-no matter if its wireless or wireline-matters more now than ever. Our multi-use network is architected by the best engineers on the planet. It is the strategic foundation that allows customers to maximize their network infrastructure. Key to that network is mobility expansion, fixed wireless access, security, collaboration tools, managed services, and mobile edge compute. All of these components are essential building blocks to our customers’ futures.
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion has been on top of mind amongst the industry. Can you talk about DE&I programs that you have instituted in your career and at Verizon?
Two years ago we set a mission at Verizon to create the networks that move the world forward for four key stakeholders: our customers, employees, shareholders, and society at large. That was a watershed moment in my career at Verizon, as we reoriented our mindsets to what it means to be a responsible business. Although we long have been a company grounded in those shared values, it also has been important to become more concretely dedicated to economic, environmental, and social advancement.
More specifically on diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is one area particularly close to my heart, our work surrounds creating a more equitable workplace for women, both within Verizon and beyond. 5.4 million women exited the workforce in 2020. In March 2021, we launched Women’s CoLab in direct response to this crisis, with the goal of creating a future of work that works for all women. Women’s CoLab brings together the resources women will need to succeed in a digital, post-pandemic world, including mentoring from top-tier executives, best-in-class development and training resources, tools to remain, re-enter, and thrive in the workforce, plus more.
How do you see the post-pandemic landscape shaping up for the digital infrastructure industry?
If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that there’s never been a more critical time for mobility, broadband, cloud, and building the 21st century platform for innovation. Reliable connectivity has become an essential part of the way we live, work, and play. There is so much opportunity out there for our industry to capitalize on the pervasiveness of connectivity and the potential for all that is to come with 5G.
Take healthcare and the recent shift to telemedicine. Thanks to advances made in the videoconferencing space, we will never sit in a doctor’s office the same way again. We recently launched BlueJeans Telehealth, a secure, HIPAA-ready, mobile-friendly, virtual visit experience for providers and patients in the US with plans to expand internationally next year. Furthermore, thanks to 5G, we also are seeing impressive innovation already in the medical field, like enhanced diagnostics that can help with a diagnosis in fractions of a second. The very nature of healthcare is evolving right in front of our eyes. That’s just one use case, but across every industry-healthcare, retail, automotive, or manufacturing-this trend toward impressive innovation powered by connectivity is what will continue to be top of mind.
Separately, two hallmarks of the pandemic that will stay with us for some time are uncertainty as a certainty and the importance of mental health. The two are, in many ways, inextricably linked and pose both great challenge and great opportunity to us as leaders-and as human beings. I know for certain that, as we move forward into 2022, it will continue to be important to check in with ourselves and those around us on a regular basis, to take moments to focus on what makes us grateful, and to create moments that matter, with the people who matter.
As a successful woman leader, what message do you have for young women who are looking to join this industry?
Raise your hand, take a risk, and believe you can! I also would encourage all young professionals to have open conversations that focus on how we attract, develop, and maintain women in our industry’s workforce. I’ve spent a large portion of my career advocating for women in tech and telecommunications, and now the conversation is more critical than ever. This dialogue is pivotal to ensuring we don’t lose momentum toward creating workplaces that welcome all and ensure everyone has the tools, resources, and support they need to succeed. It is so important that we continue the discussion while taking actionable steps to measure our progress. We must continue to put this conversation front and center, bring men into the discussion, challenge ourselves, find mentors, and identify mentees.