There are many takes on professional development. Some people hear that phrase and think of continued education or attending seminars. Others think of learning new things about your field and yourself, day in and day out, by experiencing new things and meeting new people.
For Broadband Engineer Manager Michele Barnes, hailing from just outside Washington D.C. in West Virginia, professional development is a bit of both.
“Every experience has shaped me to some degree,” she shared, after emphasizing the importance of continued learning earlier in our conversation. “I truly believe education is so important and that even as we get older, it’s essential to keep learning.”
Barnes has 25 years of experience in the telecommunications industry — and a diversity of experiences, at that. She’s been at Frontier Communications since 2010, when her former employer merged with Frontier. She’s balanced being a working single mother and being a woman in a male-dominated industry while demonstrating true leadership. She was most recently promoted in 2018 and serves as a mentor in the Frontier Women’s Network Mentorship Program.
But even as she’s stepped into a mentorship role, she’s still serious about pursuing opportunities that teach her something new, many of them thanks to Frontier’s investment in its employees. Recently, we spoke to Barnes about how and why she’s focusing on professional development at this stage of her career. She also shared her top nine tips for women who want to see success at any stage of their careers — and how finding a community like the one at Frontier can help them do so.
Why did you decide to work at Frontier?
I loved that Frontier was a community-oriented company, as it’s important to me to work and serve in my community. I also loved that it’s an organization that hires and supports veterans, as many of my family members are veterans, including my father and my husband.
You were a single, working mother for a period of time. What was that like and who supported you?
I was a single mother until I met my husband in 2010. I was a local manager in operations, so I was working in the field in a male-dominated industry. It is difficult when you work in the field because you could get a call in the middle of the night that you are needed, so I really relied on the support I received from Frontier. I was lucky to have a great director who provided me with a ton of mentorship during that time. I also had amazing neighbors who were always prepared to help me out with my daughter, and my father bought an apartment nearby and was a huge help.
How has Frontier helped you develop professionally?
Frontier sponsored me to become a Graduate of Leadership — West Virginia. That training and exposure was extremely valuable to my career.
I also served on a training advisory committee in a program called ’Frontier Rising’ that was designed to help associates develop professionally. It was a partnership between Communications Workers of America and the Frontier Management team. I truly believe education is so important and that even as we get older, it’s essential to keep learning. Having the opportunity to serve on this committee, I was able to help other associates do just that. I also serve in the Frontier Women’s Network Mentorship Program as a mentor, helping associates develop personally and professionally.
What has kept you at Frontier?
I have had many ups and downs in my career, but when you think about what keeps you grounded in a position or at a company, it’s normally that community connection. We’ve been through a lot of transitions as a company, so being around great people has been key. I’ve been through a lot personally during my career and have been surrounded by an amazing work family through it all.
What are you involved in outside of work?
I was elected to the Board of Education in 2016 and plan to run again in 2020 when my term is up. I am also a member of the Eastern Panhandle Alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. I spend a lot of time giving back to the community through my involvement with the organization. I’m also an active volunteer and member of my church.
What is your best career advice for other women who want to be successful?
These are my biggest pieces of advice for other women:
Learn how to pick yourself up after a failure and be able to view it as a success.
Make sure you have your education as a back-up. You want flexibility. Life happens. Whether it’s a job loss or something personal, you need the flexibility to make moves.
Get certifications in anything and everything you can.
Always continue to build your resume.
Always continue to build relationships with people who can give you both professional and personal advice.
Be open to receiving feedback.
Ensure that your circle is positive.
Be proactive, not reactive.
The investment your leaders put into you matters.
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