How did you start off your career journey and how did you venture into the telecom tower industry?
I started off my career when there was no tower industry to speak of. Back 31 years ago, I was hired as Manager of Engineering for a national paging company. By nature of the network we had sites, both towers and rooftops, with the first tower dating back to 1962. We mapped out network designs and located either existing infrastructure or built. There were very few zoning or permitting processes for doing so. Later when we sold the paging company, we kept our sites and infrastructure and built the business from there to 800 sites in the U.S. It was during this time period that the TowerCo became a real business with real challenges. We all were learning together.
What motivates you and gets you up in the morning? How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
I am a high-energy individual. I sleep well and wake up energized. I believe every day is unique and the zeal to learn something new every day is what adds a spring to my step. I am not the best example of what a healthy work-life balance might look like. My lesson is yet to be learned. But I do enjoy and have enjoyed what I do every day; so, the definition of healthy work-life balance may be different for everyone. I did raise two children as a single parent, and we do enjoy our time together today, although they were and are very well adjusted to my role and what it entails. As I look back, we did seem to hold it together pretty well, admittedly with the help of some friends. With my crazy travel schedule, I had to form a network of friends who could be a back-up for me and vice-versa. After 3 decades and all of our children have grown, we are closer than ever. We can lean on each other to this very day in any situation.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
My first bit of advice would be to congratulate yourself on reaching this level. Always learn to “celebrate” with yourself first. No one, better than you, knows the reason why and the hard work that went behind you getting to this level.
As for leading your team, always have open dialogue with your team to understand their challenges. “Break the wall” and let your team feel that they have broken the wall from their side as well. When the team is not receptive, step into their shoes to understand their perspective. Be a builder of a culture that incentivizes them to be their very best. Allow them the opportunity to grow and challenge you. When they are right, tell them so.
What do you see as the next big trend in the tower industry?
As I have seen the tower industry grow from nothing to the giant that it is today, I am still intrigued by the rapidly developing technology that drives it. That is what is so exciting about the industry we play in. Even after 30+ years something new appears and we learn every day. In earlier days, towercos did take on the fiber challenge in the U.S. and it was not successful. We may have been too early but today again it has come full circle and seems to be making its way into infrastructure offerings. Suffice it to say the definition of towerco infrastructure is being expanded and we are all being challenged and stretched to understand what is significant to our carrier partners in leasing our space beyond the steel and even beyond the 4 corners of the compound area. This industry does continue to be gratifying as it is an integral part of bringing technology to geographical areas that can really benefit from connectivity. It is incredible.
How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
To grow as a leader, my mantra is, “Know what you know and know what you don’t know”. We can’t know everything or do everything and do it right. But what we can do is know where and how we can fill in the blanks.
Which superpower would you choose – invisibility or mind reading?
I like to be visible and seen. So I would choose mind reading any day.
What would you like to do more as a leader on the personal front?
I would like to get better at work-life balance. I would love to be offline for some time at least. As a leader, I would want to step back a bit and rejuvenate. For example, in Europe, it is mandatory to take 2 weeks off for employees to rejuvenate and spring back fresh. I would love to bring that kind of a balance into my work life. Talk is cheap, and even my friends declare “It will never happen!!”. I should add that I do enjoy dance, the theatre and arts, and someday will find myself on the stage. I also enjoy immensely the opportunity to mentor. I have found it to be most gratifying to play even a small part in others growth.
What has been your most impactful leadership lesson this past year?
While I love mentoring people, I have also done it in the reverse - leveraging my mentees to understand the challenges and learn from their perspectives. The most fun part of the process for me is to schedule a non-mentoring time with my mentees, where we can talk about anything and everything other than the topic requiring advice or mentorship. So, I have added seeking their advice too. It helps break the ice, open up the dialogue and they too learn mentoring “paying forward”.
How do your personal identities/beliefs intersect with your leadership approach and practices?
I am a very pragmatic person. I do not impose my personal beliefs on others. Everyone has a different perspective, and I am happy to step into the other person’s shoes to understand what they think. I am a firm believer of keeping an open mind and listening to their point of view. I do like to calmly debate issues and open minds including my own. We don’t have to necessarily agree but we can always build a bridge to get closer to each other and create a win-win situation for both.
Is there anything that you thought was impossible before, but were eventually able to achieve? If so, how did you make it happen?
I never really think or see anything as impossible. If I can see it, I believe I can create the steps to achieve it. That is where the ultimate optimist comes in peppered with realism to create the steps - large or small - to get there. I believe in not taking things for granted, always keeping in mind where we have come from, and how we have gotten this far today.
I am a strong believer that every day is a WOW. Every day one can see and learn new things.
What is the best and the worst part of being a CEO?
The best part about being a CEO is that I can personally influence people I work with. I can technically influence the decision-making process and with my open-door policy, I foster an open work culture. I also spend time meeting with our team members at all levels within the organization and have the ability in my role to show how much each and every one is valued as an integral part of our growth.
The worst part of being a CEO is letting go of people. That is really a tough call to make.
What is your secret to managing in a male dominated world?
Don’t be afraid to lead and be heard no matter what the gender majority is. How you go about being heard is important.
The ground should be a level playing field where talent wins irrespective of the gender.
Our Torrecom Team culture from top down is to look for ability and skills that meld well within the group. Recruiting and keeping team members for the long haul is very important, which means promoting for skills and abilities and paying equally, no matter the gender.
I would like to mention that I am concerned about the backlash of women being hired to meet the numbers versus their abilities.
Any special thoughts about women bonding together?
Without a doubt, women bonding together creates a miracle network. Women are blessed by nature in having an unbeatable combination of emotional strength, mental perspective, and the technical know-how to solve any kind of challenge thrown at them. As of late, even men have recognized women’s ability to network broadly.
If you were a book what would the title be?
“Floating upstream” - The challenge of fighting the current with poise and ease.
How can one think in the forward direction at all times?
An unbeatable mantra for me in thinking forward is “Don’t carry rocks” i.e., the past burdens, or mistakes the “trials and tribulations of life”. Study them to learn by them and move on. But you also cannot just think forward, you have to look forward. Drop the big rocks so they don’t bog you down. You may recall the history to remind you of how much you have overcome and how much you have grown. I would rather turn them into milestones and share them as a growth experience.