Spotlight on Leading Women in Telecoms: TelecomDrive.com
It is her insistent courage; strong will and integrity that has always helped Eugina Jordan win under pressing circumstances and trying conditions. She was instrumental in bringing to life the #OpenRAN movement in the year 2014 and today, it is fast becoming an innovative way for operators to do more with less.
As part of Disruptive Telecoms July 2022 cover story on ‘Leading Women in Telecoms’- Eugina Jordan, Founding Member at CHIEF, speaks with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about her professional and personal journey.
How has been your professional journey so far? Please tell us about your various job profiles?
Born and raised in communist Russia, I have built an amazing career in the telecom space, rising up from secretary to a C-level executive.
When I moved to the US from Canada in 2000 during the collapse of the dotcom economy, I was faced with a very tough economic situation. Despite having two degrees (teaching and computer science), I was only able to get an admin job at a tiny startup Starent that went onto becoming a public company and then acquired by Cisco.
That first job gave me an opportunity, and I did not throw away my shot at success.
Back in 2014, when I started talking about #OpenRAN, people thought that I was crazy. Today, OpenRAN is a global movement with many companies and mobile operators committing to building their wireless networks in more open way by mixing and matching components from different vendors.
I defined the new disruptive market category of Open RAN on global telecoms turf and I have been advocating for Open RAN for many use cases, macro and private networks and promoting it with speaking (15+ in 2021 alone), articles (over 70 in 2020/21/22), workshops, and patents on 5G and Open RAN (7).
I am a founding member of Boston chapter of CHIEF, an organization for women in the C-Suite, to strengthen their leadership, magnify their influence, pave the way to bring others, cross-pollinate power across industries, and effect change from the top-down.
What is the meaning of success to you, how important it is for you? And what is your mantra to succeed in an organisation?
Success to me is leaving this world a better place than I have found it. Success to me is bringing more women into leadership roles that I am not the only one or the last one. Success to me is helping people realize their full potential.
When I was growing in my career there was no seat at the table for people like me. Not even for me to bring my chair. So, I have built my damn table extension. At 51, I invite people to that extension I have built. As it’s now my responsibility.
According to you what are some of the most critical factors that have helped you become a leader in your organisation?
Empathy and strategic thinking.
When you look back in your career – what according to you can be termed as big turning points for you. How have these turning points helped you gain ground professionally?
The turning points in my career were always around me asking for what I deserved: a job, my next promotion, or an interesting project to lead. Even when it was a “no”, the lesson learned was to keep going, keep asking, keep fighting. Because when other women see me succeed even after many tries, they get the courage to ask for what they deserve as well. Why courage? You need courage to admit areas you need to work on, take the feedback to work on yourself and to be building expertise in your field
The courage is to ask. For mentorship, sponsorship, for that next promotion. You need to ask though the answer might be “no”. Courage is not giving up on you and your dreams. It’s not going to be easy. It will be all worth at the end. As if you succeed, you will be able to open more doors and bring more people like you to the table. You might be the 1st one, but you won’t be the last. You cannot be the last one. As all the sacrifices of your family, your hard work will be all in vain.
What are some of the challenges that you faced and overcome during your professional journey? How did you overcome these challenges?
Often times white men who are feeling confused will ask me (or any number of other people that do not look like them), “Is it really that bad? You’re really successful, and you’ve never said that this stuff happened to you.”
The answer is “Yes, of course it happened to me. I didn’t succeed because it did not happen, I succeeded IN SPITE of those things happening. I succeeded because I was resilient and there were people who mentored me, sponsored me, and supported me WHEN it was happening.
What me and others like me are being forced to reckon with is our own complicity in the system. When we chose which battles to fight, we couldn’t challenge the system the way it is being challenged today because our mere presence WAS a challenge to the system that did not want us there. But as a result of it, we now are the ones who have enough power to lead the change.
Please share with us some of your positive learnings that you have gained over the past many years and how these learnings have helped you become a better person / professional?
My leadership style is built on two values: integrity and courage. They are the foundation of how I see the world, how I influence it, and how I lead. I know that courage is a very important value for a leader as it’s about doing what’s right, even if it’s tough. I believe that a courageous leader inspires others.
With greater level of experience comes greater level of responsibility and often this also involves grooming others, passing on your legacy ahead. Keeping this in mind, how do you look at helping others in your organization towards achieving success?
I believe that mentorship schemes are pivotal in encouraging and equipping women for leadership. To this end, I spearheaded a grass-roots initiative that mentored women and young engineers. This mentorship program was so transformative that the mentees won multiple awards, and 95% of them secured full-time employment after their internships. Due to its resounding success, this expanded into a long-term company-wide mentorship program in 2021 and mentorship is now a requirement for all managers. I also know that sponsorship is more important than mentorship as sponsorships will help women advance in an organization.
What are some of your big goals that you have achieved in the recent past – and your goals that you want to achieve?
Creating a new market category (Open RAN) and educating the whole industry on it was hard work, but now seeing it mainstream is a huge reward.
Eugina Jordan | Behind every successful woman …is a supportive partner
How would you describe yourself as a person?
I am an introvert, and many would be surprised with this classification. The two values that drive me are courage and integrity. I am loyal and fair. I also have a corky sense of humor.
What are the three top most important things for you in your personal life?
My family (my husband and my teenage son), my three rescue dogs and myself. I am slowly learning that I need to prioritize myself as well. If your own tank is empty, you cannot help others. Put your own oxygen mask on first.
Please share with us some of your personal milestones and their contributions towards developing your personality?
This question got me thinking what actually my younger selves would be proud of.
My 6-year-old would be so proud that I stayed happy, positive, and kind. She believed that the world needed more shiny people on rainy days, and she would not be disappointed.
My 14-year-old would be pleased to know that I still love reading and always find the time to spend with a good book. She would be also so happy to know that I still not allow anyone to be bullied. She would be proud that I choose truth and integrity over comfort. She would be also proud that I am comfortable in my body and do not afraid to look funny or awkward when I dance or exercise.
My 24-year-old would be proud that I have built a great life outside of my birth country, I have built new bonds, new friendships. She would be also proud that though I cherish my roots, I am not afraid to learn and grow in every new environment I find myself in. She would be proud that I have applied my master’s in teaching and computer undergrad to build an amazing career in marketing. #ScrappyMarketing
My 30-year-old would be so happy to see that I have a beautiful family. She would be so happy to know that my husband and I have built a wonderful home for ourselves, our friends and family. The journey to that family has taken a few wrong turns and at times it felt so gloom, but she would be crying very happy tears seeing the yard with three dogs running around and smiling people gathered at a dinner table on holidays.
My 37-year-old would be so proud that my son grew up to be a kind, hard-working, compassionate individual. She would no know that the decision of leaving a bad family situation was as good for him as I was for me.
My 42-year-old would be proud that I helped grow a tiny startup into an industry leader. She would be extremely amazed of the 7 patents. She would not be surprised that I wrote almost 75 industry articles and would be proud that I helped define a new market category.
Let me tell you, it took a long time, hard work and tenacity. I have made mistakes and I learned from them.
It makes me happy to know that I would set a good example for my younger selves. I am now the person that my past selves would look up to and aspire to be like.
We have been socialized to believe that immigrant women belong in certain roles, few of which are in the executive suite, but in sharing my story with you, we are pushing beyond those boundaries.
Never in my wildest dreams did we, imagine that I would become who I am today, a C-level executive, an industry disruptor.
If you stay true to yourself, you might just be surprised and make your younger self proud by where you end up.
Just like me.
And your story will become bigger than you. And you too, will have the responsibility to lift others up, to help them on their journey.
As for me?
My adventure continues. And I hope my current self would be so proud of my future selves.
How do you see yourself evolve as a person over the past years and where do you see yourself in the coming years?
I am an immigrant female leader who worked my way up from secretary to an executive. So, I am an expert on resilient and servant leadership. I was also a single mom that wanted to create the best life for my son by earning my American dream through hard work and tenacity. I now give back to women, immigrants, underprivileged and underrepresented communities through mentorship, workshops, social to inspire them to work hard and not to put limits on themselves and to earn their American dream. Through sharing my story, I can help women, immigrants and other underprivilege communities to show that if they break their barriers and are willing to grow and do the work, if they find the right mentors and sponsors – all this will help them realize their full potential.
That is why, I am writing a leadership development book. I will present the reader with actionable steps, frameworks and worksheets so they can learn how to fuel self-growth, how to find sponsors and mentors and how to make an impact on this world once they are in a position of power and have a platform and a voice. Peppered with some inspiring stories from other individuals that succeeded in their career despite where they came from, color of their skin or college they attended, this book will give many underrepresented individuals not only tools to succeed, but also hope, inspiration and encouragement.
What are your three qualities that have helped you grow as a person and a professional?
Courage, desire to grow, take feedback, and tenacity. My story is a positive example that if you work hard, play fair, continue to learn and always believe in yourself, you can grow yourself, your career and others. I believe that the door is always open; people need to be strong enough to open it, get a seat at the table and work hard to get where they want to be.
Please share with us some of your hobbies and interests?
I love reading, going to theater, and museums. Before Covid, we used to take a trip to Europe in the summer to see all the amazing sites. There is nothing better than sitting outside in the summer Paris and eating a freshly made sandwich and people watching.
Please tell us something about your family? How has been their support in terms of helping you grow professionally?
Behind every successful woman …is a supportive partner.
For the six years of my son’s life, I was a single parent. My son was my world. And men weren’t lining up to date a single mom with a toddler and a very busy marketing career.
The higher power had other plans and brought the most amazing dad and husband into our lives.
One January night, I decided to sign up for match.com. I signed up for 6 months as it was much cheaper. 😉
A week later, I got an email that was horribly misspelled, but the person was named Aramis like one of the 3 musketeers. It was one of my favorite books. So, I replied!
And the rest is history.
6 months into our relationship, Aramis told us if we were ever in the mall to tell the staff of the store, he owned to give us free smoothies.
My 6-year-old stated, “Aramis must love us so much if he gives us free smoothies!” Loves us. Not loves you, mom, loves US.
I am grateful for the 11 years of unconditional love and support that he has shown to me and the kid.
My husband is one of my blessings of my life. He has always believed in my abilities. He took care of the kid when I had to travel for weeks at a time.
So, for all of you who wonder, how can I do it all, I can only because I have support at home. I am just an ordinary woman …