Photography by Marie Constantin
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Family: Married for 37 years to husband, Javier, with three children: Javier Jr. (Javi), Laura and Lisa
Years with company: 37
Life doesn’t always go according to plan, and that’s part of the adventure, says Sonia Perez. After all, if her career went according to her college plans, Perez would be a journalist.
Instead, she went where opportunity led: All the way to the helm of AT&T Louisiana, where Perez has served as president for seven years. Although she earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Perez landed a career in telecommunications that allowed her to rise through the ranks and become a leader in the industry.
“Don’t think you have to plan every step on your path,” she says. “Be open to opportunities because you never know where they’ll take you. When you work hard and smart and with passion, doors will open for you. You are the one who makes them open.”
Passion comes easy in Perez’s line of work. At AT&T Louisiana, she leads a company that keeps people connected by providing the latest in technology and wireless services. Perez oversees operations, technology deployment and infrastructure investments throughout the state, which is a critical responsibility in today’s digital world.
“AT&T entrusts me with the ability to guide technology deployment that impacts lives,” she says. “I’m fortunate to work in an industry that continues to evolve. We’ve gone from serving places with party lines years ago to serving them wirelessly and enabling the internet of things. I’ve been able to witness it personally and be involved in the decision making.”
Perez is also proud to serve a company that “walks the walk.” For example, when AT&T deployed gigabit service in the Capital City in 2016, it launched in north Baton Rouge first. Perez says the decision sent a message that AT&T is committed to bringing economic prosperity to all areas for all people.
As the first female president of AT&T Louisiana, Perez says she doesn’t see any barriers in her way. Instead, she sees a job that needs to be done and she leads her team to do it.
“Whether female, Hispanic, short or tall, what matters are the contributions you make,” Perez says. “I represent a Fortune 500 company and more than 4,700 Louisiana employees. That is an awesome responsibility. That’s where I get my strength. Customers rely on me as the leader of great employees who work to keep the state competitive.”
Perez says becoming president of AT&T Louisiana is the pinnacle of everything she has worked for in her career. Her top personal accomplishment has been her family.
“I’ve been married for 37 years to a very supportive man, who has encouraged me every step of way, and raised three children I’m deeply proud of every day,” she says.
Perez is chair of the Board of Trustees of Xavier University of Louisiana and The Committee of 100, and she also serves as secretary of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Gov. John Bel Edwards tapped her to chair his Economic Development Transition Team, and she was chosen by him to serve on the Workforce Investment Council. She also serves on the board of the University of Texas System Foundation.
In recent years, she has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the 2015 Weiss Award from the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice, and being named a 2015 Role Model by the Young Leadership Council of New Orleans. In 2014 she was inducted into the Louisiana Center for Women in Government and Business Hall of Fame, and the year previous the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana bestowed her with its “Inspiración Award.”
Although Perez is a Texas native, she has come to love her new home in Louisiana. By traveling through the state, she has gotten to know its people and rich history, and has fallen in love with the beauty of the bayous, marshes and Mississippi River. Still, Perez admits relocating to Louisiana in 2010 was a challenge. What has served her best, though, is appreciating differences and finding common ground.
“Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same?” Perez asks. “You have to realize others may not look or talk like you, but the people you come into contact with for the most part have the similar values.”
AN EXPERIENCE THAT CHANGED HER LIFE | I already had a job offer and wasn’t actively looking for another one, but saw an ad for a position with AT&T as I was walking by the career placement office at University of Texas. There was only one interview slot available. It was at 8 a.m. the next morning, and I signed up.
WOMEN WHO INSPIRE HER | My mother. With only a second grade education, she built several businesses with my dad while raising a family of three daughters. She served as our role model and taught us to be who we are by example. And my two sisters. One of my sisters has a Ph.D. in economics and the other earned her master’s degree in nursing. Both have raised wonderful children.
HARDEST LESSON | Don’t take for granted that people know that you’re a good and decent person. You have to prove it every day.
1978 • Becomes the first in her family to graduate from college
1991 • Elected first woman president of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce in Texas
2001 • Named Outstanding Young Texas Ex at The University of Texas at Austin
2006 • Becomes the first Latina elected president of The University of Texas at Austin Alumni Association
2010 • Named president of AT&T Louisiana
2016 • Elected chair of the Board of Trustees of Xavier University of Louisiana
2017 • Elected chair of the Louisiana Committee of 100