Women in Leadership 2: Sonal A. Patel

Sonal A. Patel leads marketing for Verizon Partner Solutions and is responsible for developing the winning strategy and vision for the global wholesale business unit, and management of Verizon Wholesale’s product portfolio to drive revenue growth, gain market share and also inspire thought leadership through the development of key partnerships, targeting new customer segments and launching new products and services. Patel’s prior cross-functional experiences span business operations, finance, accounting and sales operations with focus on Consumer & Business segments.

You have held various roles in your career spanning various functions including marketing, business operations, finance, accounting and sales operations. Can you share with us what your journey has been like and what has been the most rewarding part of your career thus far?

Looking back on my 20+ year career, I can say that it has been an unexpected journey full of lots of wrong turns, bumps in the road and some windy conditions. But, it has been a valuable journey that I would not trade, because I learned a lot about myself and what type of work I find rewarding.

Right after college, I started my career with a dotcom company based in Massachusetts. That experience opened my eyes to the various ways an organization and a team can come together to run a business. From there I moved into Financial Planning & Analysis, where I had an opportunity complete my MBA. Eventually I moved into Telecommunications, and at Verizon I have held a variety marketing roles. My work at Verizon, along with my earlier experiences, has led me to find a deeper understanding of how to run a business when facing an assortment of environments, teams and resources.

Verizon has been instrumental in contributing towards Diversity and Inclusion, can you share with our readers Verizon’s vision and achievements towards this cause.

Verizon has made amazing strides as a global citizen in the areas of environmental and social efforts, such as protecting the climate, gender equality and racial equality. For example, Verizon has a variety of Employee Resource Groups such as WAVE (Women’s Association), BOLD (Black Originators Leaders and Doers) and VALOR (Veterans and Advocates Leading the Organization Responsibly). Verizon also was listed by Working Mother Magazine as one of the top companies for Executive Women and Multicultural Women based on its Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices.

In Verizon Partner Solutions, which is the wholesale arm for Verizon, I am responsible for the Marketing organization. We too have been hard at work trying to drive positive change in the industry. Recently Verizon Partner Solutions won the Global Women in Telco & Tech (GWTT) Award for Best Company for our work in closing the gender diversity gap in partnership work with the Global Leaders Forum. These are some of the reasons I am proud to work for Verizon.

How do you envision diversity and inclusion to change in the coming years? Where do you foresee the industry going from here; how many years do you think it will take to evolve and grow to achieve gender parity?

Companies will need to be more purposeful in the way they strategize to attract, retain and develop talent.  Verizon for example, has set up programs like WAVE, as mentioned before, as well as the Women of the World (WOW) program. These programs provide female employees at Verizon the opportunity to develop their skills while being paired with a mentor who can help guide them in their individual path to growth. As companies focus more on inclusion and engagement, I believe that it will help drive diversity of thought, which helps businesses make better decisions that will lead to tangible results. 

In today’s day and age, with companies able to serve a global customer base through the use of technology, diversity in companies is needed to better represent the diversity of that customer base. I wish I could look in a crystal ball and say ‘tomorrow’ there will be gender parity, but these programs/initiatives take time to build, implement and foster. They also evolve and adapt, improve over time. Diversity and Inclusion will eventually move from a discussion and a movement, to being part of the journey. It will become the DNA of an organization.

Patel with her husband Amit, and two boys Devin and Dylan

What message do you have for young women who are looking to join this industry?

That is a great question! I believe in the mentorship motto “If you can see her, you can be her”. There are so many opportunities within technology, and the more exposure in communities and media that young women can see, will help spark curiosity to also ‘be her’.

Given your success in the industry, what in your opinion are the main drivers to bring about new technological advancements and growth in digital infrastructure?

One of the main drivers that comes to mind would be the increased movement towards virtualization and automation. I also believe that the industry is paying close attention to the growing need for instant information. There also is a rising demand for more personalization, cost effectiveness, convenience and availability of on-demand services for both consumers and businesses. So, I would say that digital transformation of the customer experience is one of the main drivers of growth in the digital infrastructure space. 

What are your passions beyond work life? How do you balance work and personal life?

Well, I love to travel and spend time with family and friends. I actually have a bucket list of places I want to visit, so I can learn more about different cultures in various parts of the world. I enjoy sports-primarily the ones my children play—baseball, basketball and football. I also enjoy charity work-primarily supporting youth sports, children’s cancer awareness programs as well mentoring students in technology and career development, through avenues like Built by Girls.

I will say that balance between personal and professional is truly about integration and time management, so I use my calendar to plan my days whether they are meetings, personal appointments or just making sure I have dedicated time for each activity. I try to stay to my true start/end times so I do not cause delays in other people’s work/life balance. 

I truly believe that I can have it all. It just takes confidence and really good time management to balance everything. One day, I hope to take both my personal and professional learnings into teaching; whether it is kindergarten or college professor, or somewhere in between. My contribution in this lifetime will be far more than my resume, and I want to reach as many people as I can.  I hope to inspire more than my two boys, Devin & Dylan, in the legacy I leave behind.