7 Questions with Eugina Jordan
Name: Eugina Jordan
Current title: VP, Marketing
Current organisation: Parallel Wireless
Eugina, a self-made woman, started her telecom career as a secretary and now has gone on to become VP of Marketing of the major telecom industry disruptor Parallel Wireless. She has over 19 years of strategic marketing experience, leading corporate marketing and communications for small and large global technology companies.
She has been Instrumental in establishing Parallel Wireless as the #1 supplier of OpenRAN solutions globally. At Cisco, she was responsible for fiscal planning, managing a 20m+ budget, and all integrated marketing activities for SP Mobility and IPNGN product and solutions portfolios globally. She also led a GTM strategy for the launch of a next-generation virtualized routing family that won an Ad Age B2B Best Award for integrated campaigns under 200K. Prior to Cisco, she was the Marketing Manager for Starent, since nearly the company’s inception and developed and managed the marketing communications strategy for the launch of Cisco’s $2B Starent Networks acquisition at Mobile World Congress 2010. She orchestrated a blend of communication, presentation and AR/PR initiatives to build the Starent brand.
Eugina has a Masters of Teaching from Moscow University, and studied computer undergrad from CDI College in Toronto, Canada.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge for any leader is dealing with endless change. Change is the only constant that you are dealing with when you are leading people or companies. How a leader deals with a change is a true testament to how effective they are as a leader. The end goal of any leader should be always to help their team to be the best they could be, to lead them through any changes, by guiding them through their journeys, relating to their experiences and empowering them to succeed even in the toughest circumstance.
My own leadership style is built on two values: integrity and courage. They are the foundation of how I see the world, influence and lead. Courage is a very important value for a leader as it’s about doing what’s right, even if it’s tough. A courageous leader inspires others.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I've thought a lot about what it means to be a "leader" -- I’ve wrestled with a lot of different questions internally and externally -- with co-workers and managers, my friends, my husband, and my son. All these internal and external conversations made me think critically and objectively about my own daily experiences as a leader. That said, I am an optimist and a fighter by nature. I have been in the telecom industry for over 21 years and started on the very bottom as a receptionist. When I moved here from Canada in 2000 during the dot.com collapse, I was faced with a very tough economic situation. With two degrees, I was only able to get an admin job at a telecom startup. They gave me an opportunity, and I was NOT going to “throw away my shot”. So, I did not. My own story is encouraging and a positive example that if you work hard, play fair, continue learning and always believe in yourself, you can become a leader. The door is there; you just need to be strong enough to open it; be strong enough to get a seat at the table and work hard to get where you want to be. I am not saying that it's going to be easy, but if you want it, you need to work for it. If a shy girl from Russia can work her way up to be a fearless leader of marketing of a very successful telecom startup, so can you. Nothing can stop you unless you allow it to stop you.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
B.C (Before Covid), if I was not traveling, I would get up before 6 AM, have my coffee by the window in my kitchen to prepare myself for the day. Then I go check on my emails and the daily schedule to know how to structure my day and to prioritize accordingly. After that, a To Do list gets created in my notebook (yes, I am old school and like taking notes). But that time, our teenager would be up, so I would switch into “mom mode”, give him a quick breakfast, check-in on his priorities, I would change into my work clothes and we would be off to school and work. My commute has always been about an hour. At the beginning of the day, that drive is my opportunity to get organized for the day; in the afternoon that ride home is my opportunity to decompress and reflect. Once I got to the office, I would “walk the floor” a bit to say hi to people, then went to my office (miss that too!), plugged my laptop and the day started. In-person meetings, people stopping by, all those simple interactions of the past that we now cherish. I would try to take regular 5-10 minutes walking breaks throughout the day to ensure my mind is fresh and my body gets some exercise. When I got home, I would make dinner and then we would spend a few minutes as a family eating and talking about our days. Going to bed early, so I can get enough rest to be up and unstoppable the next day.
D.C. (During Covid). I now work from home and our 10-th grader takes an on-line school. Our 3 dogs enjoy us staying home. I work from the couch under my blanket. But I always put my camera on for my team meetings – allows us to connect with each other, share stories and feel common humanity in these tough times. We became each other’s support circle. Though we all are working on-line in our homes, we do not feel isolated. In the spring and summer, my husband and I used to go for walks with our 3 mutts. Now, as the fall is here, I need to find another form of exercise to keep my emotional, physical, and spiritual energy levels up. It is the biggest mistake that people make when working from home is not exercising self-care. We all work right now an insane number of hours and this will eventually result in bad health. So, we all need to learn how to work in a new way in this new normal, remember to move around, and find new things to enjoy like a new show or a book.
I believe that A.C. (After Covid), the work-life is not going to be the same either. We all will have to find our new workstyle and figure out work-life balance. The perception of working from home was around productivity. It was an eye-opening experience to many executives that people working from home are productive and you do not need to be in the office till wee hours to be considered “productive”. I also think we will not only re-evaluate our office work, but also business travel. Some of the in-face interaction will still be happening, but the digital interactions are here to stay.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Empathy to me matters more than anything else in a leader. Empathy allows a leader to understand the needs of others. Empathy requires listening to understand, non-judgment, and be fully present. In the end, empathy becomes a foundation of empowering people. Empathy fuels productivity as it builds trust. Empathy drives employee loyalty as people feel understood. I also believe that self-empathy is a foundation for a leader to understand how others feel. You cannot lead anyone unless you know how to lead yourself. Same applies to empathy, unless you have self-empathy, you are not able to extend it to others.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
There are many amazing leadership resources out there: from social media to videos to Ted Talks, to webinars, Facebook groups to books of course. Most of the books that I have been reading, do have on-line resources to continue the reading experience: useful downloads and workbooks, tests, and podcasts. I believe that as a person evolves in their leadership role throughout the years, they might connect to different books as their leadership style evolves. A leader can never stop learning. Reading a book is a very intimate experience and allows one to connect to their imagination and creativity. Books allow us to connect with ourselves, learn about others and the ever-changing world. What about the books that impacted my leadership style? There are 3 books that I have recently read that made an impact on my mind, soul, and my leadership style. My soul has been “opened up” by Brene’s Brown “The Gifts of Imperfection” – it taught me how not to be afraid of being vulnerable or how to accept and work on my imperfections while building resilience and self-compassion. A classic of “The 7 Habits of highly effective people” by Stephen Covey helped me sharpen my leadership skills and connect the dots of what my purpose is as a leader. Lastly, “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle, though not your “typical” leadership book, taught me how to be more courageous. I had very emotional experiences reading it and evaluating my past and understanding how I can be better in speaking up and standing for what I believe is right while helping people.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
77% of organizations in the US are experiencing a leadership gap due to baby boomers retiring. People CAN be coached on how to be leaders. Smaller and larger organizations are establishing programs that not only encourage people to enter leadership roles but also provide the tools for their growth. Here are the three simple steps that help grow new leaders within an organization:
Top Level Strategy and Vision Sharing: transparency from the top leads to an open line of communication. Sharing the future company vision helps the organization understand the priorities and how they can contribute to it. Trust is built on openness and organizational openness drives innovation which powers future leadership.
Identifying and Developing Employees with High Leadership Potential: these are the highly motivated people with the passion to build teams, find solutions to problems that feel passionate about making the organization better. They need to be identified early to give them the time to develop and blossom
Mentorship programs as a part of the leadership development process: senior leaders in an organization need to be matched up with the budding leadership talent to provide mentorship to them to become the new organizational leaders. Building these relationships creates open lines of communication.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
My two most memorable stories are around my connection circle and people leaning out to support me. Lean in movement instructed women to lean in and "assume responsibility," to step up and “own” a job or duty and to sit at the table, not the back or side benches, and speak with a loud, assertive voice. It told all ambitious women to work extra hard to earn that seat. That always brought a valid question for me around the balance of work and life itself with family and friends or activities one might enjoy. The Sandberg's message from her 2013 book was often distilled to its simplified essence: If a woman works hard enough, and asserts herself enough, she can thrive at home and at work. This is an approach that placed so much responsibility for success on individual women rather than the society and the workplace itself.
“I tell women, that whole ‘you can have it all’ — nope, not at the same time; that’s a lie,” Michelle Obama told a sold-out crowd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn during a stop on a tour promoting her memoir. “It’s not always enough to lean in, because that's--- doesn’t work all the time.” The shift that needs to happen is two-folded, about encouraging women to “lean in'' and for men to lean out to offer support for women in their careers, so women don’t have to lean in as hard as they have been and the balance can be found. And my two most meaningful stories are around two men that leaned out to help me. The first one was my former CEO Ash Dahod who supported my move into marketing. I remember walking into his office asking for a transfer, and him telling me, “I would miss you working for me, but I would support your growth.” The second one is my husband. When I wanted to leave Cisco to join an unknown startup to further build my career, I was afraid of the unknown. My husband was the one that believed in me more than I did and encouraged me to “go for it”. 7 years later, I have helped to build that startup into a leader in the industry and we now have the recognition for our vision and execution.