MacCallum, who is one of the most prominent leaders at CNN, is in the thick of things, heading the network’s direct-to-consumer platform CNN+, which is set to debut in Q1 2022. While currently hiring approximately 200 staff to support this new business, she is also overseeing product for the core CNN Digital business, CNN Audio and CNN Underscored. Busy as she is (to put it mildly!), MacCallum says balancing work and family is key to happiness. “You get a short time on earth with the people you love, whether they are your kids, your parents or your friends,” she notes. “Hard things come up in life. It’s important to make space for life in addition to work.”
Best advice for someone looking to re-enter the workforce after a hiatus?
First, careers are long. You don’t have to have a straight line to the corner office (or wherever you’re trying to go). I have had three kids along the way and have had to take different paths in order to balance my family life at times. I’m in the thick of it with three young kids right now and don’t have it sorted out, but I think it’s important to do what’s right for you and your family, both in terms of taking time off but also while working. You get a short time on earth with the people you love, whether they are your kids, your parents or your friends. Hard things come up in life. It’s important to make space for life in addition to work. For me, that’s being with my kids and trying to enjoy the chaos but love in our household right now.
In terms of re-entering, I read a great book a while ago now that I’ve used in every job called “The First 90 Days.” I now create a plan for starting a new job or coming back from leave where I clearly outline for myself what I need to accomplish in my first 90 days, and I aggressively try to stick to the plan. Urgent but not important things will always come up, and I try to be very disciplined about focusing on goals. And I also try to make sure that I manage my calendar well – it’s hard, but important to make sure that your time reflects your goals, not just whatever comes up over the course of a week. I really recommend being relentless about time management (something moms tend to be pretty good at!).
Do you have an example of male allyship that made a difference to you?
I have had a number of male mentors who have lifted me up by promoting me to leadership or by recommending me for jobs. I’ve been so grateful over the years to men and women for their support, and have been lucky to work for mostly men who have been committed to my career and development. When I was at the New York Times, I partnered with three other women to advocate for a change in our parental leave policy. We had a powerful set of allies in the man who ran HR at the time and in the CEO. We socialized that we were going to make the case and they helped us navigate the process to make a business case to them as to why it would impact the bottom line positively. They approved the proposal in one short meeting, and changed the policy for both men and women.
What one female empowerment book do you think every woman should read?
“Becoming” and “We Should All Be Feminists.” Michelle Obama’s story is relatable, poignant and inspiring. She’s raw and honest in many areas of her story—I devoured that book. And “We Should All Be Feminists” is another personal story that makes the case that feminism lifts up everyone, not just women.