Ashlee Bender Johnson has been at Frontier Communications for almost a decade — but she is anything but bored. She’s held nine different roles in the company, working her way from a frontline agent in a call center to Director of Residential Sales.
And she’s taken on many new responsibilities without being asked. Bender Johnson says leadership at Frontier has “open ears” to new solutions and encourages employees to take on new responsibilities and projects. It definitely helps that she has a supportive manager who challenges her, along with a network of colleagues that believes in her and the Frontier mission.
Even with a strong network, growing your career and asking for new responsibilities takes courage, diplomacy and initiative. We asked Bender Johnson how she’s combined the three to keep developing within the company she loves. She also shared which leadership style she’s learned is most effective, how she creates a sense of urgency on her team and why Frontier is the perfect place to develop as a leader.
How long have you been with Frontier? What about them made you first want to join?
I’ve been at Frontier for nine and a half years — time has really flown by!
I first started at Frontier at the Fort Wayne, Indiana call center for sales and service agents. At the time I was in college studying business and hospitality. I was excited for the opportunity and, most of all, the benefits. I was 22 years old and had been working at Outback Steakhouse for about five years. I was trying to balance all three commitments at one point, but after six months in the call center, I knew I had found my passion!
Tell me about the roles that you’ve held at your company, as well as your current one. What about this role most excites you?
In my first role, I was a frontline agent — receiving inbound calls for sales and service needs from our customers. I’ve had eight roles since then. I feel very lucky to have been a part of so many groups and to have worked with great mentors over the years.
In my current role, director of residential sales, I lead strategy and development to increase sales and meet company revenue and unit goals. I am so proud to work with and support the amazing sales intent agents, supervisors and managers in Florida, Texas and West Virginia! What I really enjoy most about this role is the ability to pilot new projects and help groom our management team to be service leaders.
I report to our VP, Michael Hathaway. I met him 9 years ago when I was an agent during an outbound project he was leading. I have worked for many other leaders, but by far have learned the most from him. He has challenged me to take on projects that were not in my wheelhouse and has always provided transparent feedback. For me, having a vocal and direct leader is important and I feel has expedited my personal expectations of skill transfer and project management growth.
What’s something you’re especially good at, at work?
I have a love for project management. I enjoy scaling, planning and executing on deadlines. I always try to add an extra layer of detail to ensure whoever I am working with can understand “the why” and the urgency behind the projects.
A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to advance your career without job hopping?
I have had the opportunity to be on many individual and group projects over the years. The key is saying “yes” and being open for the challenge. This keeps my brain feeling fresh and agile for change. These projects were not always a request from leaders or other departments, but sometimes came from findings I had been studying or from times I proved something needed to happen to better our business. Having a leadership team who listens is vital.
Ultimately, what has led you to stay at Frontier?
The people and my mentors over the years. Specifically, a few key coworkers have played a large role in my passion to stay. From day one in training as an agent to now, I’ve had the best trainers: Tashonda Page, Trever Aldrich and Marcus Williams. I’ve also had the best human resources team to support me in everything from understanding union contracts to employee management: Andy Hoeppner, Kelsi Webb and Erin Palmer. And, as I’ve already said, the call center strategy and management team is amazing.
I also love the way this company rallies even when times are challenging and I appreciate being given the opportunity to solve those challenges.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about your company that you think they should?
This company has open ears. If you bring a concern, an idea or data to the table that you feel could improve our customer experience or sales overall, then the opportunities are unlimited to help you implement the change. Nothing is more painful to me than when I hear someone say: “It won’t matter, it’s just the way it is.” We need ideas to continue to change and grow our company.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
Their transparent feedback. It helps me in every aspect of my work. I want to be as efficient and effective as possible and having a leader who understands my learning style and supports my strategies is uplifting.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
I have heard from many leaders that you only get one chance to make a great first impression. I agree, but one thing that has always stuck with me is a discussion I had with a mentor. They were working with me to rebuild a working partnership I thought I had lost and explained: “You cannot please everyone, but how you choose to rebuild and recover working relationships demonstrates the leader you are. You never know who you will work for or who you will work with next”.
What do you ultimately aspire to be or do, and how do you feel Frontier helps support that goal?
I want to continue to grow as a director and leader, and I fully believe that Frontier has the transparent leadership, supportive environment and growth opportunities to make that happen. With constructive feedback from my mentors and team, there’s no limit on the learning opportunities I’ll have at Frontier and I’m excited to continue my leadership journey.
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