2022 FierceWireless Rising Star - AT&T’s Stephanie Stare

For our 2022 Rising Stars, Fierce Wireless focused on the top U.S. operators. We’ve compiled a slate of impressive up-and-coming executives in the wireless industry from AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Dish. Interestingly, four of our Rising Stars this year started their careers through internal leadership development programs. We’re featuring the profiles of these executives, aged 35 or younger, this week, and we hope you enjoy reading them. These are all folks to keep an eye on as they make a mark in wireless.

Stephanie Stare is a marathon runner who knows how to move fast and keep going – two skills that have served her well at AT&T. She moved quickly when offered the chance to become chief of staff for a marketing executive after completing the company’s Leadership Development Program. And she’s kept going ever since – continuously setting her sights on new opportunities and challenging herself to acquire new skills.

Today, Stare manages a team of about 10 software engineers and product owners who work on Amp, an internal AT&T database that includes everything from network data to org charts to customer metadata. The ability to efficiently search and sort this data is key to AT&T’s daily operation. Stare’s team is in charge of creating fresh features that enable the company to use the data in new ways. She’s been working with the platform since February 2021, and during that time she’s been involved with AT&T’s migration to Microsoft Azure and the integration of a data governance solution created by Belgian unicorn Collibra.

Stare’s passion for technology is clear when she talks about it, but she says she took on her new role “to get closer to the P&L.” Turns out managing data efficiently has a lot to do with profitability for AT&T (and other multi-billion-dollar companies.) A big part of Stare’s job is building out business cases for her team’s projects, in order to show how funds invested in data management can ultimately boost the bottom line.

Before managing data operations, Stare had two back-to-back chief of staff roles at AT&T. The most recent was for Kirk McDonald, who was appointed interim CEO of AT&T’s Xandr digital advertising and analytics business, now part of Microsoft. Stare became McDonald’s chief of staff in March 2020, just as COVID-19 was entering the public consciousness. She canceled plans to move to New York and started her job remotely, finally making the move last year. 

Stare described the chief of staff role as “incredible,” saying it gave her a “bird’s eye view of the entire organization: HR, legal, finance, technology, everything.” But after two chief of staff roles in a row, she “did not want to get pigeon-holed. I wanted to get more into the weeds,” she said.

Her current role isn’t her first involving data science; Stare previously served as lead product manager for a Silicon Valley division of AT&T that works on finding innovative ways to use big data. The assignment was one of her rotations in AT&T’s Leadership Development Program, which she joined after business school.

Stare said her favorite role at AT&T (until her current one) was her first assignment with the Leadership Development Program. She was a network engineering manager in the San Francisco Bay Area, leading a group of technicians she stays in touch with still.

One of the most memorable episodes in that job was a weekend flood at a central office that supported a 911 call center, government operations, hospitals and underwater cable connections. “There was no option for it to go down,” Stare said. In addition to working on the logistics and staffing of the repair, Stare oversaw the routing of traffic to other central offices.

Stare said she thinks of that central office often, and reflects on the fact that the racks of servers she protected so fiercely won’t be needed in the future, as central office functions move to the cloud.