#114: Susan Johnson, EVP Global Connections and Supply Chain at AT&T

#114: Susan Johnson, EVP Global Connections and Supply Chain at AT&T Featured Image

Susan Johnson is the Executive Vice President of Global Connections & Supply Chain for AT&T.

In this capacity, she is responsible for AT&T’s international & domestic strategy and partnership development for network connections. She also leads Supply Chain functions within AT&T Communications supporting the Entertainment Group, Business Services, and Technology and Operations. Her team manages strategic sourcing, purchasing, supplier diversity, sustainability, and supply chain logistics. Jointly, her organization is responsible for a spend portfolio of over $70B that covers all of AT&T’s network and goods & services, domestically & internationally.

Ms. Johnson began working for AT&T in Corporate Development and over her 20-year career has served in a variety of positions within the AT&T portfolio of companies.

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Connect with the Guest:

Susan Johnson: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • Her own career and how the many jobs in banking, finance, investor relations, strategy helped her in her supply chain role
  • Challenges with chip shortages and how is AT&T tackling it
  • COVID-19 has disrupted the retail channel – how has AT&T adapted to this via direct to consumer model, self installations, etc
  • A big challenge across the chain is a lack of trust between the different parties – what can be done to address it
  • Supplier diversity and how to achieve it
  • Supply chain skills of the future and best career advice

Show notes:

  • [01:30] Tell us a little bit about your background, because you’ve seen so much from the different facets of the business and I want to know how that helped you in the supply chain role and portfolio that you have.
  • [03:51] Chip shortages or Semicon shortages are probably one of the biggest struggles across the board. Whether you’re in electronics, telecom, automotive, and so on. How is AT&T coping with it?
  • [05:49] Semiconductor shortage is long-term in nature because it takes three years to build a fab, it costs billions of dollars, and it takes a lot of very high-end talent to be able to run those kinds of lines. So I’m very worried that this is not going to turn around, even this year. 
  • [08:13] COVID-19 very much disrupted the channels for AT&T and your retail channel was disrupted and you had to go direct to the consumer model, you had to go self-installation. Tell us a little bit about how you managed to adapt?
  • [10:29] We moved very quickly to a direct fulfillment model but we also opened up a whole new set of opportunities for customers that wanted to buy online, and then do more of a console type curve to help them set up the device.
  • [12:27] If you were to look back, what certain tweaks did you have to do in the supply chain? What was the hardest? What were some of the biggest lessons learned that maybe the audience can take away? 
  • [15:21] How have partnerships helped you improve deliveries and increase capacity? 
  • [16:48] How are you ensuring that you have that diversity in your supply chain? 
  • [19:03] We actually made a specific target last year to spend over $3 billion with black-owned businesses. And proud to say that we beat that with $3.1 billion and we’re continuing to spend and work on growing new black-owned businesses. 
  • [20:21] How do you build that trust within the supply chain parties so that they share information and they know that it’s safe to share?
  • [23:40] How did these challenges affect the way you evaluate and assess your suppliers?
  • [28:07] Could you share some hints and tips in terms of how you manage that on a low-tier supplier level?
  • [29:34] If you were to look from now to the next five years, what would be some of the key traits supply chain executives must have- hard skills and soft skills?
  • [31:17] I do think that over the next 10 years, the biggest change we’re going to see in the supply chain and in the procurement function that I manage in terms of contracting, is technology- being able to replace a lot of the manual functions that many of us still live in today.
  • [34:27] I also want to bring the topic of diversity at large in the supply chain and you are a great example of a woman that has a greater role in the supply chain. What are some tips and tricks, I guess, in terms of boosting that?
  • [38:48] If you were to look back, what would be one biggest sharing, biggest lesson, or biggest career advice you would give?
  • [39:35] What keeps me relevant is continuing to learn, continuing to grow, staying relevant by reading the articles that are out there, and thinking about technology solutions.

Related Episodes:

#111: Pilar Madrigal Director of Investment Advisory at Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE)

#112: Building Relationships and Leveraging Social Media | The Logistics Tribe

#113: Emer Cunningham, VP Internal Medicine Global Supply Chain at Pfizer

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