For most of us, few things are more difficult than admitting we need help. Yet the world’s top professionals often thrive on advice they receive from coaches and teachers—just look at athletes and opera singers. The same holds true for a pair of cable’s leading executives. Wonya Lucas and Sherita Ceasar work at different ends of cable, but each believes firmly in the importance of mentoring. Lucas is the latest woman to helm a programmer, becoming president of The Weather Channel Networks earlier this fall. After a distinguished career at Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta, Ceasar joined Charter Communications, becoming a VP and GM of Georgia operations, with responsibility for more than 300,000 customers. Lucas and Ceasar feel their mentors played key roles in securing their new jobs. Mentoring "gives you a reference point from which to understand the vital nuances to navigate this industry," Ceasar says. "You also have a safe place to take your thoughts and ideas…and have them appropriately evaluated without fear of getting fired." For Lucas, "there’s no substitution for a connection with someone who has insight and knowledge you can regularly tap." Lending a Helping Hand In Lucas’ case, that mentor is former Turner Broadcasting EVP Julia Sprunt. Lucas was an unpaid summer intern in 1994 when Sprunt introduced her to most of Turner’s senior executives and encouraged her to work there full time. It wasn’t easy, though. "I had 27 interviews for a Turner job, and got one on the 30th," she recalls. Over time, Sprunt encouraged Lucas to try different jobs at Turner and nominated her for a Betsy Magness fellowship. "Julia showed me opportunities I couldn’t see, and how to develop patience and focus in landing those opportunities," Lucas says. Sprunt also joined Lucas in forming a support group of senior Turner women. Sometimes you find mentors by chance. Cox Communications chief people officer Mae Douglas became Ceasar’s mentor five years ago, when both were at an airport waiting for delayed flights. Ceasar knew of Douglas from stories in the trade press and struck up a conversation. "We had an immediate rapport and decided to keep connecting about some critical situations I was going through, such as getting balance in my life," Ceasar says. After that, Douglas recommended that Ceasar organize monthly get-togethers with female execs in and out of cable who were wrestling with life-balance issues similar to Ceasar’s. With the support of Douglas, Ceasar met women from Bank of America and The Weather Channel for dinners, movies and spa weekends, relaxing out-of-the office venues where they could discuss workplace issues. "It was the outlet I needed to make more time for personal development," she says. The Learning Never Stops Despite having attained top jobs, Lucas and Ceasar still see their mentors regularly. Although Sprunt left cable a decade ago to do philanthropic work in Atlanta and Kenya (with her husband, former Turner exec Bill Grumbles), "she’s still my career advisor, and still takes time to mentor other cable industry people," Lucas says. Ceasar speaks with Douglas at least once a month. "Then there’s the cold calls I make to her when a critical need arises," Ceasar notes. Giving Back Lucas and Ceaser also have become mentors themselves, devoting substantial time to coaching. Lucas mentors four women, including Weather’s strategic marketing VP Cindy Jones and affiliate operations VP Mardel Artis. One of Ceasar’s prot�g�s is Stacey Cole, government relations director for Comcast’s Atlanta systems. In this case, mentoring has taken on maternal and culinary aspects. "Our mothers have become very close, and they put the pressure on us to meet once a month and pick a fabulous place to dine," Ceasar chuckles.

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