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.


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


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.


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

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 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 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.


LaShaun Signature

LaShaun Solomon

2019 WICT Southeast President


By Saquonna Duncan                  



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.


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.


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.

Bootcamp Fellow Winners Share Experience

Lisa Farmer and Lizzette Tarver were WICT Southeast’s lucky chapter members to win the 2019 WICT Southeast Inspire to Innovate Fellowship to attend the CableLabs Innovation Bootcamp held on Oct. 15 – 18, 2019 in Colorado.

This year’s Bootcamp was an immersive three and a half days of learning experience designed to transform the way participants think about and use innovation. Attendance was limited so that attendees could put their inspiring ideation to practice in real-life situations.

We asked Lisa and Lizette about their experience, and this is what they had to say:

Lizette Tarver: Thank you again for this great opportunity. The CableLabs Innovation Bootcamp was most insightful, and I was truly inspired to be a confident innovation leader. Everyone (peers, coaches, panelists) that played a focal role in this experience provided for a true growth mindset as it relates to innovation. The experts, coaches, and tours provided for a well-rounded experience where relationships were fostered by way of breakthrough innovation. Many of the key learnings surrounding how we might solve for universal, ubiquitous broadband stretched my thinking and took me out of my comfort zone, which I was thrilled about. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to tap into a more holistic way of identifying key problem-sets that truly impact our customers. There was great value in bringing together like minds in an effort to truly assess as much as understand the needs in our marketplace by bringing forth new ideas and then actually supplying them through innovation.

The F.I.R.E. (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, and Execution) framework has allowed me to understand that ideas must continually be improved from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective. I am most eager to take back my key learnings to my leader, team, and organization, given that I am better able to focus on structured innovation efforts by the application of the F.I.R.E. methodology. After attending the CableLabs Innovation Bootcamp, I am able to see how we each can be more creative and make greater impacts by generating new ideas. The content was digestible and can be easily applied across a host of industries as much as in our personal lives. This opportunity assisted in debunking the myths/mysteries of innovation, allowed me to build innovation skills through a fresh new perspective, and to rid oneself of innovation antibodies which stifle the creation of new ideas.

Lisa Farmer: Thanks for the opportunity to provide feedback and special thanks to the team at Cisco for funding the boot camp.

Overall, the CableLabs Innovation Bootcamp was extremely rewarding. The speakers, coaches, and staff were extremely knowledgeable, and the diverse group of innovators provided unique perspectives for solving the challenge statement (i.e., ubiquitous broadband).  The key learning for me can be summarized in three categories – content, impact, and application.

I found the content regarding the model for innovation (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, and Execution) to be easy to understand and practical to implement. Throughout the camp, I was able to really engage and build muscle in those areas where I lacked key strengths. Additionally, the parallel exercise of using the FIRE model for personal innovation helped to ignite more creativity for the professional challenge.

The two field trips from the CableLabs Bootcamp were very impactful in both sparking my creativity and helping to understand the value of doing ‘deeper-dives’ to understand customer problems. The volume of innovation occurring in adjacent industries, such as the facility we visited in the energy sector, was such an inspiration and a testament to the value that can be created through partnerships to solve problems. Furthermore, those same partnerships can be used to leverage solutions for the same types of customer problems related to equal and affordable access while also considering the larger ecosystem/planet.

The opportunity to apply what I learned, both personally and professionally, from participation in the CableLabs Innovation Bootcamp is a simple translation for me. In my organization, there is a separate team for ideation. Still, boot camp has encouraged me to advocate for innovation even in my area through more strategic collaboration and brainstorming, which can be applied to any project without major upheavals to current processes.


WICT Southeast graciously thanks our partners Cisco and CableLabs for making this opportunity possible.

R.E.A.L MAN OF WICT: Greg Madsen

A conversation with UpTV’s Greg Madsen


Greg Madsen

Name: Greg Madsen

Location: Atlanta

Where do you currently work and what’s your current role?
Vice President of Multiplatform Distribution and Strategy at UpTV

Why did you join WICT? What inspired you to look past the W in the name?
I first joined WICT and started going to events only because I was in affiliate sales. Cox and other affiliates were always going to these Red Letter Awards so it was more of a “go where your clients go” sort of thing. So, at first, it was a business necessity that I attend these events and now, after years of being involved, I’ve realized the value. I wish I could just say it was this beacon of wanting to join and be a trailblazer, but it was the reverse. I did it because I had to and then realized what a great organization it is.

What is it that you find most rewarding about being a member?
I think, I know it’s an easy low-hanging fruit, but going to the Red Letter Awards and other mixers and hearing these incredibly smart accomplished women talk. As open-minded as we try to be, I think we are still, deep down, inherently subject to unconscious biases. Even though I’ve had plenty of women bosses and incredibly smart female colleagues it still helps to be involved. Being a member helps me pay attention and be inspired.

In thinking of the theme of this series REAL men of WICT (Rewarding Equality and Leadership), how has membership in WICT influenced your thinking, either personally or professionally?
Membership helps get me past these inherent societal biases I mentioned. I was raised in a certain era at a certain time, my mom was a stay at home mom. Things have progressed a lot but it helps to continually reinforce the importance of what women bring to the table. Whether women or men, in this case it happens to be mostly women getting these awards, just hearing their stories is inspiring and it reminds me, frankly, that I probably take for granted that I’ve had an easier road. I haven’t had to break that glass ceiling or be the first woman to do this or achieve that and it’s important to remind me to help continue to take down those walls. I have an employee who is a fantastic account manager and I love that because of organizations like this, and me keeping an open mind, she hopefully won’t have to work harder than her male counterparts to get her foot on the next rung of the ladder.

Our theme this year is Inspire and others will follow. What has worked for you in inspiring others?
This is interesting because this is not a conscious thing. The way I’ve always managed people and worked with people that I collaborate with is more like a hard-wired behavioral thing. When I was leaving HBO, I had our coordinator tell me that she always enjoyed working for me because I don’t just ask her to do stuff, I ask her to do stuff and then I tell her why it’s important. It was never a conscious thing but I’ve found that the benefit of not just assigning tasks, but assigning tasks with the context of why it’s important to the project or the deal helps people learn, take ownership and buy in. I think ultimately that leads to having them be more inspired: They’re not just working on a task; they are working on a piece of the larger puzzle and they understand how it fits in. I think helping people and team members learn why what they are doing is important serves all of our purposes better because they’re more motivated, they’re more inspired and it allows folks to learn. I may, and I love it when it happens, go to one of my employees and say, “Here’s what we’re trying to accomplish so I think you need do x, y, and z.” Because they know the larger picture they often say, “Well I can do what you’re asking but I think if I do a, b, and c instead it might even be better for achieving that goal.”
Truthfully, I don’t think of myself as some sort of dynamic inspirational leader, I just treat people with respect. I don’t play the cover your ass game. I’m the first to admit when I’ve screwed something up, regularly because I screw up a lot. We were recently having trouble getting some of our content onboarded with Roku and it turns out I’m the one who dropped the ball in getting something to them and our operations team was getting thrown under the bus. I had to admit it was on me. They were so appreciative but I was just being honest. Being willing to admit when you’ve made a mistake yourself engenders a lot of respect and buy-in from folks too.


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.

4 Questions for the 2019 Red Letter Recipients

Congratulations to Tina Simmons, Marilyn Altman, Angela Cannon, Susannah Balish, Shana Keith, and Sarah Cheatham, WICT Southeast’s 2019 Red Letter Award Recipients

We recognize these women for their outstanding achievement and leadership and believe they personify the WICT Touchstones of Leadership and actively enhance the perception of the cable telecommunications industry through their community and professional involvement.

Leading up to our Red Letter Awards, WICT Southeast blog volunteer, Ana Adler asked these six women four questions so you can get to know them better. It’s not too late to get tickets to the 2019 Red Letter Awards, click HERE for more information.



“I never lose, I either win or I learn”
A conversation with Red Letter Honoree Tina Simmons.

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Name: Tina Simmons

Location: Atlanta

Where do you currently work and what’s your current role?SVP, Human Resources, Central Division, Comcast Cable

 You are the recipient of the Inspiration Award Woman of the Year. What does getting this award mean to you?

First of all, because I was involved with the vetting of candidates for these awards last year, I’ve realized how tough the competition and I was absolutely blown away by winning this myself this year. It is such an honor and I say that because WICT, particularly the WICT Southeast chapter, they’ve really got their act together. They have incredible programming; they’ve got incredible leadership. So, I’m excited about it and I’m tickled pink to have this opportunity.

As women, we often find it difficult to give ourselves props for our accomplishments so I’m going to ask you to do just that. Why do you think you were selected to receive this award?

I think I was selected because I do live the Inspire touchstone. I really do open up my day, open up my heart, open up my mentorship to mentees far and wide. I do this every day. I don’t have a day where I’m not connecting to at least one mentee to talk about their career, to talk about their family, to talk about their health, to talk about whatever happens to be weighing on them, and to give words of encouragement, to give words of counsel, to give words of correction sometimes, and to give words of affirmation. People will tell you my mentee network stretches far and wide. I am humbled by the award but I’m not surprised because I strive to do that every day.

This year’s theme is Inspire and Others will Follow. Is there one conversation, piece of advice one moment in time, that you go back to that inspires the decisions you make as a leader?

It’s probably multiple conversations I’ve had with one of the nomination writers, a senior female leader here at Comcast. Throughout my career she has always been very honest with me and, even though I think the word transparent is overused, she has been. She is one who has given me counsel when things aren’t going so great and counsel when things are going great. This leader has always been consistent and someone that I can depend on and I’ve always appreciated her honesty regardless of the situation.; and she’s inspired me to do the same. With my mentees and direct reports and teams I get the opportunity to say, “Wow, that was a phenomenal job you did!” But sometimes I have to talk about another way a situation could have been handled, and this leader that I’m thinking of is one who modeled that behavior to me and she inspires me to do the same. I’ve learned you don’t gain anything by being dishonest or not sharing feedback. She’s taught me that it’s how you deliver the feedback that matters. Whether it be good or bad. Over time she’s emulated the behavior but each time there has also been some specific advice or some counsel that helps me become not just a better leader, but a better human.

What advice do you give yourself when you are taking a risk or stepping out of your comfort zone? Why is it important to do so?

I have to give myself a pep talk. Number one: I start with, “If things go left what’s the worst that could happen?” Number 2: “What do I have to lose by trying?” At least I can feel better that I took action. Because I’m action-oriented anyway, doing nothing isn’t an option for me. Thinking back on my career, my life, every time I took a big risk it was scary as hell but there was something good on the other side of it. A friend of mine encapsulated it for me: I never lose, I either win or I learn. And it’s true. I’m not going to say that every situation turned out exactly the way I wanted it to, but I sure as heck did learn something from it. And when it did turn out the way I wanted it to turn out, I won. It seems simple but it’s true if you open up your mind and open up your heart and if you are going to try to continue to have a better life, I think it works. It’s how I continue to encourage myself to make those kinds of decisions.


“We all have to take that first step sometime. You never know what the ripple effect will be.”
A conversation with Red Letter Honoree Susannah Balish


Name: Susannah Balish

Location: Atlanta

Where do you currently work and what’s your current role? Senior Director, Cox Communications

What does getting the Mentor Award mean to you?

Mentoring, helping others to develop their potential, is a real passion for me. Receiving the Mentor Award from an organization like WICT SE is a recognition that what I’m doing matters, and that, in turn, fuels my commitment. It’s also an opportunity to share what I believe, which is that mentoring is a change agent for our experiences, our impact, and our legacy.

As women, we often find it difficult to give ourselves props for our accomplishments so I’m going to ask you to do just that. Why do you think you were selected for this award?

I am motivated and excited about helping others succeed. It’s important to me to connect in with others and help them take that next step. I work to bring this into all I do, and I think that approach stands out in an industry that is going through so many changes and challenges right now. Stepping out to drive change and taking risks are threads in my story. I think that commitment comes through in my day-to-day, whether it’s as small as sharing words of encouragement or as big as leading changes into the business.

This year’s theme is Inspire and Others will Follow. Is there one conversation/piece of advice that you go back to that inspires the decisions you make as a leader?

When faced with challenging decisions, I always go back to the mission or business purpose. Is my choice aligned with the purpose?  If so, I take advice from my first mentor, Suzy, and ask myself “If not me, who? If not now, when?” With Suzy’s guidance, I learned I can do so much more than I think. We all can! We will learn along the way and we are not in it alone. We all have to take that first step sometime. You never know what the ripple effect will be.

What advice do you give yourself when you are taking a risk or stepping out of your comfort zone? Why is it important to do so?

I believe career pathing today is like author E.L. Doctorow said, it’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights… but you can make the whole trip that way. I remind myself that I am the headlights for my career path. If I don’t stop to look around every so often and step into something new, I could miss the best part of the trip. You might not know where that next step is ultimately going to lead you, but it could be the one that takes you down the path to amazing, unexpected opportunities.


“And also smile.  It’s harder to turn someone down that’s smiling”
A conversation with Red Letter Honoree Sarah Cheatham.
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Name: Sarah Cheatham

Location: Knoxville

Where do you currently work and what’s your current role? Director, Marketing Strategies, HGTV l Food Network l DIY Network l Cooking Channel l GAC

What does getting the Rising Star Award for Emerging Leader mean to you?

I’m grateful to be recognized as a Red Letter Award recipient.  And even more honored to be in the company of Shana, Susannah, Angela, Marilyn and Tina.  It is exciting to be nominated by my peers and awarded by WICT for my efforts. Receiving this award serves as an inspiration to me to continue my path of trying to inspire and mentor those around me in the workplace.

As women, we often find it difficult to give ourselves props for our accomplishments so I’m going to ask you to do just that. Why do you think you were selected for this award?

I’m passionate about empowering women in the workplace and I have always been a cheerleader of WICT.  It is easy to be a fan of an organization that promotes women to realize their profession and personal leadership potential.  I was proud to serve on the southeast board recruiting memberships the past few years.  The experiences I gained during my board work with WICT inspired me to launch Discovery Women’s Network in the Knoxville office.  I’m constantly encouraging peers and teammates in the workplace to participate in events put on by both organizations.  And when they’re ready to take the next step towards leadership in their careers, I really enjoy recruiting for committees and future board members to join the club!  I know that my efforts and continuous ambition to drive my colleagues towards reaching their fullest potential are a valuable asset to the entire team.

This year’s theme is Inspire and Others will Follow. Is there one conversation/piece of advice that you go back to that inspires the decisions you make as a leader?

I was raised to always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS do the right thing.  To my teammates, I’m known as a “rule follower”.  They also know that they can come to me for advice when they are unsure of the best way to proceed in any situation.  I believe I’m known for this because I lead by example since I can hear my mom in my head reminding me, “do the right thing, Sarah.”

What advice do you give yourself when you are taking a risk or stepping out of your comfort zone? Why is it important to do so?

Definitely be yourself.  I don’t think I’m being my best self if I’m not being my true self.  You’ll be more comfortable and more likely to succeed.

And also smile.  It’s harder to turn someone down that’s smiling 😉


“I wouldn’t have a career I enjoy without my tribe, past, and present
A conversation with Red Letter Honoree Shana Keith


Name: Shana Keith

Location: Atlanta

Where do you currently work and what’s your current role? Director of Public Affairs, Cox Communications, Inc

What does receiving the Rising Star Award for Emerging Leader mean to you?

Honored to receive this award.  For me, it’s a reminder of the people that have helped me be successful.  I wouldn’t have a career I enjoy without my tribe, past, and present.  Receiving this award has allowed me to reflect, and it goes back to the people that have shaped me, guided me, mentored me and sponsored me through the years.  I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for those people.  I’m excited to acknowledge some of them at the Red Letter Awards!  

As women, we often find it difficult to give ourselves props for our accomplishments so I’m going to ask you to do just that. Why do you think you were selected for this award?

I was selected because I work hard, and love to innovate in my field.  Most importantly however it’s because I’m authentic.  I’ve learned that to get things done and build a career it’s best to be my true authentic self.  People like real. People like real human connection.  Once you build relationships, getting the work done is easier, and more fun.

This year’s theme is Inspire and Others will Follow. Is there one conversation/piece of advice that you go back to that inspires the decisions you make as a leader?

I learned from a leader earlier in my career that if you feel valued and empowered, you’ll work harder, be confident and strive for results.  I felt that way in my career from the beginning, and I try to make everyone I work with feel the same.

What advice do you give yourself when you are taking a risk or stepping out of your comfort zone? Why is it important to do so?

Personal growth comes with discomfort.  In order to achieve and push boundaries, you’ve got to take every opportunity to step outside your comfort zone.  You may fail and that is absolutely fine!  I’ve learned so much in my failures and always remember that when times get tough, I’m learning and growing.


To be considered for more responsibility, you must lift up your head, raise your hand, and say “I’ll do that!”
A conversation with Red Letter Honoree Marilyn Altman.

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Name: Marilyn Altman

Location: Atlanta

Where do you currently work and what’s your current role?  Vice President Technical Services Contracts at CommScope

What does the Catalyst Award mean to you?

It’s a wonderful honor to receive the Catalyst Award. Women are so often working hard and contributing but are hiding (or being pushed into) the background. It’s lovely for me, and all the other winners, to be recognized. It’s a tremendous validation of the work we do, and the commitment we’ve made to our companies and our industry.

As women, we often find it difficult to give ourselves props for our accomplishments so I’m going to ask you to do just that. Why do you think you were selected for this award?

I’ve been around a long time! I’ve had almost 20 years in the cable business to meet people, push projects and revenue forward, and make an impact. I think, since I’ve lasted a long while in a fast-paced and rapidly consolidating industry, some women may look to me as a role model. I take that responsibility very seriously.

This year’s theme is Inspire and Others will Follow. Is there one conversation/piece of advice that you go back to that inspires the decisions you make as a leader?

Many years ago, I volunteered to pack meals for a homeless shelter alongside a woman from my church in Orlando. As we chatted, I learned that she was the editor who created the title sequence for Disney’s original, animated Lion King movie. Wow was I impressed! I asked her how she learned her craft and got her job at Disney, and I was surprised to learn she studied animation at the local community college. Huh? I asked this beautiful, well-dressed lady why she chose community college. She did so, because it was all she could afford. She had fled an abusive husband in the Pacific northwest and driven as far away from him as she could…to Orlando! She had nothing but her clothes and her young son… no money, no friends, nowhere to stay. She and her son lived in a homeless shelter for six months, and she worked odd jobs, until she was able to enroll in community college. She was lucky enough to be tapped for an apprenticeship at Disney and the rest, as they say, is history. What’s the moral? Never make a decision based on someone’s title, how they look, or what you’ve “heard” about them. Try to understand the facts and the underlying motivations of customers, internal and external, then work as hard as you can to get the best result for everyone.

What advice do you give yourself when you are taking a risk or stepping out of your comfort zone? Why is it important to do so?

Just because you don’t know how to do it TODAY, doesn’t mean you can’t LEARN how to do it. Many times we are asked to create something brand new. If we wait for someone else to define everything for us, we’ll never move forward. We have to listen, listen, listen then bring about consensus and implement change. No one will take notice of you (offer you a promotion or a raise) for doing your job well. That’s expected. To be considered for more responsibility, you must lift up your head, raise your hand, and say “I’ll do that!”


“My advice is to jump in head-first to whatever makes you uncomfortable.”
A conversation with Red Letter Honoree Angela Cannon

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Name: Angela Cannon

Location: Atlanta

Where do you currently work and what’s your current role?  Vice President, UP Faith & Family.

What does getting the Horizon Award mean to you?

Mae Douglas was being awarded the Woman of the Year award the first time I attended a WICT Red Letter Award Dinner.  Although I don’t know her personally, I remember feeling proud to witness another woman’s, better yet, black woman’s accomplishments and seeing her being celebrated by her peers that are just as accomplished.  That was near the beginning of my career here in Atlanta and it impressed upon me womanhood, celebrating and supporting each other and the importance of organizations like WICT and NAMIC for our industry.

I haven’t missed many Red Letter Award Dinner’s since then, and every year, I continue to be proud to be in a room full of accomplished and admired women.  Being named Horizon Woman to Watch Award for 2019 is not only an honor, but I’m humbled to be counted among such an esteemed group of fabulous women.

As women, we often find it difficult to give ourselves props for our accomplishments so I’m going to ask you to do just that. Why do you think you were selected for this award?

Ahh, great question.  I asked myself this very question when I received the news of the WICT Horizon Woman to Watch nomination.  The more I thought about it, I realized that over the years, I have worked to continuously break barriers due to my gender, my race or my experiences, worked intelligently with passion & compassion, built empowered teams and surpassed goals both personally and professionally.

If there was an area of expertise, I was unfamiliar with, I enrolled in courses to build my skills sets.  If presented with a challenge, I tried diligently to step up with viable solutions that sometimes actually worked.  The word “no”, does not register with me.  I find that all it does is motivate me to find another way.  Someone once told me, “Constraints Drive Innovation” and I live that more than most.  Not complaining – just recognizing that at independent networks, there are specific challenges larger companies do not have to consider.  Over the last 15 years, working for UPtv, aspire and now leading our streaming service, UP Faith & Family, thinking out of the box and working with limited budget & staffing resources, have driven some of the best and most compelling and innovative campaigns, promotions or national initiatives this industry has ever seen.

Most importantly, I have led my team with the intent of always operating in a spirit of excellence, fostering accountability and pushing them to take on challenges and pursue dreams greater than they ever thought possible.  I love what I do, I love the people I’m fortunate to work with daily and I love that we inspire hearts to be better every day!

This year’s theme is Inspire and Others will Follow. Is there one conversation/piece of advice that you go back to that inspires the decisions you make as a leader?

I grew up with a mother who taught me the importance of our faith. She would always say, “Only what we do for Christ and others will last”. She taught me to have a servant’s heart, to give, teach, listen & encourage everyone along our journey.  In my career, having the ability to lead with integrity, passion and compassion have oftentimes lead to Inspiring others.

What advice do you give yourself when you are taking a risk or stepping out of your comfort zone? Why is it important to do so?

My advice is to jump in head-first to whatever makes you uncomfortable. Be open and transparent about our weaknesses and work to make them strengths. Taking risks and stepping outside of comfort is not easy.  It requires a level of constant commitment to better ourselves, our situations, our teams or our companies.  It requires us to be intentional in our strategies and confident in our vision to reach the end goal.

It’s important to embrace the unknown because you will never reach a new height without climbing a new mountain and conquering the best of ourselves. Just Do It! No, Nike, you will not receive compensation on this answer.


WICT Southeast blogger, 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.