Women in Technology | Bita Milanian: Leading the Way


Spotlight on Women in Technology | Bita Milanian, SVP Global Marketing, Ribbon
Photo Credit: Hamid Moslehi

Growing up in Tehran, enduring the agony of Iran-Iraq war, escaping to Germany and finally settling into Los Angeles – have one thing in common – Bita Milanian, who has lived these disparate experiences to become a wonderful person, leading the way in her personal as well as professional life.

Mastering the fine art of finding the right balance between work and personal life has been the single most important challenge that every professional woman strives to achieve – meet Bita Milanian, SVP, Global Marketing, Ribbon Communications who is championing the balancing act in her very own special way.

In a conversation with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com, Bita talks about her life’s journey, her aspiration and much more about her personal and professional life.

Personal Profile – The Balancing Act

How would you describe yourself?

Like many women, I wear many hats and I am proud to wear my heart on my sleeve. I am a wife, grandmother, daughter, sister and friend; I am a humanitarian and an advocate for tolerance and justice for all; I am a dancer and a foodie; I am an immigrant from Iran who once was a refugee in Germany.

Today, I am a proud Angeleno and American; but above all, I consider myself a citizen of the world who is full of gratitude, always finding ways to give to others – this is a good way to live.

What are your personal priorities?

I have only one personal priority, and that is balance. When one balances all aspects of life, everything else always works out. Finding happiness in all we do, and finding the good in all those we encounter, and choosing to be well even when we are confronted with challenges adds up to enduring strength.

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

My milestones always tend to relate to walking a mile in others’ shoes, and mine are clearly chronological and never ending, as my wish! Growing up in Tehran, even during some of the most challenging years of post Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq war still remind me of some of the best bittersweet memories I will never lose.

Escaping to Germany with my mother and being helped by innumerable kind strangers is also a vivid memory and reminder of how good our world can be. Settling into Los Angeles and kicking off my career in telecom and technology nearly 23 years ago was magical, but not nearly as magical as meeting my husband on a blind date. Our courtship and marriage are my greatest blessings, and today our family continues to grow in joy and light with the arrival of two small grandchildren.

Being a part of the early days of the establishment of a very successful non-profit organization, Farhang Foundation, in 2008 was another very satisfying milestone given my passion for the art, culture and history of Iran; and today, being part of a fast-growing, global software company as a senior female executive traveling around the world continues to deliver up multiple milestones in my work life, blended with my love of travel and experiencing other cultures.

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

I consider myself a work in process. The three qualities enabling me to contribute are humility, passion and energy!

Please share with us some of your hobbies and interests?

The expressive arts make me happy, including cooking, entertaining, music, fine arts and anything and everything positively creative. Creation is one of my favorite words and ideas. I’ve also begun dancing, including in competitions, which has changed my sense of balance, sense of self, body, mind and spirit – I highly recommend that we all push ourselves into new territory now and then!

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

I am very proud of our family for all they have accomplished together and independently. I am who I am because of my family, and I am who I will always be because of my husband Bruce who has supported me unconditionally over the past twenty years.

Our beautiful grandson and granddaughter influence my professional life, not just personal life, as I have come to see that what we build in the world of technology and connectedness is essential to the world they will help lead. I’m even more inspired to do all I can to ensure that technology and social media, for example, are platforms for goodness, not wrongdoing. This has lit up my path in ways that I may not have imagined before this next generation arrive personally in our lives.

   Bita Milanian, SVP Global Marketing, Ribbon

Professional Profile – The Magic of Saying YES

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

Success is sleeping well at night knowing you’ve done your best and that you’ve helped others along the way. My mantra to succeed is very simple: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The golden rule works. Imagine if everybody in the world practiced it?

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

I have been extremely fortunate to work for the best professionals you can imagine – talented, dedicated, full of integrity, full of life and fun. I’ve come up through telecom, then philanthropy, then back to telecom just in time for telecom to morph into technology and software.

I’ve been fortunate to be part of extremely disruptive companies, including the first global fiber optic network company, and today a world leader in Internet-based real time communications applications that make it possible for teams and individuals to stay connected – securely – from any mobile device or computer with a great experience.

My job titles have evolved from marketing manager and director, to executive director, to VP and now SVP, while I’ve also been President of two companies I started up, one of which is still operating today as a boutique consultancy – Butterfly Buzz.

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?

My big turning points always and forever happen when I say YES. While it can be a bit daunting to move from one successful career to another – for example leaving telecom to work in philanthropy – I’ve been good at going for it! Leaving philanthropy years later to return to telecom was not easy – but I knew it was right, in large part because I was asked to return by a very good friend and colleague, the CEO of the company with whom I had worked years before. He was bringing the team back together, and when I was approached to take on a global marketing role with a lot of hard work ahead – I just said YES.

I continue to say YES, not only at work, but to so many good people representing so many important causes. While I don’t say YES to everything, when I do say YES – watch out! Being bold, being committed, being loyal, and holding myself and my team to very high standards makes hard work more fun, and successes created as a team more awesome to celebrate.

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

Like many women, there were times in my career where I was not treated well because of my gender, but I didn’t let that get in my way. Women are still not treated equally; however the pay gap is starting to slowly close, and opportunities for very senior positions are starting to grow. Because I have been so fortunate in my professional experience, around so many amazing people with the greatest integrity, I have learned that my greatest challenges are often of my own making.

I have been a perfectionist, but now am a “recovering perfectionist”, as I get a little older and wiser. I have learned to let go of my level of intensity when I start to feel stressed, and I have learned like there’s nothing better than a good nap when I’m tired, or time outside enjoying the natural world when I start to feel worn out. Now, I don’t let work or the world wear me out – I choose to balance and be well, and this is making all the difference!

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

Based on my life patterns, I see myself even happier five years from now, and more able than ever to mentor and help others, to create opportunities for good people, to do work that makes a substantial difference locally and globally. I see myself healthy and overflowing with love and gratitude. These are my big goals – everything else to come flows into those, and success follows.