When we turn 30 we are said to be approaching maturity.
That’s one way to see WICT on its 30th birthday. Yet at 30, people and WICT are relatively young. Accordingly, we profile 15 distinguished graduates of WICT’s Betsy Magness Leadership Institute. These women, older and younger, represent WICT at 30, leaders of today and promise for the future.
Since its inception in 1993, WICT’s Betsy Magness Leadership Institute, named for the TCI co-founder, has graduated more than 430 women. Armed with rigorous leadership training and an unwavering circle of support, Betsy women have put their mark on cable. Some of BMLI’s distinguished grads reflect on cable’s biggest challenges and why the industry still needs more women at the top.
VP, Marketing & Communications, Rainbow Media Holdings
Who’s at the end of the Rainbow? More often than not, it’s the dynamic Bragan. As leader of the company’s corporate marketing initiatives, Bragan spends much time behind the scenes organizing public affairs initiatives, trade and promotional activities and executive presentations. Her advice to women on the rise is to take charge of their careers, seek support and don’t shy away from risks. “Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. New experiences, successes and mistakes make us stronger, personally and professionally.” She credits BMLI for reinforcing the importance of effective leadership and providing a forum “where women executives can refine their leadership skills and take those lessons back to their companies where they can effect change.
President, Bright House Networks
An alum of the inaugural BMLI class, the feisty Bergman’s leadership at Bright House and across the industry, her intelligence and upbeat personality combined to earn her NCTA’s Vanguard Award this year. Under her guidance Bright House continues to embrace new technology—just look at the rollout of HD channels in Florida—and is known for customer service. “Become the best at whatever you do,” she says. “Roll up your sleeves and be willing to pitch in where needed. Surround yourself with people who will help you reach your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Keep yourself strong – Stay active and exercise. Take care of you. Your strength and positive outlook will transfer to other parts of your life.
SVP, Eastern Division Operations, Cox
Along with Bergman (above) and Gillman (below), Campbell, at Cox since 1982, is one of cable operation’s top-ranking women, overseeing systems serving 2.1 million customers. “I learned that I can have it all… just not all at once,” she says of her Betsy experience. Campbell views Hillary Clinton’s presidential run as a huge step in breaking the glass ceiling, and hopes in 30 years WICT will be redundant because equity will be commonplace. But there’s still work to be done, particularly placing women in key leadership roles at the MSOs. “We are still woefully underrepresented on the operator’s side,” she says.
Tanya Van Court
SVP/GM, Noggin, ParentsConnect and NickJr.com, Nickelodeon
Digital guru Van Court leads Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group’s preschool and parents online businesses. She was the driving force behind Nickjr.com’s and ParentsConnect.com’s recent facelifts and enhanced interactivity additions. She also oversees daily management of Noggin. “In a crowded entertainment industry, people have more options, but less time to filter through all of their choices,” the former ESPN exec says. “The way that we excel at Nickelodeon is by serving as the first stop for a time-starved generation.” She advises younger women in cable to trust themselves. “First, listen to older women who have already succeeded in the industry. Then, throw away half of that information and listen to yourself. The Millennial Generation is comprised of the people who are going to shape and lead those changes, so young women should trust their own experiences and intuition.”
SVP, Domestic Distribution, Discovery Networks
Dangar oversees all aspects of account management for Discovery’s domestic distributors, no small feat given the 14 U.S. networks under the company’s umbrella and a stream of re-brands and re-launches of late. Dangar wants to see young women focus on operations, technology and finance. “Not only do these areas lack proportionate female presence, they are skills that will always be valuable regardless of the economy or other external factors.” In 30 years her wish is that “WICT is a leadership training resource that men and women rely on equally because PAR will have been achieved.”
SVP, Content Acquisition, Comcast
Comcast’s content czarina describes her company’s programming philosophy in three words: Availability, quality and timeliness. “Multiplatform is the big thing we are talking about. We spend tons of time talking to programmers about how quickly we can get the content, especially when we’re talking about the Internet,” she says. Don’t forget quality. “You could have the content out there but unless it’s robust and people want to see it, it’s worthless.” She advises women to gather mentors as she gathers content. “Get as many mentors as you can. Each will share a different valuable lesson.”
President, Media Sales, Time Warner Cable
Gillman has risen quickly since joining Time Warner Cable three years ago. Her focus has been on addressing measurement and engagement of viewers. That leads to her current obsession: rising expectations and demands of subscribers and advertisers. “Cable excels if we put our customers first,” she believes. Gillman’s also tracking media fragmentation and the proliferation of devices, which presents “amazing opportunities for cable to leverage customer relationships, and the cable plant to add value to strategic partners and subscribers.” Understanding how the business works outside of your department is her charge to younger women. “The more you know, the greater your chances of making a difference.”
SVP, Enterprise Performance Office, Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
Emerging consumer platforms will be big business. Hamilton makes sure the infrastructure and processes are in place to support all of Turner’s business activity. “I am paying attention to the advertising market,” she says. “It impacts how cable can and will continue to make money.” She advises up-and-comers to read as much about the industry as possible. She also suggests finding mentors. “But please remember, mentoring is a two-way street. You have valuable knowledge, as well.”
SVP, Communications & Public Affairs, Planet Green
The irrepressible Howell showed her versatility last year by changing gears, segueing over to head the launch of Discovery’s seedling, Planet Green. Not surprisingly, her “Whisper Buzz Scream” campaign was a huge hit, from Internet anticipation to the launch concert at the Greek Theater. This consummate team player says a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt captures the many lessons she learned at BMLI: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
VP/GM, Operations and Voice, South Carolina Division, Time Warner Cable
As the head of operations in one of Time Warner Cable’s competitive hotbeds, Keys lives the daily reality of competition. Her strategy focuses on the shift from cable as a utility to the social necessity of the bundle. “Clearly women are making significant strides in the industry; however, the number of senior-level female executives remains relatively small,” she laments, offering this advice to up-and-comers: “Make learning the business and getting to know yourself equally important goals.”
VP, Talent and Leadership Initiatives, Comcast
It’s not every day a corporation creates a position to suit an executive. That’s what Comcast did last year with veteran HR innovator Killilea. Known for her knowledge, passion and advocacy for professional development, she advises young women in cable to “be the CEO of your own career.” A BMLI facilitator for seven years, Killilea’s “learned how incredibly powerful a professional and personal network of women can be,” she says. “Having women and people of color in key roles” is one way cable will continue to innovate and adapt.
CMO, Canoe Ventures
Lins remains in the spotlight despite leaving Comcast Spotlight in November to focus full-time on Canoe, arguably cable’s hottest initiative. How did she get there? In part by not worrying about her gender. “Understand that it matters, but don’t get sidetracked by it. Focus on the work, do your best and make your contributions matter,” Lins urges. “Run your own race. If you’re too concerned with what others think or have accomplished and pace yourself according [to others’ expectations], you will lose sight of the opportunities you have to make an impact. “
Chief Marketing Officer, Discovery Communications
Lucas has transferred her knowledge, vision and strategic expertise to Silver Spring, Maryland, from Atlanta with typical aplomb. Nearly a year after she arrived from The Weather Channel to lead Discovery’s worldwide marketing, she and the company continue to push the branding envelope. Her mantra for success is unchanged: “Know and respect your consumer. Speak to their needs and desires. Continue to innovate.” Lucas is grateful to Betsy Magness for bringing her into a circle of trust among so many influential industry women. “They can be tough and challenging, but they always have my best interest in mind. They have never steered me in the wrong direction.” She urges women entering the industry to “know yourself. Connect. Listen. Communicate. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.”
Lisa Choi Owens
SVP, Online Partnerships and Distribution, Scripps
Scripps scooped up Owens from Fuse last spring, and she got right to work expanding the company’s reach in the digital arena. Owens would like to see larger representation of women in ad sales, technology and operations. “Often people who have had broader experience running a business rise to the top of senior management, which could be one reason there are so few women at the very top of organizations,” she notes. Will WICT exist in 30 years? Owens believes so, but hopes “equal opportunity and equal pay are off the agenda and we will be ensuring women’s perspective is properly represented in all forms of media.”
SVP, Human Resources, TBS
Relationship-building is critical to the success of women in cable, Walker notes. She should know. As the top human resources executive for Turner’s entertainment networks, she oversees recruiting and diversity outreach within the company and externally. “Relationships with individuals who are superiors, peers, subordinates, in the industry and not in the industry will play a key role in your success,” she says. Aside from building her leadership skills, BMLI got Walker’s health and fitness back on track. “Like most women, I’d spent more than a decade focusing on career and family and without realizing that I’d done so, I’d actually put myself on the backburner. I implemented some of the things I learned at Betsy Magness along with a couple of additional action items. My health and fitness level have improved significantly.”