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Posted: May 01, 2008

Executive Edge

Mountain Region president for Verizon Wireless has a mantra for success: Be relentless

Lynn Bronikowski

When Melanie Braidich arrived in Denver from Southern California as president of Verizon Wireless' Mountain Region in January 2007, she thought about her personal brand — how she'd introduce herself to the 1,100 employees in the five-state region to give them a glimpse of who she is.
She harkened to her high school years in Newark, Ohio, where as a sophomore she played center on the varsity volleyball team.

She recalled the challenge of back-to-back state championship games and the words of Don Roderick, her coach at Newark Catholic High School, that would stay with her through college at Ohio Northern University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and would help guide her 19-year career in the wireless industry.

"He said: ‘Be relentless.’ And that has become my tagline" said Braidich, who in her first year as Mountain Region president has been just that — overseeing $102 million in network improvements in Colorado alone.

"He was one of those coaches who set high goals, made us believe in ourselves and said that if we’d concentrate on the fundamentals, we’d win a state championship," Braidich said. "Plus, when he put us through tough drills — he would then put himself through the same drills."

Today, Braidich follows that strategy — putting herself through drills by visiting stores, checking in on customer service and standing ready to move into jobs within the company — whether it be an eight-month stint as acting president of Verizon Wireless’ Northwest Region in Seattle, or just before assuming the presidency, working as executive director of retail customer experience at the company’s west area headquarters in Irvine, Calif.

She had moved to California on a whim after playing in an NCAA volleyball tournament her junior year in college in Southern California and vowing to return after college graduation.

"The morning I was leaving for California, the car packed, with no money, no idea what I was going to do, I started crying at the kitchen table," Braidich said. "And my mom, who obviously didn’t want to see one of her children go so far from home, simply said, 'The worst that can happen is that you would return home.’ After that, I just jumped in with two feet."

Her first job was in direct sales — selling car phones in an era when few could afford mobile service. Her first cell phone was an Audiovox 7000 installed in her Volvo — a vast contrast to the sleek Blackberry Pearl she carries today.

Braidich moved to Colorado a week after back-to-back historic blizzards closed Denver International Airport last winter, eager to get here and jump in. Among the first challenges she witnessed was a cell service outage in the Georgetown area, which forced Verizon crews to rent a Sno-Cat and drive up a mountain to restore cell service.

"When they got up the mountain, they determined it was a power line that was the problem and helped restore not only cell service but power," Braidich said. "Our communities depend on us, and that was quite a cross-functional team that stepped in."

She witnessed similar heroics last spring when a tornado destroyed the small Eastern Plains town of Holly.

"Within 12 hours of getting a call that Holly needed our help, we had set up a temporary cell site and restored communication for emergency services," Braidich said.

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Lynn Bronikowski is a freelance writer in Denver.

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