Combining technology with my inner purpose
I often ask people: “How did you get to where you are today?” This question always sparks a meaningful conversation, not only full of interesting stories, but also about the choices we have faced and the beliefs and values that guide us. Surprisingly, people often say something like, “I did not have a plan” or “many coincidences” or “I was lucky”. And yes - life is full of coincidences but I will not accept that answer. Let me tell you my story, and then maybe you will “re-tell” yours.
Something pulled me forward
I was born in Nicaragua right in the middle of the civil war of the 80s. My family was relatively poor – although that was the case for most people at the time. The country was communist which meant that everyone had the same jackets, trousers, even underwear! - because there was only one brand available.
Growing up, I noticed that although women were the backbone of every family – making sure that ends meet, that there was food on the table and that the kids got to school – it was the men that would get the fancy titles and better-paying jobs. I got upset at seeing women sometimes ending up dependent on, to be quite honest, irresponsible men because it was the man that would bring home the money.
I can now see that this became a very strong driving force for me that pulled me forward. I didn't think of it as a purpose at the time, but I took an important decision, "I will show my family and community that a woman can study complex subjects and that a woman can successfully occupy the same positions like that of a man."
In Sweden and other modern countries, it is easy to take women's freedom for granted. But at that time in Nicaragua, and still in most parts of the world, women have to fight hard against the opinions and beliefs of the community around them.
So when I was 15, my father helped me convince my mother that I should go to university. After careful consideration I chose Electronical Engineering which would give me the best opportunities for making a career outside of Nicaragua.
The first year, I recall looking around my class. Out of 66 students, only 9 were women. By the end of my studies when I looked around again, only 40 students were left and only 4 were women! This made me even more dedicated to succeeding because I felt a big responsibility on my shoulders – I must not fail – I have to make a strong case for women!
And, I believe in a big part, thanks to that powerful sense of purpose, I studied really hard and finally achieved my goal: a scholarship to study abroad. That is how I came to Sweden where I became a Telecom Researcher and achieved a Licentiate Degree.
When you have to stop and ask yourself again
I graduated from KTH in 2011 and soon after that I got my first qualified job at Ericsson Research. My guiding star, to inspire women in Nicaragua through an international career, was almost achieved. I was surprised but was feeling a bit lost. I was always used to working towards a goal but where should I go from here? Was my original goal my true purpose?
At this point I realized how important my clear sense of purpose had been for me, and that I needed to reshape and sharpen it.
Several things also happened in my personal life at that moment. I got married and had my first child. In a way, the time-off gave me an excellent opportunity to think things over. Thank god for maternity (and paternity) leave. Taking care of our son during those first months, completely dependent on me, actually made me realize how good I feel helping people develop and stand on their own. I also felt that I wanted to contribute to society in more impactful ways. How could I use my new situation to do something bigger and impactful?
Exciting (and luckily?) enough, my work at Ericsson Research gave me many opportunities to work towards my new refined "northern star". I had a lot to learn when I started, but I could see that if I focused hard enough, there would be many opportunities to contribute to society in big ways from within Ericsson. I have spent a large part of my research contributing to the early concepts of the "5th Generation - 5G " of cellular mobile communications. Imagining the revolutions that we are making happen in society has given me great motivation - remote surgery, self-driving cars, drones for public safety, virtual reality for education, to name a few.
I have also found deep satisfaction in helping others in their own journey. I have had leading roles in Pan-European projects (METIS-2020 and mmMAGIC) where the future of Telecom is defined, and where I really enjoyed coaching my colleagues in creating great work together. Even today as a Line Manager, I get many opportunities to help others succeed and find their own driving force.
Even at Ericsson, we have work to do on gender equality and equal opportunity – one of my own cornerstones since growing up! In fact, I have been part of creating internal activities and also led the Ericsson Youth Day to give inspiration to the young generation.
You need good companions in life
My journey has not ended. I will continue working for gender equality, for a better society and for technology that can support that. One other thing that I want to mention is the importance of the people around you to make your dreams come true. Get inspired by them, ask them for advice and join forces with them to achieve things together. Here are just a few examples of those people in my life:
- My father who supported me in going to study in the capital, a long and costly journey away from home
- My first manager at Ericsson who hired me even when I was about to go for maternity leave. This signaled to me that I was choosing the right workplace and a manager that embraced gender equality
- My current management team that believes in me and gives me the freedom and trust to combine technology at work with diversity and inclusion
- My colleagues Christina Plevoets, Ladan Sabzian, Eva Snis, and Pamela Gonzalez, who volunteered their free time to support me and each other in leading activities around gender equality
- My caring partner, and the father of my two children, who believes in me and challenges me with important questions
Yes, there have been many coincidences along the way. I was lucky to have a supportive father in Nicaragua that made sure I entered university. The scholarship I received to come to Sweden actually disappeared the year after. I am happy to have entered Ericsson Research at a time when there have been many opportunities to get responsibility and contribute to society.
But none of this would have happened if I hadn't had my own personal convictions and a sense of purpose. These have pulled me forward and have helped me overcome feelings of doubt in hard times.
Come to think of it, I think it might be time to take another look at my own purpose. What about you?
Lesson number 1: Dare to ask yourself important questions, answer them as truly as possible and find a way to make your purpose clear and real. Your answers will give you powerful insights and will keep you developing your purpose. A purpose will give you energy, motivation and grit.
Lesson number 2: Now and then, take time to reflect and re-shape your purpose. Continue asking important questions such as: How can I use what I have now to serve my purpose? What else do I need to do?
Lesson number 3: You always need great people around you. You need help in making exciting things happen. And that is why we should always help others as well. We build each other!