"Everyone's career comes down to timing," said Bob Toohey, the president of Verizon Business, who is responsible for sales, marketing and delivery for the communications giant's enterprise and government customers across 321 offices in 75 countries.
Appointed to that role in November 2010, Toohey, 43, started his career at GTE, the telephone company that later merged with Bell Atlantic to become Verizon. He graduated from Northeastern University in 1988.
His career at Verizon has been an eclectic collection of 15 stints in 23 years. Toohey has worked in accounting, auditing, various human resources roles and communications. In some cases, it was without any discernible benefit. "I took two jobs and relocated my family without a pay increase. What am I, crazy?" he said.
FINS sat down with Toohey to discuss his skills, his mentors and why planning your future is a bad idea.
Shareen Pathak: How does Verizon's new focus on cloud computing affect the search for talent?
Bob Toohey: Our opportunity is to help business scale. From an IT perspective, talent is going to be strained. I want IT professionals who understand what they do and understand customers. The IT professional needs to be able to connect the dots.
It's about being a solution architect.
Our sales team is also really about the consultative sale now. Our salespeople need to know how sell, not just to network heads and CIOs, but also to business leaders. It's a relationship model.
SP: What skill has been most important in your career?
BT: Understanding how businesses operate and run. You don't need to be in the job to understand how a job works. Get out there, see how operations work.
I had the opportunity to spend time in various functions in various parts at Verizon. At the time I was doing it, I wasn't doing it with my career in mind. Today I know how important it was.
I also think an analytical mindset and understanding of data, or a finance background, helps tremendously.
SP: Is that how you moved into HR from Finance?
BT: Sometimes you have to take risks. When the head of HR, Randall MacDonald, told me to move [to a job in HR], my first reaction was, "I don't want to work in HR." But I went in and took the job and it was great.
I ran compensation groups, visited people who were paying people. I took my finance background, applied it to HR and found out every business is about people. When you work there, you learn a lot about managing people -- they are your greatest assets.
SP: Who are your mentors?
BT: Randy [MacDonald] was definitely one. I was a 27-year old kid and wanted to go into Finance and he steered me to HR. He opened up the doors to other ideas, taught me to take risks. There was also Ivan Seidenberg, [CEO of Verizon]. Having the opportunity to learn from a CEO one-on-one is huge. He's a great, regular guy. You learn by not even knowing you're learning.
Our retired CFO, John Killion, was also a strong mentor of mine. My most recent mentor is my current CFO Franz Gemmo. When I was in HR, he played a key role in letting me move into a business role.
SP: How do you deal with bad days?
BT: I make sure to air it out and get it behind me. Don't let things linger. Usually, it's about trying to get the team to work together on something, so I talk about what has happened and then move forward.
SP: What advice would you give someone interested in advancing at a big company like Verizon?
BT: Don't plan your next six jobs out -- take every job [offered to you inside a big company] and make the most out of it. When you step into the role, don't just look at the job description and say, 'that's what I have to do.' Evolve yourself out of that role.
Write to Shareen Pathak