TELUS: From traditional telco to world-leading tech org

TELUS: From traditional telco to world-leading tech org

TELUS leadership deep dives into how its global team is helping create the revolutionary technology company of the future

The modern telecommunications landscape has undergone remarkable transformations over the decades, thanks in part to significant strides in technology. Telcos, which began as providers of traditional home phone service, have transitioned into multifaceted digital communication leaders, connecting millions of people across the world and  propelling the industry toward an unknown, but exciting and revolutionary future. 

For some, the drive to connect people is inspired as much by a commitment to social purpose as it is by technology. That's certainly true for Canada-based global communications technology company, TELUS.

“Connecting people is at the heart of everything we do and our goal is to drive phenomenal human outcomes and bridge digital divides to improve lives and help make the world a better place,” says Hesham Fahmy, TELUS’ Chief Information Officer. “Our journey started many years ago, providing fast and reliable telecommunications services but, as we’ve evolved, we’ve added many other layers of transformative service offerings to our portfolio that can drive even more value for our customers and advance our social purpose.”

TELUS’ mission is to use the power of technology and network connectivity to deliver the best solutions to people at home, in the workplace and on the move. TELUS’ actions are guided by its purpose; that is, using its technology and compassion to drive meaningful social change — from transforming healthcare and making the food supply more sustainable to reducing its environmental footprint and connecting Canadians in need. 

The company’s purpose is a blueprint for how TELUS engages and interacts with its customers and communities. TELUS’ long-standing commitment to putting customers first fuels its business, making the brand a distinct leader in customer service excellence and loyalty.

Powered by purpose

Over the years, TELUS has established itself as a dynamic, world-leading communications technology company and it remains laser-focused on continuing its journey of evolution and growth as a global technology powerhouse, enabling its over 18 million customers, as well as its team members, to be part of a better-connected world.

“We’re building a strong technology base as a launch pad for customer experiences that are driving peace of mind, comfort and positive human outcomes. This is the impetus of our journey from a traditional telco to a technology and platform company,” explains Fahmy.

“We have to champion engineering excellence and build our platforms on strong technology foundations because that’s what gives us the ability to launch in different directions and pivot based on where we see customer needs and demands.”

Fostering the right culture to drive TELUS’ evolution 

Undoubtedly, a massive evolution is on the horizon for TELUS. The company highly values its workforce, taking pride in nurturing and retaining top talent. Fahmy emphasises the importance of preparing TELUS' team members to embrace significant change as it continues its digital transformation, all the while ensuring they consistently deliver high-quality service.

“Often when people talk about their transformation journey, they think primarily about technology. What's even more fundamental is having the right culture and mindset. A team with diverse skill sets and the shared values of embracing change and innovating responsibly is what will drive real transformation,” he says.

Fahmy's primary goal is to unite his teams, fostering a deep understanding and collaborative spirit throughout their shared journey. It's crucial that every team member understands the significance of their contributions and the pivotal role they can play.

“As much as we all feel proud of great customer outcomes, we must also consider what's in it for our people. Modernisation will certainly make our team’s job easier and more efficient. It’s equally critical to equip team members with the latest cloud technology skills so they aren’t only successful today but also thrive in the future ways of working.”

Steve Banick, TELUS Vice-president of Strategy & Transformation, who has 25 years of IT and technology experience, says TELUS makes it a priority to empower the personal and professional development of its people.

“This is not the first time TELUS has navigated significant change as technology evolves, specifically with the AI revolution right now. We recognise that we are far better off if we tap into the talent, knowledge and loyalty of our team members and bring them along our journey,” he emphasises. “Last year, we launched our Digital Talent programme, a multi-pronged initiative focused on  attracting, retaining and building talent within TELUS to support us through not only this transformation but whatever comes next.”

Through this programme, TELUS has introduced career passports, which Banick says codify what talent, knowledge, skills and experience team members need to unlock for the next steps in their career journey.

“This approach not only empowers team members to grow their careers, but also enables the organisation to pinpoint strategic investments in formal and informal learning, as well as cutting-edge tools and technologies to support them on their journey. Furthermore, we've built robust support systems such as mentorship programs, uniting team members to synergize technical expertise with a deep understanding of our business—a remarkably potent and powerful combination.”

One successful way of opening up new career paths for TELUS employees is through the revolutionary Digital Skills Fast Track program which empowers frontline agents with no prior coding experience, to step into digital careers as junior software developers through an intensive 12-week bootcamp. 

“It's hard not to get excited,” Banick champions. Even though the programme is future-focused, TELUS is already seeing results. Digital Skills Fast Track is not only creating opportunities to add new skills and knowledge to the team, but more importantly, unlocking a whole new career trajectory for people that wasn't available to them before. 

Exploring AI in the workplace

When evaluating the team's evolution, TELUS knows they need to examine not just current technical skills, but also anticipate future technology shifts. They emphasise nurturing a culture of continuous learning, urging both individuals and the organisation to continually improve, ensuring they are well-prepared to embrace emerging technologies.

A prime example is generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). Although this technology has existed in some form for many years, its use has exploded in the last 12 months. 

“It’s not just about launching new tech like AI. We have to introduce it and allow team members to experiment, find out what works for their productivity and support that cultural transformation,” says Banick. “Technology is hard, but not the hardest part. The most important thing is ensuring that we have a team that's fully motivated, engaged and confidently believes that it can contribute to our future.”

TELUS is not only investing in individual contributors and technology experts, but also its leaders, preparing them to lead the technology company of the future. 

Banick explains: “The role of leadership continues to change. In today’s world, we need leaders that are at the forefront of how they use data and insights to unlock the potential and the capability of their teams.” 

With that in mind, TELUS established Leadership Launchpad, a six-month programme to support new, as well as seasoned leaders, in building their leadership muscle, learning the latest management skills and trends and gaining the confidence needed to guide their teams to success.

Pushing the boundaries of innovation

As a people-centric employer, TELUS nurtures a culture that empowers its teams to boldly innovate.

“Culture begins with an individual’s attitude and we really focus on that cultural fit when hiring new talent,” says Hasan Jafri, TELUS Vice President, Platform Engineering & Common Services. “Are they focused on the customer? Are they looking to solve complex problems? That's the go-getter attitude we look for when recruiting for technology roles.” 

Jafri’s team is responsible for looking at the end-to-end life cycle of a TELUS project, from the beginning to when the system is live and running. Thanks to its people and their willingness to streamline operations working cross-functionally across teams, some of these processes have become drastically more efficient — slashed from a six-month, 47-step process to a fully-automated one.

“We have seen a 60% improvement in some of our processes,” Jafri says. “We've automated all kinds of different things and we’re seeing fantastic results. In fact, we recently won International Data Corporation (IDC) Canada’s CIO award for building standardised software templates and starter kits for our developers, taking their productivity and efficiency to an all-time high. It’s great to get such external recognition for our team’s technology innovation and the remarkable results they’re generating.”

Part of this growth also comes from the diverse network of partners, spanning from major corporations and hyperscale enterprises to small businesses and specialised organisations. Nurturing collaborative, cohesive and innovative relationships with these partners is part of TELUS’ approach to innovating boldly. Prioritising a mutual understanding of each other's distinct needs and requirements while jointly pursuing shared goals and objectives is key.

Collaborating with partners who share TELUS' cooperative spirit and values, which align with TELUS' objectives - and vice versa - continues to accelerate its digital transformation.

“Partners are critical to our success — and it's not us just learning from them, but them learning from us,” Jafri shares, championing collaboration. 

These partnerships include a 10-year strategic alliance with Google Cloud to help modernise TELUS’ core technologies and co-innovate on new service offerings. TELUS also works closely with other hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, and recently partnered with JOLT, an Australian electric vehicle company, to jointly install up to 5,000 electric vehicle charging points across Canada powered by TELUS’ world-leading network.

“We’ve also partnered with ForgeRock to build EverSafe IDs for over 30,000 Public Mobile customers on their SaaS platform,” he adds. “These secure identities are helping safeguard customer privacy and personal information with added layers of security and we’ve already seen millions of transactions. 

“Another one of our partners is Global Payments, who are helping us deliver a new payments-as-a-product capability 50% faster than the previous version. What usually takes a year was completed in three months, so it’s been a great partnership with great outcomes.”

AI will lead TELUS’ future transformation

With all this said, the key transformer for the company will still likely be AI as the digital age continues to progress at a rapid pace.

“Generative AI is as impactful to society as the invention of the internet and as transformational as the discovery of fire,” says Fahmy. “We’re only at the beginning of where this technology is going to go and we have the opportunity to help shape where it goes and tailor it to our needs.” 

“The low-barrier entry and accessibility of GenAI makes it available to nearly everyone with connectivity,” he shares. “Gen AI is like having your own 24/7 personal assistant to help you with various aspects of your life.

“GenAI can be truly transformational in what it can do – a game-changer for productivity, connectivity and accessibility. At TELUS, we have set up our own TELUS GenAI Bot available to every team member to help them be more efficient, innovative and experiment with their work.”

"We’ve built this world-leading AI platform using large language models (LLMs) to incorporate image generation, document intelligence and multiple interfaces –  equipping  our team members with a safe and secure way to experiment with AI at work,” adds Jafri. “With nearly 7,000 unique users already, our goal is to get our team fully AI-enabled and adopt these cutting edge technologies in our products and services.”

Fahmy stresses that TELUS is committed to using GenAI responsibly, while also making it fully accessible and harnessing its power.

“We’re ahead of the curve and well-versed in how GenAI can enhance both customer experiences and our own. However, to truly unlock the tremendous potential GenAI has to offer, we must use it responsibly, ensuring we mitigate the challenges it can present and use in a way that’s friendly for all.”

Embracing the potential of GenAI's transformative capabilities, TELUS is fully committed to leading the charge towards responsible use, all in pursuit of a brighter, more inclusive future.

Fahmy, expressing his dedication, emphasises, "Our role as pioneers in the GenAI realm is one we hold with great responsibility. We are only at the beginning of this incredible journey and we eagerly anticipate the exciting innovations and opportunities that lie ahead."

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