Lynn Dicton started out with Lucent Technologies as a secretary without a college degree. Eager to gain promotional opportunities within this telecommunications giant, she earned her Marketing degree at night from Rutgers University working full-time during the day. Soon her drive, ambition, and intense work ethic became recognized as an asset to the company and Lynn began an upward trajectory within Lucent that lasted for 31 years.
A Passport Full of Stamps
While her first management role was in Sales and Results Reporting, Lynn’s career really picked up speed when she took on Bids and Proposals and began to work in an international environment supporting the Sales teams outside of the USA. Traveling became a regular part of the job and for eight years she was on the road in Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia working in exotic destinations that included Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong and China, to name just a few.
While racking up frequent flier miles to colorful destinations sounds glamorous and Lynn absolutely loved her job, she admits that constant international travel is not an easy life. When she was stateside she was still responsible for managing the international teams and regularly stayed in the office until 2 am so she could make conference calls across the world in different time zones. In most cases, she was navigating at least a 12 hour time difference so her internal clock was always at-the-ready to handle the international dateline as well as jet lag.
Her work week started on Sunday night since the time difference meant that across the globe it was already Monday and the business clock was ticking. When she was in-country, Lynn learned the nuances of communicating well with her foreign counterparts. Speaking slowly and without slang or colloquial phrases was a must for proper comprehension and accurate business dealings. This proved even more important when communicating by phone back in the USA since she didn’t have the luxury of eye contact or body language to help her know if her colleagues understood her message.
A Protocol Expert
Lynn shared a memory about her first experience in a third world country and vividly remembers getting off the plane and traveling to her hotel and being devastated by the sight of the extreme poverty and pollution. The memory was as clear as if it happened only yesterday and to this day her experiences have made Lynn grateful for many things that most Americans take for granted.
The challenge of working with multi cultural colleagues also empowered Lynn to become an expert in this area. Knowing the cultural differences and subtleties from region to region gave her a know-how that made her a sought after Lucent team member. For example, did you know that in Malaysia, a smile is not the ubiquitous gesture that westerners may expect? People in Malaysia may smile or laugh to hide embarrassment, shyness, bitterness, or discord. A Malaysian businessman may laugh during the most serious part of a business meeting because he is expressing anxiety or concern and not giddiness. Navigating these cultural nuances was Lynn’s specialty.
Lucent realized that many of the Bids and Proposals functions being performed in the USA could successfully be performed by in-country personnel, and Lynn had the opportunity to go to Hong Kong and Thailand for extended periods where she trained her colleagues in how to do the job she was doing in the USA.
Once Bids and Proposals were up and running in-country, Lynn was soon promoted to take on a new role in the US Based Project Management Organization by forecasting, ordering, and shipping all of the equipment necessary to support the infrastructure build-out of land lines and cell towers throughout Southeast Asia. In this role, Lynn supervised teams of management and non-management personnel, and helped them to understand how to communicate with foreign nationals, especially when most of their communication was done by e-mail and phone.
Leave a Paper Trail
One of the most important lessons Lynn learned during her work with international clients was not to take for granted that they understood what she was saying and to always leave a paper trail so she could document everything. Lynn reflects on this particular time in her career with Lucent as extremely gratifying. “It’s not anything you would ever read about in a book!” according to Lynn. It was an adventure in many ways and required an incredible dedication to the work, the company, and the lifestyle. The job came first and she loved every minute of it, but it was not for the faint of heart.
As a woman in corporate America during the 1990s, Lynn had great professional development opportunities at Lucent. The in-house training on leadership, management, and a myriad of other topics was readily available and encouraged. While her male counterparts outnumbered the women, she did see a growing number of female colleagues in the bids and proposals division and attributes this to the general assumption that women are organized multi-taskers who get things done efficiently and in a timely manner.
Take the Package
Lynn felt a great loyalty to Lucent and appreciated the opportunity to grow her career with this company where she started out humbly in an administrative assistant role. She always envisioned retiring from Lucent but was not totally shocked when after 31 years with the company the management team was offered the proverbial exit strategy package.
Lucent was the darling stock of the investment community in the late 1990s, rising from a split-adjusted price of $7.56/share to a high of $84. In 1997, Lucent acquired voice mail market leader Octel Communications Corporation, a move which immediately rendered the Business Systems Group profitable. By 1999 Lucent stock continued to soar and in that year Lucent acquired Ascend Communications. But in January of 2000, Lucent made the first of a string of announcements that it had missed its quarterly estimates and Lucent began to fall from grace. By October 2002, its stock price bottomed at 55 cents per share.
Luckily, Lynn was offered a lucrative buy-out package in 2001 with a great pension option. Her mentors in upper management all advised her to take the package and move forward with her life and her career. So it made perfect sense to leave and as it turns out, Lynn got out just in time since to this day Lucent has never been able to duplicate the financial package she and her colleagues received.
With an opportunity to reinvent herself after a fantastic career at Lucent, Lynn took a year off to figure things out. She went though some serious self reflecting and really thought about what she wanted and what made her happy. She knew for sure that she did not want to go back to the corporate world since this was an opportunity for her to create a new career where she was solely rewarded for her own efforts and individual performance instead of having her success measured by the accomplishments of a team.
While at Lucent, Lynn took a professional development seminar that asked the question: What Would You Do If You Didn’t Have a Job Tomorrow? Perhaps it was foreshadowing but this course brought her back to her childhood memories of what she wanted to be when she grew up. Lynn had an early fascination with Interior Design since she had an artistic ability and really valued her home environment.
So with a clean slate and a year to discover, she enrolled in course at The New York School of Interior Design to pursue this further. After additional research and meeting with seasoned, successful Interior Designers, Lynn was able to look at the financial realities of this new career and decided it was not for her.
The course work was incredibly expensive and although she still enjoyed Interior Design, she decided that this career path would not afford her the financial security that she valued. Taking stock of her transferable skills and connecting these with her passions, Lynn set her sights on the real estate career world to marry her skills in relationship building and her love for homes and environments that made people happy.
A Buyer’s Market
Lynn began with her due diligence and found a course to prepare her for the New Jersey real estate license exam. Once licensed, she was on a mission to find the right company in which to showcase her new real estate expertise. She chose Weichert Realtors because this firm provided additional training (Weichert University) and a mentor program that resembled the corporate structure she was familiar with. So Lynn had the best of both worlds with a business model she recognized and the autonomy of being a private contractor that earned what she put into her job with sweat equity.
Her scrappy can-do nature soon resurfaced and Lynn began to strategize ways to become a top seller knowing that she did not have the longevity in the field to compete with the current crop of top performers as a rookie agent. So, she sought out additional ways to level the playing field and earned a variety of credentials including: Certified Real Estate Specialist, Certified Relocation Specialist, Luxury Home Marketing Specialist, and New Homes and Land Certification in addition to her Graduate Real Estate Institution Designation and her Broker’s license.
The Broker’s license alone took 120 contact hours of training plus a grueling examination. Lynn has since earned a myriad of awards including the Weichert President’s Club reserved for the top 2% of agents in the company.
A New Beginning
Lynn is in her prime and really enjoys being her own boss. Her corporate competencies have served her well but now she has the flexibility to design a career that she has control over. She has set her own bar, very high as you might expect, but she has succeeded in ways that marvel her senior colleagues to this day in the real estate world.
Always thinking about that next step, Lynn has set a goal to work for the next 6-10 years and will pursue an exit strategy by transitioning to mostly client referrals. She will empower another rookie agent with her experience and mentorship and pay-it-forward as others have done for her.
When she first started with Lucent, Lynn never envisioned a 31+ year career that started as an entry-level employee and ended as a revered management level executive. Nor did she think she would fill multiple passports with exotic location stamps but life has a way of being unpredictable.
This corporate maven turned real estate mogul is now enjoying yet another new beginning and her international trips are now pure holidays. If you ever need a real estate agent in New Jersey, be sure to look up Lynn and she’ll take good care of you.
Lynn’s Advice and Action Steps:
- Figure out what you don’t want first and then consider what you love to do.
- Look back to your childhood or early memories of what you wanted to be when you grew up. This may bring back some powerful ideas that have stood the test of time.
- Take some serious quiet time to self reflect if you are going through or contemplating a change.
- If you are in a corporate environment now, take full advantage of all the professional development training opportunities you have available.
- Pay-it-forward to others as a mentor.
“I was once given a book entitled Do What You Love … The Money Will Come – truer words were never spoken. Success comes in all shapes and forms. We all measure it differently, but the end result is how you feel about yourself at the end of the day.” – Lynn Dicton
Lynn Dicton -Weichert Realtors http://www.warren-nj-homes.com/lynn-dicton.htm