Mike Simpson is the Chief Procurement Officer of T-Mobile and he believes that 5G for all is the best way to create an inclusive future. Being inclusive could mean several things both on the business side and in the culture side. Find out the work culture of T-Mobile post-merger with Sprint. Join your host, Carrie Charles as she sits down with Mike to talk about the 5G future, sustainable energy projects, work diversity, and much more.
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5G For All: Creating An Inclusive Future With Mike Simpson, Chief Procurement Officer Of T-Mobile
I have a very special guest with me, Mike Simpson. He is the Chief Procurement Officer of T-Mobile. Mike, thank you so much for being on the show.
Thanks, Carrie, for having me and allowing us to discuss all things 5G.
Let’s first talk about you and your journey in telecom. How did you get to where you are now?
I’m getting close to nine years at T-Mobile but have been in the industry for many years. I spent time at Clearwire before T-Mobile, and then quite a few years at Nokia Networks. I’m a Northwest native and T-Mobile has always been a big brand here in the Northwest. What a better place to end up right now in advancing our telecommunications industry with the hometown club.
What is your most favorite part of your role?Sometimes you just have to step back and celebrate the wins. Click To Tweet
It never ceases to change. There’s always something new on a weekly basis that you’re chasing after. It’s always good things. How to improve the business in an incremental step each and every day. It’s been a great journey.
I’ve read that T-Mobile expects that the synergies resulting from the merger will reach $70 billion. That’s higher than the $43 billion that was projected originally. Why the change?
In a regular T-Mobile fashion, we are advancing ourselves in the industry at a much faster clip than planned. I can’t share them all now with you, but there are a lot of great initiatives that support our ecosystem and our consumer base day in and day out.
What will the new T-Mobile workforce look like post-merger?
I assume you’re referring to how we will go back to work in a post-COVID. We’re still trying to figure some of these things out like many other large corporations but there will be a mix of people that come back every day that want to get a break from what they’ve been accustomed to for many months. We’ll introduce hybrid models into this, where you give flexibility to your workforce and will also enable those that want to work or have been working remotely to some extent for the better part of a few years. It will evolve. What we all have to learn from this as we go back is to listen to our employee base and understand what future needs may be. There are a lot of unknowns still and we’re no different than many of the large corporations out there. We want to listen first, take some steps and start getting somewhat back to normalcy in the next few months.
I love that you said listen twice. It’s so important to hear what people are saying and what they want. It’s crucial as we go back into and we’re not going back necessarily. We’re going into a whole new world.
Let’s hope it’s not just a brand-new world, but some things will come up to what we used to have before.
What have been some of the challenges in the post-merger integration of the suppliers? Will anything change in the future? Is it going to look the same?
We went about the merger in a little bit different way. We waited for the pandemic to hit and then decided to close on 4/01 of 2020. Our supply base, in many respects, we were at an advantage. We were ready to go and build a network. We had some hiccups at the beginning of the pandemic and getting people to work safely and secure. We were able to build quite faster than in normal times. New York City is an example. Things are a little bit easier to go build networks when you don’t have traffic. We’ll revert back to somewhat normal as people go back to work, and cities and populations started going to the office in some form or fashion.
Our network providers, we’re still dealing with this on a weekly basis. You’ve got components made in India and China and we see what’s going on in India now. It’s terrible what that population is going through. It’s learning more about your supply base on the component levels of where things are produced. We’re more connected to our supply base than ever before. We are sharing more forecasts way upfront. They’re showing risks and supply base that they’ve never been willing to do before as well. Both of those things are changing and some of it is for the best.
Let’s talk about 5G. Give me some updates. Where is T-Mobile now? What’s on the horizon?
All the public facts we’ll share is that we are on a quest to deliver 5G for all. That is our big branding about how we want to rapidly expand into small-town America. We have initiatives there connecting all consumers and have the ability to reach beyond where all the carriers have not focused as much energy and effort. Our beautiful spectrum and our range of coverage in both low-band and mid-band allow us to do that. We’ll start to show some numbers and earnings. We’re attacking our goals on 200 million pops covered in mid-band by the end of the year. We also have low-band covers that you’ll see coming out. I don’t want to spoil the surprises too early on that, but we are making rapid progress on our building activities. The machine that we have doing this is second to none.
I can’t wait to see what you do. That’s thrilling. Let’s talk culture. What is it like to work for T-Mobile?
Our employees speak for themselves. When we’re surveyed in Forbes about one of the best places to work, that defines and tells the story of what the culture is here at T-Mobile. We have a focus on our employee base similar to what we do for our customers. We listen to what our customers and employees want. We take action to deliver the best for both. We are as successful as we are with our employee base for a reason. Diversity and inclusion are at the top of our minds in our ways of working. That shows in the results that we produce to the street, but also produce from our employees when they are asked the question.
We’re going to talk about DNI, but I’ve heard that it’s awesome to be on your team. I want to get a little peek into what it’s like to be on your team, you as a leader, and maybe some of the things that you do with your team.
We produce a lot of great work. We celebrate those successes. In normal ways, we like to have a good time as well. It’s been a little bit harder in 2020, but within procurement and the network supply chain teams that work for me, we are at the center of all the action. There are new initiatives. New things are brought to the table. Our teams are driving and delivering. It’s an exciting part of that journey. We have a network supply chain team that’s energized towards building at a record pace in the US. There’s a lot of great energy on that stuff. We try to step back a little bit and celebrate the wins and have a good time with them.
I heard that you do something, coffee with Mike once a month?
It’s not really coffee with Mike, it’s drinks of your choice with Mike.
You don’t have to have coffee.
You can have water. You can have something green. It started out as something that we used to do, Lunch with Mike, about a few years ago. It’s just stopping and listening to my employees about what’s going well, what’s not and how do we fix those things? It’s a way for people to connect at all levels of my organization.
Let’s talk about diversity a bit because I know that diversity fuels the Un-carrier spirit at T-Mobile. Can you talk about diversity, but as it relates to T-Mobile’s enterprise-wide employee focus and also a little bit as it relates to supplier diversity. I know there are many different areas of diversity we could talk about.
From corporate culture and enterprise-wide, it is top of mind. It’s one of the core values that we speak from every level that we are a diverse company. We get more out of being that way from the diverse culture base and speaking from every chair of this organization that we’re focused on doing right by all. That’s been key to our success over the years that we’ve been on this ride. In my shop, I also have the supply base to manage through. We have a mission to increase our span and visibility with diverse companies. Not just diverse companies but how they operate within as well.
You’ll hear more about this in the future with us too. We’re not just interested in large corporations that happened to be diverse. We want all companies, small businesses, medium and large. It’s also how they treat their employees and they share the same values that we have in our company, and how do we spread more of this around the entire tech sector. You may have seen some news from us walking the talk a bit and we launched NextTech. That’s our way of not only increasing our visibility and awareness of diversity and inclusion but also investing in communities for jobs in the tech sector that have not been invested in enough over the last decade or two.
Tell me a little bit more about your NextTech Diversity Program. What was your motivation around creating it and a little bit more about how the program works because it’s brilliant and more companies need to do this?
It started organically with a session with Mike’s Drinks, it may have been coffee or lunch, whatever it may be back in the day. In the technology division, there are not a lot of black technicians or tower climbers in this space. They asked, “What am I going to do about it?” In that organic session, I said, “Why don’t we do something similar to what we’ve been doing with Warriors4Wireless and our partnership with the Tower Family Foundation. Let’s start raising money and awareness and creating some jobs.” We took that almost a hallway conversation in a pretty informal setting and we partnered with Learning Alliance. It’s a large training center and facility across the country.
We had some outreach and some investment from Ericsson, one of our large build partners. We put together a program where we provide scholarships for training as well as job placement for graduates to enter into the field technician and technology landscape that never existed yet. The focus is on people of color and diversity there. We are proud to say that we had our first graduating class and all the graduates have jobs post in that training session. It takes us all to go and invest some time, energy and money. I think we can all do better there.
I love the fact that it was talked about in a meeting and then you said, “Let’s do it,” and it was done. That’s difficult. We’re moving so fast these days and I can tell that you have the heart to make a difference. I’m sure that resonates throughout T-Mobile. That ability to take action and say, “This is just as important as everything else.” I think that’s great. I read that T-Mobile is committed to energy sustainability. How has the procurement team driven the success here?
It’s different from a traditional procurement job. We create a lot of different things for the ecosystem. My organization came up with an idea of how do we invest in off-grid or sustainable energy like wind farms and solar farms, and producing enough clean energy that captures all of our energy output. We were able to work with our amazing team and enterprise to form a commitment about how fast we could deliver that energy creation to at least offset our energy output on the grid. That’s been 3 or 4 years in the making on this and I’m proud to say that we will hit that target at the end of 2021. With the merger and acquisition of Sprint, we doubled down on that. There’s no change in the timeline. We’ll do both at the same time commitment. I’m proud to say that my team is at the heart of that great initiative.Raise up your eyes to really make sure that you see everything in the organization. Listen and take action. Drive your team forward. Click To Tweet
Look at all that you’ve accomplished, the merger and then COVID. You kept going in putting these programs together. Congratulations. You didn’t stop.
It’s my team that deserves all the credits.
As a good leader should say. Tell me more about this event that you lead every year. It’s for the benefits of the Tower Family Foundation that you talked about and Warriors4Wireless. What is the event and how have you supported those organizations over the years?
It predated me a little bit but we started a golf tournament to raise awareness and money for two great causes. Tower Family Foundation supports families of injuries from this line of work, the tower technicians, as well as Warriors4Wireless, that creates opportunities similar to the NextTech initiative but focused on military veterans. This thing started out pretty small. We raised a little bit of money in the first couple of years and we started amping this up with our great partner community and our supply base. We’ve delivered quite a bit of value to these two outfits that exceed $1 million over this journey. During COVID times, we couldn’t get on the golf course but we did a virtual party and a meeting among these teams. It was our largest contribution to date. During tough times, our partner community and T-Mobile raised their game yet again. Their goal is each and every year, we get more focus and energy for this great charity.
Are you going to have an in-person event in 2021?
That is the plan, Carrie. Hopefully, it’s going to be in early to mid-October. It’s the current plan and we will get launching on this. We had to delay it a little bit and we hope that it’s a success turning it into an in-person. If not, we’ll go back to virtual and we’ll do it again.
As a leader, what are some principles that you live by? In your opinion, what makes a great leader?
You have to raise up your eyes on stuff to make sure that you see everything in your organization. You have to be aware of your surroundings and who’s on your team. What are the pain points within the organization? You have to listen and take action. Even if you’ve made some mistakes along the way, you have to drive your teams and your business forward. Those are essential for leadership from my perspective. You also have to be an owner. In each of my teams, in each of my manager positions, I look for those folks that want to lean in and own their outcome. They each run a small business from my perspective. Employee first and employee engagement are all critical successes that I look for in leadership.
I love that you’ve said listen and action. In order to listen, people have to have a voice. It sounds to me like on your team, as well as T-Mobile, that people have a voice. Last but not least, is T-Mobile hiring?
Yes. We have a commitment as part of this deal combination that we are hiring. My organization has open positions as well. We are expanding into many different parts of the country. Almost every aspect of our businesses is growing like retail channels. T-Mobile for business has a huge initiative to drive some of those synergies in numbers that we talked about, but they are aggressively in the marketplace seeking new business opportunities. It’s a great time to join T-Mobile. There are plenty of opportunities. We’re a large corporation but we feel and operate like we are still small and hungry. That’s a unique atmosphere to be in and it’s exciting for us as leaders to energized folks who come into our teams with different perspectives.
The right place at the right time. It sounds like it’s an adventure for sure. Mike, thank you so much for being on the show. This has been fabulous. I could talk and talk to you. I appreciate you coming on.
Thanks, Carrie, for having me.
You take care.