This blog series features senior corporate executive from the 100 CIO/CTO Leaders in STEM publication sharing their insights on business and innovation from a technology and information perspective. Today’s leader is Nicola Palmer, Senior Vice President and Chief Network Officer for Verizon Wireless.
Senior Vice President and Chief Network Officer
Nicola (Nicki) Palmer is senior vice president and Chief Network Officer for Verizon Wireless, with responsibility for planning, engineering, building and operating Verizon Wireless' industry-leading voice and data networks. A premier technology company, Verizon Wireless operates the nation's largest and most reliable 4G LTE network.
Prior to her current role, Palmer was senior vice president of Global Network Operations and Engineering at Verizon, responsible for planning, designing and operating the company's global voice, data and IP networks, which span more than 2,600 cities in 150+ countries on five continents. In that role, she also led the engineering and operations of the fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network, which enables Verizon's FiOS data and TV services.
She has served as vice president of Network for Verizon Wireless, overseeing design and deployment of the 4G LTE network with responsibility for network performance, quality assurance, product and service rollouts and regulatory compliance. She also served as vice president of Video Services at Verizon, responsible for overall program management and performance assurance.
Nicki began her career at Bell Atlantic in 1990 and has held leadership positions in engineering, operations, and project and service management supporting advanced data and IP products in the consumer and business markets.
Active in a number of organizations including the National Academy Foundation, Nicki is a staunch advocate for women in business and promoting education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). For the past three years (2012, 2013 and 2014), she has been named to the Fierce Wireless list of Most Influential Women in Wireless. In 2014 she was named as one of the Working Mothers of the Year by Working Mother and an honoree of MAKERS, a digital video initiative featuring women’s stories. In addition, the Girl Scouts of Greater New York honored Nicki with its 2013 Woman of Distinction award.
Nicki earned a bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering from Penn State University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ), headquartered in New York, employs a diverse workforce of 178,500 and generated more than $127 billion in 2014 revenues. Verizon Wireless operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with 109.5 million retail connections nationwide. Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America’s most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers worldwide. For more information, visit www. verizon.com/news/.
Why is STEM education/workforce development critical to the future of our nation?
As one of the world’s leading technology companies, we are acutely aware that technology influences every aspect of our lives -- and its importance grow daily. Everyone from farmers to fashion designers increasingly rely on technology to be successful.
Over the next 10 years, the most robust job growth will be in fields requiring science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. The STEM job market is growing at twice the rate of any other job market - in fact, 62% of STEM job growth is in technology. By 2018, the U.S will be graduating only 52% of the needed Computer Science and IT workforce from its universities.
STEM jobs help young people set themselves up for careers in solving real-world problems, like climate change and healthcare. We must use technology to underpin how we attack these problems and if we prepare young people to play a meaningful role in an increasingly tech-based economy.
What challenges and opportunities do you see in the way we teach technology?
At Verizon, we see that mobile technology has the potential to play a crucial role in revolutionizing classrooms and sparking interest in STEM subjects. After all, this is technology that kids love - technology that’s unique in its ability to put the world into individual students’ hands, no matter where they live.
Through our Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS), we’re bringing connectivity and digital devices to young people - especially those who otherwise would be left on the distant side of the digital divide - and showing teachers the best ways to use the technology for learning. We’ve been working in underserved schools, across the nation in rural, urban, suburban environments since 2012.
Concentrating on science and math classes, we recognized that if we could train teachers on how to use smartphones, tablets and technology in the classroom, we could change the way that they teach and the way students learn. We also focus on schools with technology in place and help teachers understand how to best leverage the technology to increase effectiveness, engagement and comprehension.
In addition, we’ve partnered with NAF, a national program that uses a public/private partnership model to set up specialized academies within public schools, with a mission of preparing students for success in college and careers. There are 667 NAF academies serving more than 81,000 students that focus on career readiness in fields such as engineering and IT. NAF academies have a proven record of success: average high school graduation rate is more than 90%, and more than half of these graduates earn bachelor’s degrees in four years.
How do we encourage students to continue their study of STEM subjects, particularly women and underrepresented minorities?
Many students may not realize that jobs requiring STEM skills are very lucrative jobs. For example, engineering majors have the highest median earnings at $92,000 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 report on STEM graduates. A STEM education can be the ticket for young women and underrepresented minorities to support themselves and their families and fulfill the promise of a better life, which can benefit them for decades to come.
We also know that if we are to be serious about getting more girls into STEM, we have to change societal attitudes about girls in math and science. That’s why we partnered with the group MAKERS and produced a digital campaign called #InspireHerMind. The campaign was highlighted by a video showing a young girl being discouraged by her parents from pursuing her love of science. Ultimately, the spot asked viewers to encourage our daughters to aspire to be not only “pretty,” but “pretty brilliant,” too.
What counsel would you provide on “collaborating to achieve success” in STEM education and the workforce?
There are three critical factors. First, ensure you have measurable results. Our social impact programs are metrics-driven. In everything we do, we apply a logicbased model that systematically captures data against short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. The results provide insights on how to replicate and scale our programs up for greater impact, or make adjustments and tweaks.
Second, have a true partnership with teachers in the classroom. Our work with VILS and NAF academies are examples of how we can enlist frontline teachers, engage students and bring real-life challenges and teaching moments, helping to foster an environment to learn, create and innovate.
Another example of how Verizon actively engages students in real-life workplace experiences is through our App Challenge. The goal is to train regional and national winning teams to develop their winning concepts into apps. We’ve also launched an app development course in underserved schools through a partnership with Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship as well as in after-school locations through a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Third, you must engage the employees in order to be successful. Your employees are your face of the company, and they can encourage girls and minorities in their communities, extending the reach of how important STEM skills are for a bright future and serving as examples to these young women and underrepresented minorities.
Finally, there’s nothing preventing all of us from doing more to encourage young people to engage in STEM education. Parents, aunts and uncles, mentors, community members - we all must get involved and do more. Whether it’s hosting a career day, mentoring a young person, or hosting a school at your workplace, there are things each of us can do amplify the message around the importance of STEM education.