Verizon Executive Michelle Dutton Talks Women in STEM and the Importance of Exploring Technical Fields

Vice President of Global Network Systems and Support at Verizon on career trajectory and opportunities in technology

You’ve been able to work your way up at Verizon and have been with the company for over 25 years. What advice would you give to a young professional looking to work his/her way up the corporate ladder?

A healthy work ethic—plain old hard work is always a win. But building solid networks of people that have supported me over the years and being aware of the organization’s political landscape. It’s just as important that you can understand how you’re perceived, how you’re interacting with the organization, and really how that dynamic can be managed, so that you can provide the maximum [and] optimize the value that you’re providing. I also understand that great companies understand how to reinvent themselves to stay relevant amidst changing times

I’m a continuous learner. I allow my curiosity to drive continuous learning opportunities and I challenge the status quo. I drive my team to do likewise because it’s important to groom change agents that really understand how to embrace change in such a rapidly evolving industry, so these characteristics enable me and my teams to realize our corporate priorities. For Verizon, it’s delivering great customer experiences, growing a business, driving increased profitability and building our teams culture into a competitive advantage

As a woman in an executive position in tech, are there any challenges that you face? If so, how do you face those challenges head on?

Although there’s challenges being a female in a male dominated field, I’m very careful not to assume that that if someone is not comfortable with me, it’s because I’m a female or because I’m black. I focus on getting the job done and I work to ensure that my colleagues see me for the value that I bring to the organization based on my skills versus leading with my differences.

Why is it so important for today’s youth to explore careers in STEM, specifically underrepresented youth?

The technical fields create that ability to level the playing field through knowledge and financial means. Once you have that degree, no one can take that away from you. If the opportunity is not embraced, then only incremental progress will continue to be realized, so knowledge is power especially in this age of technology and, to some extent, every field out there is touched by the technology. You can’t walk down the street without experiencing technology. They can’t afford to miss that. Without it, the gap will continue to widen.

Dutton is featured in the February 2014 issue of Black Enterprise Magazine. Check out the feature “Top Women in Tech.”

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