By Jennifer Erb
2016-08-242016-09-01https://wvuieleaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/[email protected]WVU IE200px200px
Dave Baker didn’t start college thinking he would be an engineer. Instead he thought of becoming a lawyer. But his older brother, Walt, convinced him to try engineering. Dave admits he wasn’t much of a high school student. He hadn’t taken the math/science courses he needed in high school. The amount of homework he did in college in the first week was more than he did in his entire high school career.
Driven by a fear of failure, Dave succeeded beyond his expectations (and his parents). He still remembers getting an 11% grade on his first physics test and passing the class. He learned a valuable lesson from physics: you need to have study partners.
As he progressed in his education, his study skills improved. Dave was not into the party scene, so this wasn’t an issue. Dave was able to graduate in three years, the only student to do this in the history of the Industrial Engineering program.
Since he was able to graduate early, Dave decided to pursue a Masters. It was at this time he discovered that he loved to teach. Once he finished his Masters, he completed a PhD at the Colorado School of Mines with a focus on operations research. While Dave knew he wanted to eventually teach, he began his career in manufacturing. He wanted to get experience before he taught. Teaching is still in Dave’s plans although he has worked in the corporate world since 1980.
Dave’s career has been one of a series of incremental moves. The key to his career was making the right decision at the right time even though it wasn’t obvious that either the opportunity or the time was right at that moment. There was no career plan as such, just going with what he felt was right for his career.
The key threshold moment in Dave’s career was when he became Controller at Hughes Space and Communications Company. Dave was selected for this position because he was good with financial numbers. He acknowledges that his people skills weren’t as good. Since that time, he has really focused on personal relationship skills. Dave is very passionate about how the people in the organizations he manages are treated. This was brought home to him by a boss who told Dave that when he was in a bad mood it affected everyone in his organization.
Dave believes that the little things are critical to becoming a successful leader. Being polite and thoughtful creates trust. In effect the little things you do create the tone for the entire organization. Dave believes that the role of any leader should be to create opportunities for those you lead.
When asked about his education at WVU, Dave commented on two things. The IE program at WVU is one of the best educational values in higher education. He also reflects back on how supportive the culture was. The supportive culture he found at WVU has also been an influence on the organizations he has led.
Dave Baker is senior vice president of Field Services for AT&T. Baker oversees the company’s national network of installation and service providers of the DIRECTV product line and is charged with improving the quality of the customer experience at the point of installation and service.
Baker’s career includes more than 20 years with DIRECTV and its former parent company. Between 1998 and 2005, he held several different executive positions in finance and operations with DIRECTV Latin America and DIRECTV Japan.
Previously, Baker was executive vice president and chief operating officer for On Command Corporation, where he led the integration of On Command into its new parent company, LodgeNet (since renamed SONIFI Solutions, Inc.).
As a managing director at Nightingale and Associates, LLP, Baker restructured a $350 million construction company to return it to profitability.
Baker holds a Ph.D. in mineral economics with a specialization in operations research from the Colorado School of Mines, as well as a master’s and bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from West Virginia University. He serves on the Board of Trustees of Tusculum College, one of the nation’s oldest colleges, in Greeneville, Tennessee.
He is based at AT&T’s Denver offices.