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Angie Klein is the newly-minted CEO of Visible, the Verizon-owned, all-digital wireless carrier on a mission to be the most loved brand of the digital generation. Though the company is only three years old, Visible won early accolades for being a disruptive new player in the staid, legacy-driven telecommunications industry for its entirely digital model: Visible has no stores, no paper bills and no call centers — instead, everything is done on an app.
But what happens when it’s time to take a company from a little-known new kid on the block to a game-changing mega-business?
Angie Klein is brought on.
Klein is something of a secret weapon in the Verizon ecosystem. A 20-year veteran of the company, she has held senior leadership positions across both the home and wireless businesses, ranging from product development to call center and retail operations, and from value proposition and pricing design to customer experience strategy. Early in her career, she was part of the original team that brought to market Verizon Fios, the company’s industry-leading fiber-to-the-home service that advanced the quality of home broadband and TV for millions. Klein has been tapped to lead parts of the business at all life cycle phases — startup, maturity, renewal, and even decline — but her track record in driving scale and growth is her real signature, and it’s why it’s no surprise she is now at the helm at Visible.
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But how does someone from a tiny town in Nebraska become one of the few female CEOs in telecommunications?
As Klein tells it, her supportive parents — her father, a farmer and local politician, and her mother, a teacher and later a postal service employee — instilled in her confidence, competitiveness, and “the opportunity to fail” without fear. She brought that spirit with her to the University of Nebraska, where she got her first big break. While giving a campus tour to distinguished women alumnae, Klein met Celia Swanson, an SVP for Walmart who was so taken with Klein that she plucked her for a competitive internship at the retail giant.
Following graduation, Klein earned a spot in a two-year career development program at Verizon, kickstarting her 20-year tenure and a career that would take her all across the country. And at Verizon, it wasn’t long before Klein started making her mark.
Klein was part of the startup team for Fios, the $22B fiber-to-the-home bet made by the company. Despite her lack of experience, she didn’t shy away from sharing strong opinions — especially those that challenged the ways things were traditionally done in the telecom and cable industries. Her centered focus on the consumer led to her first executive role at age 27 as the director of customer experience, years before customer experience roles were common.
After several years in different leadership roles across the company, Klein took on what she views as her most impactful position prior to Visible: leading consumer segment marketing across the postpaid, prepaid and home markets. Klein’s expertise in value proposition design and customer experience allowed her to develop and execute some of Verizon’s most disruptive moves with the introduction of Mix and Match. For mobile, that meant expanding the portfolio of Unlimited plans, allowing everyone in a family to choose a plan that matched their unique needs, and ultimately being the driver of revenue and ARPA growth for the firm. And in Fios, it meant getting rid of the bundle, dropping all the added fees that had emerged across the industry and frustrated customers, and providing more choice in TV service, delivering the largest and most profitable subscriber growth in years.
As she looks back on the success she’s had with Mix and Match, Klein notes that her career is having a bit of a full-circle moment.
“I see a big part of my legacy in Verizon being Mix and Match, which completely changed the way we think about family plans, and was a showcase of how to disrupt from within,” Klein says. “And now at Visible, I have the opportunity to focus on different segments of customers, primarily singles and those in chosen families, and rethink how to serve them better in an industry that across the board tends to benefit only multiline, or ‘family’ accounts. Visible knows there’s a new generation of consumers out there who are looking for wireless that fits their lives and reflects their values better.”
“In essence,” Klein continues, “it’s an opportunity to challenge the norms I helped create. And I know we can do it.”
Here are some tidbits of advice she’s picked up along the way:
- Remember the three “I’s”: Be inquisitive, intentional and inspirational. Keep these in mind when making a decision, communicating with your team, and in how you spend your time. Always question the status quo, be intentional in how you work, create time to think big and motivate yourself and those around you.
- No matter what role you’re in, look for innovation. Sometimes, true innovation isn’t a new product or new invention — it can be clever marketing that makes you think. Look for the whitespace, and solve for it.
- Strategy without execution means nothing. Think big, but also know how to get shit done. Remember that the fastest way to achieving anything is to be a stakeholder. Develop real relationships and learn how to get the team behind you.