Digital Transformation: Inclusion and Diversity

What are the core parts of digital transformation and how can we use transformation to address issues around the digital divide, diversity, and inclusion? Marcus East, Chief Digital Officer at T-Mobile returns to CXOTalk to share his thoughts on this important topic.


Dec 17, 2021

Digital transformation is the reinvention of businesses around digital, which has increased the importance of digital across every aspect of the business. And it's driven by customer expectations that are enabled by technology.

But how can digital transformation address issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion? The questions of who gets access and inclusion are central to DE&I, but more broadly to the success of any transformation.

In this episode, the Chief Digital Officer at T-Mobile, Marcus East, returns to CXOTalk to share his thoughts.

The conversation includes these topics:

Marcus East has spent one half of his career working for top technology companies building world-class technology -- Apple, Google & IBM -- and the other half helping brands to harness the power of technology to drive business value — including Comic Relief, Marks and Spencer, National Geographic and T-Mobile. 


Marcus East: To build the best products, to build products that work for everyone, you have to understand what everyone needs. That is the fundamental reason that you need to have both diversity and inclusion in your strategy. Otherwise, you can't possibly be building things that will work for everybody.

What is digital transformation at T-Mobile?

Michael Krigsman: When we discuss digital transformation, diversity and inclusion is often left out. Today on CXOTalk, that's our topic of conversation. We're speaking with Marcus East. He is the chief digital officer of T-Mobile.

Marcus East: I really believe in the power of technology to be transformative for people. Here at T-Mobile, my job is to make sure that we fuse the technologies that we use in order to deliver experiences to customers with incredible customer experiences so that customers find it easy to try to join, to manage their relationship with us.

I lead a cross-functional team that includes engineers, designers, researchers. We're responsible for all of the digital experiences that are put in front of our T-Mobile customer base.

Michael Krigsman: When you talk about digital transformation, what does that mean at T-Mobile?

Marcus East: We want to remove the boundaries that exist between our organization and our customers and partners. We want to make it easy for them to interact with us, to communicate with us, to do business with us.

This idea of self-service is really fundamental to a lot of our digital transformation. Allowing our customers to come in and to be able to do the things that they need to do, quickly, themselves, where necessary.

Now, many of you all know that T-Mobile, of course, has been built on this incredible reputation for customer care. We still have millions of our customers who call into our customer experience centers, and we continue to provide them with the best service in the industry.

But increasingly, we're seeing that customers also want to be able to service themselves. And so, our digital transformation is very heavily geared towards making sure that we're giving our customers the capabilities that they need.

I would just add, Michael, that we're also very focused on making sure that our frontline colleagues get the tools that they need. We have an incredible frontline that manages our customer experience centers and also manages our retail stores. Digital transformation also means putting the right tools in their hands as well so that they can really deliver to customers the service that they expect.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like digital transformation has, for you, at its core both customer experience and employee experience.

Marcus East: I will channel Chief Experience Officer Callie Field who often talks about this need to give our frontline colleagues a J.A.R.V.I.S.-like capability. Anybody that's an Ironman fan will know that J.A.R.V.I.S. is key to Ironman's ability to be a superhero. That's what we're aiming to do here as well. Can we give our frontline colleagues the J.A.R.V.I.S. technology that they need so that they can be superheroes?

Michael Krigsman: I think that with digital transformation, very often there is a discussion around the enabling technologies, but it's really far more than that.

Marcus East: It is. One of the things that we talk about in our team—and, in some respects, this is something that you could say is our manifesto—is our belief that we need to deliver technology in the service of people. Many of the people in my team will talk about us bending technology to the will of human beings. I do think that's something that we don't do enough of.

We've obviously seen many examples of where technology is being used to deliver business value. But in doing so, sometimes it compromises the privacy or potentially the security of the people who are using that technology.

It's our belief that we never ever want to see ourselves in that place. We want to make sure that we're delivering technology in the service of people. One of the best ways to make sure you're always doing that is by focusing on the customer experience.

Role of culture in digital transformation

Michael Krigsman: Why is culture, people, experience the center of digital transformation?

Marcus East: I think there are a couple of reasons that culture and people are at the core of this. One is, to build great digital products and experiences, you have to be focused on people. You've got to be focused on the end-user or the customer. You've got to know what problem they're trying to solve and what delight looks like for them.

A lot of our time is spent researching and talking to and interacting with our customers so that we can really understand what they're looking for. We're very responsive to that. We know that many of our customers want to make sure that they can do things as quickly as possible when they want to. That's one aspect of really focusing on people.

The other side of it is sometimes we underestimate the importance of creativity when it comes to building these digital capabilities and driving digital transformation. Creativity comes from people, and so making sure that we have a population within our digital team that reflects the audiences that we are interacting with is really key.

A great example would be accessibility. We have a fantastic accessibility resource center that is super-focused on making sure that all of our customers, regardless of their needs (whether they be visually impaired or whether they be hearing impaired) can still have a wonderful experience interacting with T-Mobile.

Obviously, we wouldn't be able to do that effectively as a team if we didn't have people in our organization who deeply understood that. For example, we have people in our team who are visually impaired and blind, which allows them to really advocate strongly for those customers. That to me is at the heart of any digital transformation.

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Wayne Anderson on Twitter who asks, "How do you balance risk against innovation and transformation?" Obviously, when we talk about digital transformation, we are talking about change, and change is hard and change involves risk.

Marcus East: The risk that you take when driving change is something that you've got to truly understand. Then you have to mitigate or manage that risk.

One of the things that a lot of organizations talk about is this idea that if you create digital channels, do they disrupt and potentially cannibalize some of the existing channels that you have? But my argument is that you need to be looking at that consciously because if you don't cannibalize some of your existing ways of doing business, you're probably allowing your competitors to do so.

For us, it comes back to this idea of people, testing, and communicating with our customers. I can't tell you the number of times that a meeting here at T-Mobile starts with an email that came from a customer or a video where one of our researchers has gone out and spoken to a customer.

The impact of those interactions on us is really profound. Once you're hearing that, it gives you some guidance as to what our customers really need.

Then we are very deliberate about testing the things that we launch before we launch them. Giving our customers, or a subset of our customers, an opportunity to provide feedback on the things that we're developing, we think that's really important.

There is an obvious truth here, Michael. The truth is there is an element of risk with driving change. The third way in which I think people play an important role here is you've got to have talented professionals that you trust who care about your customers but who are also experts at their job. If you have those things in place, I think you can contain the risk and you can hopefully focus on achieving the rewards rather than experiencing some of the risks.

Michael Krigsman: Trust in the folks who are executing the transformation plans is a crucial element to this.

Marcus East: We all know that there is a war on talent right now and the war for talent means that a lot of people in the digital space are getting multiple offers from different companies. In my mind, one of the things that I have to do as a chief digital officer is making sure that I'm creating a really great employee proposition and environment so that not only do I attract people who have got the right skills and capabilities to drive those transformations, but we retain and motivate them and give them opportunities to grow.

What I would tell you is that there is something a little bit unique about the average digital professional. If I think about the people that I worked with (in IT), perhaps at the start of my career, they were much more focused on process, on making sure that they were delivering the perfect architecture.

The digital technologist of today is typically someone who starts with the customer and who thinks about the outcomes and the business impact of the things that they're doing. There is a bit of a clash in that sometimes you find that the digital experts are dependent on the IT experts. My job as a chief digital officer is also to make sure that we have that collaboration and that great partnership.

Here in T-Mobile, we partner with our enterprise technology solutions team. They do a great job of putting in place and managing the core systems on which our business runs. But that partnership between our two organizations is critical because, without that, we wouldn't be able to deliver for our customers.

Digital transformation and customer success

Michael Krigsman: Clearly, you have technology, back-end technology of every type, aligned to what you're trying to do for your customers, the kind of experience you want to deliver for your customers. I guess that begs the question of how do you ensure that what you're doing from a tech standpoint properly supports the customer goals.

Marcus East: Part of it is this testing that I've talked about previously in that we're very deliberate about testing at two levels. We have a very strong focus on the quality testing aspect, so our digital experience testing team is always looking at the quality of what we put out there.

But you could deliver a high-quality product that still doesn't meet the needs of the customer because of its lack of features or lack of functionality. That's where we really rely heavily on not only the research that informs what we build but also the digital expertise that gives us some insights and the digital expertise that really uses intuition in order to do that.

I would say that many people who have listened to me before know that I used to work for Apple. One of the things for me that was very powerful at Apple (as Steve Jobs was building that company) was this idea that you always try to be one step ahead of where your customers are today.

If you ask your customers what they want, they may not be able to tell you. And so, you have to develop the skill to properly understand your customers. This actually does bring us back to the topic of diversity and inclusion.

You have to make sure that you're talking to a set of customers that do represent all of your customer base because if you're only talking to your male customers or only talking to young customers, you might miss out on the opportunity to deliver something that works for your full audience. That's really important to us as well.

Diversity and product development

Michael Krigsman: How do you achieve that kind of broad-based view where you're talking to all of your customers, especially at a company like T-Mobile, which just is so large, and the breadth and the diversity of your customer base? It's basically a cross-section of everyone in the U.S.

Marcus East: It is, yes. We have over 100 million customers. We're delighted to provide services to them. But if you think about the audience, it varies enormously.

We have a particular set of products and services for people who are 55+. We have a set of products for people who are veterans. We have a set of products that are really focused on people that live in small markets and rural America. What's key is that, in our digital team, we need to make sure that we're aligning people to be thinking about those different customer sets.

I think it's fair to say that if you look in some digital organizations or some technology organizations, you might see there is a very strong functional alignment and the people will be focused on the discipline that they're in. "I'm a software engineer," or "I specialize in post-paid e-commerce." But our belief is that you need to take that one step further in that your digital team also needs to be always looking at those different customer sets. And so, this idea of people who are thinking about how your digital experiences are working for a particular population is really important.

That then forces us to look at our composition, and so we have a great track record in T-Mobile and in my team of hiring veterans. That's important because, as we develop products and services for veterans, we need that insight that they bring and that experience that they bring. Obviously, it's not the case that all veterans are the same, but it's important to at least take the time to hear how things might be different for a veteran or how they might be different for somebody who is 55+.

A classic example would be looking at a new experience and testing it with an audience that is 55+ and realizing that the font that you're using is just too small, and you have to reimagine what it is that you're delivering. Now, of course, you might have content and marketing people who are telling you, "Well, that material has to be there." But if the customer can't interact with it, then you missed the opportunity to connect with them.

These are the sorts of things that you get when you have a team that is truly diverse.

Michael Krigsman: Looking closely at your target audience and digging in to understand, to go below the surface to really understand their needs, and then testing to be sure you have it right.

Marcus East: Once we've launched it, always testing to make sure that it's still right because one of the realities is that our customer base is dynamic. Their needs change.

Prior to COVID, the percentage of people that wanted to interact with us digitally was probably much lower. Now, we see that people have been trained (though COVID) to be able to do things themselves digitally.

Their expectations for what they can do are much greater. They expect to be able to manage much of their relationship electronically.

I had an interesting example recently where I was contacted by a wealth manager from my bank who said, "Hey, Mr. East. We haven't had an opportunity to sit down for a while. I would love to sit down with you and talk about how things are going."

I went back to him and said, "I'm good. I can do everything that I need to do digitally. I will contact you if there's a problem. No need for us to get together."

That's a really interesting change because, culturally – for organizations like that bank and T-Mobile where there's been a very strong person-to-person, direct, physical, human interaction on which the brands have really been built – we now have to augment that with our digital capabilities. I think that it's important to – as I talked about earlier with this idea of building J.A.R.V.I.S – make sure that we are augmenting the direct human interaction with digital capabilities.

How does T-Mobile measure the success of digital transformation?

Michael Krigsman: We have questions starting to stack up on Twitter and LinkedIn. This is from Ruhi Gupta. Ruhi asks, "How do you measure success of digital transformation initiatives within your organization?"

Marcus East: One of the areas I really had to focus on when I took over the privilege of leading this team was understanding what are the metrics that matter. How are the ways in which we're going to measure how we as a digital team are successful?

Now, previously, I had engineers who may have been super-focused on delivering on time and on budget. But they were disconnected from the usage of the things that they were building. We as a digital team have got some very clear OKRs that set a clear objective but then also allow us to measure that.

In terms of the sorts of things that we're measuring, the number one measure for us is customer engagement and satisfaction. We measure that through net promoter score. I think that I encourage any organization that is serious about digital to think about net promoter score as a way of assessing are the things that you're building for the customers actually working.

Of course, there are commercial measures, too, and I do not believe that any digital team can be successful if it doesn't have very strong commercial measures. And so, we also spend time thinking about what are the number of activations that we're doing. What is the conversion rate? What is the average order size? Are we actually seeing the experiences that we build translate into commercial benefits for the organization?

Next is interesting in that you've also got to think about the quality of what you put out there. That quality is measured not only in how customers react to it, but also in terms of, well, how do customers experience it? Are there defects? Are there outages? We're very intentional about making sure that we have high-quality products that don't impact our customers and are always available and scalable for their needs.

Then there are a couple of other interesting measures that are critical for our team. One is the hard return on investment measure. For the capital that we invest in building our digital experiences, are we generating for the business the returns that our CFO can be comfortable with that allow him to say, "That was a good investment decision"?

Next is velocity, and it's this idea that we have to be able to get from a business concept to working code and experiences as quickly as possible. Our CEO, Mike Sievert, is very passionate about this. He wants to see that window between business concept and working software to continue to get tighter and tighter so that we are executing really quickly.

Then the final thing that we think about – and I think sometimes this is overlooked – is employee engagement and how satisfied are our employees. What is our attrition rate? What are they telling us when we have our OurVoice surveys?

All of these things together, if all of those metrics are heading in the right direction, you can be confident that you have a good digital organization and that your strategy is working for your company.

Michael Krigsman: I have a funny story about your CEO, Mike Sievert. I've been a T-Mobile customer for many, many years – many years. A long time ago, probably almost ten years ago, I had some issues. I just could not get it resolved, so I reached out to your former CEO, John Legere, on Twitter. Somehow, he routed me to Mike Sievert, who then called me up.

I remember I was on a ferry. He called me up, and we spent 20 minutes on the phone explaining. He actually got my problem solved. I think it's a pretty good testament to his customer focus. That's for sure.

Marcus East: Yeah, what a great story. I think that that kind of ethos that led to that interaction that you had, is core to what it is to be at T-Mobile and our digital team is embracing that love of customers and solving problems for customers in the same way.

How is T-Mobile trying to close the digital divide?

Michael Krigsman: There's a couple of topics that I think we really need to talk about. One is the digital divide. Obviously, T-Mobile is a telecom provider and, throughout the pandemic, everybody has needed access. Kids, schools have needed access to the Internet. Tell us about the digital divide issues and where is T-Mobile on that issue.

Marcus East: During COVID, we've seen this exacerbation of the digital divide. It was surprising to me to learn (early on during COVID) that there were some families who were entirely dependent on one person's smartphone in order to provide Internet connectivity for everyone in the family, whether they were working or whether they were children studying. That's really difficult, particularly at a time when (because of COVID) many people were having their incomes impacted and their lives disrupted.

T-Mobile, our mission is really to make sure that we are connecting people to their world. We take that very seriously.

During COVID, we understood that it's a challenge. There were entire neighborhoods where children weren't able to easily study from home because they didn't have reliable Internet connectivity.

That led to us creating an initiative called Project 10 Million where we are providing Internet connectivity for pupils and for communities to make sure that we're bridging that digital divide. We will continue to do that. We think it's fundamental to us having a good society, and we think it's our duty, it's our responsibility as T-Mobile to do that.

We use the network that we've built, the best 5G network in the world, all of the services that we have. Obviously, we sell those services and we're really excited to see our business grow. But we know that we have a responsibility to help to bridge that digital divide.

In fact, we have, this year, released our first corporate social responsibility report. That is one of the things that we talk about. Anyone who is interested in that topic can hear a lot more about that if they look for our CSR report.

Michael Krigsman: This seems to me to be such an important issue because digital transformation is great, but when you don't have access to the Internet for essential services like school or like registering to get the vaccine, then digital transformation becomes a net negative for society rather than being something that's positive.

Marcus East: Yes, and we'll bring Mike Sievert back into the conversation. I had a very interesting conversation with Mike a few months back when my team was very excited to be developing a digital-only proposition. Mike, as he does, very politely but very firmly said, "No. We won't do that because we want to make sure that everything that we provide is available to everybody."

Whilst we might put an emphasis on something being available digitally, we have to think about all of our customers all of the time. That was a good check for us because we, as a digital team, obviously are very focused on those consumers that are digitally savvy. But we need to be thinking about those that are not digitally savvy because they also need to have access to services and capabilities from us.

And so, one of the things we haven't touched upon is this idea that our digital team is part of our customer experience organization. That's really important because it means that our digital team is always thinking about our customers and how the end-to-end customer experience works rather than thinking about digital as an independent channel that does everything in spite of what customers who are not digital need. That's really important for us as well.

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Twitter on this question. "What kind of cultural transformations did you make to achieve and to build this digital transformation?" Again, it's this intersection between culture change and digital transformation. I think he's talking now about inside the company, but let's also talk about outside the company as well.

Marcus East: One of the things that I experienced as I was coming into T-Mobile and learning the culture is that when you have a strong culture and you have a successful company, sometimes you need to just put a pause in place, take a step back, and look at the things that you need to measure.

I had a very interesting experience in that I would stop some of the engineers in our digital team or some of our product people. I would say to them, "Hey, how are we doing on our activations today? How are we doing as we relate to our quarterly targets?" For some of our engineers, that would be a head-scratch moment.

A couple of them said to me, "Hey, we've never really been sat down and had to think about the impact of this on the numbers. We just deliver high-quality products and experiences, and we focus on our code." Culturally, we've got to a place now where nearly everybody in our digital team has a good understanding of the commercial performance of the things that we're doing.

In fact, I had such an interesting moment, which was a reminder to me that we'd made a really big step with our culture in that I had a couple of engineers come into my office and say, "Hey, we were just learning about how important it is to make sure that when our customers interact with us for this particular product that it happens in just three clicks. We've just seen that if it's four clicks, that can cost us millions of dollars and create friction for our customers."

Culturally, the digital team of people who think not only about the customer, not only about the technology but also about the commercial implications of what they do, now that is not easy, Michael. The elephant in the room, of course, is that not everybody who developed a career as a software engineer, as a product designer, or as a content manager is going to be interested in also talking commercial. There's no doubt that some people have found that to be a transition that they didn't want to make.

Culturally, this idea that we have a team that can beautifully combine and live at the intersection of people, technology, and business is really key. I would say the cultural transformation has been one of the most important things that we've had to embrace.

How to make digital transformation inclusive?

Michael Krigsman: What about the notion diversity and inclusion in business? When we talk about digital transformation, I think we do tend to think about technology and the customer. But transformation that is inclusive, what about that aspect?

Marcus East: We, as a team, are always looking at how much we represent the world around us. Now, the good news is, across our whole company, we have a really good story to tell on diversity.

We have many people from many different backgrounds. Many of our colleagues are identifying themselves as black or African-American or as Latino.

When you look at the data, you realize there is still a way for us to go, particularly in some of the disciplines that we talked about. For our engineering organization, we have an explicit plan in 2022 to drive up the level of gender representation.

We also have to acknowledge – I've seen this during my time in Silicon Valley – when we look at the engineering ranks, we often see that many of the people who are in engineering are people of color. Many of the people that I've worked with in the last ten years have been of Indian or Asian, for example.

But as you get up the ranks and you move into the leaders of those organizations, there tends to be much less representation. That is something that we're very consciously thinking about as well.

I would tell you that if you look at the composition of some of our teams, the majority of some of those teams are people of color. Wanting to make sure that they see themselves represented at senior leadership that they see their voices being represented at the top table is really important to us. It's a part of our strategy in 2022 to really double down on that.

How we measure it, Michael, is something I talked about earlier. It's this idea of employee engagement, making sure that the data is being looked at so that we know that our customers feel good about this.

We're starting from a great place. I would say we have an advantage over many organizations in that we have an incredibly engaged workforce.

If you look at our employee survey results for many of the important categories, we have over a 90% positive rating. But we know that to get to the nirvana that we're seeking to get to that digital excellence that we want, we've got to continue to focus on diversity and inclusion.

Michael Krigsman: On this topic, we have another question, a great question again from Arsalan Khan. Arsalan Listens all the time. Thank you, Arsalan, for listening. He asks great questions.

Arsalan says, "The digital divide has created haves and have-nots. What else can companies do beyond just providing more, better Internet bandwidth to help address this issue?"

Marcus East: The digital divide is something that isn't just about connectivity. Obviously, that's fundamental. That's core to it. But it's also access to technology and access to devices.

Something that is really important for me is that when I was growing up as a child in London and I was the child of immigrants living in beautiful, leafy North London, I was very fortunate. I went to a school called Bounds Green where I had a teacher, Mr. Martin, who bought a computer with his own money. Those of us who were top of our class at mathematics, he took his one time after school to teach us how to program.

One of the things that my parents often say to me is, "Imagine if you hadn't been in that school, you hadn't been top of the class. Would you have had exposure to computers at any time before you ended up in the workplace?"

For me, there is something very important in that story because it's a reminder to me that we've got to make sure that we are opening up access to technology.

But not just technology. There are many initiatives out there from companies like Google to put Chrome Books and other devices in the hands of the people who sometimes may not be able to actually get access to them. But we also have to think about the training.

We here at T-Mobile, in the digital team, have also created a new function. The codename for it is InLab. It's really our innovation lab.

One of the things that we discovered as we were thinking about creating this innovation lab is that not only did we want a space where we could innovate for our company; we wanted a space where we could bring in people from the community, bring in people from disadvantaged or historically underrepresented communities, and give them an opportunity to get access to the knowledge and the expertise that we have in T-Mobile to help inspire them and to help shape their thinking. To me, that's another great example of where we are trying to help bridge this digital divide.

If you'll permit me just another minute on this topic, Michael, I had the great privilege recently of going to one of our customer experience centers. This was one down in Richmond where we have several hundred dedicated T-Mobile professionals who provide care to our customers.

What was remarkable for me being there was a reminder that T-Mobile not only provides them with meaningful work but has made a material change to many of their lives in that T-Mobile supports their education by providing educational budgets, allowing people who never had the opportunity to go to college to go to college.

We're taking that a step further in this digital team. We are now creating opportunities for some of those people to actually come and work on some of the digital projects that in the old days may have been seen as head office activities. We're removing that boundary, and we're acknowledging that whether you're a T-Mobile person working on the front-line in one of our customer experience centers or whether you're a T-Mobile person working at head office in a job that is primarily based around a computer, you're part of the same company and there shouldn't be a divide in terms of your career growth and your career opportunities.

We're already seeing that, in our customer experience centers, we have incredibly talented people who, in their spare time, have become experts at designing things or creating content. We've taken the step to bring some of those people into our digital fold. To me, both of those things are great examples of how we're addressing the desire to have more inclusion in this space.

How can companies hire diverse people?

Michael Krigsman: Many of the business leaders that I have spoken with have emphasized the importance of diverse teams. Since this topic, this issue is so important to you, what advice do you have for folks in terms of being able to recruit and hire diverse team members?

Marcus East: For us at T-Mobile, it is about making sure that you create an environment where everybody can bring their whole selves to work and where everybody feels that they have a voice and an opportunity to progress.

Now, the good news is we start from a great place. Already, many of our employees identify, overwhelmingly, T-Mobile is a place where they believe that they do have an opportunity to develop and to enhance their careers.

But of course, as people start to become more senior and the spaces into which they can grow become fewer, you do get challenges where people will say, "Well, I've not been promoted for a long period of time and I'd like to get there."

We, in the digital team, are also looking at what we can do to change the structures and the way in which we organize things to make sure that we are creating multiple career paths for people. I was introduced recently to this idea of the career path not as a ladder but as a lattice where people have the opportunity to move sideways and diagonally to develop new skills and new capabilities.

Going back to this InLab concept that I talked about, one of the key principles there is that we are taking people who came from a network engineering background where they may have spent the first 20 years of their career working purely on wireless network engineering, and we're now giving them an opportunity to develop new skills around customer experience and digital products.

My advice to any organization that wants to build a more diverse workforce is obviously make sure that you're looking at talent pools that aren't the talent pools that you've been fishing in for the last few decades. Look for new areas of talent, but also make sure you create an environment where the people that you have today within your environment have the ability to try new things, to learn new things, and to test their skills.

One of the things that's a joy for me is watching our team grow. We've hired over 100 people in the last few months into our team. Watching how the people that join then reach out into their networks.

Of the people who have joined our team this year, 59% of them come from a background that we would identify as being diverse, whether they be female or maybe a person of color. They may be somebody with a disability. Fifty-nine percent, that's amazing, and that is helping us to get to a place where we are even more inclusive.

But we have had to be very intentional about that, and I would encourage people to take it really seriously because there is talent out there that is being overlooked. In a market where we are fighting for talent and we know many people are considering a job change, all of us have to make sure that we're doing that intentionally.

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Andrew Borg who says, "Can you talk to us about digital ethics and privacy when it comes to the use of customer data?"

Marcus East: One of the things I will tell you is that, as a company, we are 100% committed to always protecting the security and the privacy of our customers. We think that's absolutely fundamental. Even to the extent that we would sometimes walk away from commercial opportunities where we may have had the potential of using data to do something that would have been revenue-generating.

We actually think about privacy and cybersecurity as something that is part of our customer experience in that you can't say that you built a product that was right for your customers if it doesn't ensure that it protects that. I spend a lot of time with our chief privacy officer. She is a fantastic character who is also committed to great customer experience.

For us, that is part of the synthesis of every idea, every project, every initiative. In fact, for next year, within digital, we're creating a special privacy team whose only job will be to make sure that we are looking end-to-end across all of the things that we build to ensure that we're giving our customers what they need from a privacy perspective.

Michael Krigsman: How can business leaders develop better career paths for women and people of color?

Marcus East: By creating opportunities for those people to test themselves in roles for which they may not traditionally have been qualified or may not traditionally have been invited to.

Michael Krigsman: What are typical challenges that companies face on the digital transformation journey?

Marcus East: Three big things that I'll just touch upon quickly.

One is legacy technology. It's great to have a digital transformation, but if your technology takes a long time to deliver and is very slow to change, that's going to hold you back. That's the first thing.

The second is culture. It's this idea that you've got to have people that actually understand digital and understand how to build things for customers that work from both a technology and a business perspective. That change can be hard for some organizations.

Then the third is one of resources. One of the things that I've heard from some of my peers is that they've been given the chief digital officer title in their organization but they haven't been given the budget, the resources, or the authority to make the changes that are necessary.

I would say that you've got to have all of those things in place in order to be successful.

Michael Krigsman: What obstacles interfere with improving access to technology for the underserved?

Marcus East: A couple of things there would be scarcity. We know right now that microprocessors are in short supply. Things like graphics cards that go into computers, they're much harder to come by and that's driving up the cost. I do think that, in the future, we as technologists have to be thinking about ways in which we can develop truly cost-effective technologies and products that can go to people to make sure that people do have access despite the challenges that are being faced.

I think the other thing is just taking the technology out to people. That's what we're going to do with our innovation lab, with our InLab. Just going into the schools and going into the environments and allowing people to see things that might just spark an idea, that might just change their life. That for me is something that personally I'm super committed to.

How can companies improve the talent pipeline for women and people of color?

Michael Krigsman: How can we address the talent pipeline issue regarding women and people of color? How do we get women and people of color into the technology industry workforce?

Marcus East: The first thing I would say is make sure that you are advertising and making your roles visible in the appropriate environments in that some of the traditional places in which people advertise for software engineering, for example, we know that they don't always have the same level of female participation. Take your job descriptions and your role descriptions and advertise them in other places where you're more likely to find people that represent the group that you feel is underrepresented in your organization.

The other thing that I would say is that it's also important to make sure that you look into your environment and that you do have an environment where people who do come from those underrepresented, historically underrepresented, backgrounds can thrive. It's no good just to think about the pipeline in terms of "Let's just get more people in."

One of the realities, particularly if you look at Silicon Valley, is that actually, Silicon Valley does a pretty good job of getting more people of color and more females into the pipeline. But then they join these organizations and they don't stay for the same length of time that other people do. You've got to look at the environment that you have as well as the pipeline that you're creating externally.

Why are diversity and inclusion important to digital transformation?

Michael Krigsman: What do diversity and inclusion have to do with digital transformation?

Marcus East: My belief is that you can't possibly build products and experiences for all of your customers if you do not have people who understand or represent all of your customers. That is a fundamental reality of products.

If you talk to executives at Apple or you talk to executives at Google, they would tell you the same thing. To build the best products, to build products that work for everyone – and that's one of the missions that we have in this digital team – you have to understand what everyone needs. That is the fundamental reason that you need to have both diversity and inclusion in your strategy. Otherwise, you can't possibly be building things that will work for everybody.

Michael Krigsman: Ruhi Gupta wants to know, "What percentage of customer interactions will happen through digital, care, and retail in the post COVID era?"

Marcus East: It depends on the industry and depends on the sector. The short answer is a lot more will be happening digitally as a result of COVID and as the result of the way in which we've had to change our lives. But we must never lose sight of the importance of those physical channels as well.

For me, it's less about what is the shift between those channels, but how can we get those different channels to work together so that it is seamless for the customer. That's where we're focused as a digital team.

Michael Krigsman: All right. With that, we are out of time. Marcus East, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today. I really, really do appreciate it.

Marcus East: Thank you, Michael. Thanks for having me. Always a pleasure to talk with you. Happy Holidays to you and the audience.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, we've been speaking with Marcus East, Chief Digital Officer of T-Mobile. A huge thank you to everybody who was listening and especially to those people who asked such great questions.

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Published Date: Dec 17, 2021

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 735