Kip Turner, 68, joined AT&T shortly after high school and has worked at the company for his entire 50-year career.
Courtesy of AT&T
Kip Turner, 68, spent his entire 50-year career at AT&T as an engineer. And despite his long tenure, he tells CNBC Make It that he’s often been one of the youngest on his team.
Turner first joined the company as a station fitter in 1973, when he was 18 years old. He took on about eight different roles over the next five decades, and “up until probably the last 20 years, I was the kid on almost every team,” says Turner, who now works as a senior product development engineer near Faulkner County. , Arkansas.
There are advantages to being younger and having the flexibility that comes with being early in your career. Turner remembers making his first internal move at age 20 and applying to become a toll booth technician simply because “no one else knew about it and no one else really wanted to go to this little special town in central Arkansas.
Learn more: This 68-year-old man spent 50 years in the same company as an engineer, even without a university degree: this is his only regret
But it can be difficult to manage up to senior leaders on a team when you have the least experience.
“I was working with a lot of older, more confident men, and I’m not a very big guy, so I never wanted confrontation,” Turner says.
Turner nevertheless says he was able to make significant contributions even as a junior member of his department.
His secret? “Learn your job well,” he said. “Be very confident when challenging someone, especially someone who is 20 to 30 years older than you and has been doing this job for so long. (Don’t be) arrogant about it, but be confident in your knowledge.”
It is also crucial to be respectful.
“Give someone an example instead of trying to embarrass them,” he says. “I’ve made the mistake of embarrassing people in the past and it never works out well.”
(Don’t be) arrogant about it, but be confident in your knowledge.
Turner recalls participating in a large project to protect several telephone facilities from a projected earthquake in the 1990s that would impact their service area in northeast Arkansas. “We were predicting disaster,” he says.
A senior executive asked the team about their ideas on how to manage the project, “and I said, ‘Well, I have a plan if you have the money,'” insinuating that the head of project wasn’t prepared with a budget, “and that embarrassed him a little bit,” Turner says.
Turner recalls that his comment undermined his solution and was followed by a “controversial meeting.” Tensions were high, making a stressful situation worse.
Turner eventually got his budget and the team was able to provide different means of communication in case services throughout Arkansas were disrupted. He and this senior leader even became friends later.
Ultimately, trying to embarrass another colleague “wasn’t the right approach,” Turner says. “I understood it.”
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