This article is part of a broader feature on women working in key engineering and technology roles in the telecom industry. To read other articles in this series, click here.
Since November 2012, Sara Mazur has been vice president and head of Ericsson Research, where she’s leading the charge to 5G. Earlier this year, as part of celebrations surrounding International Women's Day 2016, Swedish business magazine Veckans Affärer published its annual list of the most "Powerful Women in Industry and Commerce." Mazur was named at the top of the list of 13 leaders in the Digital category.
“She spent her childhood taking apart appliances and now, with 650 researchers and a huge budget at her disposal, she sees to it that Sweden continues to be a leader within mobile technology development,” said a statement by the jury that chose the winners.
Mazur started at Ericsson Research in 1995 and, among other things, served as expert and head of a research unit responsible for radio network research. She earned a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Ph.D. from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, where she has been an associate professor in fusion plasma physics. Besides her current position, she has held many other management positions and is the holder of 69 patents. She co-authored a book on antennas in wireless communications (CRC Press, 2001) and has written several articles for international physics journals.
How did you get to where you are now? "I decided already when I was very young that I wanted to study physics or technology and work in those areas since I was very interested in physics and math,” Mazur said. “Hence I studied at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and graduated first as a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and then as a Ph.D. in Fusion Plasma Physics.”
After 10 years in academia, she decided that it was time to move out into industry and she joined Ericsson in the radio research unit. “Since then I have been with Ericsson for 21 years, around half of the time in research and half of the time in business units but always working within R&D and specifically with research and new technologies,” she said. For the past 18 years, Mazur has held different leadership positions.
“My guiding star has always been to work with something I enjoy,” she explained. “Now I think I have the best job in Sweden and possibly in the whole world. I really enjoy working with new technologies and also working with people and strategy, and in my job I can combine all three of them.”
What are the biggest obstacles you've faced in your professional career? “I don’t think that I have faced any big obstacles,” Mazur said. “Working with something I enjoy and also with the objective to have a very good job has worked for me.”
What advice would you give to young women entering the workforce in your industry? “It is very difficult to plan your entire career beforehand. My advice is to find an area that you are really excited about and try to perform the best you can. It is, however, important to select the right company to work for and if possible also select a good manager. If you are interested in taking on a new role, don’t be shy to tell your manager about your ambitions and always apply for positions you are interested in. Even if you don’t get the job, you have shown that you aspire to higher positions. Trust your own feelings and try to select your own way, rather than thinking about what others select.”
What are you most excited about in the future? “I am truly excited about the evolution we will see in how we live our lives and how society and industries will evolve now that we are moving into the 5G era,” she said. “I am very positive when it comes to future opportunities.”