‘It’s all about the confidence to believe that you can’
ATLANTA—Betsy Francis, area VP of sales and marketing for AT&T’s security/home automation solution, Digital Life, believes that being a woman aids her in promoting the product.
“I felt that I could really connect with our customers and properly position the value of this product, what it’s like to manage my home and manage my family, and that I could properly create a value proposition and a product that could connect with women, moms, and people on the go,” she told Security Systems News.
Francis believes that AT&T’s Digital Life organization is well positioned to succeed. “The market is so underpenetrated and I’m so confident in the assets and the infrastructure that AT&T has that I felt like this was an opportunity to build something,” she said. “It was more about challenging myself to grow something from nothing.”
After successful trials of Digital Life last year here and in Dallas, where AT&T is headquartered, the telecom in April launched the service in 15 additional major markets nationwide, ranging from San Francisco to Miami, and has rapidly been adding on other markets since.
Francis, who is based here, has more than 15 years of experience in the wireless industry. Previously, she led business development for consumer electronics for the AT&T Emerging Devices organization, managing new business opportunities with AT&T’s consumer electronics partners, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony.
Prior to that, Francis was executive director, national channel marketing, for AT&T Mobility, and was responsible for setting strategic marketing direction for national distribution channels and implementing and executing national marketing promotions.
Francis, who received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and communication from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., said she joined AT&T shortly after college because it offered her an opportunity to get into management.
More recently, she was drawn to AT&T’s Digital Life business unit because, “I saw it as an opportunity to take my experience in technology into a more traditional business that was ripe and ready for innovation.”
She believes women are a valuable asset in the workplace. “Women have strengths that are key in business, not just this business,” Francis said. “We’re good at networking, we’re definitely skilled at negotiating and we have the ability to multitask, delegate and budget—all the things that we do at home, we can take into the workplace.”
When asked about special challenges she has faced as a woman in her career, Francis said there haven’t been any.
“Perhaps I’m fortunate,” she said, “but my response to that is they’re probably the same as a man would face in that if you believe you can’t then you probably can’t. … There really hasn’t been any treatment or obstacle or business situation that has been a challenge or an obstacle for me. I think it’s all about the confidence to believe that you can. And with my business partners, that comes across, so I’m not treated any differently.”
To succeed, businesses need diversity in the workplace, Francis said.
“Whether it’s a woman or having representation from any cultural group or gender from our customer base, it is really important to the success of the business and staying competitive,” she said. “If I’m someone who doesn’t live the life of our customer, building a sales and marketing strategy and execution plan may not be as effective.”
To attract more women to the industry, Francis suggested utilizing some of the same techniques employed in selling and marketing products. For example, she said, the industry should reach out to potential female employees through such channels as “shopping sites, or various channels of TV that are important to them [and] retail distribution channels.”
Francis said, “Positioning yourself within where women live, work and play is how we start to gain interest for women in business.