Doing things my way

Last month we started a new series of blogs, asking some of the many talented women that work at Arelion to share their experiences of working in the industry and any opinions and views on diversity and opportunity in the sector.  This is the second blog of the series, and today we’re publishing the thoughts and experiences of Vladka Hronkova, our Head of Network Procurement, based in Prague.


Born in 1979, I spent the first ten years of my life growing up under a single-party communist government in what was then called Czechoslovakia, before the Czech Republic was born in November 1989 and we returned to being a liberal democracy.  Even after all the experiences I have had in life since that change, it is clear to me that those early years have a critical impact on forming us as people. As children, we read the same books, wore the same clothes, and essentially lived under government propaganda – we saw only what they wanted us to see. Something that more recent events are demonstrating is still a very real issue in the world today.

My point is that realising what had been beyond our country’s borders once the change took place was actually hard to comprehend.  Whilst, on one hand, it is hugely exciting to see all this new culture in the world, it can also leave you feeling like a second rate person compared with your European friends. It takes a long time to accept freedom of thought and trust in yourself.

I seized the opportunities and started to pursue studies in law, which had always been a dream.  I took a job while studying with a telecoms company, Telia Carrier. It was in that role that I met a mentor that treated me as an equal, who challenged me and gave me the freedom to explore and learn about the industry.

I started in telecom sales, but now I manage the Network Procurement team which is responsible for procuring third party access elements and collocation pieces for Arelion´s network and customers.  Even though I’m heading a team, I try to see myself as more of a leader than a manager. In my team I regard us all as equal, just with different roles and skills. I was lucky to get the job that I did and be able to progress my career with Arelion (Telia Carrier).  It has been a very progressive company.

My first child was born when my law studies ended and, in the Czech Republic, you were expected to stay at home for three years, have a second child, and stay at home for another three years! Arelion allowed me to be flexible, work from home, and manage my time so that I did not have to give up on my career.  Culturally, this was a world away from the norms of the time – with even women in my country frowning at me for believing I could be a career woman and a great mother at the same time.  The company’s support made a huge difference to me and really drove me to stay in the sector.  That flexibility is still immensely important to me now.

Here in the Czech Republic, times are changing, however, and I love that doing things ‘my way’ has inspired other women around me to do the same.  In the past, I have heard the suggestions that women are weak for showing their emotions, when of course I would argue that we are just not burying them, which is unhealthy.

As women, we must have confidence in our own abilities and decide the paths we take through life and our careers.  I got sick of trying to be what people wanted me to be. So one day just decided that I would do things how I want and learn from those mistakes. Those experiences have taught me the value of diversity, and this all stems from realising what the world had to offer in 1989.

It is one of the reasons why, when I interview a candidate for a role, I am laser focused on the person with whom I am speaking.  I say speaking, because I don’t want to be influenced by what I see.  I turn off the camera when I interview someone. That way I do not get persuaded by or execute my biases, and equally that I’m not swayed by a person’s attempt – subconscious or otherwise – to influence me. I do this because I truly believe that people can learn any skill, as I did, and I want that hiring decision to be as pure as possible.

I love working in telecoms and believe we have a critical role to play in ensuring access to free information. But it’s also about enabling us all to learn about the diversity that exists in the world, and I believe that our roles at this company make a big difference in the world.