FLOW Jamaica’s newly appointed senior director of technology operations is on a quest to make her mark, not as a woman but in her area of competence – a field traditionally dominated by men. The technology dynamo, who has spent the last 16 years of her career in the telecommunications industry spanning areas including information technology, network delivery, customer care, programme management, business intelligence, quality assurance, and B2B/B2C operations, has, over time, gained the respect of her male counterparts.
“I have had to work harder to prove myself,” Susanna O’Sullivan shared. “When a female gets a seat at the table, she’s forced to be more impeccable in her communication in getting her point across and to be more strategic in her thinking so that her work is given due consideration,” she said as she spoke of her experience working in a traditionally male-dominated area.
Her biggest challenge, leading a team of men, however, is not gender-related. For O’Sullivan, she challenges herself to inspire her workforce to consistently perform at high standards, above and beyond their perceived limits. “If we, as leaders, figure out how to influence mindsets in a way that instils a culture focused on what matters most, we would overcome one of the biggest hurdles,” she stated with a look of great determination. “As a female leader, I cannot question my ability to lead. I must navigate the space without succumbing to the stereotypical expectation attached to female leadership.”
Bolstered by her philosophy, ‘Work hard and stay humble’, O’Sullivan is very optimistic about the scope for women in her field and believes there are no limits to what they can achieve. “We should go after the jobs we want. With the changing industry, as less men matriculate into universities, more women are embraced in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programmes. More companies are also mindful of the gender gap and are acknowledging that women are the brainchild behind many major operations,” she noted.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
O’Sullivan aims to make a difference in her field by leading with emotional intelligence and nurturing leadership potentials. For her, to get the best out of her team, particularly in moments of crisis, she must proactively neutralise dissonance, and lead with emotional intelligence, ensuring that her team is in a constant state of readiness to perform at a high level, even in a situation of crisis. “Anyone can be technical, but with the fires we fight in the technical field, the team must be glued together,” she said. “Nurturing talent and protecting the core competencies are critical to keeping any business up and running,” O’Sullivan added.
On the issue of equality for women in the workplace, O’Sullivan is of the view that rights such as opportunity and pay should be gender-neutral. She believes, however, that in order to bring more balance to strategic discussions, more women are needed at the board and C-suite levels. She is also adamant that of great importance are the matters that impact us as human beings, irrespective of gender. “Regardless of gender, you can spot leadership potentials – the ones going the extra mile, taking the lead, taking the heat, owning the results, ever learning and applying. True succession planning develops and supports next-level leaders. I want to make a difference here by supporting investment in our people, as we do in our technology,” she said.
While she carries out her role in an industry that demands much of her, O’Sullivan remains a dutiful mother who works to ensure that her work-life integration continues to demonstrate a balance that gives way to big results at work. She is also big on family life and charity. In fact, as she smiled softly, she credited her seven-year-old daughter as the source of her renewed impetus to succeed. Taught from a very tender age that education and excellence in performance were “roots” to success, O’Sullivan recalled watching her parents pour their limited resources into her and her six other siblings to ensure that they achieved at a high level in school.
As her career advances, she makes time to provide support to individuals in need as her way of expressing gratitude and giving back.