FOCUS ON VALUE: I have had the pleasure of working closely with amazing entrepreneurs who have shown me that rather than focusing on a specific task in the job requirement, continuously asking how or what value the task will add gives a great sense to the task and makes accomplishing it have purpose.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zaida Nuñez. Zaida is the Director of Operations and Channel Strategy at Sprint. She is responsible for the analysis and development of sales and strategic initiatives across the Digital Business unit. She also supports development of the overall business plan to achieve financial targets, including business case completion, market analytics and implementation of best practices of business strategy. Zaida started at Sprint in 2016, serving as the director of IVR and Digital Adoption before accepting her current role in January 2018. Before joining Sprint, Zaida most recently was the vice president of customer care at Digitel Venezuela. In that role she unified customer care areas into one division and increased the self-service channel, which resulted in having 99% of all customer care transactions being managed in a cost-efficient, reliable and highly-rated channel. Prior to that, she served as vice president of commercial operations at Movida Communications and director of accessories at Brightstar. Zaida graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a bachelor’s degree in communications. She is an avid marathoner, having completed 18 half marathons, 10 marathons and four ultramarathons. She also enjoys rock climbing and skydiving.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Zaida! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Telecommunications has been part of my world since I was born. In Venezuela, my grandfather owned and operated a telecommunications enterprise that built the towers connecting the television stations and represented companies like RCA, Motorola, Phillips and the logistics and distribution for cellular companies. After I graduated college (University of Colorado Boulder) I spent my first eight years working for a BellSouth joint venture in Venezuela. I have been in love with the industry ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began current role at Sprint?
I think the most interesting have also been the biggest opportunities to blend the cultural divides. Going from a leader in the telecommunications industry in Venezuela, to working for a Miami-based distributor focused on Latin America to launching a MVNO and then working for Sprint — each one of the drastic changes in roles within each very different company has armed me with a capability to be fast and resilient in our constantly changing industry. Those experiences have shaped the executive I am today who seeks roles that have that constant evolution as part of their DNA.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you first started? What lesson did you learn from that?
When I arrived in Venezuela after graduating from CU Boulder, I was in charge of the purchasing department. I would sometime pretend to not speak English to have the suppliers discuss pricing and then ask for the lower price based on their discussions. It was fun while it lasted since I was not able to keep it up for long.
When I started working in Venezuela, I had been living in the U.S. for 10 years and getting accustomed to speaking Spanish 90% of the time was not as easy as I thought. I would find myself speaking English in meetings and was shortly after named “the Venezuelan Gringa.”
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As we continue on the journey of our digital transformation, we remained focused on empowering the connected lifestyle, providing the best value in wireless connectivity, and bringing our customers the most formidable devices that drive their digital lives. We are determined to be a leader in the digital space and provide our customers the best customer experiences possible.
Making things simple for our customers requires orchestration and innovation behind the scenes. First, we are using artificial intelligence to power our customers and employees. Second, our data-driven website allows our team to test, learn and optimize experiences at scale.
Sprint is ramping up its rollout of a cutting-edge intelligent customer experience leveraging AI and analytics. We are leveraging AI through AI-assisted chats, where nearly 30 percent of chats are handled by virtual agents — up from only 4 percent just a few months ago. We have even enabled AI within the My Sprint app so customers can use the chat function to make and schedule payments and manage their wallet. AI chats are wonderful because the bots are constantly learning customer behavior. We can deliver better, faster results, and we can resolve customer concerns. They also allow our care agents to focus on the most important and complicated customer issues and invest the time necessary to resolve them.
A data-driven website allows us to offer the most relevant experience and marketing campaigns to specific customer segments. We regularly test and improve the digital platform based on our data insights. We continue to push the envelope of one to moment personalized experiences, and we will continue to lean into machine learning to power the experience and exponentially enhance the number of combinations we can launch and learn from.
For example, we recently ran two small test groups to see which purchase flow works best when customers add Sprint Complete, Sprint’s equipment protection program, to their plan. The team learned that the original design needed more visuals. Therefore, we added more images to make Sprint Complete simpler and easier so customers could better understand its benefits.
Leveraging AI and a data-driven website clearly puts Sprint in a leadership position for digital sales in our industry. With these new digital capabilities, we are making it easier for customers to engage with Sprint. These capabilities also mean that customers get the same information and high-quality experience, regardless of which channel they choose or what they’re trying to accomplish.
Our focus on innovation will enable us to develop the ‘digital muscle’ that’s critical to our transformation.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’ve been a part of the development of The Hive, an integrated hub employing a data-driven approach to initiative prioritization and execution. The Hive acts as a digital accelerator, leveraging talent from across Sprint to realize value for digital. It provides cross-channel collaboration and alignment on core channel strategy for Sprint and enhances visibility to Sprint’s digital capabilities in market. With The Hive, we are able to create new ways of working internally, including knowledge sharing, summits and an enhanced physical presence.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their teams thrive?
Focus on adding value to everything you do. By focusing on how what we do adds value, we have been able to excel in delivering our results.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Team — Together Everyone Achieves More — is really about focusing on the North Star that the team is working toward and then focusing the collective team to deliver against that target. Have [key performance indicators] that align the team toward the common goal and frequent touchpoint that show how we are tracking. Give the team the open communication channels to voice any concerns and/or support they might need in achieving the KPIs.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been fortunate to have worked with three amazing entrepreneurs: [President Corporacion Digitel Venezuela heir to the Cisneros Group] Oswaldo Cisneros, [Sprint Executive Chairman] Marcelo Claure and [Sprint Chief Digital Officer] Rob Roy. Their focus on the end result, the North Star, in order to achieve success with the proven track record, as well as their trust and opportunities, have opened my career path to continuously deliver outstanding results.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Building the Sprint running team and getting 200-plus runners to run the San Francisco Half Marathon was one of the key highlights from a cross-functional perspective of bringing goodness to the Sprint world. We built a training plan, weekend runs, found a mission to run for the 1Million Project and found sponsors to enable the team to run in one of the most challenging half-marathons in the U.S.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- RESILIENCE: Every change in country and job responsibility has given me the opportunity to make the most of the new situations.
- FIND THE OPPORTUNITY IN EVERY CHALLENGE: Whether going from training for a 5K race to completing an ultramarathon, every challenge offers us opportunity to build a path to success.
- FOCUS ON VALUE: I have had the pleasure of working closely with amazing entrepreneurs who have shown me that rather than focusing on a specific task in the job requirement, continuously asking how or what value the task will add gives a great sense to the task and makes accomplishing it have purpose.
- BALANCE: The Ying-Yang, Work-Family, Work-Fitness I build my everyday plan in a balance of elements has helped me with each of the elements. The more I have on my daily plate, the more I have to balance between them and I love having a 360 goal in the end.
- BE YOURSELF: Finding those things that make you unique and building on those as strengths is also a key component of my DNA.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Being able to be an example of being a powerful, proud and successful Latina.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Just Do It!”
Rather than make excuses for their failures, resilient people learn from each mistake.
They identify skills, ideas and life lessons that can be gained from each failed opportunity.
Some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S., with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is always at the cutting edge of business trends.