‘My Guiding Career Advice: Be There and Be Prepared’

By Barbara Baffer, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications, Ericsson North America

Often it is the simple and basic life lessons that can grow your skills and accelerate your career.

As a child, my mother always impressed upon me the importance of getting a job and making money, which was especially important for me because I was a girl. I wondered, “How am I going to make money?”

Lessons from a Paper Route

At the age of 12, I applied for a job delivering morning papers in my hometown of Newport News, Virginia. But a young girl riding a bicycle filled with newspapers at 4:00 a.m. in the dark didn’t sit well with my potential employer. It was both my first rejection and my first experience in outsourcing. My younger brother got the job, and I became his subcontractor, proving that yes, as long as you can throw and hit the screen doors with the paper, girls could deliver papers just as well as boys. And maybe even better.

I showed up every day prepared to do the job, and I learned how to do it well. This “can-do” attitude helped me get and keep the job again and again—and later it helped me climb the corporate ladder.

Making the Most of Opportunities

Fast forward a number of years: With my mother’s voice stressing the need for financial independence still ringing in my ears, I found myself at Ericsson in the sleepy town of Lynchburg, Virginia. Employed as a project marketing specialist, I applied the same principles from my early work experience. I learned everything I could about the business and always showed up energized, well prepared, dressed for business and eager to step in where needed.

Opportunities came my way. When someone suddenly was unavailable for a presentation or a speaking engagement, I would be ready and volunteer. To be honest, I certainly wasn’t the most skilled or knowledgeable. But as in everything, the third or fourth time you do something, you get more confident and things get easier.

Moving Up the Ladder

As my career progressed at Ericsson, I became the vice president of government and industry affairs in North America, where I had to learn the intricacies of working with a wide variety of U.S. government agencies, regulators, legislators and lobbyists. I networked, and forged new relationships with my counterparts, from our customers and competitors. It reinforced the fact that preparation, credibility and trust will always be key to successful influence.

My work in Washington, D.C., resulted in a promotion to my current role as VP of corporate affairs and communications for Ericsson North America. In this capacity, I direct external and internal corporate affairs and communications, as well as the government and industry relations teams in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, Canada. I report to the president and CEO of Ericsson North America and also manage our company’s charitable giving program.

Preparing for Tomorrow

Outside of Ericsson, it’s also critical to be there and be prepared. I currently serve on the Board of Directors of CTIA: the Wireless Association Foundation, the Advisory Committee of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, and the Collin County Business Alliance. In 2014 and again in 2015, I will serve as the chairwoman of the Metroplex Technology Business Council Gala, and I’m a member of the Dallas Executive Women’s Roundtable. But one of my proudest accomplishments is mentoring other women at Ericsson, helping to empower and enable their professional growth.

Put into practice daily, sometimes the common-sense principles of life that we learn as children are those that will lead us down the road of personal and professional success throughout our lives. As I watch my teenage daughter grow into a woman, I hope to channel these simple concepts—and be the voice in her head that helps to build self-confidence, resilience and independence throughout her life.

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