Forum Metpally joined Ericsson on a 6-month contract in 2006. When she started, a colleague received their 5-year-service certificate and Forum laughs that she thought, “how can you stay in a company for 5 years; that’s never going to happen to me!” And now 14 years later, she is still at Ericsson and thriving.
Forum shares her story on the road to leadership and tips for others wanting careers in leadership.
Journey to leadership
Forum started out at Ericsson as a Junior Service Engineer and says, “I was the youngest and there were only two women in the technical team of approximately 12. It was nothing new as the ratio was the same when I studied engineering, but it was still something to get used to at work.”
She moved on to become a Solution Architect which provided her an interesting learning curve and allowed her to work on complex projects with difficult solutions, increased customer exposure and stakeholder management. She was later promoted to a Lead Solution Architect.
Forum then made a deliberate decision to pursue a management position, approaching her manager about broadening from just a technical career path and stepping into a people management role. Forum participated in leadership courses, and in 2015 was selected for an internal training program for emerging female talent – called FUEL – whilst she was heavily pregnant. Ericsson and Forum weren’t using pregnancy as an excuse to stop her progress!
FUEL was a fabulous platform for Forum, growing her network and offering leadership skills development. She took parental leave during the year she was in FUEL and says, “the year was quite busy with the family, but it didn’t stop me growing my career. Ericsson invest heavily in their people.”
Upon her return from parental leave Forum discussed her goals with her new manager, was included in her manager’s succession plan which meant Forum gained ‘acting’ management experience when her line manager was on leave, and started looking internally for management roles in other departments. She took proactive steps, and is now Manager, Operations Support for Business Operations, Ericsson Network Operations, managing the graduate program, and responsible for reporting, governance and business continuity.
“It’s a role in a completely different department and a non-technical team. I decided to take the risk and to learn. Because Ericsson is a global business, there are so many opportunities to move around, so you don’t need to look outside for different opportunities. It’s diverse in terms of technology, the work we do and the people.”
If You Want to Lead, Do This
Forum knew she wanted to be a people manager, and she shared some lessons from her journey.
- “Wherever you want to go, first do your core job well. Get it done so well that people notice you. Even when I was doing a junior role, I did it so well that I got noticed.”
- Build your network within and outside of your day-to-day role.
- Find a manager who can support you. “I didn’t have a sponsor – an influential leader who knew me well and advocated for my advancement – but I did have an immediate manager who was a support to me. They had links to other teams and opportunities.”
- Get involved in initiatives that are outside your day job. Forum joined the Ericsson Diversity and Inclusion Council, worked on university engagement, and managed Ericsson’s relationship with Females in IT and Telecommunications (FitT).“I started getting exposure in leading initiatives. Those experiences and learnings helped me move ahead, raised my profile to the executive leadership team and helped me build my profile.”
“People will support you if you are supporting yourself. At the end of the day YOU are sitting in the driver’s seat of your career.”
Juggling Your Multiple Identities
Forum performs a number of different roles in her work and life – mother, partner, manager, graduate program coordinator, FUEL program coordinator and more.
At home, she says family support is crucial. “I don’t have an extended family here in Australia, but I have a supportive husband. We take it in turns to manage the kids when each of us is busy at home, and share the load.”
Particularly in the solution architect role working across time zones, Forum felt it was important to protect 5-8pm as family time and would be available after 8:30pm for meetings and work, if needed. Ericsson supports flexibility, “we look at outcomes, there is no micromanagement. When they could see I was getting things done in time the flexibility was supported.”
Wearing her many work hats she says, “Instead of competing between work identities, I find synergies between them and look for common touch points. For example, when working with graduates and FUEL program participants I look at previous grads who are showing potential and could benefit from FUEL. That helps me build networks that benefit from both programs.”
Forum also draws on her network around the organization. For the reporting and governance components of her role she may connect with FUEL members and ask them to introduce her to people in the Finance team, continually expanding her network while meeting her responsibilities.
Because it’s impossible to work on multiple things at once, there are days when one thing takes priority over others, but Forum says communicating with and managing stakeholders helps them understand what you’re working on and when their priorities will be completed.
Building a Career as a Mother
Two of Forum’s roles are mother and career-woman, and she enjoys being able to perform at both. When she initially returned to work from parental leave, Forum reflects, “My career wasn’t fast-flowing. Initially I was enthusiastic and excited to get back to work but I got a bit demotivated.”
She didn’t just stop though. She started focusing and doing more, and told her manager, “I have already proven myself, I’m ready for the next challenge.”
When she went on her second parental leave a few years later she made a conscious choice this time not to dive back into her busy career too quickly. She says, “It was my dream to stay at home, have coffee with other mums and little catch ups. I made sure that I realized that dream because I knew that when I returned to work I would be fully fledged into my career.”
Her tips for returning parents who want to maintain their career progression are:
- Have regular 1-1 catch ups with your manager.
- Keep Linked In up to date and consider your personal branding.
- Be confident in your abilities – you have picked up new skills whilst on leave.
- Connect with other great working mothers.
- Draw on the support available from work.
“I want to encourage all mothers that just because you’re not in the office it doesn’t mean you’re not learning things. You’re actually learning so much! You go through the physical changes, mentally you grow up, you’re taking care of another human being, the time management and organizational skills you learn in that year are amazing, and with limited resources. That is your achievement and strength!”