EPISODE 478: Career Promotion Strategies for Women in Sales from Verizon’s Patty Roze

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Women in Sales virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on February 24. 2022. It featured an interview with Verizon Sales Leader Patty Roze.]

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PATTY’S TIP: “What do you think it takes to get promoted?” First and foremost, you have to be really good in your current job. Do not ever forego being good in your current job, because you are chasing down a next-level title. Second, build the right network. I would encourage everyone to take a look at your existing network. Is it with inside your traditional workgroup as it sits today? Or do you have people that are outside of your traditional workgroup where you’ve built a network that has diversity across the different levels of the business? Third, personal brand. What do people say about you? How are you perceived as an individual?  My challenge would be, go out, ask a few people, “Hey, what’s your perception of me? How would you describe me?” That’s going to give you insight on what that personal brand looks like for you.”


Gina Stracuzzi: I want to welcome my guest, Patty Roze. Patty is Vice President for Public Sector Sales at the SLED, the State, Local and Education at Verizon. Patty, I really am looking forward to our conversation. Welcome.

Patty Roze: Thank you, Gina, I’m very excited to be here.

Gina Stracuzzi: I always like to have our guests tell us a little bit about themselves in their own words. How they got to where they are, what brought them into sales? Anything that you’d like to share with us.

Patty Roze: Good morning, everyone. Just a little bit about my background, I’ve been with Verizon, it’ll be 22 years this July. I started out in an entry level sales position on the business side. Predominantly, all of my experience with Verizon is all on the business side. I’ve supported small to medium accounts, midsize accounts, large global enterprise accounts, I’ve led integrated teams, both wireless and wireline.

Most recently, just under two years ago, I joined the public sector organization and took on responsibility for the state, local and education market. I have responsibility for all 50 states, five teams across the country supporting all of our state and local government agencies. Then with inside our education space, I have responsibility for K-12, and then higher education. Really have touched a lot of different types of customers over the last 22 years.

Did spend the majority of my career in the global enterprise managing your very, very large commercial type customers. Excited to be here in public sector. I would tell you that in the last 18 months or so, public sector has become one of my favorite set of customers to support. That’s a little bit about me, Gina.

Gina Stracuzzi: I love when I hear people talk about being at their companies 20 some odd years, because to me that shows there’s a lot of opportunity within major companies, corporations. It probably feels like you’re starting a whole new job when you make these shifts. It’s not that you have to leave a company to actually get new opportunities.

Patty Roze: It’s interesting that you say that, because for anyone that knows just a little bit about Verizon, it is a very large company. It’s a Fortune 15 company and we’ve got wireless, we’ve got wireline, we’ve got telematics. There’s so many different things and careers that you can go and do. One of our recent acquisitions BlueJeans, which is video conferencing.

It does not feel like I’ve worked for the same company for the last 22 years. Although I’ve been on the business side that entire time supporting different types of customers and working with different parts of the organization, I’ve had the opportunity to reinvent myself and grow with inside the same company for that length of time. I think right now, in the pandemic, some people have said, “Oh, I need to go and reinvent myself.”

I’m super fortunate, because I don’t feel like I have to leave Verizon to go and reinvent myself. There are plenty of opportunities across the organization. I have been very, very fortunate from that standpoint.

Gina Stracuzzi: One of the things that we talk about a lot inside The Women in Sales Leadership Forum is just that. That sometimes just raising your hand for opportunities to be part of a team that’s doing something outside of where you’ve been can give you that visibility and a little bit of inside knowledge, as to maybe that’s where you want to go. It isn’t that you need to look elsewhere necessarily, company wise. I like that a lot.

Patty Roze: That’s exactly right. I tell people all the time, you have to get curious about different parts of the business. It’s always healthy to get outside of your traditional workgroup. When you do that, it allows you different levels of exposure with different people from different parts of the organization. You just never know when that might come into play for future opportunities.

Gina Stracuzzi:  I really applaud that thinking. A lot of what we like to talk about is getting more women into sales, and then more women to sales leadership. One of the reasons we started the forum is because I realized that the number of women in leadership really has remained stagnant overall, if you take away the plus and minuses and now that’s going to change even more with, as we were discussing earlier, women leaving the workforce in such large numbers. Let’s talk a little bit about your approach to bringing women into leadership, and what you counsel them on and mentor them on in terms of that.

You’ve had, I think you said eight roles in 21 years. Let’s talk a little bit about your progression, because people can learn from that. Let’s talk about what was maybe your hardest position to get into, leave or progress from. Was that for a personal reason? Or was it just making those decisions as to where you want to go in your career?

Patty Roze: As I think back over just the course of my career, I think one of the hardest transitions for me to make in my 22 years with Verizon, 12 years that was spent as an individual contributor. I really like serving our large complex customers.  I loved the customized and complex contract negotiations to the customized solutions. I think one role that I was in, it was called the National Account Manager at the time, so your really big, large commercial accounts. I had asked myself the question, “Do I want to be a manager of customers’ accounts? Or do I want to be a manager of people?”

For a long time, I thought the answer was, “I want to be a manager of customers.”  I just enjoyed this work so much that I had to ask myself the question. What spearheaded me wanting to get into leadership, I tried to be very observant and just aware of people in roles. I had started to notice that people in this particular role were staying for a long time.

I said, “Gosh, I just don’t know if I want to see myself or could see myself in this role 20 years from now. Is this the only role that I want to do with Inside Verizon, or do I want to expand?”  Of course, there are leadership opportunities and so I had to answer that question. Ultimately, what pushed me over the edge was I don’t want to be in this individual contributor role for the next 20 years. I felt like I had been successful over the course of the eight years in that particular role that I could go and help someone else be successful in that role.

That’s ultimately when I decided to get into leadership. In hindsight, I wish I had done it a little bit sooner because eight years in the job is a really long time. You do sometimes have a tendency to get stale, stagnant and complacent just no matter what the job is. From there, I got into leadership, and it has been an upward trajectory since. Quite frankly, I have moved up pretty quickly over the past 10 years or so, but exciting. I would not change that decision for anything, just around getting into leadership.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s so true, sometimes we just become complacent. It’s easier to stay where you are than to shake things up. Quite often, a lot of it comes down to fear. If I make a change, will I actually be successful?

Patty Roze:  It’s scary, because I, as an individual contributor was in charge of my own success. When you get into leadership, you are responsible for others. It becomes not about you any longer. To help others be successful, one of my early leadership lessons was not everybody is going to operate in the same way that I do. How do you adapt and adjust as a leader to help individuals that have a different approach?

They could be different than you just in general. How do you help those people be successful? That was probably a true test that I had early on. It’s a great reminder as I’ve moved through all of my leadership roles of you have to constantly be adapting and adjusting. Leadership is about the people, it is about the team. It is not about you specifically.

Gina Stracuzzi: It sounds like you are a great boss then. One of the things that we often hear within the forum is that women and really, men too get sometimes stuck working for somebody who just doesn’t seem to, not necessarily not care, but just not know how to actually lead well and be supportive. You and I talked a bit about this, the importance of having mentors, and sponsors. I know that’s something that you really take to heart. Can you talk to us a little bit about how you mentor? Or what you recommend to the women that work for you in terms of that?

Patty Roze:  When I think about the things that it takes to get promoted, and navigate just in general a large organization, first and foremost, it comes down to building the right meaningful connections with people along the way. What I mean by that is you can’t seek out a senior executive, chase them down in the hallway and say, “Hey, will you be my mentor?” I can tell you, that’s what you should not do.

In order for someone to be your mentor, you’ve got to have thoughtfulness around what that conversation would look like.  Does this individual know you well enough in order to be able to provide feedback that would be relevant and helpful in your situation? Does that potential mentor work closely enough to the line of business that you’re in or to the group that you report to, to be able to have meaningful feedback? When I say be intentional, be intentional about looking for those things. A mentor, I also describe as a coach.

You’ve got different situations, you’re going to bounce maybe things and/or challenges that you’re having off of that person to get their feedback. That’s what I call the inner circle of when I go to do pulse checks. I’ve got people inside that inner circle that I’m like, “Hey, am I crazy here? Am I thinking about this right? What would your approach be?” That outside perspective can be really, really meaningful as you navigate, whether it’s challenges or different things that you’re trying to solve for in the business. I also just want to say here, Gina, that when I think about mentors, what I just described. Sponsors are completely different. I think sometimes people get mentors and sponsors a little bit mixed up as one and the same.

They are not one and the same. Your sponsors are typically never your mentors and or coaches. Your sponsors, think of those individuals that know you fairly well, know the results that you’ve achieved and/or produced, and know a little bit about the work that you do. Sponsors are the individuals that are cosigning you when you are not in the room. That is the huge benefit of a sponsor. The other thing that I will tell you here, Gina, is that decisions about your career don’t happen with you in the room. They happen with those senior leaders, those senior leaders that you’ve created sponsors with throughout your career journey. Both are equally important, and I think both play a role in advancing one’s career with inside an organization.

Gina Stracuzzi: I couldn’t agree more. It is interesting how many of us go through a good portion of our careers and not actually know the difference. Not even appreciate, perhaps, where you actually had a sponsor who was helping you, but you didn’t really call them that. The confusion between the two. As you said, you don’t want to go to your sponsor and say, “Am I crazy?” No, that’s not what the sponsors for. I love what you said about the mentorship piece and having that sounding board. It can be somebody at the same level, it can even be somebody below you. They have to be someone who understands your situation and the work you’re doing to be able to give you the right feedback.

Patty Roze: I would also just suggest there that a good place to start, because I get this question often around, “How do I go about getting a mentor? I don’t really know what to do next.” One of the things I always encourage first and foremost is have that conversation with your direct leader and say, “Hey, I really want to advance my personal brand outside of the day-to-day workgroup, is there anybody that you would recommend that I connect with on a next-level leadership level that could help me just understand? I’m curious about this part of the business, I’m curious about that part of the business.”

You do have to have that insight in order to get good feedback from your direct leader. That is typically always a really good place to start. At the beginning of each year, I look at all of the people that I’m mentoring, and I’m like, “Am I the best person for this individual? Or do I need to help this individual expand their network and maybe ask a peer of mine or someone else in another part of the business to take on mentoring that individual?” That’s how you create different exposure opportunities for employees. Then as you think about pairing up employees with different leaders in the business, that will also help build a more expanded network outside of that traditional workgroup.

Gina Stracuzzi: You’re the first person I’ve ever spoken with about this that from being the mentors, from that side of the equation, that they actually review who they’re mentoring, and am I still the best fit for this person? Which is really lovely, because it gives them and you a chance to maybe take someone else on. It shows that you really have their best interests at heart and their growth potential, and perhaps now that they’re moving in one direction, someone else might be better suited. Does Verizon have a formal mentoring program within its walls?

Patty Roze: Yes, we do a couple of different things. I wouldn’t say it’s a formal program at the top layer of the organization. I have with inside public sector what I call peer advisement. Then I have my direct leaders assigned to different what I believe to be top talent employees to help not only build that confidence, but also to be the sounding board, and to really measure our top talent and make sure that we’re creating the right types of opportunities there.

One of the newest things that we just implemented was the peer advisement. Let’s just say you have an individual contributor that goes into a senior manager role, and it’s their first leadership job. That can be overwhelming. I remember my first leadership job, and I took over the team that I reported to. I took on a team that used to be my peers. I’ve done that twice, by the way. That is a little bit unique. There’s a balance between, “Hey, I’m now your leader, I used to be your peer.” That can be overwhelming for people. Assigning peers at the same level to help that individual through that first six months, a year in a new leadership job. I have found that to be really, really helpful. It offers an additional support structure for new leaders in role.

Then also I’ve implemented that at every leadership level role. It also helps those individuals expand their network outside of their day-to-day traditional workgroup. I’ve said that a few times here in our conversation, but that’s key, especially if you’re working in a very large organization. Verizon has 135,000 employees, 30,000, just in the Verizon Business Group on the business side. That’s overwhelming to think, how do I navigate all of these people, or are meeting new people, or what area of the business that I want to get in? It’s little, small steps like that, that we can take, that will really help build the confidence of people as they want to continue to grow their career in the organization.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s amazing, really, because it’s true too that your first entree into leadership can be overwhelming, terrifying, awful, all of those words. Taking next-level jumps can be equally terrifying or anxiety inducing until you get your standing. Bringing in those advisory groups at every level makes perfect sense. I applaud that. Given your long tenure at Verizon, what would you say were some of your key, never-fail strengths, that almost guaranteed you could conquer any situation? Are those things that you share with your mentees?

Patty Roze: Great question, Gina. What a lot of people don’t know about me is I’m based here in Houston. Almost anyone can figure that out, but I grew up in a very, very small town about two and a half hours northeast of Houston. When I started with Verizon, I was just about to turn 22 years old, as I mentioned, entry level position. I moved down to Houston. If I remember correctly, I had about $500 to my name, was just out of school and I said, “I will not fail. It doesn’t matter what I have to do, I will find a way or I will make a way.” That has held true to my personality and who I am as an individual for the last 22 years.

No matter what is in front of me, I have a drive that says, “I will make a way or find a way.” It has always served me well. When something seems so large in front of you that you can’t overcome it, that will build experience that says, I can overcome this, I will always find a way. Drive has been a really, really big component of my never-fail, what I would say strengths.

The next thing I would say that I did not have initially earlier on in my career, but as I’ve grown in my career, it is really regulating your emotions. When you have the never-fail attitude, sometimes you have a tendency to become passionate, which can also come across as emotional. Regulating that, not letting the situation get the best of you. Sometimes when things go wrong, you have to make sure you don’t go with those things. One of the things that I do to try to make sure that I stay regulated there is if I feel overly passionate, or I feel conflicted about a response, sometimes it’s just okay to take a pause and come back to that and respond. That gives you an opportunity to think through, make better informed decisions around what that response needs to be. I’ve been a work in progress. I have a fiery personality in general, so I can get really fired up and really passionate about the work that we’re doing to serve our customers. But I have found that when you regulate your emotions, it really helps not only you, but it helps everyone else involved.

Then I would say the third thing around my never-fail strengths really comes down to being resilient. That no matter how many times you fall down, if you fall down 98 times, you get back up on the 99th time. I know that without a doubt, because I’ve been knocked down a lot in 22 years, I have the confidence that I know I’m going to get right back up. I’m resilient, I’m persistent, and you just have to stay the course but it really goes back to that, find a way or make away. Really fine tuning those strengths for myself over the years have really helped me grow into not only a better person, but just a better leader in general.

Gina Stracuzzi: I can relate to a lot of what you said there, especially the fiery personality. It made me wonder how you would counsel someone who perhaps, they don’t wear their drive and their passion on their sleeves, necessarily, they’re perhaps a little more demure. We’ve run into this in the forum, they can come off as not necessarily being so sure of themselves when they are, in fact, but they’re not as effusive with going after it. How would you advise someone like that?

Patty Roze: This is when the mentors and coaches come into play. If you’ve done a good job of surrounding yourself by the right people, those mentors and coaches can help build that confidence. In fact, I’m mentoring someone right now, who’s at a director level and coaching that individual around being confident enough at that VP level. I’m like,” You’re ready.”  There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about this, you are ready and you just have to be able to push through that fear. When you feel that level of fear, that is when you should push forward even harder. I say that often to all of the people that I’m mentoring, because there is fear of what that next step looks like, or there is fear of, what if I fail? I will tell you that I have not had a perfect career, there have been a lot of failures along the way. But those are the times where you learn the most, so you can’t be afraid to fall down. When you feel that fear, my biggest piece of advice for people is that is a moment of when you know you should just keep pushing forward.

Gina Stracuzzi: Fear is aligned with big opportunities. If you want it, you really have to go for it. That is why the mentors are so important, so that they can say, “Just keep going, just keep going.” I applaud everything that you’re doing. I can imagine that working for you and with you can be difficult at times, because you probably demand a certain level of, not perfection, because perfection doesn’t exist, but professionalism. You will help everyone get there as long as they’re willing to do what it takes. I wish that everyone that came through the forum had a leader like you, that was one, invested in them and two, not just saying that, but actually putting the backbone into making sure that they get the opportunities and then the support to be successful because there is nothing worse than that.

Patty Roze: When I think about leadership in general, for me, one of the main reasons why I do this is to help other people become successful. That’s one of the main reasons why I got into leadership. I am always striving for that next achievement level. To your comment around difficult, I would say that I have high expectations. I have high expectations around helping people achieve that next achievement level. That’s not always easy. In fact, I just met with one of my teams this last week, and I just said, “Hey, I’m going to push you because I believe in your potential.” At times when I push people, it could be uncomfortable because it is pushing people out of their comfort zone. One of my mottos in life has always been, you got to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

In order to achieve a next-level status or a next-level position, you’re going to have to be uncomfortable. Sometimes that is accepting real time feedback that maybe you don’t want to hear. I’ve received some crunchy feedback from different mentors and coaches that I’ve had along the way, where you feel like you want to get a little bit defensive about what they’re telling you, but at the same time, when you think about it and you process it, you’re like, “Wow, they’re right.” That’s really a great perspective to consider. That creates the self-awareness. I really try to take all of those different components and instill that with inside my team. My belief is that’s how you take a team that’s good, you take them from good to great.

Gina Stracuzzi: Absolutely, and building the environment to allow for that is what’s crucial and it certainly sounds like you have done. I’m standing here thinking, I really want you to come talk to the forum at some point because everything that you say is what we hope they leave with. With the, take those chances, ask for support, go for what you want. Give air to your ambitions, give air to your fears if you’ve got a safe environment.

Patty Roze: That’s exactly right. Tami Erwin, our Group CEO for Verizon Business Group, makes the statement on a regular basis. Leadership is a profession. When you think about any profession you practice at it. Leadership is really no different. You have to practice at it. I am a better leader than what I was 10 years ago. I have all of these different key learnings because of maybe mistakes I made or failures that I had along the way that then take you from that good to great leader. Always know that no matter how long you’ve been in leadership, it’s always going to take practice. It’s a profession.

When you take that approach, I do personally believe that puts you in a growth mindset where you’re always willing to be self-aware of yourself, how do others perceive you? Do you have the right intentions as a leader? I think that sets the tone and the motion forward as an example. I’ve always been a big believer in leading by example. Don’t ask others to do anything that you wouldn’t be willing to do. I am known to be that leader, Gina, that will get in the trenches and I’ll roll my sleeves up. That’s the important work that we do as leaders. When you set the tone and the pace and you lead by example, it has a meaningful impact on the people that are around you.

Gina Stracuzzi: The intentionality of your approach is obvious. I can see how it could be so vitally important to building a strong team. I must say, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Tami. I hope one day to have a chance to meet her and I might even invite her to join us at The Women in Sales Leadership Conference. From everything I’ve heard, she is just a phenomenal leader and a real ally to other women in sales leadership. I just can’t wait to meet her at this point.

Patty Roze: She’s amazing. I can’t say enough good things about her. I feel honored to have the opportunity to be under her leadership and under her organization. I’ve learned so many wonderful things from her about how she thinks about leadership, how she shows up on behalf of women. You think about women in leadership, you think about women in technology. She is a true role model and is doing so many different wonderful things for women in general.

Gina Stracuzzi: She sounds remarkable. We’re getting to the end of our conversation, unfortunately. I’m sure we could continue this for some time. We always like to leave our listeners with one recommendation from our guest, one thing that they can put into action today that will help them advance their career. What would you like to share with us?

Patty Roze:  I get the question of, “Hey, what do you think it takes to get promoted?” There’s three things that I would tell you that I think are really, really critical in advancing to the next level. Number one, first and foremost, you have to be really good in your current job. Do not ever forego being good in your current job, because you are chasing down a next-level title. I’m firm believer in you should never be a title chaser. You should only go where you feel you can add value or the company feels like you can add value. Make sure that you’re really good in your current role, but also, don’t count on that to get you to the next level either.

You’ve got to build the right network. I would encourage everyone to take a look at your existing network. Is it with inside your traditional workgroup as it sits today? Or do you have people that are outside of your traditional workgroup where you’ve built a network that has diversity across the different levels of the business? Then personal brand. What do people say about you? How are you perceived as an individual?  My challenge would be, go out, ask a few people, “Hey, what’s your perception of me? How would you describe me?” That’s going to give you insight on what that personal brand looks like for you.

Then the other thing I would just encourage people to think about is all of these things fold into, is it the right time to go to the next level? Sometimes the timing doesn’t always work out. I think you have to think about what does the timing of a next-level position look like for me in the short, mid and then long term? When all of those things come together and you’re intentional about achieving the next level, I think that’s a recipe for success. I found it to be very, very helpful for not only myself, but I’ve watched it be helpful for others with Inside Verizon.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s great advice and a perfect way to end our conversation. Thank you so very much, Patty, for your time. It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you. I know you brought a lot of value to our audience. I hope you come back sometime and speak with us again. Thank you, everyone. We’ll see you next week.

Patty Roze: Awesome. Thank you, Gina.

Gina Stracuzzi: Thank you. Bye-bye.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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