Tell us about yourself – your name, company, title, and responsibilities?

My name is Priscila Nascimento, and I am currently the BCM lead in Ericsson North America and responsible for managing and improving the business continuity management program in the region.

How did you get into the business continuity industry?

In 2010, while pursuing my bachelor’s degree in information systems, I was looking for an IT internship in a reputable organization. During this time, I came across an email about Ericsson’s internship program. Excited by the opportunity, I applied and was thrilled to be selected for a group dynamic session. As I entered the old building where Ericsson used to be located and heard how innovative and prominent Ericsson was, I didn’t know how yet, but I told myself I was going to make it. To my delight, I successfully passed the group dynamic and advanced to the interview stage. It was during this interview that I had the pleasure of meeting Selma Coutinho, who would become my mentor and boss for the next 12 years. This was a turning point in my career journey.

During my internship at Ericsson, I was immersed in various aspects of enterprise security. This hands-on experience exposed me to many areas, including physical security, travel security, crisis management, information security, and business continuity management. My passion for business continuity grew as I delved deeper into the field.

Over the years, I actively contributed to implementing and improving business continuity management practices across Latin America. This involved conducting exercises, delivering comprehensive training on BCM to employees worldwide, and representing my unit in global BCM-related initiatives. These experiences allowed me to gain invaluable expertise and solidify my commitment to the business continuity industry.

Tell us about some of the challenges you have encountered in your career?

One significant challenge I initially faced was understanding the telecom industry and bridging the gap between technical complexities and the business continuity needs of my stakeholders. Despite having an IT background, the telecom industry presented its unique set of complexities and acronyms that required dedicated effort to comprehend fully. Additionally, working in three languages – Portuguese, Spanish, and English – added an extra layer of challenge. While I had studied these languages for a while, getting my point across and giving presentations to unfamiliar audiences in my second or third language was sometimes intimidating.

More recently, in early 2020, I made a significant move from Brazil to the United States. This transition brought about substantial changes, requiring me to leave everything behind and start anew. As I reflected in December 2019, I asked myself, “What is the worst that can happen?” Little did I know that I would soon face the most impactful event of the century. Adjusting to a new life in a different country, forming new connections and friendships as an adult, and navigating my career path amidst the challenges posed by the global pandemic proved to be an immense undertaking. However, thanks to God and determination and perseverance, I overcame these obstacles, and I’m grateful for my decisions and the new life I have built.

Have you had any mentors? Describe the effect they have had on your career.

I have been lucky to have mentors who have profoundly impacted my professional growth. One of my most influential mentors was my former boss, Selma Coutinho, at Ericsson. As a blank slate when I joined the company, Selma took me under her wing and taught me everything about BCM and more. Her enthusiasm for the field was so contagious, and it hit me in the best way. Under her guidance, I not only gained knowledge and expertise but also developed a genuine appreciation for the importance of resiliency. Inspired by her, I have taken on the role of mentoring my own cousin and welcoming him to his exciting field.

Selma once said, “Our jobs are noble,” and that sentiment has stayed with me. When we truly understand and appreciate the value and significance of business continuity, we want others to recognize and value it as well. Selma’s mentorship instilled in me the drive to spread awareness and advocate for the importance of BCM.

In addition to Selma, I have had the privilege of having mentors from various avenues. I was part of a Toastmasters club, where I received guidance and support in honing my communication and leadership skills. From the Women in Business Continuity group from DRII mentorship program, I was mentored by Leticia Cecchin, who shared her insights and experiences, helping me take to courage to make difficult decisions and inspired me by her successful career. I took advantage of a mentoring program offered by my company, which matched me with Gagan Shori, an experienced telecom professional who provided valuable guidance and advice.

Mentors, regardless of their field or background, offer wisdom and knowledge that cannot be acquired solely through formal education or training courses. They provide unique perspectives, share practical experiences, and offer guidance based on their own journeys. Mentoring is an invaluable opportunity for individuals at all career levels, and I encourage others to seek mentors who can help shape their professional development and support their growth.

What are some lessons learned you still leverage today?

The importance of continuous learning. Staying updated and informed about current events and industry trends has proven invaluable in my role. While it can be sad to read the news at times, I realized that knowing what is happening in the world provides valuable insights that enable me to excel in activities such as conducting business impact analysis (BIA) workshops and designing engaging business continuity exercise scenarios. It also positions me as a professional who understands external factors can inevitably impact our organization and knows how to leverage them for learning purposes. Whether reading industry publications, following thought leaders on social media, listening to podcasts, or attending webinars and conferences, continuous learning is an ongoing process that helps me stay informed, adapt to changes, and enhance my professional skills.

What aspects of working in this industry would you like to see change or evolve?

One aspect I would like to see a continual change in the business continuity industry is a mindset shift from compliance driven BCM to proactive preparedness. Rather than implementing BCM solely because we are told to by regulators, insurance companies, or the internal audit team, organizations should embrace it as a strategic initiative for long-term sustainability. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of resiliency, but people tend to forget, and soon enough, the pandemic will be a distant memory, so maintaining focus is crucial as not letting it fade into the background. By leveraging the momentum around resiliency and embedding a culture of proactive BCM, we can ensure lasting preparedness for future disruptions.

What types of formal training and certifications have you pursued, and what kinds of learning and networking opportunities are you seeking to continue your professional development?

I am a CBCP and hold certifications as a Lead Implementer for ISO 22301 and ISO 27001 and a Lead Auditor for ISO 22301. I have attended the MIT Crisis Management training and completed a Yellow Belt Six Sigma training. Additionally, I recently joined ACP North Texas, a local association of business continuity professionals. I highly recommend everyone, new or experienced, join similar groups or chapters of associations in your area. They offer great network opportunities and valuable events. To this day, I still actively participate in webinars and online training. In the future, I am looking to obtain an MBCI membership with BCI and explore FEMA training opportunities.

What gets you excited about your career?

My move to the U.S. has been one of the most significant accomplishments in my life, considering where I started. The U.S. plays a major role in so many global events, both positive and negative. However, I feel very lucky to be exposed to and close to numerous companies, events, resources, and, most importantly, people. I truly believe there are people out there, just like Selma and myself, who are willing to take a chance on an inexperienced but eager newcomer, completely transforming their lives. Over the past three years, I had the opportunity to meet some of these incredible individuals, and their stories have been truly motivating. I am very excited by how new technologies, like AI and 5G networks, will benefit the resiliency community. I am also curious about how companies plan to be more energy efficient in a world threatened by intense weather events and how resilience will sound in 10 years. It will be intense and challenging but ultimately rewarding as we face the days ahead.

What advice would you give to those embarking on a career in this industry?

I have never encountered a resilience professional who was born knowing everything about BCM, and the same goes for you. Don’t be hard on yourself. You can learn it if you are willing and intentional about it, even if you come from a different background.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions, schedule meetings, or connect with people instead of relying solely on emails, Make the most of the opportunities your stakeholders provide to explain how their department operates.

The sooner you understand your company’s business model, products, and services, the faster you’ll understand in which ways your BCM program needs to be improved.

Last but not least, enjoy it! Not many roles in an organization provides such deep level of understanding of the end-to-end business process, so take this as an opportunity to learn, make connections and step up your BCM game!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Selma Coutinho

Selma Coutinho, MBCI, CBCP, CISSP, ISO 27001 lead implementer and lead auditor, is head of security at Ericsson. She leads the cybersecurity and resilience of two business areas related to enterprise and emerging business. Coutinho has more than 10 years of experience in business continuity management, crisis management, risk management, and information security. She is passionate about driving and facilitating cybersecurity, BCM and crisis management changes, always focusing on continuous improvement and enhancing the company’s security and resilience postures. This includes leadership and employee commitment, business understanding, and real lessons learned from past experiences.

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