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the Information Age and
the 'Creative Age'
the 'physical world'
and the 'virtual world'
lies the World that Shonika Built
...with your help!
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I started working in the cellular and wireless industry in 1993. I have always worked on the front line from the customer perspective and therefore am completely able to relate to why they often see the cellular industry as 'unapproachable' and 'overwhelming'. Sadly, I cannot disagree. Beyond providing cell phone help I created my company, Group Interactive, Inc. to provide awareness and serve as a 'voice' for my many frustrated or techno phobic customers.
A Wee Bit About Me
My name is Shonika and I live and work in Washington, DC. I am also known as the New 'iT' Girl as I deem the next generation of IT Helpdesks will be WIRELESS centric. Since the Summer of 2003 I have been evangelizing and creating the next generation of customer care and technical help desks which ironically will be NON technical, human interactive and people friendly. Nobody in the industry agrees with me on this point, in fact, they think I'm radical. Ok, so whatever?!?! I have worked on the front line with customers for many, many years and because of this I often realize see the method to the madness years before everybody else 'gets it'. So for now, it'll be our little secret, ok? ;-)
Read on to learn about what Dr. Seuss had to do with starting my business and what I think will happen to the cellular & wireless industry in the future.
I think if you read through my vitals and Q & A below you will get quite a bit of perspective on my personality (yes, it is pretty direct) and industry views (yes, they are pretty direct, lol).
Q & A
Q. What is the name of your company?
A. Group Interactive, Inc.
Q. When was your company founded?
A. September 2003
Q. Where is your company based?
A. Washington, DC. I am also a DC resident/homeowner. I was born in DC and was raised in a town about 12 miles outside of DC city center. Even though I joke about it sometimes, I REALLY LOVE this city. I know that alot of people think Government, Law and Politics when they think of DC but it really is a mecca for Technology and the Creative Economy. I think that because of our bureacracy and legal system here people by nature have to be 'creative' to solve problems or move forward.
Q. What does your company do?
A. We create programs and tools that help frustrated and overwhelmed cellular account users and corporate account administrators. I consider my industry to be 'Wireless Resource Management'. I don't know if there is such an industry in existence (Telecomm or Wireless Expense Management accounts for a very, very, small part of what I do so that is not the same either), but I do know that my industry does not exist and there is definitely a need. Wireless Resource Managment perfectly encompasses what I do. I centralize, integrate, secure, train and manage all aspects of an individual's or company's wireless resources and assets: Paper (invoices, bills and such); Products (Wireless Hardware and Software Applications) and most importantly People (help them to decrease labor costs by improving and simplifying time sucking processes).
Q. Do you work for the direct carrier?
A. No, I work for the customer. While carriers (cell phone company's) and manufacturers rely on me as a resource (and vice versa) I don't actually work for them. My company is completely independent. All the programs, products and training systems I have are 100% my original ideas and concepts and are carrier agnostic/neutral. A small dedicated team of people that I have known and worked with in other capacities and on other projects for quite a few years help me bring those ideas from the abstract to the physical world.
Q. Why is your website not more 'techie' or full of 'pretty pictures'?
A. This website is a direct reflection of the culture and energy of my company...everything is approachable, content rich with 'no fillers', a little edgy, a little offbeat, a lot of FUN and the environment is extremely laid back and easy going. It is meant to serve as a resource for frustrated people so it would defeat the purpose if they visited my site with the end result of becoming more frustrated because they couldn't easily find what they needed. I also believe if you completely understand your industry and what you are doing then you understand the method to the madness, so it is no reason to be stressed out.
Q. What do you love most about the wireless industry? A. Constant change and new developments. I also find that it's very similar to art, writing and pro-creation, all of which I am very fascinated with (although I have an extemely vivid imagination so the sight of very pregnant women with the thought of a miniature human jiggling around in their tummy sometimes makes me really nauseous). I like the whole wireless, art, writing, procreation thing because it's like you can give everyone the same basic materials and tools to work with and each time something different will be produced. I think that is so cool. I also love being able to meet so many amazing people from so many different industries and backgrounds.
Q. What frustrates you about the wireless industry? A.1. Everything exists in a gray area. It makes it difficult to have accountability and when you don't have accountability then it is sometimes difficult to improve or go forward.
2. The lack of respect the industry gets. You would think that by now, the powers that be would have pooled their resources and and their brains and figured out a way to get us a dedicated space in ALL of the major national media publications. Instead we are often lumped in with mobile computing, technology or some non related bs. This in part has a lot to do with why we are still in a sales centric environment when we DESPERATELY need to be in a service centric environment. And also this is the big reason why the general public has such a disconnect and a lack of understanding of the cellular and wireless industry. Having supported customers in the field for so many years, I see firsthand everyday why many of them believe the cellular industry is 'unapproachable' and 'overwhelming'. Industry professionals need to do a better job at getting relevant information out to consumers and in a way that they can understand it and act on it if need be.
Q. When did you get started in the cellular and wireless industry?
A. The latter part of 1993.
Q. Where did you make your debut in the cellular and wireless industry?
A. At my hometown store that initially sold pagers. I grew up in a small very amusing town in Southern, MD that was quite a fun place with all types there. It was definitely not a 'destination place'. It was a little off the beaten path nestled in between the borderline 'wanna be' outstretched ghetto of Southeast Washington, DC and a straight up red neck, if I would have known this I would have picked my own cotton kinda town. Needless to say, going to work everyday was always 'interesting' and to make things even more exciting, prior to me working at that store, I didn't really understand the concept of pagers and why someone would even need one ;-)
Q. Hmmm, with no understanding of pagers, what exactly did you do working at the paging company?
A. Well....I wanted to work there because I loved sailboats and I always thought I would design GPS and navigation systems for sailboats (since the boating recession in the 80's, lol). That is why I originally decided to work for an emerging technology company so that I could eventually go design my navigation systems. Of course, I never did :) The paging company I worked for was small. It was owned by one individual so everybody sort of did everything. We had a couple of stores and I also worked between those two stores which were about 8 miles apart. My first job was doing administrative and marketing support for sales people. I was not into sales but my boss said that I had a sociable and caring personality and would make a good salesperson. Yeah, I didn't think of those as the major traits of salespeople either ;-) He said that contrary to popular belief about the nature of salespeople that in order to be successful in ANY sales or service based environment that I only had to learn and master 3 TRANSFERRABLE 'skills'.
Q. I guess you want to know the 3 skills. That's not a question :)...What were the 3 things you had to learn and master to become a successful salesperson in a service based industry?
A.1. Read about anything everyday for at least 15 minutes (and try to read something about technology and your industry at least once a week). Today I read 4+ hours a day.
2. Always sell based on value and service. Provide exemplary 4 Star Service to every customer that calls or walks in the door (it doesn’t matter if the person reeks of garbage and walks and talks like they just finished a fifth of liquor). It helps that I don't have a sense of smell :)
3. When trying to figure out a resolution to a problem, do not take NO for an answer and/or if you have to call on someone for help do not get off the phone or leave that person until you have the solution or had them provide warm intro to another person who can advance the process. Aside from being a female in a technical industry, my name is Shonika and I live in Washington, DC, so I have 'Moxie' and I am full of patience when it comes to working through multiple layers....to say the least!
Q. Who did you sell to?
A. Originally I sold to Everyone- individuals, corporate accounts and Government acccounts. Throughout the years I have provided sales, support and training for everyone from 4 Star U.S. Generals, HQ Army Corps of Engineers during Hurricane Katrina, National Hotel Chain GM's, TV Personalities, Highly Ranked Presidential Appointed Officials, CEO's of Major Companies and of course to everyday people out and about doing their thing and also helping to save the world. As time went on, my knowledge became so extensive (in regards to the back end support and administration logistics) that I eventually became the industry resource for both carriers and cell phone manufacturers. I essentially handled only the escalated or resource intensive problems and today while I do work directly and primarily with national corporate and Federal Government Accounts, I typically handle complex or resource intensive accounts who need assistance with centralizing and simplifying their accounts. As my daily rate starts at $5,000, it is usually companies who have 250+ devices that easily see the return on investment as they can easily save that amount and more in just a couple of months whether it be savings on their bills or direct labor costs associated with the MISmanagement of their wireless services and bills.
You Sell It, You Support It:
Our company policy was whomever you sold a product to (individual or business) you were responsible for the support of everything on their account, from delivery of their product, to setting it up to training them to helping them whenever they had a problem. It started with pagers which eventually evolved to digital cell phones then to BlackBerry and PDA's. And yes, when I sold BlackBerry's I had to go to the customer site and help IT set up their BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) as well. To handle all aspects of your customer from pre-research to post purchase support was the company policy for all of the 11.5 years I was employed there. While I once complained about being tired of being a 'free consultant' all the time, in 2003 I discovered how invaluable learning all that stuff over the years was. Today I find that it is a lot more relevant than when I originally learned it.
Q. Why don't you PERSONALLY offer hourly consulting?
A. I only offer daily consulting or longer term management and strategy consulting because hourly consulting is a waste of time and resources for both myself and my customer (for people who insist doing things by the hour, I have a network of people who are happy to do that and I will gladly refer you to them). When you do business where you call in every time you have a problem, it is the same as having to call customer care every month when you have a recurring problem. Most likely that problem is related to something else. So technically you aren't solving the real problem, you are just making an interim solution which will potentially cause more conflict and headache in the long run. I like to spend time with people to learn about them, their behaviors and company culture and help them eliminate nagging ongoing problems. It also helps significantly when I understand how everything connects to everything else in a specific environment within specific protocols.
Wireless is 'everywhere', 'nowhere' and multi-layered. You have to be proactive and learn to leverage all of the resources available to you. This cannot be taught in one or two hours. The best thing any company or Government agency can do whether using internal resources or outsourcing their wireless support is make sure they have a strategy in place before they begin and see wireless as its own domain. Wireless is not taken seriously enough in the workplace environment, however, if people do not learn to take it seriously it will become a major crisis and very costly in the long run. This could come in terms of real dollars in lost revenue or labor costs from lack of management or poor implementation of wireless in the workplace.
Do you consider yourself a controversial person?
A. No, now why would you ask that? ;-) I consider myself a passionate person that's sometimes a little outspoken. Yes, I get called out about from time to time and when people dish it out to me they better be ready to take it right back, in 5 courses plus after dinner cordials :) Passionate people deeply care about their cause and the advancement of it without regard to being what some might consider 'politically incorrect'.
My thoughts and comments are based on my own personal and professional experiences. I expect and encourage people to develop their own independent, creative thoughts and opinions about the industry (or anything for that matter) based on their own experiences. I don't care if people agree or disagree with me and I am not asking them to. If someone feels uncomfortable about my statements, instead of being reactive perhaps they need to figure out how to deal with their own insecurities...oooh bust out, lol.
As you can see it is just my personality 24x7 and I always mean EVERYTHING in good spirit. I honestly never mean to offend anyone.
Q. Where do you see the industry in the next 5 years (or even before then)? A. Everything will be wireless and networked, sort of the same way the PC evolved (First 10 years people were buying individual PC's, the second 10 years people networked them).
Major cell phone companies will struggle with this niche as everything will be wireless and cell phones will be just one small part of that. Wireless companies will more or less become billing companies as it will be difficult to (1) manage the next generation of wireless mutts (hybrid devices) and (2) restructure their companies to meet the needs of the next generation of premium consumers. So cell phone companies will have to choose which route to pursue, sell more hybrid gadgets or focus on 'niche specialty services'. Yes, I have quite a few ideas regarding that as well ;-)
In the meantime and in between time Private Equity firms will be lurking about contemplating a move or a generous stakeholder interest and so will major media conglomerates looking to get into the multimedia handset and content market. Their eyes will be fixated on cell phone companies who will soon be considered niche providers themselves and who are going to get sidetracked, shuffled around and shook up with 4g and potluck technology. Infrastructure buildout for the next generation will be challenging, support will be a nightmare and they will have to get EXTREMELY CREATIVE with their partnerships within the technology marketplace.
Traditional customer care, IT and other Technical Helpdesks will be 100% different than you know of them today. Willingly or unwillingly they will be 100% wireless centric, it is inevitable....hence why I am the New 'iT' Girl. I have envisioned the evolution of the "Wireless Helpdesk" of the future since Summer of 2003 and I already know how I am going to help rapidly create and build the next generation of them ;-)
As our personal and professional experiences dictate our opinions and thoughts on things, realize that we don't have to agree on perspectives, we just have to understand and respect each others point of view. Have other comments, questions? Contact me here:
Other Random Vitals and Tidbits :)
Where in the World:
38 53 N aka Washington, DC
I consider myself The New 'iT' Girl, Customers and people in the industry consider me the 'BlackBerry Crisis Rep'
Are the Coolest and they both are soooo nice :)
Just my 'virtual' digital puppy
I make money not babies :)
Western (Gemini-the twins/communicator), Chinese (Rat)
N/A...Do not follow pop culture 'people'
Little Known Fact:
I have not owned a TV since 1990
My Regular News Sources: Wired Magazine
, Adbusters, Wall Street Journal and FT (Financial Times, UK), BlackBerry press releases. Everything else depends on my mood and what kind of information I am looking for.
When I'm Not Working I am....traveling, writing, creating or volunteering (25-30 hrs/mo)
Peeves: Rude and Mean People; People who don't contact/call you back; People who don't follow through on their word; The people who live next door to me...they are a 'piece of work'
Personal Quote: If you want to become a powerful person you must empower others.
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