Position: Chief technology officer, America Online, the Dulles-based subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.

Career highlights: Chief technology officer, Convergys Corp.; corporate spokeswoman, technology issues, Convergys; vice president of advanced technology development, global telecom solutions sector, Motorola; assistant vice president, network services, Nortel-Bell Northern Research; assistant vice president, intelligent network products and services, Northern Telecom-Bell Northern Research; executive director, integrated systems laboratory, NYNEX Science and Technology Inc.; supervisor, hybrid technology/wideband services group, Bell Telephone Laboratories; technical staff, Bell Telephone Laboratories/Bellcore.

Education: BS, math and computer science, Western Illinois University; MS, operations research, Stanford University.

Personal: Lives in Illinois and commutes to Dulles two to four days a week.

How did you get to where you are?

I'm the oldest of six kids. I grew up in Evanston, Ill., and just always really liked math. . . . And my parents always instilled in all of us that anything is possible. I began my career at Bell Labs in 1978 as a brand-new engineer in a group that did exploratory development. Really, it was all about forward-looking work. So I had the chance to work in the first advanced mobile phone system. I also worked on what is DSL today, broadband DSL for the telephone company. And I worked on the first home-information services. It's really what AOL has made real today. And really I had a lot of fun along the way.

I then had the opportunity to create a development lab from scratch and recruited a real multi-disciplinary technology team. We built the first network-based voice dialing service in the world. And as much fun as that project was, it's the people that I'll never forget. I also believe being open-minded and friendly is especially critical for a successful woman. Then a company that we had out-competed made me an offer I couldn't refuse. And I moved to Canada for several years and loved being part of a slightly different culture. I found myself taking some bold risks that have served me well over the years. Having spent my career thus far this point on the wireline side of the telecom business, both as a service provider and as a manufacturer, I then decided to return home to Chicago and expand my understanding of telecom technology by joining Motorola and managing the development of the first digital cellular network.

Most recently, having always worked on networks, I had the opportunity to get to know the back-office space, namely billing and call-center technology as the CTO at Convergys. Now, I'm applying my diverse telecom technology background to the media space at AOL. As media and the Internet converge, AOL is a really exciting place to be right now. And I'm very impressed with the breadth and depth of the technology talent here. Tons of new ideas. To me, it's just a matter of executing with urgency and edge, which I've always had great fun doing. Imagine, if you will, software technology leadership in the media space. At the end of the day, though, I think the reason I'm where I'm at now is that I followed my father's wise advice to just have fun and be myself.

-- Judith Mbuya