At AT&T, Alicia Abella is widely regarded for her eff orts in developing long-distance
collaboration tools. As Executive Director of the Human Computer Interface Services Research Department, she leads a group of researchers dedicated to eliminating the need for plane travel and other commuting methods that potentially harm the environment or overuse energy resources.
“We are really trying to enhance the way people are communicating with each other,” Dr. Abella said of her work at AT&T. “We are innovative, and we are doing things that have their best interests in mind.” One of Hispanic Business magazine’s 2010 Woman of the Year finalists, she has also been honored with the 2008 Hispanic Engineers National Achievement Award and recognized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute for her company’s work in developing green technology.
Dr. Abella joined AT&T in 1995, shortly af er earning a doctoral degree in computer science at Columbia. Today she manages technical staff who specialize in data mining, user interfaces, mobile services and other emerging technologies. She has also developed technologies that focus on teleconferencing, Web-based solutions, and iPhone app based solutions that promote work and rapid-response collaboration across the globe.
Dr. Abella’s direct supervisor at AT&T said she has been a key influence in AT&T’s growing interactive, integrated technology efforts. “Alicia is a change agent,” said Chuck Kalmanek, Vice President of Networking & Services Research. “She has a vision of innovative services that draws on her extensive experience in human-computer interaction, and an intuitive understanding of how technologies like social networks change the way that users interact with each other, and with our services.” Although much of Dr. Abella’s work is on a high technical level, she has also made a commitment to mentoring young people, particularly women and Hispanics.
She serves as Vice President of the Young Science Achievers Program and chair of the AT&T Labs Fellowship Committee, hoping to bring more minorities into the sciences. In her capacity as a youth mentor, Dr. Abella has some sage advice to help them get ahead. “Young women should participate in internship programs,” Dr. Abella said. For women already in the workplace, she said it is important to seek out positive role models.
As Dr. Abella looks forward to her continued success, her parents remain her most important mentors and sources of inspiration. A first-generation child of Cuban immigrants, Abella’s mother didn’t speak a word of English when she emigrated at age 23, but went to night school while working in a factory and training herself to be a commercial artist. Her father was a marketing manager. “They are very proud of me,” Dr. Abella said. “My father is no longer living, but he was the one who would brag about me a lot. They showed confidence in me and I was able to show them the type of respect they deserve and were owed.”