Meet David C. Williams. He's the man who lead the development of the AT&T Secure Link, a hyper-automation solution that enables the company's employees to obtain sensitive information from customers without exposing the actual digits. Williams' innovation revolutionized the way the brand conducted business in 2020. "We started with payments and sales," he says. "We've continued to evolve Secure Link into other exciting use cases to simplify complex business transactions." His ground breaking technology enabled 40,000 employees to work from home during the pandemic.

The executive's achievements haven't gone unnoticed. Williams, who serves as a division lead and DE&I ambassador at AT&T, won the 2021 Rodney Adkins Legacy Award at the BEYA (Black Engineer of the Year Award) STEM Global Competitiveness Conference. 

EBONY talks to Williams about his accomplishment and journey.

EBONY: What initially drew you to your line of work? 

DW: I'm fortunate enough to have been mentored by some of the brightest minds in business, including CEOs, VPs and my mother. They all focus on closing gaps. I'm passionate about hyper-automation because of the ability to combine creativity with technology in a meaningful, fast, and highly beneficial way. I'm from the poorest corner of Dallas, lost my father to suicide when I was seven, and was temporarily paralyzed at 19. Closing gaps, inventing solutions, or beating the odds is experience that anyone from underserved communities can draw from, with focus. Innovation is born from necessity. When you start with less, you learn to use ingenuity (or innovation) to make up for what you don't have. That early fostered passion led me to my career path.

EBONY: Tell us about your history at AT&T.

DW: AT&T is an amazing company. Pre-COVID, through T-University and other auxiliary programs I've authored patents, received executive coaching, electronics certifications, and more. I've participated in our prestigious General Manager Accelerated Development Program, hosted leadership seminars and worked closely with every employee group in the company.

EBONY: What was your initial feeling when you realized people would be working from home for the foreseeable future?

DW: In telecom, we're very protective of customer data. So, at the onset of the COVID outbreak the focus was enabling work from home while maintaining the highest levels of security. The foreseeable future was changing fast. I'm a long-time zealot of working from home and I've pitched some new business models on the topic. Globally, the work from home construct is continually evolving. More breakthroughs are to come with exponential gains while working from home, regardless of industry.

EBONY: Tell us about what lead you to develop AT&T Secure Link?

DW: My automation team sits so close to the problem, that there's nothing between us and the solution. As our peers and VP identified the issue, I believed that this challenge could be overcome. My VP, Trish Renz, moved mountains on my behalf to deliver this solution to 40,000 of our co-workers who service millions of our customers. My team proactively seeks to solve any issues within reach.

EBONY: What would you like people to learn from your story?

DW: Although life may be tough, the universe is pulling for you. 

Kahlil is a writer, author, and content creator from Brooklyn, NY. He really thinks that you should be familiar with him by now, but if you aren't, feel free to be. Follow his work on Instagram @Damnitpops and his thoughts and rants on Twitter @Damnpops