Women in Tech | Shelly Crawford: Success is Never a Solitary Adventure


Women in Tech | Shelly Crawford | TelecomDrive.com

Shelly Crawford is a leader in her field who believes without reservation that real accomplishments are never achieved alone and dedication to the customer drives success. Shelly has grown-up in an industry under constant transformation and keeps her teams motivated by her example of tireless dedication.

As part of our Spotlight on Women in Tech – Shelly Crawford, Vice President of Solution Delivery with Netcracker Technology, speaks with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about her personality – her professional and personal journey so far.

Personal Profile – Dedicated to the Core

How would you describe yourself?

First and foremost, I would describe myself as dedicated. This aspect of my personality has been a driving force throughout my life from an early age. As a young girl, I took over running the household and “managing” my two younger brothers when circumstances called for it. This shaped my drive to care for others, bring harmony to those around me, and take ownership of mine, and often others’, responsibilities. This dedication led me through my youth as a driving force to help others (people, teams, companies, and customers) succeed.

What are your personal priorities?

One thing that younger people today may not understand is a commitment to career that I believe was required thirty years ago when I was starting out in a technology career path. At that time, certainly for a woman in technology, your personal priority was work if you wanted a “career.”

Work was absolutely my personal priority and key focus in the early years of my career where I was driven to consider the customer first, last and always. I must admit the idea of “work-life balance” was fairly foreign to me until I had been in a position of leadership for many years.

The buzzwords of the 2000’s started to ring true throughout the industry, and I recognized this importance for my team, even though my own habits had been long engrained. It is only in the last ten years or so that I have come to recognize that my own balance is necessary too. I look at younger women in technology and applaud their dedication to balance while achieving great success, but admit that in the 1980’s this just was not the way to “make it” in the industry. Today, my personal priority is balance, ensuring success both at work and at home.

Please share with us some of your personal milestones and their contributions towards developing your personality?

Changing the side of the desk you’re on: from service provider to solution provider (e.g,. Cox to ISD); getting married & becoming a step-mom, helping support my husband in raising our three beautiful children into responsible and respective young adults; and being a care provider for my siblings & parents.

How do you see yourself as a person? What are your three qualities that have helped you grow as a person and a professional?

My brothers were my first “team” to manage – and they may disagree and say I was just exceptionally bossy, but I see myself as caring, driven and goal-oriented. The qualities I developed at a young age – accountability, responsibility, and dedication – shape my personality both at home and at work, and my natural affinity for learning, planning and independence have taken me a long way in my career, too.

Please share with us some of your hobbies and interests?

The balance I have been able to achieve includes focused time on the family with my husband and step-children, my parents, and yes: myself. Hobbies I love are being outside – yardwork if I cannot get away from home, the beach if I can. Recently, my husband and I are going outside our own comfort zone to take dance lessons – certainly a new adventure!

Please tell us something about your family? How has been their support in terms of helping you grow professionally?

My family has always been a support to me in my career, understanding that there is no time-clock for me and accepting the key roles I have held which necessitate often unwieldy hours. Their support has been key to allow me to work in the manner which has made my career a success, but also to say: Turn it off now – you need to breathe. In that work-life balance we talked about earlier: family was key to learning this and helping me grow both personally and professionally.

Professional Profile – a Perfect TEAM player

How do you define success? What is your mantra to succeed?

Success is defined for me as the accomplishment of joint goals that bring our solutions and our customer’s needs to the same place. The one thing anyone who works with me will say is that I believe firmly in the TEAM.

While I know that my personal drive has taken me far in my career, I know without those around me also driving toward success there would be no significant long-term achievements. The motivational saying “Together Everyone Achieves More” is not cliché to me, it is my mantra to our combined success, and it is the key to the success of our clients and growing the business.

How has been your professional journey so far? Please tell us about your various job profiles?

Really the bulk of my career has been the key focus of Cable BSS/OSS solutions, under a few company names through various acquisitions. At Netcracker, I am the Vice President of Solution Delivery leading the Cable Business Practice, which spans leadership roles across solution delivery, engineering and product strategy.

I was part of Netcracker’s acquisition of Convergys’ Information Management group in May of 2012, which brought exciting change joining Netcracker with an opportunity to be part of the management team to see the innovative, entrepreneurial company culture that Netcracker has across all areas of business.

Previously I had held roles such as Vice President of Development, Support & Solution Delivery, leading R&D and global strategic programs. These programs would span multiple concurrent and complex BSS projects but were designed to drive business optimization for customers with an emphasis on customer satisfaction and success.

My experience includes leadership positions in customer service, marketing and information technology at a Tier 1 cable operator; IT/operational strategy development, program management and project management; product management and development; customer support; sales and account management; merger and acquisition activity; and employee recognition programs.

When you look back in your career – what according to you can be termed as big turning points. How have these turning points helped you professionally?

At this stage in my career I look back at when a small company with an innovative cable billing solution was purchased by a larger organization, and then again as those key turning points. Certainly the depth of knowledge and the broader resources of a strong corporation dedicated to innovative solutions brought new challenges and opportunities to solve our customers’ needs.

The communications industry has undergone massive change and growth over the past years, with no end in sight on how to meet the needs of our clients, and in turn the needs of their customers.

Having been present at the dawn of when cable companies started branching into providing additional services as innovative as Pay-Per-View back in the 1990’s all the way to today where our customers are deep in the game of complex service provisioning including cable broadband, HSD, Telephony/VOIP, home security, WiFi connected service, and mobile offerings has given me opportunity to understand the BSS challenges in the industry in a deep and meaningful way.

What are some of the challenges that you faced and overcome during your professional journey? How did you overcome these challenges?

My professional journey hasn’t been without challenge. Certainly to continue to grow a career in the technology space throughout the last thirty years I faced pre-disposed behaviors that were not designed for my success. To overcome these, my approach was – hands down – do the best for the customer, do the best for the company. To achieve this honestly and with focus I was able to prove myself, and by association my team, as knowledgeable and reliable. Over time, the pre-dispositions were laid aside and a foundation laid for trust from my peers, my team, and my customers.

How do you see yourself five years from now? What are some of your big goals that you want to achieve?

My greatest strength is the people around me, and my biggest goal is keeping the culture of dedication and vision alive and exciting for our employees to foster growth and innovation and continually evolve building products as solutions for our customers.

In five years I’d like to look back and see that the focus on providing what our customers needed then was only part of the picture, and that we understood that just as essential was predicting what they would need in the future. There is no “later” for our customers, so for myself and my teams we must be positioned to continue growth throughout the dynamic industries we serve.