Annie Bogue, Head of Sales and Marketing at Fujitsu Network Communications, talks candidly about the opportunities and challenges that come with change, the importance of network expertise in digital transformation (DX), and what it means to lead a team in the virtualized workplace.
What initially attracted you to Fujitsu and the telecom field, and what keeps you in it?
I was attracted to the telecom industry because it is so dynamic and always changing. Every few years, we’re refreshing how we build our networks and innovating new ways of utilizing technology, which keeps things interesting. Like many other leaders at Fujitsu, I started in Operations, right out of college. I studied manufacturing engineering in school in a mechanical track. I’m very passionate about our manufacturing here at Fujitsu, and from that avenue I eventually found myself in sales. I spent many years in different roles supporting Verizon before becoming a sales leader on our AT&T account. I found that being in sales, I operate in both the technology and people sides of the spectrum. I’m able to work with individuals, identify their needs, help solve their problems, and ultimately drive an outcome for them while also seeing the tech and manufacturing behind the scenes, and I think it’s a lot more fun to do a little bit of both. Plus, I have had the opportunity to travel and live all over the country.
What is your view of the industry today, given its volatility and the impact of COVID-19? Do you see opportunities in all this change?
The telecommunications industry is in the middle of dramatic change, and is proving to be very resilient as well as innovative in adapting business models, and modernizing systems; all while keeping services available. The industry has a lot to be proud of. We see great opportunity in supporting digital transformation overall, as well as in delivering wireline broadband and public and private 5G networks.
A lot of change was happening before COVID-19. More and more organizations are looking to improve business outcomes by applying digital and cloud technology. That process of digital transformation—we call it “DX”—has profound implications for the network. Few companies have the expertise needed to help these organizations prepare their networks for DX. Fujitsu is one of them, and that alone means a very significant opportunity for us. If anything, these technological advancements are being pushed out faster due to COVID, and having the necessary networks to support them is an urgent need. There’s also the urgent need for improved wireline broadband, and the rollout of public and private 5G networks. We are excited to be part of the process of bringing modern, high-speed digital communications to rural and traditionally underserved areas. In my opinion, now more than ever, a broadband connection is critical infrastructure in the same sense as electricity and water—especially during a pandemic! Without that connection, it becomes harder for many people to link up, work, go to school, or even in some cases buy groceries. That’s why public and private 5G networks will become part of the critical communications infrastructure to deliver social change as well as business outcomes.
In your 2016 interview with LightReading, you said that your calendar was the key to helping you achieve your success and a healthy work/life balance. Would you say that that remains true today, four years later?
Now, I luckily have someone to help manage my calendar for me. My calendar is detailed and overcrowded, so that’s a full time job in and of itself, but I honestly believe that having it is the only way I can really get things done. And when it comes to doing things to take care of yourself, you have to build these activities in too. Whatever helps you stay physically and mentally healthy, whether that’s bike riding or going for a walk, I think it’s good to block out time for that to make sure you’re committed to being your best self.
During COVID-19, flexible work schedules are essential! For example, if you have kids, you will probably need to start blocking out more time for childcare and organizing meetings around your parenting activities. So along with putting things on the calendar, you have to take the initiative and communicate those responsibilities to your boss and teammates. Additionally, be ready to listen and adapt to coworkers’ schedules as well; practice empathy to use the calendar for good, to help us be more healthy and purposeful with our work.
Could you give us some background about yourself—what do your hobbies outside of work look like?
I would definitely say that my two biggest hobbies are yoga and wine! I do a lot of yoga and Pilates, and thankfully I’ve been able to continue with that through COVID-19 with Zoom—and scheduling on my calendar! I’m pretty passionate about it and try to keep up with it daily at home, but I do miss being in the yoga studio with all my friends.
And I’m a wine enthusiast. Living in San Francisco, I’m so near many of the best wines in the world. We have a 168 bottle wine fridge, and it is totally full. If I had to pick favorites, I would say Goldeneye Pinot Noir. Gloria Ferrer Brut Rose is my favorite sparkling.
Tell us about your leadership style and philosophy.
I’ve found the Gallup CliftonStrengths philosophy to be valuable in helping employees discover and realize their potential. I strive to manage the people in my organization by letting them find and utilize their best strengths, and trade off on responsibilities based on what they’re best at. This encourages more collaboration and innovation, and overall, a more active exchange of ideas. I also believe it’s critical to have high employee engagement and satisfaction. When individuals feel better about themselves and the work they do, when they enjoy their jobs more, they’re just happier—and then they work better both independently and in teams. This personal happiness aspect is also why it’s so necessary to invest in a truly diverse and inclusive workplace—when people feel welcomed, accepted and valued for who they are, they’re less guarded—more motivated and creative. Highly engaged, motivated people propel the entire organization to deliver better results overall.
What is something you would like to see accomplished within Fujitsu by the end of 2020?
We have an urgent need to let go of old mindsets and break though obsolete boundaries, and meet the new normal head-on. This comes down to an open-minded commitment to overcoming social distancing using new and thoughtful applications of digital technology to keep us connected. In sales, personal relationships with customers are the heart of the matter, which makes it a priority to have the kind of rich interpersonal-social contact that comes from visiting a customer site. So I want to see Fujitsu solve this problem most of all.
Video often substitutes quite well for in-person meetings, but it’s not a miracle solution. Being virtually present in a video meeting can be more challenging than being physically present in the same room, partly because nonverbal cues are much harder to process in the virtual sphere. Along with the need to adapt our work behaviors and processes, I think we must be mindful and supportive of each other while we learn how to use technology skillfully and become fluent in the virtual sphere. I want to make sure everyone is able to connect and communicate—to be truly flexible and understanding with each other. But instead of by the end of the year, I would like this by the end of next week!
What advice would you give to young women who are entering telecom or tech in general during this time?
When I’m speaking to women specifically, I feel that we have a tendency to show certain characteristics that limit us and hold us back. What I would say to young women, that I wish someone had said to me, is: Stop worrying or speculating about what others think—learn to go with your gut, speak up, and be more confident. Women in general are prone to underestimating themselves.
Imagine a job ad with ten qualifications listed; often, if a guy only has two of those ten qualifications, he will still apply. On the other hand, a woman could have nine of those skills checked off, and she still won’t apply because she’s worried about that one thing she’s missing! We just have to get over that and put ourselves out there, using all of our assets to win, and I highly encourage everyone to learn that early on. Let’s worry less about being too loud and stepping on others’ toes. You are the author of your own story.