Some people plan their careers from childhood. Anthony Robbins found his calling a little later—in a way, on the basketball court.
“I’d always had an interest in the field of sales and marketing, but I got into the IT business by chance,” said Robbins, a 30-year veteran tapped a year ago to be vice president of the defense segment of AT&T’s Global Public Sector organization.
“I played basketball in college and was actually playing basketball on the playground in Maryland while in my mid-20s,” he said. “I met a guy I became friends with.”
Robbins, who was working in sporting goods sales and marketing, at first planned to join the same company as his friend to pursue their sales development program. When that friend changed course and went to Falcon Microsystems, Robbins followed him. He went on to play a role in bringing Apple computers to the federal arena. So began a decades-long career that has focused on the federal sector, specifically IT solutions for warfighters.
“AT&T is a 142-year-old American institution, and over the last 10 years or so, we’ve undergone a major transformation as it relates to investing in and building out one of the world’s greatest networks,” Robbins said. Our total investment, U.S. and International, over the last five years—including capital investment and acquisitions of spectrum and wireless operations—is more than $140 billion. My role is to help the Department of Defense understand how they can leverage this investment and commercial networking solutions in support of their mission.”
Before joining AT&T, Robbins was vice president of federal at Brocade, where he spent a good deal of time studying the networking infrastructure of the federal government.
“In trying to understand how to serve their needs, I realized then that commercial networks and software-defined networking was going to be important to the Department of Defense network modernization efforts,” he said. “As I studied the government’s networks and then I saw what AT&T was doing to modernize its own network, I decided AT&T was the company from which I could best serve the customer.”
In June 2016, Robbins made the move to his current role, where he oversees teams covering the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army and other defense agencies, including global defense. Robbins’ teams strategize and work to understand the challenges that exist. There are grave concerns, he said, about the cost of maintaining aging infrastructure, cybersecurity and in general modernizing network infrastructure.
One of Robbins’ overarching goals in the rest of his career is to play a role in this modernization effort.
“There’s an enormous need by our Department of Defense to modernize their network infrastructure, but it’s going to take a long time,” he said. “They are focused on what they call the ‘Force of the Future.’ To get there, they need the network of the future, one that is powered by commercial networks and innovation. This is how I believe I can serve the customers who serve our nation. We can deliver tomorrow’s network, today.”
Robbins said the facet of his job he especially enjoys is leading people. Making the transition from follower to leader was a pivotal point in his career, and one of his proudest accomplishments, he said, but it was one that required time.
“I would say it probably took 10 or 15 years,” Robbins said. “Leaders aren’t born; they are taught and trained.”
In addition to his work at AT&T and Brocade, he has been senior vice president of North America public sector at Oracle and vice president of federal at Sun Microsystems, Inc. He has also served as senior vice president of worldwide sales and president of SGI Federal at Silicon Graphics, Inc.
His recognitions include induction into the 2016 Wash 100, Executive Mosaic’s annual selection of influential leaders and being named a 2015 FedScoop 50 Industry Leadership Award winner. He is a 2013 recipient of the Federal 100 Award.
Robbins sits on the AFCEA-DC board of directors, where he is the chapter’s senior vice president, and on USO Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore board of directors. He is a board member of the Professional Services Council.
In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his five children—three of whom are in college, one who has graduated, and one almost ready to enter high school.
“My five kids keep me busy,” Robbins said. “I have a son who plays football at Florida State; it’s been fun following college football at that level.”
He also loves to fish and ride his 2009 Harley Davidson Road Glide.
Robbins holds a bachelor’s degree from Jacksonville State University in Alabama, where he was recognized in 1998 as the JSU Alumnus of the Year.