Climbing the career ladder in telecomms talks to Valentina Holden at Vodafone about women in telecommunications and her new job as senior engagement and portfolio manager for core networks.

Valentina Holden was appointed senior engagement and portfolio manager for core networks at Vodafone earlier this year and says the telecommunications company is a good fit and has done a lot of work to bring more women into its senior ranks.

That includes working with diversity organisations and specialist recruitment agencies. Currently around 20% of the senior leadership team is female, but it is working to improve this and it has a target to ensure that half of its graduate intake is female.

Valentina had worked for Vodafone as a contractor years ago, but spent the 10 years before her current post working for a major managed service infrastructure provider for clients like the BBC and Sky until being made redundant in June 2013.

“Vodafone was my target employer,” she says, Valentina, who has spent around 20 years in the media and technology sector working in everything from the computer games industry to internet start-ups, says that not only does the IT groups she works in have a good ratio of men to women – which is unusual, but she lives in the Reading area so can get to the Vodafone HQ in 20 minutes. For years she commuted an hour each way to London and Winchester. “I have a better work life balance here,” she says, adding: “I am not used to working with so many women. It’s interesting and refreshing. The best performing teams are evenly balanced between men and women so moving away from that alpha male culture is good for business.”


Valentina has two children, aged five and eight. She has never worked part time, but has had flexibility to deal with emergencies and sickness. Her husband does a lot of the childcare. He is a grain merchant and runs his own business so has the flexibility to do school runs. Valentina is the main earner, but says she is still seen as the main carer and organises all childcare-related issues.

Her current job involves managing a portfolio of IT programmes and projects to support the convergence, transformation and optimisation of Vodafone's UK and global fixed networks with an emphasis on the operational support systems underpinning enterprise network planning, service provision and service assurance. She says: “Our virtual team is quite small but has a very broad scope. We are responsible for all the IT efforts around putting capabilities in place and support customers to deliver the IT side of their network plans,” she says.

They have stakeholders in the UK, Germany, Portugal and India, but so far Valentina has not had to travel abroad much. She has, however, been doing long hours as the group she works in has undergone significant transformation recently. “I have been working long hours, but it will settle down and then I will probably want a new challenge,” says Valentina, who hopes to become more involved in future in the continuous improvement community. “I like problem solving and making things efficient,” she says.

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