Pitching in Is Part of Job

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Home for the Christmas holidays in England, Janice Roberts dropped by an electronics store where she observed a salesman struggling to answer a question about 3Com Corp.'s PalmPilot.

"I said, 'Excuse me, can I help you?'" recalls Ms. Roberts. "I chipped in and helped him with a sale."

Why not? Overseeing PalmPilot, the hot-selling electronic organizer, is one of Ms. Roberts' duties as 3Com's senior VP-global marketing and business development.

Ms. Roberts negotiated 3Com's $8.5 billion purchase last year of PalmPilot's parent, U.S. Robotics. She capped the year by recruiting Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, to run 3Com's consolidated $80 million global account, charting a new brand direction for 3Com.

"Last year was busy," Ms. Roberts says with some understatement. "I don't think my feet touched the ground."

Ms. Roberts, 42, has worked for nearly 20 years in sales and marketing of electronics, communications and networking products, including six years at 3Com.

Networking bid
The executive came to the U.S. in 1990 to run a British-owned marketer of networking products. 3Com bought the business in 1992, and Ms. Roberts soon took responsibility for 3Com marketing.

With companies increasingly reliant on networks to run business, 3Com is counting on new brand advertising to reach non-technical senior executives who have a stake in what networking products their companies use.

At the same time, 3Com is pushing networking products to small business. Ms. Roberts sees opportunities emerging in the next few years to network computers inside the home.

"This calendar year, we see more business coming to the home," she says.

With FCB aboard, Ms. Roberts intends to make 3Com a global brand relevant to business and consumers.

Says Ms. Roberts: "We're really talking about taking 3Com from the enterprise to the palm of your hand."

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