In a very impelling interview, Rita Mokbel, head of global sales at Ericsson, shared to Telecom Review her background, skills, and growth opportunities within the ICT sector, as well as her advice to those who want to excel in their careers and self-development journeys.
Always being innovative, aiming high, and empowering the people around her made Rita develop confidence and competence, be courageous and bold, and work alongside positive people. She also pointed out that people and culture lie at the heart of organizational performance and typically drive both success and failure.
Can you share with us your professional background within the ICT sector?
In my 12 years at Ericsson, I have worked in more than 40 countries and have had multiple regional and global senior and leadership roles in sales and operations. In all of these, the expectations for growth and turnaround were high — driving me to always be innovative, aim high and empower those around me.
I was selected for Ericsson’s top sales/performance competition twice, have led complex digital transformation, and turned around or grew accounts and global business. I have also built and led a team of commercial and sales professionals in operations.
I am also passionate about angel investments, investing in new technology startups, mentoring, and coaching entrepreneurs.
I have a Ph.D. in Financial Engineering and two master’s degrees in Electrical & Electronics Engineering (Telecommunications & Informatics) and Modelling & Computer Simulation as well as executive program certifications from Oxford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in fintech and artificial intelligence.
Dealing with sales, fintech, and business operations/management, what are the key skills you have that helped you lead and manage various roles?
In my career journey at Ericsson, I have learned to develop confidence and competence, to be courageous and bold, to lean in as well as to work with positive people. Not to forget the following key skills:
Think like our customer. My team and I focus on being a partner of value, think from the customer’s perspective, anticipate future needs, and look for solutions before the problems grow. At Ericsson, we are committed to ensuring our customers have the best possible experience.
Fierce execution and striving for excellence. You don’t win on emotion; you win on execution and integrity. I have led complex negotiations and transformations and have been in several roles where expectations for growth or turnaround were high. I had to project confidence, optimism, a can-do spirit, and a must-do resolve, and this made a difference.
Competency. Competence is confidence, it ensures trust and credibility to create real partnerships. It’s about asking the right questions and focusing on how a solution works so I can explain it with the depth required. Competence also requires being a life-long student whether by reading, attending new courses, and trainings or jumping into new assignments that help me develop new competence.
Courage. You can be competent in your role, but you need to build up the courage to lean in and speak up, to be ready to take on new challenges, to dare to ask for what you deserve, or to dream big. Robert Iger says, ‘’Don’t be in the business of playing it safe. Be in the business of creating possibilities for greatness.’’
Communication. You cannot over-invest in communication. If you want people to accept your original ideas, you need to speak up. It is also valuable to keep the team and customers engaged. Public speaking is also a great opportunity to share knowledge, learn and build global networks.
Consistency. Being consistent is a core leadership skill – this creates confidence in stakeholders as well as team members. Employees want to be led by genuine leaders who walk the talk.
Showing passion for new technologies, company transformation, and team development, what are the most challenging growth opportunities you have encountered? How did it influence you?
Ensure you have the best team. Value ability more than experience and put people in roles that require more of them than they know they have in them. It is about believing you and the people around you can steer towards the best outcomes.
Demonstrate leadership and ensure strong partnership with our customers. In one of my roles, we had a customer who was unhappy with his operations. I spoke with him and his team directly, took the time to listen to their concern, built a detailed corrective plan, and most importantly executed that plan. It is best to take these discussions head-on. In this case, it led to quick wins for our customer and cemented our relationship even further.
Continuous learning. My passion for new technology instills in me a big curiosity to learn about those new technologies such as financial engineering, fintech, artificial intelligence, or working with startups on innovation, etc. This has opened a lot of new growth opportunities for me in my career.
As you seem to wander around the digital world, what core values do you follow to keep up and deliver your tasks/responsibilities and individual interests?
It is no secret that the organization’s culture guides the way employees behave and work. People and culture lie at the heart of organizational performance and typically drive both success and failure. The key is to understand how your employees prefer to work. By fostering this type of cultural change, the digital workplace should ensure, first, open communication to make sure the right information reaches employees especially with a global team, and second, collaboration to solve business problems and operate productively through ways of working that enhance the employees’ ability to work together and feel empowered.
As a woman, how would you encourage fellow women to go beyond their limits and excel in their careers and self-development journeys?
Be strong, courageous, and bold. Whether in sharing your ideas or stepping into new challenges, the accelerating speed of change means you cannot play it safe anymore.
Always look for opportunities to learn. Nothing is more important than investing in yourself to stand out from the pack. It is important that you are the go-to person and an expert in the area in which you choose to focus.
Integrity. Without integrity, none of the other steps will matter. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. Integrity should be part of everyone’s DNA in business as much as privately.
Work with people who are positive and who believe in you. Throughout my career, I have worked with great leaders, mentors, and colleagues from whom I have learned a lot and whose support was key for my success in every step. Show value and you will be amazed how much people are willing to advocate for you.
Do the right things and believe in yourself. I was raised in a family where gender was not a differentiator. And work has further increased my belief that it is never about your gender, it is about your contribution.
Stay focused and in the moment. It is important to know how to find the balance to do well at the job that you have and find the right moment to look for opportunities to pitch in and grow. Make yourself one of the people, through attitude, energy, and focus, that your bosses turn to you when an opportunity arises.
Be authentic, optimistic, and don’t let your ego guide you. No one wants to follow a pessimist or someone who is not authentic. Statistics show that employee production increases by 20% where authenticity is encouraged.