Editor’s note: “Breaking Glass” is a regular feature that focuses on women and minority executives and the issues minorities face in the high-tech industry.Over the last several years Alternate Access President Adrienne Lumpkin has often been asked to share her story. Sometimes it’s her marketing insight the audience is interested in; sometimes it’s about her expertise in convergence communication technology, and there’s been more than a time or two as she’s addressed hundreds as a female African American entrepreneur.

Today, she avoids thoughts that shrink professional development and self-esteem.

Like many women who were newcomers to technology in the 80s, Lumpkin has had her share of unsupportive workplace situations – those defining moments, she says, that force you to make different decisions down the road. Decisions that include family sacrifices, notable successes, and 80-hour work weeks.

Through all experiences, Lumpkin applies the same matter-of-fact drive and determination to push through to the next level. A plan of action that has carried her throughout her 20-year career beginning with Hewlett-Packard Corporation, IBM, and, later, forming her own company, Alternate Access, with her husband in 1993.

Earlier this month Lumpkin was asked to talk on a panel entitled “The Engine of the Economy: Women Entrepreneurs” before the Annual Issues Forum of the North Carolina Chapter of Leadership America. During its annual forum, Leadership America invites geographically, ethnically, and professionally diverse women to participate in a yearlong series of three intensive development sessions. Lumpkin believes leadership is one of the keys to growth and believes it’s within everyone.

“I try to look for the leader in each individual with whom I work, and I always find a vein of excellence and enthusiasm,” she says. “My own is tapped when I have the opportunity to share what I have learned with others.”

Being one of few females in technology early in her career, Lumpkin knows what it feels like to go it alone. While people more easily focus on the differences – either as a minority, as a woman or otherwise — she makes a choice to focus on the similarities.

Attending a board meeting or a professional networking event, intimidation could be evident , being the only female African American in the room. But, she explains, “We shrink from those occasions by limiting ourselves to that one fact instead of celebrating that you have accomplished what’s necessary to be sitting at the table – just like your colleagues. I remember that.”

Making success count

Lumpkin doesn’t shrink from opportunities at Alternate Access. Converging communications, the integration of telephones, interactive voice response, Internet, and call centers are what her company offers to help businesses improve their customer service and staff productivity.

As a mother of four, president of her own company, along with a myriad of community and professional responsibilities, balance and having an overall purpose is what drives now.

“Both personally and professionally, I am committed to the basic goal of our family,” explains Lumpkin. “It’s a focus that when things get crazy, that we’re doing all this for our family, not for each of us individually. It makes a difference.”

Down the not-to-distant road, Lumpkin hopes to be speaking less about converging technology and more on children and public education.

Lumpkin offers a few tips that help keep her grounded, purposeful and coming back for more each and every day:

  • Always do your best work…It may look like a cloud at the time, but one never knows when there’s a silver lining behind it. There’s opportunity in each situation, use them to your advantage.
  • Understand your values…Demonstrate your personal values in your business. This is especially important for business owners because it will sustain you through the daily ups and downs. You will build a foundation of what your company is about, not just what you do.
  • Embrace technology–Technology is always changing. It keeps you alive, fresh, and new. Use it to make your business and employees more productive.

Alternate Access has been recognized on a local, regional and national basis growth and entrepreneurship. Its regional awards include three Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Pinnacle awards, and three North Carolina Tech 50 awards. On a national basis, the company was recognized with 1999 Deloitte and Touche Tech 500 Award.

Lumpkin is a lifetime member and member of the Board of Directors of the National Black MBA Association, an organization that has recognized her twice as MBA of the Year, awarded her the H. Naylor Fitzhugh Award of Relevance, and recognized Alternate Access as Small Business of the Year.

Currently, she is a member of the Board of Directors for the Raleigh Little Theatre, the Business Alliance Board of Ligon GT Magnet Middle School; she also sits on the Business Advisory Board for Meredith College.

Alternate Access: www.alternateaccess.com