One day, walking on our farm property, I came across what I thought was a beautiful flower. I smelled it and proceeded to rub it up and down my arm which began to itch until an awful rash broke out. It turned out that the beautiful flower was a form of poison ivy, and I learned that ignorance is dangerous. You must be adept and learn about things that surround you—not take everything at face value.
The one thing that has been a constant during Allison G. Cole’s career has been change. “In order to be an enabler of success, I have had to be open to change, anticipate change, and be a driver of change,” says the Director of FTTP (fiber to the premises) Strategic Planning & Content Management for Verizon Communications.
Holding a director-level position for three years, and one year in her current job, Cole has acquired new skills and proficiencies that have kept her competitive in the telecommunications industry. “Though my prior educational exposure has been primarily technical in nature, my MBA has provided me with an even greater toolkit, equipping me to move business forward,” she explained.
Cole manages the FTTP network that serves as the infrastructure enabling customers to access first-class services in voice, data, and television. She attributes her career choice to exposure to the field during an internship in undergraduate school. “That Co-Op program exposed me to planned changes that were being tested and validated—the environment was challenging and every day was fraught with validations of things that would work for our customers’ benefit.” Since that time, Cole admits that she has grown from an individual contributor to a manager of teams and now a director of change.
“I have observed Allison’s keen ability to effectively interact with other leaders, and drive decision-making—in a very challenging business environment—for a critical element of our portfolio,” says Connia Nelson, Senior Vice President of Verizon Telecon Human Resources and a 2007 CareerFOCUS Eagle Award winner.
One standout change agent was the challenge of becoming an engineering-team manager where overall results had been sub-par. While the task seemed daunting, Cole employed her educational background, utilized prior experiences, and focused on building a team that understood the metrics that had to be met for customer satisfaction.
“With great partnership and support from my peers and commitment from my leadership and individual teams, in approximately nine months, we exceeded our targets,” Cole explains. “It was one of the most satisfying and fulfilling roles that I have ever had in my career.”
While change has affected her professionally, it has also done so personally. While in Jamaica in 2000, Cole was involved in a serious automobile accident that proved life changing. She lost a lot of blood and suffered a head injury but felt lucky to be alive after seeing the extent of the damage. “I felt very blessed to be able to walk away. That event has given me a greater appreciation for those I love and ensured that I focus on living life to the fullest,” Cole recalls.
Change is also a watchword for Cole in company endeavors. She is actively involved with the Women’s Association of Verizon Employees (WAVE) and the Consortium of Information of Information and Telecommunications Executives (CITE). She has participated on panel discussions, development sessions, and community outreach efforts. Acting as a mentor—both formally and informally—to other company managers, Cole serves as a change agent for catapulting others within the organization.
“I believe that one should hold themselves and others accountable to the highest standard—never settling for second best,” Cole says. “Maintaining a positive attitude, a solid sense of accountability, strong ethics, and high standards enables you to focus on making the best choices in business. It also enables you to build a strong team and create a shadow that someone would be proud to follow.”
“A quote by Charles R. Swindoll guides me,” shares Cole. “He says, ‘We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.’”
Cole continues to forge change, developing strong partnering relationships with high-impact teams and working diligently to address customer needs while remaining on task and getting all teams on board to support the needs of the business.
CareerFOCUS Magazine and the National Eagle Leadership Institute® salute 2009 Eagle Award winner Allison G. Cole.