Not only does Ken McNeely carry the distinction of being the longest serving president of AT&T California, but also of being on the basketball court when the legendary Michael Jordan hit the game-winning shot for their University of North Carolina Tar Heels’ 1982 NCAA championship. “I was a cheerleader for three years,” McNeely reveals. “When we won, I was right there on the floor with him, which was great. He [later] turned pro, and I went to law school [at Howard University].” McNeely joined AT&T in 1991 and 16 years ago this month arrived in San Francisco. He was appointed to his current position in November 2005, following the close of the historic merger between SBC Communications Inc. and AT&T Corp. The married father of two—he lives in Pacific Heights with his dermatologist husband, Inder Singh Dhillon, and their children, Kabir, 11, and Meera, 9—has pioneered a substantial policy of philanthropy for the LGBT community, education and community development. “I have one of the best jobs in the world, being able to represent California and live in San Francisco,” McNeely gushes. “I’ve been able to shape a global company as a local player for our customers and employees. I want them to feel like we’re a California company even though we’re a Fortune 500 company based in Texas. It’s important that we reflect the values of where we live and work and keep a pulse on the community.” On that note, we allow the always stylish leader to take us through his day.
5 A.M. I get up and the first thing that I do is get a cup of coffee. It’s on a timer, and it’s ready for me when I come downstairs. Then I check my email. I look at the health of the network and see if I’ve gotten any information about any network issues so I can direct the team. I get hourly reports on the health of the network.
5:45 A.M. I arrive at Fitness San Francisco. I’m at the gym for an hour with a trainer. I’ve had the same trainer [Fuad Al Qudsi] for 15 years. When Inder and I first met 16 years ago, he gave me six weeks with a trainer as a Christmas gift and I’ve kept it going. It’s the only way I can get to the gym on a regular basis.
7 A.M. I’m back home and by then my kids are up. I help them get ready. We have breakfast together—Inder or I cook a quick breakfast—and I’m usually out of the door with them at 7:45 a.m. I drop them off at school by 7:50, and then I’m on my way to the office or some other outside meeting.
8:15 A.M. I have my second cup of coffee and by 8:30 I have my direct reports calls where I get a status of what’s going on. I get reports in from all segments of the business and read outs on any kind of action items that they’ve been working on from the previous week or previous day.
10 A.M. I meet with community representatives. Yesterday, I met with the new head of the San Francisco Opera
[Matthew Shilvock] to talk about ways that technology might serve to increase audiences. We talked about sponsorship opportunities with Opera in the Park, which is in AT&T Park, and getting that message out to communities that might not be typical opera goers. I have a conference call with the big data group about how we can use data to help cities to become smart cities by utilizing mobile cell chips to be able to measure traffic congestion. I get a report from our VP of regulatory about billing requirement issues. I make a decision about what the bill will look like.
12:30 P.M. My typical lunch is still work. Usually I’m at Cavalier, One Market or Le Central. It might be a lunch to talk about cell site deployment in Golden Gate Park. We’re working with the city to try to increase WiFi in public spaces. We’re talking with city parks and recreation employees about how to do a cell deployment that is very discreet and beautiful, but still provides the necessary cell coverage for public safety needs.
2 P.M. I review strategic plans on what we’re doing in the marketplace and what we can do differently to distinguish ourselves. An example might be our recent decision to offer wireless services with our DirecTV package so that if you’re a DirecTV customer you now have unlimited data so you can stream your videos on your wireless device. That’s a win win.
3 P.M. Martha, my executive assistant, comes in and talks about my calendar for the rest of the week, which typically involves some travel and events. She prioritizes the invitations I’ve received and makes recommendations.
3:30 P.M. I have a meeting with my chief of staff to talk about budgeting and how we’re doing against our objectives. I may have another presentation by a nonprofit such as the American Heart Association. I’m on the executive committee of the [Celebrate with] Heart Gala so I get a 15- to 20-minute update.
4 P.M. I may be on a conference call or in a meeting with the governor and the secretary of higher education to give my impression on education reform and how we’re retraining our work force. As we transition from analog to digital, we need a lot more people sitting in front at computers rather than climbing telephone poles.
5 P.M. I receive another report on the network performance for the day and have an opportunity to review news clips from the day. I end with another report from direct reports on the respective units and how they performed for the day. My typical evening involves an event. I may have a board meeting or a fundraiser.
6:30P.M. I try to get home so I can have dinner with the kids as much as possible. I help them with their homework and they’re in bed by 8:30. Then I respond to emails that I haven’t had a chance to get through during the day.
9:30 P.M. Inder and I have a glass of wine together and talk about the family and our day. We’re big fans of cabernet and pinot noir.
10:30 P.M. I go to bed. With young kids, I try to go to bed early. Being married to a physician, I’m reminded about that all of the time.