How long have you been at Telefonica and can you tell us a bit about your career history?
I started off my career as a personal assistant in the days of shorthand and typewriters. Then started training and studying to become an accountant but quickly moved into the world of IT, studying at open university and using punch cards for programming. It taught me patience and to strive to get things right first time but I am very relieved that technology has moved on.
Before Telefonica, I worked for a software consultancy in South Africa, having moved there with my family when I was 12. It gave me experience across a wide number of industries including health, finance, recruitment and telecoms. My early years at Telefonica were spent as a business analyst. Most of my career has been centred around the impact of change, from introducing computer systems and improving processes to organisational change.
What attracted you to a career in telecoms?
I have to say it happened more by accident more than by design. The software consultancy I worked for in South Africa won a contract with Vodacom and after that I was hooked. It is an exciting industry to be in – constantly evolving and offering many opportunities to learn, try something new and develop.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
Apart from winning the ITP award, it is the Operational Excellence programme that we designed, built and rolled out to over 1,500 people across the organisation. I love new challenges and this was a big one. It was an opportunity to move into the world of training and Lean Six Sigma. The aim of the programme was to make it easier for our people to deliver exceptional service by empowering them with the tools and skills to fix those process issues that were getting in the way. The programme earned endorsement from the CEO and senior management and is an achievement I am very proud of.
Would you say you have ever faced any challenges as a woman in this industry, if so can you tell us more?
I have been fortunate to work for companies that promote the benefits of a diverse workforce. I have worked three days a week for over eight years now and this hasn’t been a blocker to me advancing in the organisation so my experience has been a positive one.
Do you think the industry should be doing to encourage more women into telecoms, if so what?
I would like to see more focus on supporting women to return to work and into the Telecoms industry after career breaks. It would be great to see more initiatives like Telefónica’s successful Career Returners programme. We need to publicise stories from women who are working part-time, in job share and have returned to work, to show that it is possible.
How important is mentoring to you?
For me, diversity of opinion is crucial – seeking advice, guidance and a different perspective from a number of people, whether that’s through formal or informal mentoring relationships allows me to make informed decisions.
What advice would you offer other women considering a career in telecoms?
One of my favourite quotes is from Nelson Mandela, ‘it always seems impossible until it is done’. It’s an industry with so much to offer – never pass up an opportunity to try something a little different, you never know where it might lead.
What does winning the WIT Award mean to you?
To have that endorsement of your achievements and the acknowledgement of the difference you are making from outside of your organisation is truly overwhelming. I see it as a success story not only for myself and Telefonica but I hope it inspires other part-time working mums.
What would you say to others considering entering an ITP Award? Did you find the process easy and what do your employers think of your success?
It does take time to make a nomination but it’s time well spent. The process allows you to reflect on all that you or your nominees have achieved. My manager put forward my nomination because she believed my achievements were worthy of an award and the support and recognition that I have had following it is phenomenal.
Wendy is Network Operations Head of Planning & Engagement at Telefonica and winner of the ITP’s Chris Seymour Award for Women in Telecom 2019.