Q & A: Teresa Taylor
A conversation with Teresa Taylor, executive vice president and
chief human resources officer at Denver-based Qwest
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Q: What are some
of the challenges that you have faced from a human resources
standpoint during Qwest's recovery, in which the company has
both cut its workforce and hired new employees?
A: The biggest
challenge really is keeping our employees focused on our
customers rather than internal issues. The way that we do that
is remove the internal issues so they really are not bothered or
stressed over things that are happening inside the company but
truly can put all their time toward external concerns - our
Q: How difficult
was it to lead the contract negotiations last summer with the
Communications Workers of America, a union that represented
25,000 Qwest workers at the time?
A: A very
difficult situation in that CWA had not had the opportunity to
go to what we call full negotiations for a number of years
because there were extensions in place, both with (former CEO)
Joe Nacchio, as well as when (current CEO Dick (Notebaert) came
on board. They obviously felt like they had a lot to talk about
because there were a number of years where they helped the
company tremendously -- they took wage freezes, they did not ask
for pension increases and the normal things that they would've
done. They now felt it was their time to talk. We went to what
we call full bargaining -- full negotiations. My approach,
being that I ... actually came from the operating side of the
company, was to really approach the CWA like a customer. I had
just come from an organization (where) that's what I did. I
dealt with our largest customers.
Q: What were some
of the key issues during the negotiations?
A: There's always
two topics that are up for discussion -- wages and health care.
And health care was the most contentious point to negotiate
because that's where a lot of the cost is on the company side
and obviously could be to an employee too. We also addressed
what we call work rules and how we do business. One in
particular was bringing jobs back into the company. We had a
number of jobs that had been outsourced in the U.S. But we had
come to an agreement with the union, at a certain wage scale, to
bring those positions back into the company. So we added close
to 2,500 union jobs to the company, from January 2005 to now.
Q: How have you
been able to work your way up the corporate ladder to become the
highest-ranking female executive at Qwest (along with executive
vice president Paula Kruger)?
A: No matter what
job I've been in, which division I'm running or what level I'm
at, I have really focused on treating people the way I want to
be treated and treating people the same. If you did ask people
in this company do I act the same today as I did 15 years ago,
they would say yes. I am very respectful of everybody no matter
what level I'm at and what job I'm doing. I deliver. I set a
goal for myself and my team and I deliver.
Q: As the leader
of the Qwest Foundation, why did you shift the group's focus to
A: From a
personal experience, education has been the cornerstone of my
personal life as well as my family's. Running the clock way
back, my grandmother was a schoolteacher in the rural part of
Wisconsin in a one-room schoolhouse. I put myself through
Q: What were some
of the jobs you held to pay your way through college?
A: I did
everything from waitressing (to running) two summer camps for
kids. I also worked as a receptionist. Multiple jobs at one
Q: How has the
culture at Qwest changed since Richard Notebaert replaced
Nacchio in June 2002?
A: It's really
that people are proud to work here. There was a time when
people did not want to wear a shirt that said Qwest on it. It's
completely different now. They show their badge proudly. It's
a world of difference.
Q: Who are your
A: My family --
my mother and my grandmother were obviously inspirational and
taught me that I could do it. I was the first person in my
family to go to college.
Edited for space and clarity
from an interview by staff writer Andy Vuong.