Originally from the US, with an impressive academic record and career history to match, Meri’s telecoms career has taken her all over the globe. She is also a co-founded the Women in Telecom and Technology networking group, an informal networking group focused on education and enhancing women’s careers.
Here she shares her experience as a woman leading the way in telecoms for our #BalanceforBetter series in aid on International Women’s day.
What drew you to a career in telecoms? How long have you been working in the sector?
I was working in a bank and my partner and I decided to move to another city after we got married. I couldn’t find the right job in a bank, so I reached out to mates from university who were living there and asked if they knew of any jobs. Luckily there was a job in telecoms in the EMEA Finance team at Sprint International. 30 years later, I am still in the sector!
“Telecoms is so broad it’s allowed me to work across a number of disciplines.”
It was nice to be able to blend my finance skills with a technical environment and learn about a new industry. My career has taken me all over the globe and am very thankful that I accidentally fell into telecoms.
What changes, if any, have you seen across the course of your career?
I love technology and have seen so many changes as a result of it. Working on the Internet in the early days I remember my first email; I was living in Russia at the time and we were happy with 9.6 KB/s as a download speed!
At that time, I could not have imagined that people would have 1 GB/s at home one day! Telecoms is so broad it’s allowed me to work across a number of disciplines such as mobile networks, data, voice and satellites, so I’ve seen a wide variety of work which always makes it interesting.
Is there such a thing as a normal day at the office as a Director of a telecoms company? What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Every day is different which is a good thing as I would get bored if I did the same thing every day. I enjoy dealing with customers, even complaints as I like to solve problems and make things better.
“Get jobs in different departments (engineering, installations, network ops, finance, etc) so you can understand how a business is knitted together.”
Have you ever been treated differently at work, either positively or negatively, because of your gender? If so, how did you react?
Only once did I have a boss who I am pretty sure did not like women at all. I don’t think it was me specifically as he tried to chase off all women who were his direct reports. I decided to leave the company as it was a battle I could not win. As a result, I began freelance consulting and had my children who are now teenagers. So, it was a happy ending after all!
What advice would you give to women looking to advance their telecoms career?
Learn as much as you can about the technology and how it works. Get jobs in different departments (engineering, installations, network ops, finance, etc) so you can understand how a business is knitted together. Finally, get experience working directly with clients to be able to see what is important to them.
Despite ‘falling into’ telecoms, Meri’s financial skills and experience were a natural fit for a career in the sector. As she described, it wasn’t all plain sailing but her decision to move from a toxic environment to freelancing opened a whole new series of opportunities which saw her clinch top spots at huge international businesses across America, Europe and the United Kingdom where she’s made her home.
To learn more Meri and what she’s achieving at CableCom Networking you can check out their website and follow her on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for more great interviews in our #BalanceforBetter series. Learn more about International Women’s Day.