Achieving Success in Corporate America
By: Kenya Dunn
“Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.”- A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
Often, we hear horrific stories of how difficult it is to climb the corporate ladder, that is why I am excited to share with you my personal climb. My goal is to inspire you to embrace a thriving corporate career. I hope more people will be excited about a journey filled with the difficulties, triumphs and victories.
I began my corporate career in Atlanta, Georgia in the financial services and securities industries in the late 1990’s. Eventually, I made the switch from financial services to the cable, telephone and internet industry. For the past 10 years, I have been in the wireless industry working with the best company of the four major wireless carriers.
I started T-Mobile in the summer of 2007 in Augusta, Georgia. I was recruited by the company to work in their Call Center as the Training Manager. Within two years, I was promoted to Associate Director and then Director, a year later. I spent five years as a Director in Customer Care. In 2016, I moved into our retail sales organization, and within 4 months of being in Retail Sales, I was promoted to Vice President of Retail and Direct Sales.
In a span of 9 years, I went from a frontline leader in a call center, to a Vice President of an entire region in a completely different line of business. The ride was fast, confusing at times, difficult most of the times AND a lot of fun!
“Any transition is easier if you believe in yourself and your talent.”- Priyanka Chopra
The day I decided that I would embrace the corporate climb was in 2001, when I was working as a trainer for a financial services company. I didn’t know what position or title I wanted to pursue, I knew I wanted to be highly successful in corporate America. That single decision would lead me on a journey of crossing multiple industries, different areas of businesses, individual contributor roles and leadership roles.
So, how did I do it? I trust myself. I take risks. I am committed to excellence.
One of the reasons I have been successful is because I took chances most others were not willing to take. I moved my family from our home to a city where we didn’t know anyone. I was moving into a part of business that I had never done in my career. Moving from a support role as a training manager to a role as the Associate Director of Operations was a new experience for me. In addition, the team I was going to lead was a part of an acquisition. I had to go in and build a culture that aligned with our company. Did I mention that the team was performing at the bottom of company expectations too? I was up for the challenge. In fact, I was excited for the challenge. What did I accomplish? I created a winning culture. I helped others grow their careers. I won against company performance standards repeatedly.
I trust myself, and I am committed to excellence in all that I do. I have created my own space for success in the organization. I would be remised if I did not mention that a part of a successful career is also about making the right connections with the right people in an organization. They play roles such as mentor, mentee, coach, and advocate.
To trust in your abilities is a unique character trait that some people struggle to realize. The lack of trusting yourself shows up for most of us when we play it safe. We do what we have always done because we have mastered that “thing”. It is our lack of desire to be stretched beyond what we think we can do. I fell in love with the rush of learning new things and being challenged in new ways. It makes the victory so much more rewarding.
I have never accepted a job or role without fully understanding the risk. I am intentional when it comes to spelling out the risk. I assess the risk to me, my family, my future self, my finances, my health, my quality of life, etc. Before I accepted any new position, I wrote out my list of risks on a sheet of paper. I would also write out my goal at the top of that same sheet of paper.
I would list out all the ways the new opportunity would help me. I would also make a short list of what parts of me might stretched and what strengths I bring to the role that will help aid in my success.
“What parts of me will be strengthened with this new opportunity?”
“What part of me will be stretched with this new opportunity?”
“Why should I not take this role?”
“Why should I take this role?”
“This opportunity will help me get to my goal in the following ways…”
The final piece of advice I would share is this: My goal with any new opportunity is to be highly successful. One of my personal standards of excellence states, “I will always be the one who did it best.” This is my commitment to excellence. I have taken roles that some people would say I did not qualify for based on limited experience in that area compared to others.
One thing I know for sure, in business, RESULTS get you noticed. It is always my goal to be noticed for producing results that communicate to the organization that I am connected, committed, capable, and competent.
The climb was not easy, but that’s ok, because my life’s motto is,
“Life doesn’t have to be easy. It simply has to be possible. I will do the work.”- Kenya Dunn
If you are reading this article and have been wondering what you need to do to climb the corporate ladder, let me sum it up in three bullets:
Be clear about what you bring to a role, team or organization.
Accept the challenging assignments.
Commit to deliver with excellence in all that you do.