03.14.2019Inside Verizon

Taking a seat at the table.

By: Lillian Doremus

It’s Women’s History Month. These leaders are getting real.

Taking a seat at the table.

March is Women’s History Month. It’s a time to deepen the understanding of the numerous accomplishments women hold. Within Verizon, we are fortunate to work amongst influential leaders who inspire us every day.

These 12 women have openly shared their insights, advice, challenges and contributions with us. One theme often prevailing in these candid discussions is the need for women to have confidence in their abilities. In short, women have to know their worth. Hover over each photo for an excerpt to our discussion, and click below for further discussion points.

Click on the pics below to read their story:

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Learn more about the women leaders featured above.

Shelly Ashwill

Shelly Ashwill - VES Client Operations Leader

Q: What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

A: That’s a really tough one because I’ve read so many great books. Recently, Rima Qureshi recommended “Why We Sleep” and I have really enjoyed it. It explains the cognitive process behind what happens when we’re sleeping. If we sleep well, we clear our minds and become more productive. I wound up buying this book for my direct team. I make it a point to not watch TV or use my devices one hour before bedtime. It’s like a form of meditation; allowing me to remove all distractions of the day.

Q: What is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

A: Having confidence in your own leadership style and leverage the skills we innately have. Early in my career, I often wrote hand written notes. The perception was that it was too feminine and I needed a presence that was similar to that of a man. Now, I’ve confidently incorporated personal note writing into my leadership style. For example, I send birthday cards to each manager on my team. They express appreciation, and these are the little things I enjoy. I no longer care that years ago I was told to not do this. I do it because it’s important to me. We’re not just a business. We’re people first. You’ve got to understand yourself and recognize what works best for you, and make your style your own.

Q: When attempting to gain buy-in while in a room full of men, what tactics do you use?

A: I’m in VES so this happens all the time. We need fact-based data when presenting a point of view. We cannot express a gut instinct in this business, so I’m always prepared with data and analysis to present when a solution may be the best one. If I have an opinion requiring consensus, I’ve got to have a strong data pool. This really should pertain to any leader, regardless of gender. It’s important to be grounded in fact. I don’t shoot from the hip. I’m versed in my KPIs, I’m well read, I am prepared with performance reports, so I know my voice is heard.

Q: What are the most critical changes women must make to face the future effectively?

A: Stop waiting for all the stars to align. When an open job posting has ten necessary qualifications, a man might have only five and believes he’s the best candidate. A woman might have eight and feel she’s not the right fit. Women have a tendency to unrealistically wait for the “right time” at home and at work. It’s time to stop waiting and trust in ourselves by showing confidence in our experiences in order to advance our positions. We can share stories -- not only during Women’s History Month. Let’s continue the conversation and take action. I mentor and coach women, however we have to be our own champions. I’m not speaking from a feminism angle. I strongly believe everyone has the opportunity to be successful. Leverage what you have, and bring your best self to work every day. I want to help women be successful, because I can.

Q: Any other thoughts?

A: Keep in mind that every interaction you have with a senior leader is an interview. People will form an opinion of you quickly. It might be how you dress or what you say. Always have that in the back of your mind.

Kat Belloli

Kat Belloli - Verizon Media Talent Acquisition Leader

Q: It’s a Saturday morning at 10am - where will we find you?

A: I’m getting ready for Pilates - it’s my obsession. While living in San Francisco about three years ago I dealt with a few injuries, and a friend of mine who was also dealing with injuries introduced me to it. I took private classes while in CA, and when moving to NY, I found a studio I loved more. It’s a commitment to myself both physically and mentally, and while taking the subway there, I meditate. It’s my time of peace and joy.

Q: What’s your proudest career accomplishment?

A: While working for Fox Entertainment, I paid special attention to our needing diverse talent for on-air promotions and production roles as well as a reinvention of our careers site. By partnering with the right organizations and teams, we achieved extraordinary results. Then while working at Yahoo, we wanted to build a magazine-like experience where users could tab through their favorite content to build their own experience. We traveled to NY to interview a number of magazines, and this project made a significant impact to our company; moving content from print to digital. And I’m also proud of the on-boarding experience we created at Yahoo. We helped shift the culture to one that was more welcoming when gave out balloons to new hires on their first day. Their new coworkers knew to come over and introduce themselves, and they felt welcome. I always feel supported by my management, and that support helps me take risks and remain passionate about what I do.

Q: When looking for new talent, what is your “red flag” for what you’re not looking for?

A: If I sense someone is not open to change or taking risks, I’m hesitant. At Verizon Media, you have to be able to work in a chaotic culture. I’ve had six jobs with Yahoo, and I like having the ability to “break glass” and take risks. It’s all about resilience.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: “Learning is better than knowing.” I’m often faced with situations that are inefficient and I want to solve problems. I’ve learned to be in the moment rather than trying to create solutions by telling myself I should wait. I’ve also learned so much from my mom. I moved from Iran at the age of six. My mom took a big risk bringing us here. She learned English at night and she worked during the day. I recall being a little girl and seeing a woman in a tube top and short shorts and asked mom why that woman was dressed that way. My mom said, “This is why you were brought to America -- so you can see and experience the freedoms here.” My mother is the reason I am who I am today.

Krista Bourne

Krista Bourne - Consumer Sales & Operations Leader

Q: What advice do you wish you were given on your first day of work?

A: I would have loved for someone to tell me I’d feel lost and overwhelmed, and that is a sign that I’m growing. Early in my career I didn’t feel confident, but my greatest achievements came from roles where I felt most overwhelmed. I hire every director with that same advice: Year #1 you’re overwhelmed; Year #2 you’re up against your own decisions, where you’re now accountable to the decisions you made in Year #1; Year #3, you’re in a better position to anticipate -- you have the freedom to act accordingly.

Q: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve made and how did it impact your life?

A: Every job has been a big one. I started here in 1998, and I didn’t make my first geographical move until 2007. Now I move every three years to different states, different cultures, and different time zones. My family and I had to reconcile that and understand that we have to approach this not as my career, but as a family career, and my husband made the decision to manage the household. What would all of the efforts have been for if I had to sacrifice a promotion?

Q: Define a good leader - what traits do they possess?

A: A good listener, a collaborator of thoughts and ideas, and an effective decision maker that gets results based on credibility. A good leader must also be likeable individually as well as in a group, therefore they need to be self aware. Colleagues shouldn’t scatter when they enter a room or sigh after they’ve left. And finally, they must have integrity; meaning they fix problems and work hard every day to be believable. I believe Tami Erwin is a great leader. Before I had the opportunity to work for her, she paid attention to my work through the years, and when I was promoted to president, she called me to wish me well. I respect how she always carries out what she says she’ll carry out. Nancy Clark is also a great leader. She has always motivated me and a made room for me at the table. She’s gone out of her way to help me — not because she had to, but because she could.

Q: How has our culture changed in the last 10 years?

A: Our conversations are louder. We’ve kept pace with the expectations and demands of new employees coming in. I’m one of the best examples of culture coming to life. At first I didn’t connect the dots with everything Verizon was doing for me. I thought, why am I on these committees and leadership meetings. Then I just started taking it all in. Verizon gets you ready without you knowing they’re getting you ready -- just because they see you have talent. We’re more deliberate in tying it all together. Mentorship is important as well. When looking for a mentor, you must ask yourself if you’re truly looking for a new perspective, or are you circumventing your leader.

Emma Grant

Emma Grant - Corporate Strategy Development Leader

Q: What’s an accomplishment you’re proudest of?

A: The ability to grow a business from nothing and build it up. While at Microsoft, I spent time across the company painting a strategic picture of how the world would evolve with NUI (natural user interface) technology. I envisioned what human computing would be and how we’d use Artificial Intelligence, Vision and Audio, for products similar to Amazon Alexa. All the work informed how Microsoft would evolve around Edge computing and machine learning. I had to look at how we’d move beyond mobility, and this had an impact on investments. Now I’m doing similar work for Verizon with MEC and what we’re doing in the 5G space and the next generation of computing. So while at Microsoft, we started talking about this technology in 2009. Now, 10 years later, it’s rewarding to see what’s happening today and to have been a part of it.

Q: Have you faced fears in your position? If so, how did you overcome it?

A: I have fear on a daily basis. What we need to teach as leaders is resilience. I used to fear looking stupid, or sounding too complex. A lot of people have that voice in their head. If someone has one voice, I have five. So I work to Pause. Think. Slow down. Be brave. I am no longer fearful of messing up. I just pick up and start again. I have to work this way, especially within a boy’s club. Resilience is what I practice every day, and I work to tackle it head on. Fear does not stop me from doing the work.

Q: Can you share a time when you’ve had a difficult boss? How did you handle it?

A: I think we’ve all had one of those. I tend to tackle areas of a “disconnect” up front, with frequency. I work hard to find the disconnects by requesting performance feedback regularly. I have found that most disconnects happen when there’s a lack of alignment on goals, so it’s important to document. It might take more time to prepare and discuss what is important, however it’s necessary. I also avoid attaching constructive feedback to emotion, even if it’s uncomfortable. I think about it and tackle it. Sometimes you might need to go home, take a break, and tackle it the next day.

Q: How did you build the skill of speaking engagingly in front of an audience?

A: I perform best when I’m prepared. I practice out loud to other people or to myself in front of a mirror. I try to connect and make the content pertinent to my audience; usually by bringing something personal into the discussion. When I walk around, I use my full body when presenting. I have to remind myself that it’s not a test -- I’m simply trying to communicate.

Lani Ingram

Lani Ingram - Verizon Smart Communities Leader

Q: You stress the importance of having fun and not expecting perfection from yourself. What’s your secret to allowing yourself to have and keep that perspective on your life and career?

A: Very early in my career, a woman on an airplane gave me the most freeing advice about looking at life like it’s Tupperware -- meaning you’ve got to compartmentalize. The visual of this really worked for me. When I’m with my kids, I’m 100% present. When I’m at work, I’m 100% present. I always felt like I had to juggle it all, but by focusing on one thing, I’m able to get the task done. When I started having kids as a new manager, I was making myself crazy; adding to my stress. Compartmentalizing takes practice, and after a couple of years I got increasingly better at it. I really don’t have to do everything at once, and I don’t need to be everything to everybody. When I got comfortable with myself and my abilities, everyone else got more comfortable with me too.

Q: Describe one of your biggest career failures. What lessons did you learn and how did the experience contribute to your greater success?

A: Years ago, while in a global Finance role, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) was introduced. SOX is a federal law that established sweeping audits and financial regulations for public companies to help protect shareholders, employees and the public from accounting errors and fraudulent financial practices. I helped rebuild accounting practices, and after completing the project, I had difficulty giving up the work. I didn’t trust the team to continue managing it, and as a result, I lived the next six months in a living hell at a big personal expense. Not only that, I didn’t make others feel very good. I should have empowered and enabled the team. I will never do that again.

Q: Do you experience resistance when you lead men?

A: Yes, sometimes I do. Nine times out of ten, they assume I’m not in the role I’m actually in, or they think I’m an assistant. I often would simply go with it, and then eventually they’d feel embarrassed. I no longer fight it. If in the beginning they’ve put me in a box, I know by the end of the meeting they’ll no longer see me in that box. Simply put - I don’t worry about it.

Q: How do you keep your team motivated?

A: I have a great leadership team. I spend so much time with government leaders regarding smart city discussions and planning, so I really have to rely on my team. As a result, they are able to use their capabilities and I trust them. I don’t micro-manage, and I try to create an empowering environment. Every two weeks in San Jose, we have an all-hands meeting where we bang the gong to celebrate the successes that make Verizon the market leader.

Cindy Joung

Cindy Joung - Verizon Media Product Management

Q: What woman inspires you, and why?

My 3-year old daughter Amara, because she taught me to adopt a lot of kid-like traits you forget about in the aging process. With her, I’m able to play and be curious.

Q: When have you been the most satisfied in your life?

A: I’m best when I’m taking care of myself. In the last few years, and even more so now, I’ve embraced the airplane rules of putting my oxygen mask on first before helping someone with theirs. I have to be my best in order to do well. When I need a break from work, I take it. If I need my husband to take my daughter out, I ask him to do that. Taking care of my needs makes me a better mother and worker.

Q: What three things do you not like? And what three things do you like?

A: I hate wasting a day. I’m not one to sit home all day and watch TV. I have to wake up and get things accomplished in order to feel as though I’ve contributed to my happiness. Being lazy is not enjoyable to me. I also don’t like commuting on the subway, but working in New York, I often have to. Being the center of attention is something I find to be unenjoyable. When contributing to the Maker’s videos, I was self conscious about being in front of the cameras. And I know this will sound really weird, but I’m terrified of butterflies and being in the sun. I actually have a Vitamin D deficiency because of avoiding the sun.

I love food. I grew up in an environment of several family-owned restaurants. I enjoy archery, and I’ve been doing it since the age of five or six. Every year, I pick a new hobby. For example, I’m a runner, and I’m running in the St. Patty’s half marathon with a team of folks from Verizon Media.

Q: What skills do you use most often in your current role?

A: Collaboration because what we do requires cross functional support, including engineering, designers and creative.

Communications and transparency due to the importance of managing expectations

Creativity, because it’s important to think outside the box when planning on where to take our products in order to be in step with competitors

Aparna Khurjekar

Aparna Khurjekar - Customer Experience and Transformation Leader

Q:What do you binge watch?

A: My favorite shows tend to be whatever we can watch as a family. My boys are 19 and 14, so shows Sherlock, Suits, and White Collar are enjoyable.

Q:What advice would you share with young women entering male-dominated professions?

A: Know your stuff! Go deep and wide and understand what you’re working on to get a seat at the table and get recognized. It’s so important to go that extra mile. Secondly, take risks, because as women, we avoid them unless we’re 100% sure we’ll be successful. Be open to failure, get up, brush yourself off, and move on. Men don’t avoid risks like women do. I am an engineer, so it was a risk for me to move into marketing and project management. I’ve been called out both publicly and privately for mistakes I’ve made, but it’s how we respond to the failures that people react to. When I’ve accepted what I could have done better, talked about it in the open, allowed myself to be vulnerable, avoided becoming defensive, the successes came more frequently than the failures. I recall a device launch where the phone completely malfunctioned. My VP asked me to join a task group because of the way I handled that issue. I was accountable, set forth a plan to fix the issue, and I moved on. It’s important to remember when people throw darts, it’s the work they’re going after, not you. As women, we internalize our jobs. Remember to not make it personal.

Q: What have you had to sacrifice during each stage of your career?

A: There is no such thing as work / life balance. It’s work / life decisions. Two years ago, a leader in our business called me with a promotional opportunity and a plan on how we could make it work for my family and I. Not knowing my son heard the conversation, I declined the offer. He told me to do it and that the family would manage. He said that I’ve done so much for the family and that he wanted me to do this. I never look back and regret our family decision. As women, we must put ourselves on the “to do” list. For example, cooking for my family is very important to me, so I cook every weekend. I take care of myself by ensuring I exercise regularly.

Q: On a “60 seconds with” video, you indicated you’re looking for attitude when interviewing people. Can you elaborate?

A: I look for resilience and collaboration, with the ability to work in the unknown. Gone are the days of controlled organizations. I can tell by the way candidates approach questions and process their thoughts. I also will ask a random unrelated question to see how they respond. You find out a lot about people through their failures and successes.

Final thoughts: VZ gives us opportunities to learn from leaders - they are accessible to us. You see them everywhere and you get to interact with them. Listen to their words of wisdom -- take the opportunity to reach out because you’ll learn so much. We truly have great leaders.

Abby Knowles

Abby Knowles - Network & Field Operations Leader

Q: During a “60 Seconds With,” changing the past was your desired super power. Why?

A: I wish I had listened to my instincts and judgment earlier so that maybe I could have influenced the business faster by a few hours or minutes. I needed to be more confident with presenting and standing by my ideas. As women, we are often so afraid to be wrong that we miss the opportunity to be courageous. We won’t always get that A on the test and that’s OK. I would be more comfortable with taking risks.

Q: What strategies can women use to help achieve a more prominent role within their organizations?

A: Find ways to talk about what you’re doing without sounding like you’re tooting your horn. So often we take on responsibilities and receive little to no credit. I believe women are the backbone of so many organizations, however we often don’t own the value of what we’re bringing to the table. Create a path for yourself by providing updates to your leader, collaborating on ad hoc projects, and finding ways to talk about your work. I know it can feel uncomfortable, but if you don’t speak up, the business will fail to see you as an influential leader. Secondly, if you’re interested in applying for a new position, don’t feel you must meet every requirement in the description. Have confidence in yourself that you won’t come off as a fraud.

Q: If you could influence anything about our corporate culture, what would it be?

A: I’d love to see a role reversal by giving women the tough roles while giving their male counterparts the administrative roles. I have been involved with mentoring circles where women have shared that they cover for their boss or they’re the “go to” for team meetings, yet they’re not asked to manage the toughest projects. Reversing the roles will help us determine who may be emerging as a leader; allowing us to help get them to the next level by assessing what they need. Whether it’s training or simply smoothing out the rough edges, we’ll ensure we’re developing our next leaders.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about women in leadership roles?

A: Yes, the business wants and needs diverse leaders. So many women have given up trying to get to the next level. I encourage all women who want to get promoted -- get hungry! Do what it takes to get noticed.

Sasha Lucas

Sasha Lucas - Fios Digital Channel Leader

Q: What’s your favorite vacation destination?

A: My parents live in Jamaica, so we really enjoy visiting there almost every year. I have a big extended family and we rent a house and spend time together. We enjoy being outside of the country. When I’m there, I really take the time to relax.

Q: What are the best and worst career decisions you’ve made?

A: The best has been my decision to join Verizon. Even when I haven’t fully understood an opportunity, I have taken a leap of faith by never saying no. When I first joined the company, I remember meeting with Miguel Quiroga and Ken Lain and feeling so blown away by their talent. The scariest thing about joining the team was changing companies, but I’m so happy I did it.
The worst mistake was my apprehension to taking risks early in my career. Opportunities in technology roles came my way, and I didn’t embrace them. For example, while with Citibank, I could have worked in IT, but something within me didn’t allow me to take that risk.

Q: What was your dream job as a kid, and why?

A: I always wanted to be an astronaut during my preteen and teenage years. But then I realized the levels of science I would have had to learn. It all worked out though because I’ve always been ambitious with big goals. I never would have guessed that someday I’d be a digital executive, but my early ambitions got me here.

Q: In what ways has leadership come easy to you?

A: It’s really never easy. Like any muscle or skill, it must be honed and concentrated on for a long time. The most difficult part of leadership is what is also the most rewarding -- there for my team. There is a turning point between a director role to a VP role, where your entire goal is about creating a strong culture by being there and helping to remove roadblocks. This is a particularly interesting time for leaders because we’ve got to be sure Verizon 2.0 is successful, but we’re not always confident about the strategy of getting there. At this time, this is a call for leadership, and I’m certain it will be the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.

Q: Any other thoughts?

A: Yes, when I think about who might be ready for a promotion, as a leader I’m looking for people who approach challenges differently and have the ability to scale over time. I think of it like a plane’s runway, where there’s room to continue to evolve.

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite dessert: Apple Crumb Cake (although I’ve given up sugar for a while)

Wendy Taccetta

Wendy Taccetta - Business Commercial Operations Leader

Q: What three events helped shape your life?

A: I worked here as a summer intern several years ago. At the time I interned in wireless and my dad was a field technician. I was also a finance manager, and finally I was a temp as an executive assistant in Orangeburg, NY. Someone recommended I apply for a position because cell phones might really take off so I applied. They were right.
Deciding to relocate was a game changer. I wasn’t interested in doing that during the first 15 years of my career. I never lived outside of the Northeast, so who knew I could survive? Where would I get good pizza? I would have never thought I’d be living in Denver. It was a crazy year - with a big career move, and it changed everything for me.
While in college, I had health issues. I am healthy now, however that really placed perspective on not taking life too seriously. I’m very clear about what’s important in life. All that matters is that people you love are there with you. My 89 year old grandma is the best person on the planet. She’s my mentor and she’s still so grateful and positive.

Q: We’re sitting here a year from now celebrating a great year. In your new role, what did you and your team achieve together?

A: People feel it was different this time. I hope we’ve provided a positive experience to our customers and employees. Verizon 2.0 is the foundation we need for the next 10 years. The process will come -- the hard work is making it all work. So many people chose to stay and not accept the voluntary offer, so we owe it to them to get it right. Verizon 2.0 is what we’ve all wanted, and it didn’t happen before because it was a big hard change, with its share of roadblocks. We’ve now gotten people to a place of change is addictive, not scary. The storytelling of the next three years will be vital. I feel honored and humbled to be a part of this. I’m honored that the business thinks I can help, and I’m humbled thinking that I might not focus on the right things and I could potentially make a bad impact. We are the they - we have to create the right experience for people.

Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

A: Believe the good and the bad. As women, when we receive critical feedback, we internalize it, and years later it could bring us to a place of fear. Men will take the position of proving the criticism wrong, whereas a woman holds on to it. We can earn a Leading rating, yet we’ll focus on the constructive feedback. When people see something in you, believe it. Remind yourself of what you’ve done. When you get more responsibility, it’s so empowering. Quiet down that voices in your head that say why me? Listen to those you trust and know your potential. Learn to accept criticism and don’t chase perfection.

Q: Share something personal about yourself:

A: I’m West Indian (first generation American) and I love to travel so I’m excited that we’re a global company. A few weeks ago I went to London and really enjoyed it. My favorite places are Paris and Turks and Caicos. I love shopping at Home Goods too.

Vandana Venkatesh

Vandana Venkatesh - Deputy General Counsel

Q: Who is the most influential woman in your life?

A: Probably my Great Great Grandmother. When I think of her, it’s a reminder of how different life can be. She was born in the 1890s and she lived through World Wars I and II, then moved to the United States. She married at the age of 11, and had her first child when she was only 14. I admire her resilience because she lived her life despite the odds stacked up against her. At a time when feminism was not a “thing,” she broke the gender barriers to become who she so that her daughter, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren could be successful. She lived a full life; passing at the age of 96. She was an incredibly forward thinking woman; learning to read on her own and teaching herself English. I come from a line of strong women who didn’t allow the times to dictate what they could or could not do. That’s really the best way I can show up every day.

Q: What lessons have you learned from mentoring other women?

A: I enjoy my local community work where I help immigrant children and teenagers from Central and South America. I assist these amazing kids with life skills in the USA, and I help to prepare them for school and college. My entire family is involved with the program, and I wish I had more time to devote to it. When mentoring many of these young men and women, I’m increasingly aware of how lucky I am, and the experience has given me a sense of humility. I’m currently mentoring a young Costa Rican woman who shows such resilience despite facing tough circumstances. The choices she has in life are so different than those afforded to me, yet she and I are connected by our immigrant experience.

When mentoring Verizon employees, perspective is important. Many women, when given “stretch” opportunities, often think they’re not ready for the next step; failing to give themselves credit for the great work they’ve already done. I have witnessed women forego opportunities; believing they lack the required expertise. We often hold ourselves to a higher standard of excellence and expect to get everything right before we’re ready. To be completely transparent, I have felt that myself at times, asking “Do you really think I can do this?” Having gone through similar experiences myself, I’m better able to identify and help my mentees think through their decisions.

Q: What important leadership lesson have you learned in your career?

A: We live in divisive times, and compromise can seem like a dirty word. It’s more important than ever to find commonalities with those who are least like us. This requires finding middle ground between understanding someone else’s position, while sticking to my beliefs. Compromise without compromising integrity. Working with and learning from people that are completely unlike me, has helped me professionally and personally. Learning to understand differing perspectives helps me support diverse teams.

Q: What do you do when you’re not working?

A: I love hanging out with my three boys, ages 16, 12 and 9. We enjoy gaming, including Fortnite and Call of Duty. I’m more of a gamer than my husband! We also have blast while playing board games, cooking, not to mention getting into nerf ball wars. I love design and art, and spend a lot of my time redesigning my home.

Genia Wilbourn

Genia Wilbourn - Global Network Operations & Assurance Leader

Q: How have mentors influenced your life and your career?

A: I have mentors inside and outside of the company, including some who have left Verizon. I look for people who inspire me, because they become my examples and I trust their advice. I spend a lot of time mentoring people too, including those at the ground level. I get so much out of it, and if they’re sharing something private with me, it validates the level of respect they have; therefore allowing me to share my experiences as well. If both parties are transparent and honest, the relationship is more productive. I mentor both men and women of all races. The only criteria is their desire to add value. As a leader, I have an obligation to make the time to do this, and I put it on them to tell me what strengths they can bring to the table. I find with women of all levels, they so frequently feel they don’t have a voice. I believe that lack of self confidence starts in middle school. With the women who approached me about possibly volunteering for the separation package, I informed them that if they planned to leave because they felt they didn’t have a voice -- it was important for them to change the conversation by using their voice. It’s also important that leaders set the right tone to make people feel included.

Q: What advice would you give to women breaking into engineering and technology fields?

A: Follow your passion because there is nothing to be afraid of. There’s nothing better than getting a seat at the table while at the cutting edge of technology. We need to be more flexible in our requirements. Women might have what’s needed in leading change in an organization. We need more of that, and by taking a risk, we’re creating better leaders for our future. It’s about cross pollination.

Q: You told us once that Grandma Eula is the funniest person you’ve ever met. What life lessons did she teach you?

A: While attending a Maker’s Conference, I was inspired by the women surrounding me. I found myself having a moment -- I wished my Grandma Eula could see me now. She saw me graduate along with a number of my accomplishments, but at that moment, I wished she was sitting next to me, amongst these beautiful women of all colors and backgrounds. As the backbone of our family, she taught me so much. I credit her for my morals, ethics, principles, and most of all, the ability to stay true to myself. She always told me to stay grounded and humble. That’s why my finger is on the pulse of those closest to the customer. I help a lot of people, because that’s what I was taught to do.

Q: What else would you like to share about you?

A: I’m an open book. Outside of mentoring middle schoolers and V Teamers, I have 25 nieces and nephews that I’m very close with. I’m someone they look up to and I spend a lot of time with them, and I have an individual relationship with each of them. When something special happens to me, including my most recent Reuters podcast, I can’t wait to share my joy with them.

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About the author(s): 

Lillian Doremus is a member of the Verizon Corporate Communications team. She highlights workplace culture and employee achievements.