What’s It Like to Be on the WICT SE Board

 Are you looking to take your career to the next level? Do you want to network and collaborate with the best and brightest in the cable and telecommunications industry? Are you an active member of WICT Southeast? Well then perhaps joining the WICT SE board is what you’re looking for. The CALL FOR CANDIDATES for the WICT Southeast 2021 Board is officially open and we need some great candidates to run for the open positions. 

For those of you who are thinking about running and want to know what it takes to run and serve, we’ve asked 3 current board members, LaShaun Solomon (Immediate Past President), Renita Griskel (President), and Shelley Hoffmann (Vice President) some key questions that may help guide your decision making.

What made you decide to make a run for a position on the WICT board?

Lashaun Solomon (LS): My WICT Board experience began in 2012 when I joined the Greater Texas Chapter Board as Sponsorship Chair.  In 2014, I experienced a career change and was seeking to reconnect and build my network in Atlanta. Given my previous years of WICT Board experience, I found it more than applicable to pursue an opportunity on the WICT Southeast Board.

Renita Griskel (RG): I’ve always enjoyed attending WICT events and helping out behind the scenes. At the time when I submitted my nomination, it was after talking with friends who were on the board. Those conversations nudged me out of my comfort zone and into a board position.

Shelley Hoffmann (SH): I had recently moved to Atlanta after having been active in the New York chapter, as well as having participated in the Rising Leaders and Executive Development programs offered by WICT HQ. My motivation was twofold: I was looking to network within my new community and I wanted to give back to WICT since it had been such an integral part of my personal and professional development. I immediately transferred my membership to the Southeast chapter and started to volunteer at events. This eventually lead to my interest in a board position. I wanted to do more. I’ve always grounded myself in the goal of how I can be of service. I wanted to make an impact. And I knew this was one way to do both.

How did you prepare for the campaign?

LS: I sought out to volunteer at local WICT events and get to know the existing Board members.  The connections I made were instrumental in my joining of the WICT Southeast Board in 2015 as the Senior Director of Partnerships.  I served in this role for two years and was elected Vice President in 2018, which led to me serving as President for 2019.

RG: I did some research about the position and then determined what I would do in that role to add to the success of the chapter if I were to be elected.  

SH: The way I found myself on the board was a bit untraditional. I volunteered as much as I could. I networked with members and current board members as much as I could. I attended every Atlanta event. Eventually, I decided to run for Director of Programming – Georgia. And I lost. I was disappointed. But I was undeterred. About halfway through the year, I reached out to Anne Loescher, the then-President of WICT Southeast, and asked her if she needed any additional help. And she said, “You know what? One of the programming positions just opened up.”  So I submitted a personal statement to the board explaining my commitment to the chapter and was voted in. 

After you were elected, what was your commitment (meetings, conference calls, events, etc.) on top of your day job?

LS: WICT Southeast is a working Board of dedicated professionals.  Each role is critical to our success as a multi-state chapter. My commitments have consisted of several weekly committee calls, monthly Board meetings and attending WICT SE events across GA, TN, and AL.

RG: The commitment ebbs and flows. There are times when I’m on call’s multiple times a day and multiple days a week. There are also times when I may not have a WICT call during the week. There are always emails or slack messages daily, but there is also help available when needed for an event or program. The board is very supportive and understanding that there is work, WICT, and life balance.

SH: It really depends on the role. Some positions are intense for a short period of time like Mentoring, Partnerships, Red Letter Awards. Others are consistent throughout the year like Programming, Marketing and Membership. We are a working board. We are deft at balancing responsibilities in our careers and at home. While there are some days that feel primarily WICT-focused more than others, as professionals, we all know how to incorporate our WICT work into our day to day. Is it hard work? Yes. There are many calls and emails depending on the week or month. It takes dedicated individuals for the board to hum and sing. But the reward is so much greater than the effort. 

What impact has the WICT Southeast board had on your career?

LS: Serving on the WICT Board has been one of the most rewarding opportunities for me!  My involvement in WICT has inspired me to pursue new challenges and has provided me the opportunity to develop and grow my leadership skills, formulate a robust and diverse network, and expand my scope of the complex industry we work in. 

RG: I have had an opportunity to connect one on one with executives at my own company and other companies which has been helpful from a networking standpoint.

SH: Experience on the board gives you the opportunity to get outside of your comfort zone and expand your professional tool box beyond your daily responsibilities. Because of my board experience, I am a better people manager. I’ve gained skills in marketing and negotiating and have opportunities to practice my public speaking as well as my active listening – as I do my best to be responsive to our membership. I’m positively impacted and mentored by my fellow board members across Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama and because of that, I learn something new every day. It’s invaluable to my career.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to run for the board?

LS: Simply put, just go for it!  If elected, serving on the Board is an opportunity for you to learn a new skill in a safe and supportive space or master a current one.  If possible, start volunteering at events and meeting other Board members – this will help you gain more insight on the responsibilities.  Lastly, be honest with yourself about the commitment your willing to make to serve on the Board.

RG: If you have a passion for WICT and what it stands for and want to channel that passion to help continue the successful impact that WICTSE has had on its members for nearly 40 years, then the board is for you! It is hard work, it takes up some of your time and some of your energy, but the tradeoff is what you’ll remember the most. The work you do on the board is rewarding, far-reaching and allows you to offer the membership base multiple developmental and professional growth opportunities.

SH: Be transparent with your manager about the time commitment. Talk to current and former board members to get their perspective. Do your due diligence. Bring your enthusiasm, fresh perspective and commitment to our mission of creating women leaders in our industry. And plan to receive a huge return on your investment.

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WICT Southeast is currently looking for enthusiastic, organized, and dedicated members who would like to run for the 2021 Board of Directors! Serving on the Board is a great way to expand your leadership skills, connect with a diverse group of professionals, and make a positive impact on the industry. Click here for more information.

I’m a black woman working in the telecommunications industry and I have questions.

By Ciji Townsend

I’m a black woman. And because I’m a black woman, unfortunately the recent senseless acts fueled by systemic racism isn’t new to me. But the collective response that extends outside of my community and spills over into the streets via protests and rallies in all 50 states and 14 countries is quite different than what I’ve experienced in my lifetime.

Ciji Townsend, Senior Manager, Internal Communications, Cox Communications

Even with all of the attention and heightened concern, I still have questions. What happens next? What’s the long-term plan? And, specifically what’s the role of my colleagues in the telecommunications and cable industry? 

By now you’ve probably heard that you need to listen to black voices.

Let’s take it one step further and both listen and learn. Now is the time to increase your network beyond the one black team member that you call on when you have a question. Listen to multiple voices, invite new people to the conversation that wouldn’t normally have a seat at the table. And let’s give ourselves permission to be ok with both formal and informal listening sessions. Now on to the learning. Listening isn’t enough. Be intentional about learning what you don’t know and re-learning what you think you already know. In our industry we are vital to the information that is consumed by the masses. Before we make major decisions, we need to listen and learn to better understand the cause and effect of systemic racism.

Everyone is watching. 

Speaking of content, all eyes are glued to their screens right now. In the past few months because of the disruption caused by COVID-19, families are at home and the consumption of television shows, movies and documentaries is at an all-time high. How can we be better stewards of diversifying that content? Let’s be honest, technology has turned black voices into the biggest media company in the world. Is your company paying attention? Are you amplifying black stories and movies that have black lead actors beyond black history month?

Pace yourself for the long-haul.

Yes, the outcry is loud right now. And we all know that it will only take one major news story for the momentum to dwindle. So, what commitment will we make now, as voices in our industry to ensure that the work done today continues to show up tomorrow?

There are many questions that have yet to be answered. And our industry is perfectly positioned to encourage the continuation of race-based conversations and to even provide a stage not only for awareness but also change. 

What are your thoughts? What can our industry do to spark change and keep the conversation and momentum going? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

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As an organization whose mission is based on equality, WICT is committed to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of life. We stand firm with our partners and the communities we serve to eradicate systemic racism like that we witnessed with George Floyd and many others. WICT stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition, we will address the civil unrest during all of our programs for the foreseeable future. We will never stop using our platform to shine a spotlight on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. All of us wish for peace and wellness for all of our brothers and sisters in our extended community.

Our hope is that together, we will rise above and emerge more united than ever before. Be well, stay strong.

6 Questions for UP’s Angela Cannon

Never second guess yourself or your abilities.”

An Interview with Angela Cannon

WICT Southeast sat down with Angela Cannon, Vice President, Channel Manager for UP Faith & Family, to ask her six burning questions and tell us why, now more than ever, it’s essential to renew your membership or join WICT Southeast.

Tell me 3 personal things that people might find surprising.

Angela Cannon Vice President, Channel Manager UP Faith and Family

Let’s see…

  • When I first started college, I had every intention to attend medical school to become an OBGYN.  I worked as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and later worked at a hospital as a Phlebotomist to earn money for college.
  • I ran a half marathon in Kona, Hawaii, to raise funds for stroke victims.
  • I’m an author of a children’s book, “Who Am I? I’m God’s Princess” and I own an e-commerce beauty store, called I Love Us. 

Briefly, tell us about your path to your current position at UP Family & Family!

My career path has definitely had some interesting twists along the way.  I majored in Biology during college, and upon graduation, immediately moved to Los Angeles.  After a few disappointing interviews to be a lab technician, I landed a research analyst role at Warner Bros.  While working in research, I caught the entertainment bug, and also wanted to further my education. I decided to obtain a post-graduate degree and earned an MBA with a concentration in marketing.  After graduating, I was working at Walt Disney as a Sr. Research Analyst and abruptly decided to take a leap of faith to move to Atlanta.  I began a new role at Gospel Music Channel/UP Entertainment three weeks prior to the launch of the network and 15 years later, I’m still here.

My journey at UP Entertainment has afforded me extensive experience to launch new networks, including UPtv and aspire TV, as well as the direct-to-consumer Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) service, UP Faith & Family, across technologies, distribution platforms, and devices.  I’ve also worked in content distribution and marketing, and international program sales. 

I began my career at Gospel Music Channel/UP Entertainment creating research affiliate and ad sales decks, which led to building the affiliate marketing department, which led to becoming VP, Affiliate Marketing and VP, National Accounts, Content Distribution and Marketing.  In this role, not only was I lead marketer with top distributors DIRECTV, DISH and Amazon, but one of my most notable accomplishments was being a key member of the team that conceptualized and launched aspire TV, in partnership with Earvin “Magic” Johnson.  Aspire TV is the entertainment destination that reflects, shares and celebrates the experiences of black culture and urban lifestyle.

I was fortunate to lead all marketing efforts for our SVOD service, UP Faith & Family.  After several years working on the SVOD service with distributors and serving a pivotal role in relaunching the direct to consumer app, I am now Vice President and Channel Manager, heading up the service for the past year and a half.  I oversee strategic planning and business strategy, while orchestrating daily operations including technology, management of P&L, content acquisition, programming, marketing, distribution, data science, operations, planning and analysis.

Working at UP Entertainment, aspire TV and ultimately, UP Faith & Family, have afforded me the opportunity to get up each day and work for brands that unapologetically hold true to inspiring others to be a better version of themselves through positive and uplifting entertainment.  Who wouldn’t love to say inspiring others is my true passion?

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Oh, do you mean just 5 years ago?  Just kidding. Well, looking back, I would tell myself to “be fearless”, “get comfortable, being uncomfortable”, because that’s where growth is and “never second guess yourself or your abilities.”  There are moments in my career where taking the easy road seemed to be best choice. However, had I just been fearless and looked at life as a gift worth living to the fullest, I definitely would have made some different decisions.  I’m also a believer that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Where I sit right now in this iteration of our swiftly evolving, video streaming industry, I’m truly blessed.

I would also tell myself to be more mindful of the gifts God gave me.  Being an innovator, motivator, conceptualist, executor and confidant are my corporate gifts.  It all works for our good, but we must recognize our unique gifts and be grateful for them.

In our industry, change seems to be happening more quickly than ever. How do you personally deal with unexpected change and how do you help your team navigate it? 

In this ever-evolving world, it’s very important to stay informed on new technologies, monitor changes and advances in the industry, and be relentless about how to continue to build your skillsets within it. Streaming, although on a growth trajectory, is still a relatively small industry. Networking and getting involved in industry events, webinars, conferences are key.  I’m proud to say I serve as a mentor for the Women in Streaming Media Pilot Mentorship Program and have built a strong network of mentors in the industry to help me navigate the nuances of this ever-evolving industry.

For the team I lead, this narrative is no different.  I encourage them to get involved in industry organizations, seminars, events, webinars etc., network, create alliances with colleagues in the industry, and above all else, continue to take advantage of all educational opportunities.  You can never know enough and the advances in technology, digital marketing strategies, and best practices evolve on a daily basis. The core of what we do is to optimize and test everything. If it was good the first time, then it can be great the next time.

I’m a motivator by nature. I expect a great deal of my team. I constantly ask the hard questions, encourage excellence and push them to always be forward-thinking. In this streaming world, there is no status-quo. Therefore, we can’t be status quo either.  That is why I love this industry so much.  No day, no problem, and no solution are the same.

What guidance do you have for someone who is looking to advance their career in the cable industry during this tumultuous time of cord cutting and now COVID-19?

My advice would be to become an expert in understanding the shifts in the industry. You must be vigilant in your efforts to understand how SVOD, AVOD, TVOD, Live-Linear, e-commerce, mobile, etc., fit into your current career path. Television, and particularly cable television, is still a vital business.  However, the new digital video space is a true force that has shaken up the way we program our networks, market to and connect with our viewers and produce new or acquire content.  Additionally, the technologies we use, data and audience insights are all being impacted by streaming. 

Some companies were already remote-friendly, but with the onset of COVID-19, other companies had to pivot and adapt very quickly. Therefore, offering positions that can easily be performed remotely are going to become more of the norm, and frankly, more of what the work-force expects.  If you aren’t tech savvy, take a class. There are plenty of courses that are accessible and available for no to low cost.  If you’re interested in digital marketing, data science, social media, graphic design or omni-channel opportunities (email, SMS, Push, social media, etc.), then by all means, take the time to learn as much as you can.

This year’s theme for WICT Southeast is “Connect to your peers, your industry and everything around you.” In what way does this resonate with you and why do you think this message is important now more than ever for people who have not joined or renewed their WICT membership?

I don’t know about you, but living in the midst of a pandemic, communication is now relegated to Zoom meetings, Facetime or Microsoft Teams calls, which aided in re-evaluating my priorities. Creating space to “be still” has afforded me the opportunity to better connect with family, friends and co-workers on a level I was not able to before.

Life seemed to pass so quickly prior to March 2020. It was filled with work, home and church, other hobbies and my activities with WICT.  But the weeks were long and weekends felt super short to non-existent.  Although I have been blessed to continue to work and be home with family, I have made a focused priority to continue to lead by learning. I connect through webinars (WICT offers great topics), seek out classes, research other companies’ best practices, dive deeply into our KPI’s (Key performance Indicators) and continue to analyze strengths and weaknesses to enhance the strategic stake in the marketplace for the SVOD service I lead, as well as for myself and my team. 

WICT, by far, is an organization that never fails its members.  Even in a pandemic, the opportunities to learn and grow your career and personal life were/are vast. From lunch & learns on financial tips in uncertain times, to continuous webinars on industry topics to pro-social efforts, WICT is a well-rounded “essential” organization.  I for one, am a proud member.  Advancing career opportunities and an increased network of strong industry professionals, make it all worth it.  If you have not joined or renewed your WICT membership, do it today! 

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WICT offers four levels of membership. Membership dues are based on your career level, providing a more affordable alternative to those just starting out. It’s easy to join! For more information on what a WICT membership can do for you or to renew your membership, go here for more information.

FROM BOARDROOM TO BALLROOM: GAIL SERMERSHEIM, WICT FOUNDING PRESIDENT

 

By Dana Dawson

As a WICT co-founder, first WICT President, co-founder of CTAM, 2002 Cable Hall of Famer, NCTA Vanguard Award winner, and WICT Southeast Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Gail Sermersheim is no stranger to both challenge and triumph.  A trailblazer with many firsts, Sermersheim’s perseverance, authenticity and passion for results were keys to her success both in and out of the boardroom.

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Sermersheim started her cable career in the late 1960s. She worked for a small MSO for 12 years and then landed at HBO where she retired as a senior executive after almost 3 decades. Shortly after she joined HBO, the then President of the company took her aside and said he’d like to see her become the company’s first female vice president for the sales and marketing division. From that moment on, she made it her mission to do whatever it took to prepare for the role.  And you know what?! She received the promotion in less than two years!

 “Men dominated the decision-making at all levels,” said Sermersheim, “at the time, sexual harassment was a tolerated business and social practice.”  She shared, “it was not uncommon to turn down both an unwanted advance and a business proposition at the same time.”  She went on to say, “women were expected to comply or just ignore it as reporting the behavior had no consequence.”

Picture2Focused on building strong relationships with her male counterparts, Sermersheim earned their respect.  She says, “while at times I had been subjected to pay inequity and passed over for big promotions, I learned how to harness my superpower.”  With assets such as focusing on facts, applying tough negotiating skills and using her charm, Sermersheim is unapologetic about leveraging her skill set to move forward.  

The journey to establishing WICT wasn’t an easy one.  Sermersheim and other founding members had to downplay the intent of WICT so that they could gain male sponsorship and support since the men held the purse strings.  She said, “the original documents stated WICT’s mission to be one of educating women rather than empowering them.” And in her view, “the real goal was to take the men’s jobs!”Picture1

Sermersheim hung up her corporate hat in 2002 and traded it in for dancing shoes.  She retired to Florida after almost 40 years in the cable industry.  These days you can find the 76-year-old cable veteran and women’s rights activist traveling the world on a wildlife safari or living out her best life as a competitive ballroom dancer.

To learn more about this WICT pioneer, click HERE

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WICT Southeast is celebrating its 40th Anniversary.  Throughout the year we will be highlighting quotes and stories from former WICT Southeast leaders and members in our newsletter and on our website and social media platforms. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

 

Networking, not torture!

By Saquonna Duncan

UnknownAww, networking events. The word networking invokes many different emotions in people. Fear, dread, excitement and maybe a bit of nausea. Attending a networking event can be and should be fun. There are tips to reduce anxiety so that networking can be fun and purposeful.

It starts with planning for the evening. I find that if I plan before any event, my mind is put a little more at ease. Do some research about the event and the other participants (if able). A little recon can make sure that you have something to talk about with others of interest. If you discover that there will be participants from a company you are interested in, you can plan to have a conversation with those participants.

Plan to listen. Listen not just to formulate an answer. You want to make others feel as important as you like to feel. No glazing over as you try to make yourself remember their names or look over the shoulder to find the shrimp tray. Everyone you meet could be the way to your next opportunity, so pay attention.

After speaking with a person or group, do you find yourself forgetting names or essential details? During the event, find a quiet corner or even the restroom to write down short notes. You don’t have to write an essay; little notes will suffice. Did someone say something particularly interesting? Notate it on the back of their business card. You will use these notes when you follow up with these people in the following days.

Most importantly, attending a networking event can be an opportunity to learn something new, gain new clients, get career advice, or talk with others in your industry- away from the office. Relax and realize that participation in the event is a choice. Reframe how you think about the event. Is this a night to enjoy some delicious snacks and drinks? Is it a couple of hours away from home? Focus on the positive and the time will fly by.

The thing to remember is that the more you network, the more comfortable you become with it. Seek out networking opportunities and network with everyone! Join WICT Southeast for Taste of WICT on Tuesday, March 3rd, in Atlanta and Thursday, March 12th, in Knoxville to test out these new tips and hear from our dynamic keynote speakers. Watch our calendar for other WICT Southeast networking opportunities.

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Saquonna Duncan is among all other things a devourer of books of all genres (in spurts after the house is quiet). She is the Subpoena Coordinator at Cox Communications, Inc. in the Legal department, aspiring lawyer and soon to be retired Navy Veteran.  

 

 

 

2020 Welcome from New WICT SE President

RenitaGriskel
Renita Griskel, WICT SE President

Happy New Year WICT Southeast Members! Please join me in celebrating the beginning of our chapter’s 40th Anniversary!  What an amazing time to be a member of such a historic organization. Women in Cable Telecommunications has more than 10,500 members internationally. It is the largest and oldest professional organization for women in the cable telecommunications industry.

Our chapter spans over three states with more than 1,000 members in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama.  I am proud and honored to serve as your president, especially for this Ruby Year! Throughout 2020, look for commemorative messages, photos and inspirational stories from the trailblazing women who laid the foundation for the Southeast chapter. As we celebrate our chapter’s accomplishments and decades of hard work, we acknowledge that there is still much more to do.  Our industry, workplace, and opportunities definitely look different now compared to 40 years ago, but the mission is the same – create women leaders who transform our industry. We develop women leaders, give them the tools and access to a network of industry experts to help them be successful. It’s an ongoing effort, and one that I am happy to be a part of alongside all of you.

Our touchstone this year is CONNECT to your peers, your industry, and everything around you. The CONNECT touchstone is truly fitting as our industry continues to evolve. Amid mergers, acquisitions and career pivots, connecting with peers, networking with others in our industry and tapping into what is new and innovative is critical.

Your chapter leaders are planning programs, professional development opportunities, and outreach events for 2020. You can look forward to:

Global Mentoring Experience – First of its kind collaboration with global WICT chapters to provide a comprehensive mentoring program.

WICT Leadership Conference Scholarship – Assistance is offered to a member to attend WICT’s marquee Annual Leadership Conference.

WICT Webinar Series – Explore Results Leadership and sharpen your public speaking and presentation skills.

Red Letter Awards – Annual celebration of the accomplishments of tremendous women in the telecommunications industry.

These are just some of the programs and events that are available to WICT Southeast members for. Due to the support and generosity of our sponsors, our members can participate in our regular programs, webinars and mentoring experience for free. This is an extraordinary benefit of membership in WICT Southeast. Thank you to our 2019 sponsors. Your continued partnerships with WICT Southeast and support of our mission to develop women leaders in the cable telecommunications industry is highly appreciated.

I am excited about all that this year has to offer! I have volunteered with WICT for many years. I’ve been a mentor in several mentoring programs, Director of Programming for Knoxville for two years, Vice President and now I am your President. I have the pleasure of working with 31 amazing women on the board who are passionate about WICT, and together we will give you the tools you need to continue your path as exceptional and impactful leaders.

Thank you,

Renita Griskel
WICT Southeast President

 

WICT_40YR_LOGO_FINAL

WICT Southeast announces 2020 Board of Directors

Women in Cable Telecommunications Southeast (WICT SE) Chapter announces the members of its 2020 Board of Directors.

The WICT SE Board represents the diverse functions of the cable industry and brings together members from 15 companies located in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Each member has their own dynamic experience, distinctive perspectives, and backgrounds.

Renita Griskel (Discovery, Inc.) incumbent Vice President rises to President in 2020. Shelley Hoffmann (Healthgrades) incumbent Senior Director of Mentoring transitions to Vice-President. LaShaun Solomon (Comcast) incumbent President will move to Immediate Past President. The complete list of all the incoming board members appears below.

Also, the board recently voted on the 2020 Touchstone, which is: CONNECT to your peers, your industry, and everything around you.

 

2020 Incoming WICT Southeast Board of Directors
Position Name Company
President Renita Griskel Discovery, Inc
Vice President Shelley Hoffmann Healthgrades
Immediate Past President LaShaun Solomon Comcast
Senior Treasurer Natasha Prewitt The Weather Group
Secretary Angela Manring Cox Communications
Advisor/Executive Champion Sheri McGaughy McGaughy Law
Senior Director of Programming Chair Mallory Summers PWC
Senior Director of Sponsorship Janine Bowling Commscope
Senior Director of Marketing/Communications Kenya Brock Katz Broadcasting/The E.W. Scripps Company
Senior Director of Membership Chair Sarah Miller Comcast
Senior Director of Mentoring Ellen English Wargo French
Senior Director of Red Letter Awards Gimette DeLaughter Cox Communications
Treasurer Cindy Hughes Cox Communications
Director of Communications Lisa Conklin Cox Communications
Director of Design Ana Adler Yeah Sure Productions, LLC
Director of Social Media Marketing Valerie Carrillo Discovery, Inc
Director of Technology Michelle Gilstrap Warner Media
Director of Membership GA & AL Devon Croom Cox Communications
Director of Membership TN Emily Jarvis Comcast
Director of Outreach Shakira Isom Comcast
Director of Programming AL TBD
Director of Programming GA Dana Dawson Cox Communications
Director of Programming GA Jay Brown Randstad US
Director of Programming TN Knoxville Treva Allen Discovery, Inc
Director of Programming TN Nashville Meg Glenn Comcast
Director of Mentoring GA & AL Margo Roberts Comcast
Director of Mentoring TN Erika Weaver Discovery, Inc
Director of Partnerships Kerri Hayes UP TV
Director of Red Letter Awards Crystal Scales Comcast
Director at Large – Bylaws Jennifer Thompson Patrick Law Group
Director at Large – Partnership Janine Johnson Comcast
Director at Large – Executive Outreach Kathy Hatala SpeakEasy, Inc
Director at Large – Chapter Expansion Kimberly Euston PWC

Message from WICT Southeast President

LaShaun
LaShaun Solomon- 2019 WICT Southeast President

As we close out the year, I’m pleased to share my remarks of gratitude for the WICT Southeast chapter. When I embarked on my WICT executive leadership journey, it was my personal goal to ensure our membership provided unique value, personal and professional growth, connection opportunities to leadership groups, and access to events that matter. Our chapter cultivated experiences and programs that epitomized the INSPIRE WICT Touchstone of Leadership to serve our members, partners, and community.

We launched the inaugural “Inspire to Innovate” Fellowship powered by Cisco, which awarded two members the opportunity to attend the CableLabs Innovation Bootcamp. Our awarded chapter fellows were inspired by their enhanced understanding of innovation to solve customer problems while also considering the larger ecosystem. We partnered with Comcast to offer the “INSPIRE” Fellowship to provide FREE WICT SE memberships for those in job transition and college students. The relationships you make within WICT are unmatched, and this first of its kind offering helped to ensure those in need could still benefit from being a part of the WICT Southeast network.

Back in January, I spoke with Fernanda Merodio, WICT Latin America President, about piloting an international mentoring program that would pair mentors and mentees from the U.S. and Mexico. While the design and functionality was uncertain, we both knew this was worth exploring. A few months after that conversation, WICT Southeast and Latin America launched WICT’s first international mentoring program for the entire WICT organization. The program consisted of monthly 1:1 mentoring sessions and four mentoring workshops that connected mentors and mentees from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Mexico.

WICT Southeast collaborated with company employee resource groups to offer career-enhancing opportunities. In partnership with the Comcast Women’s Network, we held the first-ever joint Women’s Conference to empower, inspire, and impact more than 100 Comcast employees, WICT Southeast chapter members, and those in transition. To create awareness and understanding of LGBTQ allyship, we joined Discovery, Inc., to host a Pride event. In addition to these efforts, WICT Southeast held over 20 programs this year – all at no cost to our members.

We invested back into the community by aligning with the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency to provide a series of career readiness workshops on digital literacy, resume writing, and interviewing. The overall benefit to the community resulted in developing career-ready persons with the skills needed to successfully navigate pathways to employment and achieve a fulfilling, financially secure, and successful career.

The work our chapter has done in 2019 would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors, volunteers, and Board of Directors. As chapter President, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside each of these talented and dedicated professionals, and I thank each one of you for going on this journey. As I transition to Immediate Past President, I look forward to WICT Southeast’s continued success.

Sincerely,

LaShaun Signature

LaShaun Solomon

2019 WICT Southeast President

HOW TO SET GOALS FOR 2020 THAT YOU’LL ACTUALLY ACHIEVE.

By Saquonna Duncan                  

 

2019-career-goals

If you are like me, you see the end of the year as a chance to examine yourself, your career, life, etc.  Some goals did not get started; while some were accomplished so flawlessly, I had to pat myself on the back.  Last year as I approached 2019, I was returning to work from three months of maternity leave, a new baby, three other kids, a husband, a full-time job, and responsibilities as a Navy Reservist.  There were many goals I had set for myself, and to accomplish everything was highly unrealistic and overly optimistic.  This year I want to share my process for setting more realistic goals for 2020.

 

Take Everything into Account

If you choked a little at the description of my family life above, it’s okay.  I’m used to the wide-eye expression I receive when I tell people about my life.  It’s taken me all year to figure out this one.  Everything goes on one calendar.  Work, personal, spouse’s activities, kid’s activities, appointments, etc.  I must think about all facets of my life and the amount of commitment the goal will require in addition to everyday life.  If the color-coded calendar is already busting at the seams, something will have to go to make room, or the goal will have to be downsized or eliminated.  I have learned that it is okay to say no.

Be Patient with Yourself

This one really hit me at the last WICT Speed Mentoring event.  Kia Painter was one of the mentors, and her guidance was so relevant and motivating.   The main takeaway that I got from her was to pace myself.  Sometimes we may tend to want to achieve all our goals by a specific time so we can move on to the next one, check off that block, etc.  It’s okay to take time off, refresh, and then revisit the goal.  No goal is worth your health and getting all in a frenzy because you did not achieve the target by a certain time.

Ask for Input from Support System

Yes, your goals are your goals.  Your support system will be there to help you achieve those goals, so reach out and consult with your closest supporters.    My husband is my biggest champion, and he is supporting me in my goal of applying for law school in 2020.  I kept putting this off until he expressed his support and laid out how we, as a family, could make that goal happen.  They may be able to help you see what you can’t or suggest a goal that you hadn’t even considered.

 

We all know that our goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.  So, for 2020, take care of yourself and put some serious thoughts into your goals.

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WICT Southeast blogger, Saquonna Duncan is among all other things a devourer of books of all genres (in spurts after the house is quiet).  She is the Subpoena Coordinator at Cox Communications, Inc. in the Legal department, aspiring lawyer, and soon to be retired Navy Veteran.

 

5 Questions for WarnerMedia’s Laura Dames

“If you have a goal work towards the goal, otherwise it’s actually not your goal.”

An Interview with Laura Dames

 

Laura Dames
Laura Dames- Executive VP & General Manager Turner Studios

WICT Southeast and WarnerMedia are hosting a panel event on Storytelling in November and I’d like to begin with your story. How did you get to where you are now? Is your life/career story developing in expected or unexpected ways?

I feel like my career, in so many ways, is a series of paradoxes. I studied communications. I wanted to work in media. I didn’t want to be poor in New York, I didn’t want to move all the way to L.A. so, I picked up and moved from Massachusetts to Atlanta right after college thinking that I’d be here for 5 years. 27 years later I’m still here. I did not study Marketing yet worked in Marketing for the first 10 of those years. I really knew nothing about operations and yet ran operations for our biggest networks here at this company and really have no production background yet was put in charge of an entire production resource. My career has taken a lot of twists and turns but, at the time it all made total sense. In retrospect, when you’re looking in the rearview mirror, you think, “how did that happen?” Did I think I’d ever be where I am now? Absolutely not. When I set out, I just wanted to work in media. But I’ve always loved my jobs. I’m very fortunate that this company and these brands and this business are constantly shifting and changing and I’ve been lucky to change and shift with them. I’m someone who gets bored very easily so that works in my favor. I haven’t had to leave the company to have different jobs every few years with different expectations and new opportunities and challenges. It’s been very fortuitous and along the way, I’ve just found people who have really supported me and put me in a position to be able to succeed.

Do you seek out that uncomfortable growth position or have they just come your way and you’ve said yes?

I’m a naturally aggressive human so I’ve always been one to seek out new opportunities and I tend to be very frank with my bosses when I’m bored and I’m ready for something else. I’m a person who likes solving puzzles and complex challenges where technology and creativity meet. I tend to like things that other people don’t like. Lots of people gravitate towards the creative side of things or towards the marketing side of things or things that seem sexier and I want to create the infrastructure that makes that possible. I find it fun. To me, there are more challenges and opportunities in those areas than in all the ones that you have to scratch and claw and fight to have a voice. I’ve been able to have a strong voice in the areas I’ve worked in.

The teams you lead here at WarnerMedia are instrumental in helping all the Networks to tell their stories. WICT’s theme this year has been “Inspire and others will follow.” What would you say is a piece of advice or a strategy that has helped you inspire them to take risks and find ways to tell stories in creative and innovative ways?

Turner Studios is a wonderful place. It is an amazing collective of artists and craftspeople; I am very humbled to work here and support them in doing what they do. My biggest role here is to create a culture where they feel empowered and enabled to do their best work.

There is nothing more frustrating than having an idea and not being able to figure out how to execute it. My job is to make sure they get those things and that they’re supported technologically so that when an idea comes to them, they know that they have what it takes to get it done. That’s hugely important. Of course, you can’t make someone who is not curious or capable or creative be so. Hopefully, we’re finding great talent, we’re helping them communicate with each other, giving them time to spend time with each other and learn from each other. I was shocked when I got here that artists that did the same thing but for different brands had never even met each other. So, we’ve created little tribes of people who do the same thing. We’ve also created opportunities for people at different stages of the creative process to communicate where the pain points are and how it might be able to be helped or fixed by earlier parts of the creative process. I want people to feel like they have a voice throughout the whole process. When people feel heard and that they are not constantly banging their heads against the same brick wall, their creativity increases. We’ve created the apprentice programs so there are young people constantly asking questions which also inspires the senior more seasoned veterans. I found that they all are inspired by the new thinking of these kids who are straight out of school or new in their career and so it’s a nice relationship. We have also done some larger things across the entire Turner Studios group, things we call “Food for Thought” and Studios X which are learning opportunities. Opportunities for our artists to teach classes and opportunities for all of the artists to take classes taught by their peers so that they can really learn from each other and inspire each other. And they are artists. When I first got here, they were referred to as operators, but they are artists and craftspeople. They use technology and manipulate it at their whim. The most important thing I changed when I got here was the language. We stopped calling them operators and we started calling our internal clients our partners. I had a boss who used to say, “everything communicates” and I believe that the language you use to describe what people do does communicate, the language you use to describe your relationships with each other communicates and the effort you put into making sure people feel appreciated matters.

I want a line out the door of partners that want to work with us and a line out the door of employees that want to work here and in order to create that I feel that it all begins with culture. It begins with creating an environment where people are inspired to do great work, they go above and beyond because they care and they’re enthusiastic and responsible and professional.

What advice would you give people who want to make/or pivot into a career as a storyteller? What would you say are the skills they need to develop in order to become a good storyteller?

The thing I find with most storytellers is that the biggest challenge most of them have is that they are shy or reticent to start just telling stories. There is no barrier to entry anymore! Create, make, and stick it out there. Everyone can! There are so many opportunities, just put your stuff out there. Do it! What’s the worst that can happen? Nobody looks at it or someone hates it. Guess what, that’s going to happen to you a million times when you do it professionally. Practice now. You have to learn to take all of that with a grain of salt. People have to find their true voice and the only way to do that is to practice, and there’s never been a better time to do that. For me, the most important thing to think about is, “what are you more afraid of, failing now or never getting to the place where you want to be?” If you don’t practice, if you don’t take the first step, you’re never going to end up on that journey so, you gotta go. The sooner you go the sooner you’re going to figure out your path and you might realize you don’t even want to take that road; you might want to take a different road and that’s ok too. But go forward, just keep moving. Always keep moving. The same goes for life, career, creative endeavors, if you have a goal work towards the goal, otherwise it’s actually not your goal.

There are so many digital venues for storytelling nowadays. How has new media changed the way you approach both storytelling and managing the business of storytelling?

There’s such a vast level now. For so many years in this industry, there was quality and there was everything else; and, if it was anything else you probably didn’t have a venue for it. It probably wasn’t’ going to be seen by very many people. It was considered not as good. That paradigm shifted with the internet and now anyone can publish anything. And, oh, by the way, kids prefer low production value with good storytelling over high production value and bad storytelling. There is so much opportunity for any kind of story to be out in the world. From the time I got to Turner Studios, I’ve been saying that we have to change our concept of what content is and what quality means because the biggest challenge we’ve had in making the transition to the new media world is our legacy snobbery about quality and about large scale production. I actually think it’s one of the things that has prevented a lot of large media companies from being as successful as they could have been because they didn’t move fast enough with stuff that was, quite frankly, in their minds, beneath them. And I think that’s a missed opportunity if we have a broad aperture when it comes to what content is and what quality means we are far more likely to be successful in this media world.

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WarnerMedia and WICT Southeast are partnering together on Tuesday, November 19th in Atlanta. Please join Laura Dames and our esteemed panel of “Creative” thought leaders as they share their experiences and expertise in storytelling!  Learn how storytelling can be used by all levels of profession or in any industry to influence and engage.  For more information and to register, click here.

 

WICT Southeast’s blog interviewer, Ana Adler is a tri-lingual freelance content creator whose mad skills include the words creative director, writer/producer, video editor, project manager, copywriter, and mamá.