The corporate environment may never have been more challenging than it is today. Downsizing, outsourcing, restructuring, and reorganization have become the norm for most people in the corporate world, no matter what industry they are in. So how do you survive, let alone thrive through the changes that have become a routine part of corporate life?
Instead of approaching change as something to be feared, you must look at it as just a new chapter that is starting, says Shaheena Arshad-Trijillo, who will speak at the next meeting of the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals (CAMP). The March “Power Hour” will be Thursday, March 1, at 7 p.m. at the Shahi Palace, 2495 Route 1, Lawrenceville. Cost: $15. More information can be found at CAMP-online.org.
CAMP, founded in 1994 in Chicago as a professional networking organization, has grown to chapters in five areas, including New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. The organization currently has approximately 7,200 members.
Arshad-Trijillo is director of operations engineering at Comcast, where she has been employed for the past nine years. Her position allows her to combine her two interests: working with processes and working with people.
“I always liked math and science and problem solving. I liked logic and I knew I wanted to be an engineer,” she says. Surprisingly, her family was against her career choice. “My father was a doctor and he wanted me to go into medicine. We fought about that. My uncle was an engineer and he, too, tried to dissuade me from my choice.”
But Arshad-Trijillo won out and graduated from Rutgers with a bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1992 and received a master’s degree, also from Rutgers, in 1994. “It was tough to be a girl in an engineering class, and often I was the only one. All the men assumed I knew nothing — even when I knew more than they did.”
She was attracted to industrial engineering because it would allow her to work with people, rather than just machines. “I didn’t want to just sit isolated at a computer all day,” she says. Her interest in working with both processes and people led her eventually to move to network engineering.
After graduating, she worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and then moved to MCI Worldcom, working in process development along with her engineering duties on the network side. MCI Worldcom sent her to London to start the group’s European counterpart, where she was able to combine her academic background with networking.
Her love of people has also led her to volunteer work. Since 2001 she has been an advocate for women experiencing domestic violence, including working in-depth with women to help them set up new lives and even accompanying them to court for support. “Working with these women has helped me to understand different backgrounds and viewpoints and respect them, even when they are different from my own,” she says.
At Comcast Arshad-Trijillo has worked to highlight inefficient processes and offer solutions to streamline them. In the past two years Arshad-Trijillo’s group at Comcast has developed an operational readiness model designed to ensure that all new products and services delivered to customers meet expectations. Her model has become the company standard.
During her time at Comcast Arshad-Trijillo has advanced from network engineer to manager/senior manager in network engineering to her current position as director of operations engineering. She is not yet sure what her title will be after the current restructuring, but she is looking forward to the new adventure and to helping the people on her team adjust.
Continue communication. Arshad-Trijillo is used to working with teams of varying sizes. She has managed as many as 15 people at one time, and while she currently has a team of five, she “expects that to increase soon,” she says.
One of the most important jobs for a manager during a reorganization is to communicate clearly with the team. “A reorganization means there will be tension. People want to know what the new expectations are and what their new roles will be. As a manager, one of my jobs is to ensure that I communicate this clearly,” she adds.
A natural part of life. Change, says Arshad-Trijillo, is natural and occurs in our personal lives as well as our professional careers. That doesn’t mean that it is easy to live through the process. In the corporate world it is important for leaders to work together to make the transition as smooth as possible. She suggests weekly one-on-one discussions with team members as one of the best ways to help them to see the big picture — how the changes will benefit the overall company, rather than focusing on small problems and difficulties that are a part of every transition.
Act as a liaison. A team leader’s role during a reorganization is to act as a bridge between management and your team. “It is important for me to find out what each of my team is thinking about their own career path and champion that path to management,” she says. “You must respect the differences of each of your team members.”
Be open to changes. For the corporate employee at any level the best way to not only survive, but to thrive during a reorganization is to be open to the opportunities that change and reorganization can bring. That means that you must begin preparing for change long before it occurs.
How do you do that when you don’t know exactly what the change will be? It doesn’t really matter, says Arshad-Trijillo. By realizing that nothing is stagnant in life — or the corporate structure — you prepare ahead of time by building relationships and developing trust among your co-workers and managers. “Everyone would like to think that we all rise on merit alone, but the corporate world is not a democracy. We have to build the relationships, network with people, and build trust long before the changes begin.”