Cingular Wireless (Atlanta, GA) is a joint venture between the domestic wireless divisions of the new AT&T; (formerly SBC) and BellSouth. EE Martha Ventura joined SBC in 1988, when it was first beginning, and she's been part of Cingular since the joint venture was established in 2001. She's grown along with the companies, and today she's executive director of network operations in the Los Angeles, CA market.
It was the challenge of being part of a new company that attracted Ventura.
"It was an opportunity to build from the ground up," she says. "It was a little scary, but very liberating, and we accomplished it!"
She started with SBC as a switch engineer. The job meant a lot of travel in Southern California and Nevada, making sure all the company's switches were installed and working properly.
By 1995 she was regional manager for switch/transport equipment implementation, which put her in charge of the team she used to work on. She was also responsible for switch and transport equipment installation, testing and integration, and cell site facility ordering, provisioning and billing.
In 1999 she became director of network ops. Now she was responsible for network cell site and switch/transport ops and maintenance. She oversaw nearly a hundred people including eight direct-report managers.
The exec director job
Ventura started her current job in 2003. It puts her in charge of about 200 employees. They include radio frequency engineers, who design cell sites and are responsible for their performance; new site deployment folks; the ops and maintenance group; and the implementation group, which is responsible for all switches and transports and all changes in the network.
She loves the work and the variety each day brings. She'll often go out in the field to meet with a team on site and check the status of a new project. Cingular develops about 200 new sites annually in a geographic area like hers.
Ventura got her BSEE from the University of California-Los Angeles. She worked as an intern at Hughes Aircraft Co for three years during college, and on graduating she worked for Pacific Bell for seven years. Then she moved to SBC.
"You have to like what you do"
Wireless, and engineering in general, are great fields, Ventura believes. "You have to work hard but that doesn't matter if you like what you do. There are great opportunities for women because there aren't a lot of them in this field."
Management was not on her mind when she began her career. But one challenge led to another, she performed to the best of her abilities, and that opened the door to advancement. "I focused on my job, did it well and took advantage of the opportunities I was given," she says.
In her management role, Ventura enjoys helping others improve their job performances. "My job has changed over time. I have more responsibility now and less technical work, but I like to see others develop their careers and to answer their questions," she says.
Ventura's father came to the U.S. from Mexico, and her mother from Nicaragua. The oldest of three children, she was born and raised in Los Angeles, and spoke only Spanish until she got to school.
Today she enjoys living in Los Angeles with Fernando, her husband of seventeen years, and their three kids, Christopher, sixteen, Jeannine, thirteen and Nicholas, ten.
She admits that work and family don't leave her much time for anything else. But she doesn't mind; that's plenty.