North Central College - Naperville, IL

Different degrees of success

Gail Tate ’86 found over several decades of work in business and technology, it pays to stay flexible and find enjoyment in new opportunities. “I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve had and I loved working with and coaching people at all levels,” she says.

Tate has compiled a resume that includes increasingly responsible positions at AT&T Bell Laboratories—later Lucent Technologies—over 28 years. Starting in 1973 with a technical/administrative staff position, Tate worked on switching systems, computer systems and wireless systems as she progressed from a technical manager in software engineering to development director and, finally, project management director for the Wireless Network Groups.

“I loved my time there and the culture of the company,” she says.

Tate started work at AT&T because she was looking for tuition assistance to obtain her bachelor’s degree. She first studied at Lawrence University and moved to Naperville after marrying Lawrence Tate ’89. She decided that a mathematics major would suit her talents and completed her North Central degree over 12 years, enrolling in one course at a time and taking a break for her first child. “I never thought about how long it would take—you can’t focus on that,” she says. “But on graduation day I walked. And I remember President Gael Swing telling me how much he liked my name.”

As a nontraditional student, Tate was grateful for support from her advisor and professor for many math courses, Richard Wilders, Marie and Bernice Gantzert Professor in the Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of math. “I would meet with him or call him after work and on weekends,” she recalls. Some of Tate’s favorite courses were taught by Howard Mueller, Dr. C. Frederick Toenniges Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus. “I’ll never forget African Traditional Religions,” she says. “It was excellent right from the first day. And taking Death and Dying was an eye-opening experience. I’d go back to work and think maybe I should become a philosophy major.”

After accepting a voluntary early retirement package from Lucent, Tate found a new outlet for her talents. She was hired by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to manage the Technology Research, Education and Commercialization Center that was part of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Located at DuPage Airport in West Chicago, IL, she developed policies for operating the facility, conducted tours and hosted meetings and conferences. When grant funding for her position ended in 2008, she founded her own consulting firm and contracted with Argonne National Laboratory to continue her technical and administrative duties at the research center and as a member of the Transportation Research and Analysis Computing Center project.

Now she’s looking forward to a new project collaborating with former Lucent employees.

“I was lucky to have mentors and coaches, and then you pay it forward by coaching someone else,” she says. “And my advice to anyone in the working world is to stay true to yourself.”