[ ABOVE: Krista Bourne with the Greenville Chamber’s Women at Work Committee, from left: Ava Smith, Judith Prince, Kelly Byers, Krista Bourne, Jordana Megonigal and Jada Jacobs.]
As president of a 12-state market for Verizon, Krista Bourne leads a team of more than 5,000 employees responsible for delivering extraordinary customer service and growing the sales, marketing, operations and financial performance in the market.
Bourne began in Verizon’s mailroom reading and responding to customer feedback. She is also a self-proclaimed corporate mom, and shared valuable insights from her journey from mailroom to market president of a Fortune 100 company.
“Every boardroom should have a woman in it,” she said. “I’m here because I decided I deserved to be in those places. We just have to step up.”
An important week for women in America
It was a coincidence that our Women at Work Empowerment Breakfast took place the morning after a woman accepted, for the first time, a major party’s nomination for president of the United States. Bourne didn’t allow this to go unnoticed and commended Hillary Clinton for choosing to be great at what she does and paving the way for women to come.
Always know the why to your what
“Why you do what you do will get you through the best and worst of days,” Bourne said. “If ever you have self-doubt, always connect the what to the why, and you will never lose sight of the things that are most important to you.
Have the courage to put your ideas on the table
Bourne had the opportunity early in her career at a small company to speak up and share her ideas in an environment where they were appreciated, considered and acted upon. She noted that most men don’t hesitate to put their thoughts and ideas on the table — good or bad — while most women wait to be asked or given permission to use their voice.
Bourne noted that when you walk in a room and you’re the only woman, you’re already different. It’s how you make the most of your uniqueness that matters.
“I work every day to make sure when I leave the room, they aren’t thinking a woman left the room. They’re thinking Krista Bourne left the room,” she said. “I refuse to miss my moment to represent my thoughts and ideas. I am uniquely me and that is my creative competitiveness.”
Encourage and welcome uniqueness
As important as it is to be uniquely you, encourage others to do the same. Bourne stressed the importance of building teams — in work and in life — with people who are different than you, who have different skills and motivations than you, in order to help you and your company grow and achieve goals.
Amplify your voice
You don’t always want to walk into a meeting with your idea alone. Bourne recommends finding out first who is going to be in the room, and making calls to discuss your ideas with them. If you’ve talked ideas through with others, they’ll be more likely to piggyback on them, and that buy-in is what will lead to action, she said.
As hard as it can be to do, Bourne noted the importance of knowing when to let go of an idea. When you have perspective that’s bigger than your own and are able to see that something’s not working, be transparent and own it, she said.
Titles do not define people; they define responsibilities
Not at all a fan of chasing titles, Bourne has had many opportunities to move up and around her company. Her advice to a young lady just out of college and fresh to the workforce is to find a company that will allow you to grow and try lots of positions within it in order to learn as much as possible before committing to a specific track. “You can learn the most when you’re uncomfortable,” she said.
Help bridge gaps
Bourne told a very funny story about enlightening an older cigar-smoking white male supervisor who had no idea that most black women don’t wash their hair every day. She noted how important it is that we not be so easily offended or sensitive, but make light of our differences and judge others on their reactions. This is how we can bridge the gaps of awareness and help ease the interactions of those who come after you, she said.
Learn more about Greenville Women at Work at greenvillechamber.org.