For all the ways global brands are currently dominating the telecom sector, there remains plenty of space for small businesses to achieve success within their own respective markets. Such has certainly been what Kelly Hopp discovered in her 11 years working at Altitude Communications, a Wildix Partner in Alberta, Canada.
In this edition of “Women in Tech,” we spoke with Kelly about what brought her to her unique position at Altitude, and what she’s been achieving in her role.
Perhaps what speaks most to the unique nature of Kelly’s work at Altitude is the fact that her exact position is difficult to pin down.
“My title depends on the day,” she explained with a laugh, “but my official title is Marketing Manager.”
Specifically, this means Kelly is responsible for a wide range of leadership duties that spans marketing, sales and relationship management. This includes oversight of the Altitude website, managing the partner and internal sales programs, client support and closing sales deals.
Interestingly, these were not responsibilities that Kelly immediately took up upon joining Altitude, but rather positions that she took charge of as needed.
“When you work for a small organization, you find that, in order to be successful, you have
to wear many hats,” she clarified. “I’m very extroverted, and I’ve always found it really natural to move into sales and marketing, especially as it relates to the people aspects. That’s how I took on the responsibility for the partner program: we as a management team identified the need for this work, and I saw it as strategic and something we needed to develop internally.”
The expanded role Kelly began to play at Altitude wasn’t the only unexpected turn in her career path. In fact, her entering the telecom industry at all was an unplanned development.
“I studied graphic arts, and over time became very interested in marketing,” she said. “Telecom opened up to me via networking, and I started at one of the major Canadian telecom companies. I gained great experience in various roles, ultimately taking on a leadership position. Then, I realized that I wanted something with more flexibility and creativity — something I knew I would find in a smaller start-up organization.”
Working Toward Growth
As one may expect from a professional who took on such a shift in career trajectory, Kelly thrives on change. Notably, this includes recognizing the need to stay up to date with the latest technology trends, as this has immediate significance in her primary roles of sales, marketing and relationship management.
“To be taken seriously in this world and to actually be successful, you need to educate yourself on technology,” she emphasized. “I am confident in my technical knowledge and can advise clients as I understand their requirements. I personally think it is important to my clients that I can understand their needs and help them find solutions.”
Naturally, Kelly also seeks greater knowledge within her own immediate roles. But pursuing this growth hasn’t been without obstacles.
“The one thing that’s interesting about working for a small business is ensuring that you still find mentors,” she explained. “I would say that has been challenging for me, as I don’t have access to formal mentorship that large companies provide to employees. It’s a bit different inside a small organization, since that means I have to be creative to ensure that I can be a mentor as well as have access to strong mentors of my own.”
Fortunately, Kelly also has a number of such mentors to seek out and learn from. Asked who she seeks out to continue growing professionally, she answered:
“More local, high-level females in the corporate world. I’ve been really lucky to have been introduced to a couple of directors and executives in larger organizations that have been very willing to share their knowledge and information about process and people management.
“I also look to business podcasts and books for inspiration. One of my favorite writers is Brene Brown; I read a lot of her material and find that I can integrate my learnings into my work.”
Kelly cites these individuals in particular because she finds fellow businesswomen to be an especially significant source of inspiration:
“I think that it’s important for women to be able to hold each other up as we achieve success in high tech companies. We are still outnumbered, and I celebrate every female who makes a difference through sheer tenacity and hard work. There are a lot of really smart women coming up, and I want them to have a great road to travel in this industry.”
In some ways, Kelly sees a personal element in this desire to elevate other women, particularly as she reflects on her own career.
“If I could look back on myself 10 years ago and just tell myself, ‘hold yourself high and be confident in who you are,’ it would have been so helpful to me now,” she said. “You learn so much every decade of your career, and this has definitely been the ‘own your confidence’ decade.”
However, this desire for inspiration also stems from some negatives Kelly has faced as a woman in tech.
“As a female in a male-dominated industry, I am lucky to work with some great male colleagues and customers. But there have been times in my career when it has been harder to to be taken as seriously as I’d like.”
Overcoming this this attitude hasn’t always been a simple matter, either, she explained:
“It’s that balance of being able to assert yourself and explain your value, while also maintaining professionalism and confidence. I think that it can be challenging for females in their careers, especially in leadership roles where you constantly seek the balance of coming across as strong but not aggressive.”
Balance in her role is something that Kelly similarly works to achieve through smart working — although, she stresses that “balance” isn’t the word she likes to use to frame the idea.
“One of the most important things is what I like to call ‘work-life flow,'” she explained. “Because ‘balance’ is a funny word; I don’t know what that means to every individual person. I like the idea that you can have a ‘flow’ to your life, when your family needs are high, you can spend more time supporting them, versus when you’re really busy at work, you can spend the time required at home in the evening working.
“There’s a flow to how you manage your time,” she emphasized. “You’re constantly finding the ways to make it all work.”
The model of smart working in particular has helped her in achieving this flow, as well as how Altitude specifically has the model set up.
“Smart working allows for that flexibility, especially when you have a corporate culture that promotes trust.” she said. “We at Altitude have always been a really flexible organization and have always had the ability to work from home. One of my favorite things to do, pre-Covid, was to spend half a day in a coffee shop, really focused on a particular project.”
Of course, Kelly also elaborated that a smart working setup has certain requirements:
“It requires a lot of trust, and access to the right tools. When you’re not all sitting in an office space together, you need to be able to instant message each other, to jump on a video chat and see each other’s faces, and sometimes bring everybody together for a huddle. All that has to happen virtually right now — thank goodness we have the tools!”
But smart working has done more for Altitude than internal improvements. Kelly also described it as a significant opportunity for her company:
“There were a lot of important clients saying, ‘we didn’t have our remote working plan in place, and now it has to happen, so how do we do that?’ We definitely got busier, and have some really amazing success stories, with both large and small companies working with us to set them up in a remote environment. We have literally turned up systems in two days, as well as trained people to set up teams to work from home.”
Notably, Wildix has also played a significant role in these ongoing efforts.
“As a company, we’ve been really excited about the relationship with Wildix, and about Wildix as a unified communications tool for us to sell and support,” Kelly said. “It’s been amazing, and through these challenging months it has been our go-to recommendation because it does such a good job of enabling smart working from wherever you need. Even from the tech standpoint, just the ability to set everything up remotely in the back end has been absolutely phenomenal for Altitude. It gave us a huge amount of confidence with our clients to be able to set them up and help them so quickly.
“The fact that the company works like we do, where you guys are very flexible and you quickly adapt to your partner’s requirements, that makes things really easy for us,” she emphasized.
As a professional in the tech sector, Kelly naturally also has her mind on the future of the telecommunications industry.
“I think that we always knew, in the tech world, that the cloud was going to make it to the forefront of the industry,” she said. “Altitude’s been excited about the cloud world for about seven years and officially managing cloud systems for at least five years now. So I would say that our company and our personality is that of early adopters; we are always excited about trialing new technology!”
As for her own future, Kelly sees a lasting career at Altitude, albeit with more responsibilities and leadership aspects.
“I’m always looking ahead, and I’ve been really enjoying my ‘work-life flow’ with Altitude and young children and the way of the world right now,” she said. “I see some really exciting growth for the company in the next few years, and my vision is to have a small team of sales reps to manage, a partner program running and the company growing at the right pace.
“That’s how I hope to see the next couple of years going for me: we have a good story to tell about the growth and success of this small business. Hopefully, I can say that I was an integral part of that.”
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