By Peter High, published on Forbes
Thaddeus Arroyo has a remarkable journey in technology. He began his career in telecommunications, eventually became an IT executive at Sabre, and then returned to telecommunications as the Chief Information Officer of Cingular Wireless. Via acquisition, he would later join AT&T and become the company’s global CIO.
As he describes it, Arroyo was fortunate to be exposed to growth-oriented, innovative, and transformative opportunities. This included time as the President of Technology Development at AT&T. In that role, Arroyo was responsible for the development of AT&T’s products and services, digital experiences for customers, and systems supporting the operations across AT&T business segments, networks, and services. He notes that, “These experiences equipped me with a broad perspective across many technology and business operation disciplines, and this set me on the path to acquiring the skills required for any successful business leader.”
Opportunity called in Mexico when AT&T acquired multiple businesses in that market, and Arroyo would become the CEO of AT&T Mexico for a two year period in 2015 through 2016. Earlier this year, he became the CEO of AT&T Business.
Arroyo believes that this rapid rise beyond the CIO role will be accessible to many others. He believes that great IT leaders who understand business processes as well as anyone, and who use their unique visibility across all business units to contribute and help drive the business strategy will follow in his footsteps.
Peter High: You have gone from chief information officer of multiple companies to Chief Executive Officer of AT&T Business. Can you describe your career path in brief?
Thaddeus Arroyo: Over the course of my career, I have moved across industries and roles serving businesses and enabling capabilities. Most of my career has been spent in the technology and telecommunication space. Having worked across multiple industries, I have been appointed to positions that have led to technology transformation and integration, and I have focused on enabling business strategies that create business velocity and drive product innovation.
I have looked for roles that position me to broaden my skills through new experiences. That was true at the beginning of my career when I started in the IT department of Southwestern Bell, which was the nucleus of what today is AT&T. While working there, I served in the US Army Reserve as a Signal Corps Officer. That part-time experience was a large element of how I developed my core management and leadership foundation.
After beginning my career in the telecommunication space, I left and changed industries. I went to work for the IT department of American Airlines with Sabre Corporation. There, I had an opportunity to work on expanding their international data networks, then work on application development, and finally on product marketing. My time with Sabre allowed me to move across disciplines and get experience around not just the application of technology, but around operating the business too. That experience was instrumental in positioning me for what I do today.
My experience with Sabre led to my first CIO role, which was at Cingular Wireless. Cingular Wireless was the result of the consolidation of several regional wireless players, including BellSouth and SBC, which evolved from Southwestern Bell Telephone. At Cingular, I had an opportunity to direct the scaling of our operations and the integration of our systems during a period when the wireless industry was consolidating. During that scaling, Cingular purchased AT&T Wireless. When AT&T acquired BellSouth in 2007, I had an opportunity to become the Global CIO for all of AT&T.
High: How and when did you pivot from CIO to CEO?