Welcome to another edition of IntelePeer’s Tech Tuesday series. This week Fran Blackburn, Director of Analyst Relations, lets us in on her experience, what technology she’s looking forward to, and offers up some memorable advice.
1. How did you end up in the Tech Industry?
It’s interesting that I ended up in tech because I was studying engineering. The next required class was taught by a professor who had a very tough reputation and happened to live across the street from my parents. I changed my major to Marketing and ended up with the best of both worlds.
A year out of college, I was introduced to the Sales Manager of an interconnect company. He believed that if I could sell Avon products to get myself through college that I could easily sell telephone systems. After four months, I proved him right. I consistently surpassed sales goals – including selling the first Mitel SX2000 to The Crescent in Dallas’s Uptown.
So, my career in tech started on the voice side, grew to include data integration, Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), onto IP, and now the industry is exploding with applications. Technology continues to transform to meet the requirements of users. It is an exciting time to be at IntelePeer with the wide range of capabilities and enhancements we can offer our customers. Our portfolio continues to grow and adapt as needed to meet their changing needs.
2. What AI or machine learning capabilities are you most looking forward to?
I would like technology to understand when I have been looking or shopping for something and I found it. After that, I want it to stop giving me options for items. In addition, if I am shopping for someone else and have completed that process, I no longer want to continue to see ads for those items.
3. What technology do you use the most – whether in your personal or professional life?
I love being able to text my kids, share pictures and experiences, and stay connected with my cell phone. A quick message or sharing a laugh is the best part – our dogs’ antics are hilarious.
4. What was the most challenging aspect of your career, and how did you overcome it?
Being female, selling telephone systems or walking into the decision maker’s office, it was critical to be taken seriously from the start. Now, it reminds me of my aunt who taught first grade. The way she commanded control was not cracking a smile the first two weeks of school. Afterwards, the kids were great.
I found it to be very much the same selling phone systems. The first meeting is all business, getting requirements and understanding the operation. The second meeting I could ask about items in the office and go beyond the business conversation to build rapport.
It was a similar situation training salespeople at RBOCs. It was important to be taken seriously and to get control of the situation before the salespeople took over the classroom.
5. Any advice for women who want to join the Tech Industry?
My advice would be to do your research. Understand the culture of any company you consider joining. Does it sound like the environment where you would thrive? You spend a lot of your time at work. Someone said, if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. (Although, that doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges, because challenges are required to grow.)
The communications industry is actually very small compared to other industries. And it’s packed with amazing people. They are working to help other people and businesses to thrive. Find the niche you love, where you can grow, and enjoy your work.
6. What advice would you give your younger self who is just starting in the workforce?
If you are just starting out, get prepared, be persistent, and keep an open mind. Today, anything is possible. I suggest taking these three steps:
- Be aware of your social footprint. When you meet someone or apply for a job, the first thing they will do is google your name to learn more about you.
- Build a LinkedIn profile that represents you and your interests.
- Do your research. Find a mentor in your focus area. Be intentionally curious and professional. You never know where an opportunity might surface.
Bonus: Who is your tech role model?
The people that thrive in this industry are talented, driven to improve, and challenge themselves and those around them. I am inspired by so many people, including John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco. He always asked for feedback and shared his reactions to conversations with world leaders. Rowan Trollope, CEO of Five9, always kept you on your toes. Roberto De La Mora, CTO of Microsoft, believed in you more than you believed in yourself.
Many colleagues that have supported my efforts with the influencers over the years are Cullen (Fluffy) Jennings and Bill King – engineers that take technical conversations to any level of knowledge. Also, David Tucker and Richard Platt who started the IP industry, and Jonathan Rosenberg, the lead author of SIP. They understand the value of my audience and were always willing to assist. Numerous analysts and consultants have and continue to inspire me daily. Dale Mullen was my first “influencer” meeting. He stated that it was nice meeting me and, unless I was going to commit to five years to this role, he would wait and get to know my successor. Well, it’s decades later, and I’m still here.