During my first varsity track meet in high school, I was running a shuttle relay but forgot to take off my sweat suit. The third guy came over the last hurdle, we were in first place, and I couldn’t get the sweat pants off because they got stuck on my shoe spikes. I pulled them up and took off, and, as I ran, they kept falling down. My team came in last.
Today Thomas Harvey is the senior vice president of AT&T Government Solutions and still uses his calamitous high school track-meet experience when guiding and mentoring others as a team leader who works with approximately 2,100 employees.
“I let them know that, when the gun goes off, they need to be ready to go,” he says. “Do not be so preoccupied with the end goal that you lose sight of the steps required to get there. When given an opportunity, be prepared. You may or may not be given another chance.”
Harvey often serves as a mentor, not only to his employees but to various employee-resource groups within AT&T, including Women of AT&T and Community Network. “I firmly believe in freely sharing experiences,” he says. “It not only provides employees needed guidance, but it also provides me with perspective.”
That approach to life and leadership has contributed to 27 outstanding years of service at AT&T, says Ray Wilkins, Jr., AT&T’s CEO for Diversified Businesses and Harvey’s Eagle Award nominator.
“Thomas began his career at Wisconsin Bell as a Transmission Engineer,” explains Wilkins. “He has since held a variety of diverse leadership positions with increasing responsibility in Network Operations, International Business Development, Customer Operations, Sales Management, and Global Managed Services. He is known for his long track record of developing people, working with high integrity, and delivering exemplary performance. We have all benefited from his talents.”
Harvey also spent several years working internationally, where he was responsible for supporting business-development initiatives around the world. About 10 years ago, for example, he accepted a 12-month assignment to help build the first cellular network in the territory of Poland, just after the fall of socialism. At the time, popular opinion was that it was not safe for an African American to work in the region, but Harvey felt the experience would be invaluable and that his personal risk was limited. “To this day,” he says, “I believe it was the most rewarding experience of my 27 years with AT&T.”
Harvey currently leads a team of Sales and Services professionals responsible for managing the day-to-day business relationship with the federal government, and he has responsibility for keeping a $4 billion business growing at 9% per year. But his service extends far beyond the workplace, as he demonstrated while volunteering for The Ladder Alliance, a nonprofit providing skills training for at-risk and abused women.
“At the end of my term in 2009, the organization was near financial insolvency because of the devastating economic downtown,” Harvey recalls. “So I asked the board to extend my role as president, and they agreed.” Harvey helped increase financial support, double board membership, increase volunteer hours, and improve the graduation rate of women enrolled in the program. Thanks to its robust rejuvenation, The Ladder Alliance continues to help deserving women achieve independence.
“Because we face our own unique obstacles every day,” Harvey says, “I try to model behavior that I expect from others, including perseverance and facing your fears.”
CareerFOCUS Magazine and the National Eagle Leadership Institute® salute 2011 Eagle Award winner Thomas Harvey.