6th July 2022

How I Learnt to Own My Future

Maria Bartolome
Head of National Network Deployment

I think there are many ways to develop a career in engineering – it depends on your personal motivations and the direction you want to go in. The most important thing is to just keep learning. Stay informed about the market movements of other companies in the industry, keep abreast of new technologies and economic trends and stay up to date on the evolutions of the networks you manage.

In my case, I have always been interested in management and people development. In addition to studying engineering, I have done Masters in Finance, Marketing and Leadership, and I am also certified as a Coach by the ICF. Thanks to Vodafone’s training programmes, I have had access to an extensive portfolio of courses and learning opportunities.

From intern to Head of Network at Vodafone

Throughout my career at Vodafone, I’ve had the courage to accept challenges and been fortunate to have the confidence of my bosses, who offered me opportunities for growth. Vodafone is a great company, and the possibilities are very varied – you just have to go for them! The culture of continuous improvement, learning and talent management are fundamental pillars that support professional development within the company.

I started here as an intern in 2003. Since then, I have had different positions within the Network team. My career has been linked to the entire mobile and fixed network lifecycle – from design and deployment to optimisation and maintenance – always with a focus on operational excellence, efficiency, continuous improvement and customer satisfaction.

Over the years I have been trusted by the company to occupy different leadership positions and worked in different locations from Madrid to Barcelona and Milan. For me, everything makes sense when it is done as a team. I am very people-oriented and I place a lot of importance on developing both my own and my team’s talent.

Becoming the master of my own destiny

At Vodafone I have had managers and peers I could trust to help me chart my progress, and outside the company I’ve had mentors who have helped me at crucial moments. I would encourage everyone to seek out these role models in their environment and have honest conversations with them. 

There is one moment in particular in which this external support was especially important. I was 35 years old, had applied for the position of Head of Network in Barcelona and was starting my life from scratch in a new city. For a few reasons, I just didn’t feel in control of my own future.

However, I ended up having a session with my coach who, far from being empathetic and understanding, was tough and challenging – and it was the best coaching session of my life! After that, I managed to fit the pieces of my puzzle together and truly felt that I was steering my own ship.

Believing in yourself is the key

Today I am very proud to have belonged to the teams of pioneers at Vodafone who launched new technologies ahead of the competition; 3G, 4G, 5G. I have led operational and cultural transformation projects in the different teams I have managed and led negotiations with third parties to achieve significant benefits for Vodafone in both operational efficiency and cost.

If you’re trying to build your career in STEM – especially as a woman where you can feel outnumbered in this industry – my best advice is simply to believe in yourself. Continuously work on bettering yourself every day and improving your knowledge and skills and take on challenges and opportunities that will make you grow. Ultimately, it’s up to you to ask for what you want and to be the owner of your future – my own experience is a testament to that.