Tommie Burgess has worked across the telecommunications industry — taking roles from operator services to curriculum development — before landing in project management. Now an IT Manager at Frontier Communications, she says the company’s flexibility and “dream bigger” mentality is a large part of why she’s been able to explore her passions and find a job she truly loves.
“Truly, if you can dream it, it can be done,” she said. “If you are relentless in your desire to learn, grow, collaborate, move quickly and deliver amazing things to better the lives of customers, you should work at Frontier.”
Burgess works hard to ensure her team feels emboldened by the culture at Frontier to be their best. It’s an important part of her approach to management and the general leadership culture at Frontier.
“I want team members' personal stock value to be very high — for their reputation to be considered across the organization as a dependable, accountable subject matter expert for everything we’ve worked on or intent to take on,” Burgess said. “They matter to me.”
Burgess has consistently met challenges head on to become the leader she is today — she navigated supervisory positions at a young age, managed uncertainties related to entering a new line of work and learned the important lesson of being wholly present every day.
In a recent conversation with Fairygodboss, she shared how these experiences impacted her approach to leadership, while also sharing how she draws boundaries as a working mother and how she’s overcome insecurities about working in IT to become a powerful force for other women in technology.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I’ve done most jobs in this industry in my 29 years of working — from operator services and billing to curriculum development and project management. Now, I’m an IT manager. This December, it will be 10 years in IT. Prior to that, I was in training on the business side of the house.
What steps did you take in your early career that helped you to become successful?
Early in my career and throughout, my focus has been on helping people thrive and be successful. My first supervisor job was at age 19, and I had to overcome opinions and, frankly, fears from the more experienced people on my team. I found that by sincerely listening to those fears, drawing out the feelings and being real, open and honest, people started to relax and enjoy the fun of crushing goals and being successful. I’ve taken a lot of classes, but the key to success for me is people and constant, continuous progress.
How did you get into project management?
Prior to my stint with training, I worked with Verizon Business as a Project Manager. My entrance to that role was somewhat happenstance, but it was my lucky day. I seemed to have a knack for organizing things and keeping initiatives moving forward. I loved the work and pursued it from then on.
What made you choose to work at Frontier and what has made you stay. How has your career evolved?
Verizon Territories were sold to Frontier and therefore, I came with the deal. I remember the day of the cutover. I remember feeling energized and excited. Change is good. A fresh new look at the opportunities in front of us, was and continues to be a fun part of the job for me.
I stay at Frontier because more than ever, I feel empowered to make a positive difference. My team is composed of good people, solid citizens, folks I would be honored to call friends. Our organization tries to avoid getting mired in issues and really focused on driving solutions. It motivates me and leaves me feeling satisfied at the end of the day. That’s really all I can ask for.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned at Frontier and how has that impacted your life outside of work?
Funny, I preach this on the daily. I have learned time and time again that if I am not sure or unclear on something, I better get sure and clear. I think without exception those items I let slip by assuming someone else is aware are the ones that get me every time. It’s taught me in all aspects of my life to be aware, be present, care about it all and surround myself with trustworthy people who care at least as much as I do. Far fewer issues arise and more progress is made.
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or company?
Maybe the coolest thing is, truly, if you can dream it, it can be done. The walls that confine folks, the way it’s always been done, the system limitations — these are all ways of thinking. If you can change your thoughts, and we know we can at Frontier, amazing things can happen. We are constantly pushing each other and ourselves to think differently.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women in the workplace?
Be prepared, always. Walk into every conversation knowing you are as capable as every other person in the room. It’s easy to get intimidated. It's hard to stand up and standout. Take a risk knowing you know your stuff.
Also, as a mother with a career, over the years I have felt this tug of conflict between maybe traveling or working extended hours and being there for my family. To this, I would say two things. One, it's far easier to be super clear as soon as you can about your limitations. It’s easier to be open and up front then it is to try to explain each time a need arises. Two, it's OK to go when your company really needs you. As moms, we want to do it all. It’s OK to let someone else hold the reins at home while you care for things at work. You are not any less. You are empowering the people around you.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
Hands down moving to IT. I looked at these folks from the outside as if they were from another planet: “They must think differently. Their brains are on a whole different level. They are geniuses.” Although I still feel that way, I am proud and encouraging to my team to realize that we all contribute to the overall success of solutions. We all own our space and have the opportunity to be a genius. It’s fun and I am honored to be part of this organization.
Any advice for job seekers looking for a career at Frontier?
If you are relentless in your desire to learn, grow, collaborate, move quickly and deliver amazing things to better the lives of customers, you should work at Frontier.
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