How Communication and Collaboration Drives Success
Woman Engineer, an Equal Opportunity Publication, recently highlighted the telecom/fiber optics industry and women who are leading the way. After reaching out to AFL for input, Donda Bishop, general manager of AFL’s Aerial Cable Systems business unit, was selected to be interviewed for this spotlight article, and was even featured on the front cover! In this blog, you will learn more about Donda – why this field, what makes her tick, where her tenacity comes from, and more. To read the Woman Engineer article, click here.
As a young student, Donda Bishop’s career path was unknown to her. Not knowing what she wanted to be “when she grew up,” she was clear on a few facts: she liked math, she wanted to be challenged, and she also wanted to do something that most girls were not. She was seeking opportunity. And that landed her in electrical engineering at Clemson University.
Donda graduated cum laude from Clemson University in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science
degree in Electrical Engineering. With college behind her and a lifetime in front, she started the arduous interview process. AFL, then known as Alcoa Fujikura Ltd., was one of several companies who noted her achievements and requested an interview. Having interviewed with key managers, she was offered a tour of the manufacturing facilities. During one of the tours, an operator asked a question which stumped her. However, after the interview and upon additional reflection of the operator’s question, Donda took the initiative to send a letter to the hiring manager and operator responding to that question. That extra step, that example of her initiative, helped her stand out from the others and led to a job offer as an associate process engineer — her first job out of college.
Having stayed in that role for about one year, Donda was then promoted to process engineer where she was assigned the task of learning about each of the processes used to manufacture Optical Ground Wire, AFL’s flagship optical cable, a product where AFL still maintains market dominance. Fortunately, the experience she gained during this job allowed her to apply that knowledge to her AFL career where she has been for more than 25 years!
From associate process engineer to general manager of AFL’s largest product-based business unit, Donda’s career path has provided opportunities for growth both personally and professionally. Responsible for the profit and loss of the cable business unit, Donda’s daily responsibilities include addressing the commercial outlook, market dynamics and operational challenges as well as communicating with customers. In the evenings and on weekends, Donda is still hard at work pursuing her MBA at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business.
Donda credits her success at AFL to working hard and asking questions. For Donda, excelling in a company is not just about the amount of time one has been in that position, but more about the experience gained and how that can be applied to more vital and crucial roles. Although her engineering background has been an asset in her jobs at AFL, she believes that “the most important skill you’ll need in any position is the ability to work with others.” She is a mentor to her team and tries to set an example for others to follow, stating “Be the leader you want others to be.”