Susanna O'Sullivan - Making IT work for telecommunications
"Technology was always a part of who I am. Coming from a family of engineers, I couldn't get around that." Senior Director of IT Service, Assurance and Deployment at FLOW Jamaica, Susanna O'Sullivan, made her family proud by following in their footsteps, but still managed to pave her own path, using her expertise to bridge the generational gaps. Flair caught up with the tech queen recently and she shared her journey with us.
O'Sullivan had a very happy childhood. While others girls were into playing with dolls, the tomboy in her found greater interest in gadgets - an influence she revealed was a contributing factor from her three brothers. After a while, however, her focus shifted, and she began exploring the world of social science. Armed with a bachelor's degree in psychology and human resource management, she was well on her way to standing out among her tech driven siblings. "I was the only child of seven to pursue studies in the social sciences, feeling very confident that I had stepped outside of what was believed to be the norm in my family and dared to be 'different'." Fate, however, had a plan B.
The first job she landed fresh from university was in telecommunications with the then Colombus Communications Jamaica Limited, now FLOW Jamaica. It was there that she discovered her true passion. "I am a problem solver at heart and my mantra is automation. Automation is only achievable through information technology. Working in information and communications technology, I saw where IT could be used to solve a lot of the operational challenges faced by the business and help drive commercial decisions. I'm also impatient, so what my IT team took too long to deliver, I decided to learn to do myself. That pushed me to pursue my master's in computer-based management information systems, and I've enjoyed a career in IT ever since," she told Flair.
With 13 years of work experience under her belt, O'Sullivan has seen how much technology has evolved over that time frame. She believes IT should be an enabler of efficiency and operational excellence. "As an organisation that promotes growth from within, FLOW Jamaica has invested in my professional growth, ensuring that my skill set remains current through training. We've been able to leverage technology to advance our business. And this is a growing sector with emerging technologies and new opportunities presented frequently," she added.
Also, in her capacity as senior director of IT service, assurance and deployment, she has the advantage of sitting on a regional team where there is an extensive knowledge base to tap into through collaboration. A significant milestone in her career to date: being hand-picked to be a part of the IT Integration Management Team after the acquisition of Columbus by Cable & Wireless, where the company defined the strategic direction for IT across all markets.
A major focus for the company this year so far has been robotics. They are looking for opportunities to drive positive customer experience through efficiencies in their processes - that is the direction the industry is heading in, and being a technology leader, she declares that the organisation is further ahead than persons even realise. Her ultimate goal is for FLOW Jamaica to innovators in the field of telecommunication.
On the home front, balancing the professional with the personal life, she argues, is never easy, but she is a firm believer that you can have the complete package: career and family, and exceed in both areas. Old school in raising her daughter, there are some things that won't be sacrificed, like homework or bedtime routine and overall, just being present. She achieves this by structuring her days. "I guess that's the project manager in me. I try to have dedicated times for work, family and myself. And if a conflict in the schedule arises, I'm fortunate enough to have a strong support system at home."
When she's not being tech savvy at work or supermom at home, O'Sullivan enjoys travelling and experiencing different cultures. She has always been an ardent baker and has recently dabbled in the decorating aspect, having done a fondant art class. Her other passion includes interior designing, which is on her 2018 list of training courses. Her advice to individuals wanting to tap into the IT sector and leave an indelible mark, like the one she has made, is to keep on top of trends, so you can best identify deficiencies and career opportunities. In addition, keep your skill set current through training. As for making a mark, know what your competitive advantage is, she recommends, as there is always someone else ready and willing to take your spot. Strive to be the best by outworking everyone else.