Women in Tech: Many Surprises – Building the Quantum Fiber Brand

By Alice LaPlante

Women growing the Quantum Fiber brand

Over the past three years, a team of pioneering women have been leading the debut of Quantum Fiber, a Lumen Technologies brand, that delivers ultra-fast fiber-optic residential internet service. These groundbreaking women have been laying the groundwork for cutting-edge internet access for U.S. homes and communities.

Deborah Rios-Barnes, Connected Communities manager of marketing, and an 11-year veteran with the company, explains the vastness of this challenge by going into markets where there was “zero brand recognition.” This entailed a lot of creative marketing and content development activities. From there, she was elevated to her current role, where she manages the team that supports end-to-end partnerships with Quantum Fiber sales organizations. “My job is to translate our advanced technology solutions in a way that makes sense and adds value to our unique/niche audiences,” Rios-Barnes explains.  

How women in tech continue to circumvent obstacles

Although this is changing, over the decades, women were perceived more as clerical talent than having the capability to truly understand technology, says Theresa (Teesie) Crebs. When she joined the telco industry nearly four decades ago in a clerical role, Crebs says she honestly wouldn’t have been able to predict it was a good place for a woman to get ahead. “With so much change in the industry, sometimes you must be willing to reinvent yourself because jobs are eliminated or moved to a different location. In my case, there were times when I didn’t want to go where the job was going,” says Crebs. “You have to be willing to learn, evolve, and grow, and not let anything hold you back.”

Teesie Crebs on an obstacle course

Kristin Knisley, senior lead marketing manager, says she’s always been “very aware” of the fact that women in tech are underrepresented—with women in tech leadership even more so. And as a former engineer, she has long been exposed to very heavily male-dominated environments. “But I was raised as a strong woman,” she says. “Understanding all this, I’m always looking to make sure that we, as women in tech, constantly work to promote each other.”

Rios-Barnes, whose professional background was in the very male-dominated sports industry, says happily this is changing. “We are seeing more women taking risks, and claiming seats at the table, and who are not afraid to speak up,” she says. “I would never have seen myself going from community relations to translating techie content into something that drives consumer interest, but that’s where I’m at. And women like us are now being seen by leadership as extremely valuable assets.”

Most rewarding aspect of working at Lumen: culture and people

For Kristin Knisley, it was love at first sight when she joined Lumen (then CenturyLink) over ten years ago. She initially entered the engineering department as a contractor–as a fiber-optic network drafting engineer. But three months later, when a full-time job in project management opened, she jumped at the chance. Today, Kristin has an influential role on her team and with her peers. “When I think about the number of hours we spend doing our jobs, I focus on wanting work to be enjoyable and for everyone to have a good time,” she says. Knisley says she often thinks of some wisdom her father imparted when she was looking for her first professional role out of college: Even your dream job will eventually become work, he told her. You need to find ways to make that job enjoyable. Although Lumen is now a huge virtual company spread out across the country, everyone does their part to make sure the culture is open, diverse, and fun, Knisley says.

“I value my learning journey here, and it all comes down to the relationships I’ve built,” says Crebs, who started out as an accounting clerk, and has gone through (to date) eight different corporate name changes and reorganizations to reach her current role as manager of service delivery for the southern region team. She currently oversees post-contract service implementation for Quantum Fiber Connected Communities and growing long-term customer relationships. 

Biggest influencers 

“My parent’s faith and work ethics have always been a big part of my life,” says Crebs. My mother was a petite woman of just 4’11” she raised me and two large brothers with a fiery spirit. She would often say, ‘dynamite comes in small packages.’ She was a force of nature who pursued her goals with determination. She encouraged us to give our best and never give up.”

Knisley also points to her mother, who she describes as amazing, intelligent, and super strong. “She didn’t teach me to be limited by my gender, and I could do anything. I could be an engineer, a CEO, play in the dirt, fish, and hunt,” she says. “I could do what I enjoyed doing, and what I was good at. I didn’t need to rely on other people to give me permission. I attribute that to her.”

Kristin Knisley on a family vacation

Although she did not grow up with her father because he lived in New York and she moved to the west coast at a young age, Rios-Barnes visited him often and calls him her “inspiration.” “He is truly an amazing dad, grandfather and great-grandfather,” she says now, “the kindest and the most hard-working man I’ve ever known. He wants everyone around him–including me–to just be happy. He has instilled in me the highest work ethics possible, by always asking me, ‘Are you working? Are you doing a good job? Are you being accountable and loyal?’ but most importantly I remember him telling me “Don’t forget to tip the waiters!” All that came from my dad who happily and tirelessly worked as a waiter to take care of his family and those he served.”

Paying it forward

Rios-Barnes raised two daughters. I have always encouraged them to be strong, independent women, and to know their own value. I tell them not to shy away from taking risks, to follow their dreams, embrace their culture, and stay true to themselves. 

Deborah Rios Barnes with her father

“Making it a priority to know and show love to the people I lead and work with; being able to do whatever I can to teach, encourage, and help them advance, is the most important thing for me,” says Crebs. “The world will offer you a lot of lessons, take whatever you can use, and leave the rest behind,” advises Crebs. “Believe in yourself, your skills, your abilities, and treat others the way you want to be treated.”

The piece of advice Knisley offers is one she personally holds above all others: “Always let someone else tell you ‘no,’” she says. “Don’t ever do it to yourself.” She points to the well-known statistic that men apply for jobs when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. Although originally derived from internal research by Hewlett-Packard Co., it has been quoted ad infinitum by Lean In, The Confidence Code, and hundreds of articles, both in print and on the web. “This means we have less women applying to leadership roles,” she says. “We have fewer female leaders–especially in tech, where we’re already underrepresented. So, if someone is going to tell you that no, you’re not qualified for this job–or that someone else is more qualified–that’s fine. But don’t let that person be yourself.”

Rios-Barnes echoed this advice by saying “And don’t be afraid to be the only one like you in the room. If you’re a female or a woman of color in the tech industry, make no mistake about it, you will be noticed. So just go for what you’re passionate about, acquire the right skills, and look to other women for support when you need it.”

Please visit Quantum Fiber® Connected Communities for more information about our services.

Deborah Rios Barnes with her daughters and grandchildren
Teesie Crebs with her family
Kristin Knisley with her children

Content Disclaimer - All content is for informational purposes only, may require user’s additional research, and is provided “as is” without any warranty, condition of any kind (express or implied), or guarantee of outcome or results. Use of this content is at user’s own risk. All third-party company and product or service names referenced in this article are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement or affiliation with Quantum Fiber. If Quantum Fiber products and offerings are referenced in the content, they are accurate as of the date of issue. Quantum Fiber services are not available everywhere. Quantum Fiber service usually means 100% fiber-optic network to your location but, in limited circumstances, Quantum Fiber may need to deploy alternative technologies coupled with a non-fiber connection from a certain point (usually the curb) to your location in order to provide the advertised download speeds. ©2023 Q Fiber, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Quantum, Quantum Fiber and Quantum Fiber Internet are trademarks of Quantum Wireless LLC and used under license to Q Fiber, LLC.

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