Abena Nyantekyi-Owusu (MBA 2021) came to HBS as an accomplished professional, having spent seven years driving impactful projects at GE Healthcare in Ghana. As she looked ahead to the next stage of her career, she felt both a desire to pivot and a need to reflect.

“The majority of my career had been in healthcare and I was interested in exploring a transition within infrastructure or considering a career in technology given my interest in the impact of tech on emerging markets,” she explained. “I also wanted to become a senior leader as my career progressed, and this was an opportunity to be reflective about my next steps and determine the type of leader I wanted to be.”

While she didn’t know it yet, Nyantekyi-Owusu’s goals aligned perfectly with a company that has a significant footprint around the world even if they are not a household name, American Tower.

Who is American Tower?

American Tower is an owner and operator of wireless and broadcast communications infrastructure in 23 countries. Therefore, even if you haven’t heard the American Tower name, it’s very likely you’ve utilized their service. As Vice President, Corporate Human Resources, Jessica Linder, puts it “The way to think about it is almost like an apartment building. We own the apartment and rent to tenants, except the tenants are T-Mobile, Telefonica, Vodafone, etc.” In this way, American Tower plays a significant role in maintaining global connectivity.

For a company with a market cap of 120.049B and an operating revenue of $8,041.5M, you would expect an employee headcount into the tens of thousands. However, American Tower has a staff of only 6,000 worldwide and as such, each employee they bring onto the team is critical to the company’s success. Therefore, leadership at American Tower has been very strategic about attracting and growing great talent, like Nyantekyi-Owusu who will be joining the Leadership Development Program in summer 2021.

“The Leadership Development Program was born from the fact that the company had doubled in revenue and was on the verge of doubling again eight years ago,” Linder explained. “Our CEO and the head of Human Resources said that we need to think about talent in a different way to infuse bright capable people who can come in, roll up their sleeves, and jump into management positions to help us run this business.”

Finding the Right Fit for the American Tower Leadership Development Program

With this objective in mind, the HR team developed the two-year rotational Leadership Development Program now in its eighth year. When seeking out candidates who would be an ideal fit, Linder and her team are looking for specific traits and characteristics.

“We look for people who are innately curious and like to find solutions to problems that are hard to solve,” she said. “We want people who are creative, collaborative, honest, transparent, and like to do things for the first time. A lot of what we do in this company has never been done before, like the analogy about building the plane mid-flight – we’re doing that!”

To find those candidates who will be ready to contribute and eager to take on challenging six-month rotations around the globe, Linder did her research and ultimately determined where she would find the best aligned talent.

“I talked to a lot of different career services offices, and what came to the surface was the students at HBS possess all of these traits. It’s like HBS was doing the pre-screening for me!” Linder said. “That’s one of the big reasons we put forth an effort to make inroads at HBS; the students we hire add amazing value and they love working for us.”

The Move to Remote Recruiting – Shifting Strategies and Unexpected Benefits

Looking back to the 2020-2021 recruiting season, Linder and fellow senior leaders at American Tower knew that who they were looking for would not change, but how they looked for candidates would need to change considerably.

“Most people discover us on their journey when we’re on campus or at career fairs, so in a remote environment we had to pivot and think about how we can get people to learn about us,” Linder explained. To do that, individualized outreach along with an LDP-specific microsite became major parts of the recruiting strategy. Linder went through hundreds of HBS student resumes and identified people to reach out to with personalized notes. Within those emails, she included a link to the microsite the American Tower HR team developed that gave an overview of the program and testimonials from participants. It also included logistical details Linder would normally speak to on campus.

Furthermore, instead of offering American Tower swag (pens, notepads, etc.) at on campus events, the team put those resources towards making donations to COVID-19 relief and Social Justice Organizations in the names of students who participated in company conversations and interviews. Students were given a choice of organizations and then American Tower pledged their support. “As nice as water bottles and pens are, this is a more valuable way for people to interact with our organization and get to know who we are as a company,” Linder shared.

The new recruiting strategy worked. American Tower spoke with more students than in years past and will be bringing on two full-time hires from HBS this summer. In the future, they plan to continue with personalized outreach, the microsite, and donations instead of swag. Linder looks forward to moving into a hybrid environment that includes some on campus presence and continued collaboration with student clubs, but the focus will remain on making it easy for great candidates to get to know the company.

Growing the Business and Building Careers

The American Tower Leadership Development Program is purposefully small, and currently aims to bring in 2 to 3 new hires each year. With a small group, Linder and her colleagues can ensure that each LDP participant gets meaningful exposure and mentorship with senior executives, has an opportunity to choose from a variety of interesting projects, and will land in a full-time role at the end of two years that is the ideal match.

Nyantekyi-Owusu will be the third HBS student to join the program in recent years, starting this summer alongside Lesley Kim (MBA 2021) and joining Graham Sinars (MBA 2019). For Nyanteki-Owusu, her summer internship experience working at a fintech startup in Nigeria reinforced her interest in building her career on the continent in the short to long term. In addition, Nyantekyi-Owusu appreciated the opportunity to be stretched in her role and be in continuous learning mode. These learnings, along with her interest in tech and infrastructure, led her to American Tower and the opportunity to build her career as a global leader.

“I wanted to merge my two interests of infrastructure (built through her career at GE Healthcare) and technology,” she said, “And when I came across American Tower and learned about their focus on emerging markets it was perfect.”

Looking ahead, Nyantekyi-Owusu is excited to rotate into different roles with American Tower over the next two years and the Africa offices are high on her target list. With American Tower’s high touch Leadership Development Program helping her carve a path forward, the signals are clear. Nyanteki-Owusu is heading towards a bright and rewarding future.