Kris Rinne probably would have made a great high school math teacher and basketball coach. In fact, that was her goal after graduating with a degree in math.
But fate intervened. A college professor suggested she consider a career in telecommunications. She took a chance. Now, more than 35 years later, she’s made an indelible mark on our company and our industry.
Her industry leadership has earned her the latest in a long list of accolades: induction into the Wireless Hall of Fame. A part of the Wireless History Foundation, the hall of fame has inducted only 40 people so far. She is the second woman to be included.
In 2011, Fierce Wireless named her “The Most Influential Woman in Wireless.” She also made the Global Telecom Business Power 100 list.
Kris credits her early career moves with helping her to build her leadership skills. Never one to shy away from a challenge, she jumped at the chance to work in our wireless business start-up.
“We were entrepreneurs with a big company backing,” she said. “Being able to wear a lot of different hats allowed me to grow professionally and learn to lead boldly.”
She previously held leadership roles in Southwestern Bell, Cingular and AT&T Mobility. Today she is senior vice president-Network & Product Planning, AT&T Services, Inc.
“Kris Rinne has long served this industry and this company with a series of monumental achievements and has been an inspiration to our entire organization,” said John Donovan, senior executive vice president-AT&T Technology and Network Operations. “Her leadership has finally gotten the recognition that I think it truly deserves as being a pioneer and a leader, but even more importantly, an inspiration as a person.
Kris made a major impact during her role as Cingular’s chief technology officer. She was responsible for the first wide-scale rollout of HSPA technology. High Speed Packet Access has become a foundation of our 4G technology.
Thanks to HSPA, the smartphone and tablet revolutions were born. Streaming video became common and online gaming became a reality.
“She helped to align the United States wireless industry with global standards,” said Krish Prabhu, president-AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer. “One of her greatest talents is an ability to attract the best team in the industry. Through her leadership and the depth of her team, they have been able to make a huge impact on our business…We are full speed ahead to invest in building the best intelligent global network, thanks in large part to Kris and her AT&T Labs team.”
Her influence goes beyond the deployment of the latest technology. Her group also is responsible for our company’s device certification program. They certified the first iPhone and brought it to market on our network in 2007. Thousands of smartphones, tablets and new emerging devices, such as connected cars are certified in her labs.
She also introduced new ways to improve coverage and capacity through new technology. This technology includes small cells, distributed antenna systems and home microcells that extend the wireless network to improve cellular performance.
Kris is a vocal proponent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for young women. She has spoken at numerous events about the need for women to take leadership roles in these fields. She also is a driving force behind a number of industry associations.
“This is a great honor and really a reflection of the work done by my teams throughout my career at AT&T and its legacy companies,” Kris said. “By working together, we have been able to make a positive impact on the way people stay in touch with each other and organize their lives through the use of our technology.”
Kris’s induction is the latest in series of honors for AT&T women innovators in 2013. Earlier this year, Marian Croak was inducted into the Women In Technology (WITI) Hall of Fame and her AT&T Labs co-worker Alicia Abella received the Columbia University Medal for Excellence. Both Marian and Alicia join Kris in the accompanying video to talk about their rewarding technology careers and the importance of women in STEM.