Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cable cowgirls - key takeaways from women leaders at the 2011 Wonder Women luncheon

 'Buck up under pressure and check your tears at the door'.

That was the advice first given to Jadz Janucik, now Senior Vice President of Association Affairs for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, by a mentor and 'cable cowboy' at the start of her career.

Today at the Multichannel News Wonder Women luncheon at the Hilton, co-hosted by Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT), the award recipients shared a lot of their best advice and reflections.

Here were some of my favorites:

- Never be afraid to lose your job (Lori Conkling, A&E Television Networks)
- Be a rebel, a pirate. Don't be afraid to fail (Stephanie Gibbons, FX)
- Never confuse activity with achievement - focus on results (Kimberly Edmunds, Cox Communications)
- Never be afraid to hire people smarter and more talented than you are - and give them an opportunity to shine (Jadz Janucik, NCTA)
- Give people encouragement at times of failure - that's when they need it most (Grace Killelea, Comcast)
- Prepare to be lucky, then know what to do (Christina Miller, Turner Sports and Cartoon Network Enterprises) - good things happen at the intersection of positivity and preparation
- Learn from experience, but don't be limited by experience (Diane Tryneski, HBO)

The recurring themes throughout the recipient's speeches were the importance of:
 1) a good work ethic (typically learned while young)
 2) a general lack of conventional thinking in approach both to career path and to decision making in general, and also
 3) teamwork and team building

Regarding the importance of hard work and developing a strong work ethic, what was notable was the number of award recipients who cited working mothers as powerful early examples and role models.  Stephanie Gibbons' example of her mother, who had grown from field nurse to hospital administrator, stuck out as particularly inspiring - and it was hard not to wonder whether observing the example of women working and succeeding, in a time when mothers frequently did not work, was at least a part of what catalyzed many of these women to succeed, and to believe that success was possible and attainable in the world of 'cable cowboys'. Interestingly, most of the award winners also cited strong women mentors/bosses early on in their career, underscoring the importance of women mentoring women.

Stephanie also extended the notion of hard work to caution the audience not to ever lose touch with the actual work, the reason why you are here in the first place – to maintain a 'yeoman-like attitude to work', no matter how high you get. She explained that staying connected with the actual work enabled you to remain relevant and useful, by keeping you in touch with what had brought you to the dance, originally. 

On unconventional thinking, it was Mindy Grossman's reflections that resonated the most. Now CEO of Home Shopping Network and one of the few female CEO's of a public company, she described her own career path as unconventional and perhaps somewhat unpredictable. The guiding principal that united her decisions has been only to seek out what would fuel her passion and purpose. She urged audiences to challenge the status quo, to believe in the ripple effect of belief, and change, and to become committed to creating examples of diversity in the workplace. 

Having spent much of her career in retail, she can be credited for establishing the Nike Women's Leadership Council, after recognizing the relative absence of women within the Nike management ranks. She pointed out that the future of the development and growth of women in the workplace lay largely in the hands of women to accelerate themselves and each other, and issued a challenge to all the women in the audience who have achieved success, to take personal responsibility for mentoring the next generation.

Also a proponent of unconventional thinking, Lisa Schwartz of IFC Entertainment added,

'Make choices that involve risk and a leap of faith... It’s OK to go left when everyone’s going right'.

She also called out thanks to those in the audience who had been willing to make that leap of faith with her earlier in her career, who had approached new ideas with the generous spirit of 'let's see where this takes us'.
Finally, regarding the importance of teams Michelle Kim, Time Warner Cable perhaps summed it up most powerfully when she said: teams comprise the ‘outside forces that serve as a catalyst for strength’. Christina Miller, Turner Sports and Cartoon Network Enterprises, underscored this by saying that success is made possible in the first place by those around you. Therefore, it becomes hugely important to care personally about the people with whom you work, to be as good as you possibly can to them, to mentor promising talent and, when within your power, fight for promotions for them. 

After all, Stephanie Gibbons wryly noted, they're going to deserve everything you can get for them for all the hell that you'll put them through on a daily basis with your high standards and your never settle, never stop attitude to work...


Kim Oberg said...

Thank you Tania! Great summary and some inspiring thoughts as takeaways.

Venetia said...

WOW, your review of the luncheon is an inspiration in itself. I can only imagine how motivating it must have been to be there. Thank you

Sandy said...

Nice article, I will definitely keep these takeaways in mind!