Tim Innes was one of those California kids in love with show business. It steered him to film school and a career producing independent films and TV.

“I guess I was consumed by stardom,” he said.

But his story would have a major plot twist.

The same passion that led him to Hollywood would eventually take him on a cross-country move and a new career with AT&T. He discovered a drive to innovate – and is taking full advantage of our reskilling opportunities to continue to grow.

And now it’s earned him national recognition.

Tim was honored this week with 1 of only 10 “Innovator of the Year” awards from Great Place to Work -- but it’s a far cry from where his career began.

‘I grew out of it’
Tim’s first career in California took off right after school, beginning with producing independent films. He eventually worked at several major studios with daytime TV shows. But it didn’t last.

“It wasn’t satisfying anymore,” he said. “I just grew out of it.”

He’d always enjoyed science and technology so he decided to make a change. And, since Atlanta’s weather wasn’t too different from sunny California, he came east and enrolled at Georgia Tech. That’s where he got his degree in computer science and eventually joined our Technology & Operations team.

Keep moving forward
In orientation, he remembers feeling a little overwhelmed, walking into the company that had invented the transistor, the first computer operating system and a lot more.

“I thought ‘what can I contribute?’ ” he said. “Maybe when I’m an expert in something in about 10 years.”

Actually, not nearly so long.

At a hackathon to develop programming solutions, he met a group of summer interns who mentioned that they wished they had more to do in their internships. This sparked an idea. Why not create a job board with short-term assignments for employees?

He presented his idea to The Innovation Pipeline (TIP) and received funding to build what would ultimately become The Opportunity Marketplace (TOM). He then joined forces with colleague Mike Lemen, Personal Learning Experience-Capabilities Evolution, for some finishing touches. Since then, tens of thousands of employees have used TOM for new job experience, job help or general work information.

“I think innovation can come from small ideas,” he said. “It’s about being curious and asking what can we do to make our day-to-day work better. It’s about throwing ideas out there, collaborating, keeping what works and throwing out the rest. Just keep moving forward.”

Playground of ideas
In his 4 years here, Tim has already contributed to one patent and has worked on 40 more patent applications. He’s an Atlanta Ambassador with the AT&T Innovation Network and introduces our many innovation opportunities to new hires.

Now he’s designing software architecture. He says he wants to push things further. He’s using our reskilling tools to get an online master’s degree in artificial intelligence.

“I love the field of robotic process automation,” he said, “letting software do repetitive, mundane tasks. It’s about saving hours in your day by letting a robot do the work for you.”  

Innovation is all about being courageous, he says, and just going for it.

“I love working here,” he said. “It’s like a playground of ideas.”