Retired President, Consumer Sales & Services, Verizon Communications Inc.
When Judy Haberkorn graduated from Briarcliff College in 1968, it was commonplace for women to think more about their marriage prospects than their business future. Nevertheless, Haberkorn walked into the Baltimore employment office of the AT&T-owned Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland and landed a job in the telecommunications industry that turned into a distinguished career of more than thirty years.
That first position gave her a variety of experiences, from line operations to staff management, and soon she was one of the first college-educated women to enter the company's fast track to management. "I supervised a lot of people-from telephone operators to crews who climbed poles. It was a tough, 24/7 business, but I loved it," she says.
Haberkorn was an early leader in the entangled world of telecommunications and a pathbreaker for women in the field. After the 1984 divestiture of AT&T (an event that spun off the corporation's local operations into seven regional "Baby Bells"), she remained with the New England Telephone Company, which later merged with the New York Telephone Company to form NYNEX Corporation.
Gaining a broad understanding of the business through a multitude of jobs in various departments, in 1990 Haberkorn became the
first female general manager of Special Services for NYNEX, responsible for servicing New England's largest corporate customers. Later that same year, she was named general manager of Access Markets, Marketing, and Technology, leading a billion-dollar business unit that provided service to long-distance carriers. NYNEX later merged with Bell Atlantic—a fellow "Baby Bell"—and Haberkorn became president of Consumer Sales & Services in 1998. At the end of her career she was leading 30,000 employees.
Retired since 2000, Haberkorn continues to be a role model for businesswomen and is focused on mentoring the next generation of leaders. "I try to help young women make deliberate choices and deliberate moves," she says. She is chair emerita of, and still an active participant in, The Committee of 200 (C200), an organization of women business owners and corporate leaders. In fact, after noting that there was a dearth of case studies on women in the workplace, she was instrumental in establishing in 1997 Harvard Business School's Marjorie Alfus/C200 Initiative for developing cases that focus on important management issues involving women business leaders.
Haberkorn's career was well under way when she entered Harvard Business School in 1990 as one of six women in the 107th AMP Program. "I wanted to go to HBS because I knew the quality of time spent in the classroom would be one of the greatest experiences of my life. And it was." However, in the midst of the program, NYNEX summoned her to New York to resolve some serious problems in one of the company's divisions. Lessons Haberkorn had just learned in AMP allowed her to hit the ground running. "Professor David Garvin had taught a case the week before I left that helped me considerably," she recalls. "No matter how big a problem is, we learned, you have to take a step back and make sure you create a vision for both the management team and the employees." Two years later, she returned to HBS and graduated with the 111th AMP.
There is another element in Haberkorn's life, a reminder of what is ultimately important. A two-time breast cancer survivor, she says the determination, energy, and perseverance she showed in the workplace were crucial in her successful fight against the illness. "I decided from the beginning that I was going to be upfront about it—look my colleagues in the eye and tell them what the deal was. That had a big impact on how they dealt with me during and after my illness."
Today, Haberkorn is on the boards of three companies-Armstrong World Industries, a leader in the design and manufacture of floors, ceilings, and cabinets; the Enesco Group, a marketer of giftware and home and garden decor products; and communications provider MCI, Inc. "In some ways I feel that what most people would consider my primary career was really just training for what I'm doing now," she says.
Haberkorn's role at MCI has been particularly challenging. She joined the board in 2004 to help oversee WorldCom's reorganization and brand change to MCI. Her involvement coincided with the company's emergence from bankruptcy, as the board worked to install new leadership and restore stability. "To me, most of what we do on boards is straightforward," she observes. "An environment that emphasizes ethics and honesty is essential." Another key ingredient is knowing the CEO and having confidence in him or her. "In today's post-Sarbanes-Oxley world, we are very detail oriented, but the tone at the top is absolutely critical, too."
When not on the road, Haberkorn is a director of the World Affairs Council in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives. It's her way of bringing interesting learning opportunities to the area. "I love it when I'll be quoting someone like New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, and people will ask me where I met him. They'll be surprised. 'In Jacksonville?' they ask. 'Yes, in Jacksonville!'"