When experts talk about ambitious professionals moving around a lot, they’re mostly talking about people changing jobs as they seek new responsibilities and opportunities.
Lauren Adelson-Luft has done it differently. She’s been working at Verizon — either as an employee or a consultant — for 20 years, relying on her confidence, curiosity and determination to earn countless promotions. Today, she’s CIO of corporate systems at Verizon’s Global Technology Solutions division, where she’s bringing greater transparency to IT while finding ways to use technology to drive innovation at the telecommunications giant.
“I’ve always been someone who thrives on change,” Adelson-Luft said. “At Verizon, our networks and our systems are not what they were 20 years ago; cloud was a thing in the sky 20 years ago. Verizon gave me opportunities at a young age to get exposed to different parts of both the business and technology, which helped prepare me for where I am now.”
She’s now paying it forward at Stevens Institute of Technology, as the newest member of the board of advisors to the School of Business.
“I’m excited at the opportunity to join Stevens,” said Adelson-Luft, a Hoboken, NJ, resident and a leader at a corporation with deep connections to Stevens. “I did my undergrad at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, so I’m familiar with the technology-school environment, but even though I’ve spent 20 years in technology, it hasn’t always been on the IT side — it’s been mainly on the business side.”
That’s exactly the niche the School of Business occupies. Its teaching and research challenges future leaders to think about technology’s possibility in solving new kinds of problems; the school is leading MaCuDE, an AACSB International initiative to reimagine management curricula worldwide for the digital age.
One of Adelson-Luft’s most recent initiatives is Talent Transformation, which aims to upskill her division for the evolving technical challenges facing her teams.
“In the past, the most successful technical people were promoted to manage people, and they didn’t always enjoy the same level of success,” she said. “Being a leader in technology means having those interpersonal skills — communication, team building, humility — along with being open to change.”
“Talent Transformation has a heavy technical focus, but also includes leadership skills,” she added. “We want to be able to show our employees what direction we’re headed in, so they can be more proactive about their own careers and make decisions on what skills they want to develop in order to advance.”
A role model to women in technology
A cause Adelson-Luft has been passionate about is empowering women to succeed in technology. She hopes joining Stevens will give her additional opportunities to make connections with women, even by doing something as simple as offering good students great internship experiences.
“Internships are a huge influence on where you end up,” Adelson-Luft said. “At RPI, I studied information systems and finance, which turned into an internship at a wealth management firm — where I learned that becoming an investment banker wasn’t for me. It was so important to discover what I did want to do with my career.”
It also means trying to be a role model to girls, make connections to younger women — and to understand that tech is cool.
“That’s what attracted me to technology,” she said. “I fell in love with problem-solving through technology. And now what I’m trying to do at Verizon is show everyone, especially women, the entrepreneurial side of technology — by being more collaborative, by showing the thought leadership side to technology.”
And, given the speed of digital transformation, there’s a degree of flexibility and confidence she tries to inspire in her teams, also.
“If I’m giving advice on where to focus, on becoming a leader, I’d say it’s so important to be OK with not knowing it all, with being part of a continuous learning culture, and still be confident in yourself and your ability to deliver,” Adelson-Luft said.
Dr. Gregory Prastacos, dean of the School of Business, said Adelson-Luft’s unique interests and perspective make her an excellent fit for the board as the school moves the MaCuDE initiative forward.
“Lauren has made a career for herself through a willingness to see technology as an enabler of problem-solving, but also thinks critically about its uses and limitations — in other words, exactly what drives the success of so many of our students and alumni,” Dr. Prastacos said. “I’m excited to have her join the board and look forward to doing great things together.”