When faced with a career opportunity, is your inclination to go for it or to question your qualifications? Having the confidence to put yourself out there, whether you have the exact matching skill set or not, is one of the best learning opportunities there is according to Sharon Leal, Alorica’s Director, Operations based in San Antonio, Texas.
Sharon did just that 18 years ago when she took a “leap of faith” and joined the BPO industry–and she hasn’t looked back since. She’s a huge believer in speaking up, asking questions, and helping others achieve career growth. Read her full Q&A below:
Q: How have mentors helped you in your career?
A: I’ve always had great mentors. Early in my career, a mentor told me, “don’t expect what you don’t inspect.” Don’t assume everyone will do what they say and to the level you want. Another mentor gave me the advice: “listen to understand.” We sit and we listen, but do we really understand? Ask clarifying questions if you need to so you can lead and be successful.
Q: Can you share an example of how asking questions helped you to succeed?
A: When I got the call back on my application for this company, I asked to speak to someone who was currently in this position, and I spoke to that person for an hour and a half. And when they called me back and offered me the site director position, I asked what training they were going to give me. They sent me to Omaha for 6 weeks. I went through agent training, I took calls, I sat with the QA team, I sat with network control and workforce management. I wanted to be set up for success, to have credibility, and relate to the team I was going to manage. You can’t be afraid to ask, and asking isn’t a weakness.
Q: Do you think there is still a glass ceiling? Why or why not?
A: I was told at my previous job when I got to a director level that I was only promoted because they needed to hire a woman. I told them I don’t agree, I have worked really hard, I earned this position, and it wasn’t just given to me. I don’t see this at Alorica. Females can underestimate themselves, and sometimes aren’t confident enough to say, “I want to move to the next level.” I’ve never been shy about that. Show your confidence, shake a hand, stand up, and show that you know your business.
Q: What aspects of the company stand out to you as an employee?
A: My goal is to continue to learn everything Alorica has available to us. I’m on the board of directors of MLBA, and I love that we can help employees. I love everything Alorica is doing with social media—that continues to promote our company and shows that they care about their employees. Culture is very important. There are 25 other call centers in San Antonio, but people choose to work for us because we have an environment that people enjoy.
Q: How do you inspire others to grow in their careers?
A: When I am mentoring or working with someone, I find out where they want to go and what they need to do that. You’ve got to have goals, work hard, and not wait on opportunities, even if you’re not an exact match. I’ll do a mock interview with you, and I’ll look at your credentials. Sometimes people want a bachelor’s degree—but, well, I don’t have one! But if you have experience and show your results, you may be the most qualified candidate. Don’t be afraid to apply, and learn from the experience.