Women of Avaya Patent Holders: Supporting Women in Innovation

This blog is authored by Letha Callahan & Mindy Pfeifer at Avaya. Letha Callahan is SV Project Manager for Conferencing products at Avaya. Mindy Pfeifer is the Portfolio Investment Management Manager at Avaya.

Our patent development experience was a positive one that can hopefully provide a real-life example of how women can accomplish so much more together than apart. While working on the configurator sales tool as Test Engineers, we saw that there were so many different scenarios that could be tested and never enough time to test them all.  Sound familiar? This is the story of our lives; so much to do but never enough time to do it. We often talked about how we wished we could do more with less resources, and how it would be wonderful to find a way to merge our multi-tasking mom skills with our testing job.  It wasn’t long before our wishes transformed into action.  Being awarded a patent was a huge success and honor for both of us, but it was our partnership and our journey that became the most rewarding part of the experience.

As often encountered within our complex business, the existing market tools at that time did not fully meet our needs. Thanks to a supportive coach, we were able to create our own solution. Our tool was similar to some of the AI concepts of today. It was an automated replica of how we manually tested the configurators, including making various decisions based on previous input, which produced expected output to be compared to actual configurator results.  The great thing was we had full creative control!  The creativity of one fueled the other.  It became our baby, and we were able to use the best of both our testing skills to nurture and perfect it. Developing a tool that automated the testing of the configurators liberated us from our manual testing chains and opened our eyes to possibility.  Women are masters of “doing more with less”, but when we partner together we can truly excel.

Women in our industry constantly have challenges and pressures to stand out and have our voices heard.  In our competitive environment, women may unknowingly compete with other women to the point that it may result in someone else’s failure.  Unhealthy competition between women can prevent us from seeing the potential in our female peers.  During our time on the configurator team, we were able to work together as a supportive unit to empower each other.  During this time we both had full-time jobs as moms, and second full-time jobs as Configurator Test Engineers. Our daily challenges included balancing the needs of sick kiddos and lack of sleep, with the demands of discovery and invention.  We lifted each other up, we supported each other’s needs, and we complemented each other’s skill set to create a powerful team environment. 

Having a support system who could relate to the ups and downs of a working mom’s life was critical to fueling our desire to invent, create, and transform our work environment.  Having compassion for each other as women, rather than generating unnecessary competition or a sense of jealousy, created an opportunity for us to focus on innovation and develop a mindset for how we’d like to contribute to Avaya going forward.

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