3 Questions for 2021 Rising Star Winners & Mentor Award Winner

Congratulations to Shannon Inise Andrews and Angela Carone, our Rising Star Winners, and Tendai Mashingaidze, our Mentor Award Winner.


Name: Shannon Inise Andrews

Location: Atlanta, GA

Title: Manager, Business Information Systems, Headquarters

Company: Comcast Cable

What does getting this award mean to you?
I was invited to attend the Red Letter Awards in 2017 and told myself, “That’s going to be me one day.” All of this still feels surreal to me, and I’m so humbled to be selected for this prestigious honor. A couple of years ago, one of my mentors shared that they didn’t feel I was ready for the Rising Star for Emerging Leaders award. That was challenging to hear, and it gave me the time and space I needed to work on myself. Receiving this award means that I have grown personally and professionally.

As women, we often find it difficult to pat ourselves on the back, but I’m going to ask you to do just that. What do you think sets you apart from other nominees? 

I never let my job title or responsibilities limit what I could offer to the industry. I use data storytelling to offer insights and recommendations to senior leaders. I mentor other women and students who are trying to find their way along their career journey. In addition, I walk into a room and find someone I don’t know to build up and expand my network. I’m constantly taking advantage of training for leadership development and stay up to date on the latest trends so I can provide valuable insight to decision-makers. In mid-2020, I stepped up to be a facilitator in the Central Division’s Conversation Circles, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative bringing diverse members together to share, listen and learn from each other’s experiences in today’s divided society. I’ve embraced Comcast’s 3 pillars of committing to lifelong learning, demonstrating compassion and acting with intention.

In the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton; “I’m just non-stop.” and “I’m not throwing away my shot!”

This year’s theme is ‘Be a Catalyst.’ Why do you think setting the wheels of change in motion is more important than ever in 2021? 

We must set the wheels of change in motion to create sustainability. We must constantly invest in future generations by taking them on the journey with us as they develop as leaders. Change in life will always occur and being prepared for change is something that determines if a business will make it through difficult times. We need to have a plan for how we can pick things up after we move on. Leaders need to have a “right hand” and a “left hand”. The “right hand” is the person that they develop to take their place. The “left hand” is the person the leader is coaching the “right hand” on developing to take the “right hand’s” place. When everyone is developing their successor, effective leadership is sustainable; everyone is not relying on one person for everything, and the leader is not burnt out feeling like everything rests on their shoulders.

Name: Angela Carone

Location: Atlanta, GA

Title: Director of Podcasts

Company: Turner Classic Movies, WarnerMedia

What does getting this award mean to you?

It’s so gratifying to receive an award that confirms I’m on the right path. As a creative, I’ve often resisted leadership roles thinking it would take me out of hands-on creative work. I’ve come to see how strong leadership actually is creative, from guiding others, to developing strategy, to solving an endless array of problems. This award inspires me to forge ahead and work to become an effective, compassionate leader who inspires growth and change both for my team and within my network and company. 

As women, we often find it difficult to pat ourselves on the back, but I’m going to ask you to do just that. What do you think sets you apart from other nominees? 

I’m not sure, but I do know I am willing to take risks. None of us knew whether a TCM podcast would work. Our core audience members are not early adopters. We worried some wouldn’t even know what a podcast was – and we were right. But we saw a space we could grow into, where we could develop new audiences while working to bring along our long-standing fans. It worked! I have years of expertise in audio journalism, so I was able to lean on that expertise to help make something special for classic movie fans. 

This year’s theme is ‘Be a Catalyst.’ Why do you think setting the wheels of change in motion is more important than ever in 2021?

It’s important because it’s not just our industry that is rapidly changing. We’re living through so much historical, social and political change. Making an impact is going to require all of us to observe and listen more, take more risks, and push for change in areas that may be uncomfortable. 

Name: Tendai Mashingaidze

Location: Atlanta, GA

Title: Vice President, Compliance, Investor relations, and Subsidiary Reporting

Company: UP Entertainment, a media group comprised of several brands such as the cable networks UPtv and AspireTv, and the streaming service, UP Faith and Family

What does getting this award mean to you?

It is incredibly humbling to have my contributions recognized by my industry peers. I have attended the WICT Southeast Red Letter Awards almost every year since I became a member. I looked forward to celebrating and being inspired by the highly accomplished women. To be recognized for the Mentor award is especially meaningful to me because it is something I love to do; it brings me pure joy to give back and empower others. I personally benefited from many generous mentors and unexpected cheerleaders at various stages in my career. It is an honor to be in the company of such fantastic award recipients this year.

As women, we often find it difficult to pat ourselves on the back, but I’m going to ask you to do just that. What do you think sets you apart from other nominees?

This is an interesting question because I can easily name many more women who have accomplished much in my own company, let alone the industry. These women inspire and challenge me to stand up and be counted. However, what anchors me the most and maybe sets me apart is the strength of the women, including my mother in rural Zimbabwe, where I grew up. Seeing their plight in a disempowering culture, I resolved to be different. Everything I did, including every school report that I brought home, had more significant consequences, including the very idea that there was value in educating a girl child. It took hard work for me to earn that right, and every day still feels like a fight to prove myself.  

As a result, my approach to work and life has always been: 

Take advantage of every opportunity to grow. I consider myself a lifetime learner, and I am committed to continuous personal and professional improvement. I think I can always do better, differently, more efficiently, so I push myself constantly.

Excellence always! I may not achieve it all the time, but I sure strive for it because anything less is not me.

Recognize and celebrate in others. I never pass up an opportunity to let someone know when they have done well. A genuine celebration of their strengths builds them up, so why not?

This year’s theme is ‘Be a Catalyst.’ Why do you think setting the wheels of change in motion is more important than ever in 2021?

If there is one thing I have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the urgency of now. We all have the capacity to effect change, whether it be in the workplace, at home, or in our community. If it matters to you, it most likely matters to others, so don’t wait.

Many years ago, my husband and I launched the Tapson Education Foundation, an educational, not-for-profit organization in memory of my late brother, whose love for education inspired me. As I look back at the countless students whose lives were transformed, I know for sure that if I had waited to get started until everything was in place, we would have missed some competent students that needed the help. We had many good reasons to wait; it was too early in my career to start something new on the side, kids were too young, Zimbabwe was a world away from where I live now (it would be a logistical nightmare!), and I certainly could not afford it. However, all of these reasons viewed in the context of the bigger picture certainly feel shallow now, but they were real to me. I am glad we went for it, and I hope we all get the courage to be a catalyst in our own spheres of influence.

WICT Southeast Announces 2022 Board of Directors

Women in Cable Telecommunications Southeast Chapter announces the members of its 2022 Board of Directors.

WICT Southeast is one of 24 Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) chapters across the U.S., Latin America, UK and Europe. WICT consists of over 10,500 members globally. The Southeast Chapter is the third largest local chapter with approximately 800 members.

WICT Southeast represents the diverse functions of the cable industry and brings together members located in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. Each member has their own dynamic experience, distinctive perspective and background.

Gimette DeLaughter (Cox) incumbent Vice President rises to President in 2022. Jamelia Smith (Cox) previous Sr. Director of Mentoring in 2014/2015 transitions to Vice-President. Shelley Hoffmann (Healthgrades/Red Ventures) incumbent President will move to Immediate Past President. With over 30 positions, spanning over 15 different companies, our 2022 board is sure to accomplish great things in the coming year. Please make sure to check out the entire list of our 2022 board members and congratulate your fellow WICT friends and colleagues.

PresidentGimetteDeLaughterCox Communications
Vice PresidentJameliaSmithCox Communications
Immediate Past PresidentShelleyHoffmannHealthgrades/Red Ventures
Senior TreasurerAqueelah Traylor-MorganWarnerMedia
SecretaryLesliePodraskyDiscovery, Inc
Advisory Board/Executive ChampionSheriMcGaughyMcGaughy Law
Senior Director of ProgrammingCindyHughesCox Communications
Senior Director of PartnershipsKerriHayesUPtv
Senior Director of Marketing/CommunicationsLisaConklinCox Communications
Senior Director of MembershipLizzetteTarver
Senior Director of MentoringErikaWeaverDiscovery, Inc
Senior Director of Red Letter AwardsKaseyWhiteCox Communications
TreasurerStacyHurdCox Communications
Director of CommunicationsChristinaThompsonCox Automotive
Director of DesignAnaAdlerAna Adler Creative
Director of Social Media MarketingCrystalScalesComcast
Director of TechnologyLydiaSan GeorgeAT&T
Director of Membership GA & ALLoriJacksonCox Communications
Director of Membership TNPending
Director of Outreach/PhilanthropyAngelaCannonUP Faith & Family
Director of Programming ALShannonAndrewsComcast
Director of Programming GAVincineBrownComcast
Director of Programming GAAllisonJacobsWarnerMedia
Director of Programming TN KnoxvillePending
Director of Programming TN NashvilleMelissaHarrisTelecom Training Corporation
Director of Mentoring GA & ALKimBowman-ScottCox Communications
Director of Mentoring TNKatieFarritorRFD-TV
Director of PartnershipsTamminaHartComcast
Director of Red Letter AwardsPending
Director at Large – BylawsChrisMorterCox Communications
Director at Large – PartnershipsMichaelWigginsCox Communications
Director at Large – Executive OutreachKathyHatalaBlueprint RF/ Cox
Director at Large – Chapter ExpansionJanineBowlingCommscope
Director at Large – FinanceNatashaPrewittThe Weather Group
Director at Large – Virtual TechnologyCatherineEllisComcast
Director at Large – Absentee CoverageAnneLoescherScripps Networks
Director at Large – Diversity & InclusionLynnetteSmithThe Weather Channel

June is poppin’ with impactful events

While the kids are out of school for the summer, WICT Southeast is ramping up our events and programming offerings! Your WICT Southeast membership includes free admission to most virtual events – and there are quite a few coming up in June. Check them out below!

Considering a career pivot? Or do you just like wine?
Pivot To Your Passion is a virtual wine tasting and panel discussion with women who have pivoted their career path toward their passions, offering encouragement to attendees who may be facing or considering a change in their career path, whether forced or voluntarily. You’ll enjoy the fruits of panelist Denise Gough’s personal pivot through our virtual wine tasting. In addition, the panelists will discuss what precipitated their career transitions, how they arrived at their passion and path, and how they actually made the changes.

Featuring Denise Gough, Jerilyn Bliss, Samantha Lane and Jill Johnson, four former executive-level professionals who have themselves pivoted toward their passions. They’ll share their stories and wine suggestions over a virtual happy hour, offering inspiration for attendees who may be contemplating a pivot in their own lives. 

Join us Tuesday, June 8 from 5 – 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Find out more and register here!


Missing something in your social life?
The S.T.I.R. Virtual Social Mixer for WICT Southeast members, non-members and their families offers socialization, collaboration, interaction and networking.

Join WICT Southeast for a virtual evening of fun, and engage at a social mixer for members and their families. There will be games, networking, and information regarding the work WICTSE is doing in the industry and community. Not a member? Join now and learn how you can benefit from involvement in WICT.

Join us Tuesday, June 16 from 5 – 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Register today!

Want to broaden your horizons?
The LGBTQIA community is experiencing major generational shifts relating to more racial diversity and more workers in younger generations. According to research, policies implemented over the past 20 years while critical, are no longer enough to create an inclusive workplace and change behaviors and biases of majority groups.

Join WICT Southeast for a conversation about what companies are doing to ensure employees do not feel the need to hide a crucial part of their identity while at the office. Tonya Walley, VP of Field Operations and Plant Maintenance at Cox, Robert Rustman, Director of Human Resources, Strategic Initiatives, Chicago at Comcast, Nicole Young- Turner, CEO of Kaleidoscope Village and Nathan Small, Sr. Recruiter| Talent Acquisition WarnerMedia (News & Sports) will share examples of daily experiences that impact feelings of inclusion and D&I strategies that can help to improve inclusion, which has a significant impact on innovation, creativity, and retention.

Join us Tuesday, June 22 from 12 – 1:30 p.m. Eastern. Learn more and register now!

Chapter End of Year Message

Renita Griskel
2020 – 2021 Chapter President
WICT Southeast

Hello WICT Southeast Members!

What a year!  When “Connect to your peers, your industry and everything around you” was chosen as the WICTSE Touchstone for 2020, our Ruby Anniversary, no one had any idea how critical that touchstone would be for so many people.

My plans for the chapter were well underway when COVID-19 hit. The quick actions of the WICTSE board created a new plan of action allowing us to pivot from in-person events and programs to connect to all of you using virtual platforms.  While we all miss the one on one interaction, this necessary change gave many people throughout Atlanta, Knoxville, Nashville and Birmingham a chance to participate in all of our WICTSE programs. 

Members of our chapter were hit with unemployment, dealing first-hand with the severity of the virus and the uncertainty of what’s ahead. I am proud that one of the first things we did after the widespread onset of COVID-19 was partner with Feeding America to help feed families in need. Many of you supported this initiative and gave generously allowing us to surpass our goal and provide thousands of meals to families in our WICT Southeast footprint. 

The WICTSE response to COVID-19 is just one example of how the organization is in step with evolving widespread issues affecting our industry and community. Social injustice, specifically involving the black community is on the minds of many. I am so proud of how we addressed the issue with our Black Lives Matter: A Movement Not A Moment interactive panel discussion. We had the uncomfortable conversations and separated fact from fiction leaving participants informed and empowered!

We connected with all of you this year addressing the unique needs of 2020 along with the leadership development opportunities that WICTSE consistently provides. Global Mentoring, Tech It Out, Speed Mentoring and Resilience: Standing Strong showcased the mission of WICT to create women leaders who transform our industry. We did that as well with additional programs and events that targeted navigating the unprecedented times of 2020: Maintaining Motivation Through Uncertainty, Mind Your Business, The Art of the Staycation, WICT Happy Hour and of course S.T.I.R. Socialize, Talk, Interact, Remember. And we discussed the changing landscape of the cable industry with LGBTQ+: Exploring the Future By Learning From the Past.

This year we honored 7 amazing women for their accomplishments in the cable telecommunications industry during our first virtual Red Letter Awards. The gala was highly attended and well received. I am so proud of the honorees and the tremendous team behind the scenes who worked tirelessly to make this year’s gala one to remember! We also provided three chapter scholarships to this year’s virtual WICT Leadership Conference. WICT Global provided unparallel content, speakers, and workshops. I am happy that WICTSE was able to help three members attend for free!

While all of this was going on, we celebrated our chapter’s 40th Anniversary! We highlighted the work of the many women who came before us to lay the groundwork for the WICT Southeast Chapter. We learned about their journeys, challenges, and successes, through photos, interviews, and videos throughout the year.

So, as you can see, it’s been a busy and historic year. The pivot of events and programs was intense at times, but also an opportunity for growth. While there were challenges, our resilience is powerful! None of the work this year could have been accomplished without the help, support and expertise of the WICT Southeast board. I am grateful to have 31 talented women at my side committed to the mission of WICT.  Thank you all so much, I am truly honored to have worked with you! Thank you to Maria Brennan, WICT President and CEO and WICT Global for your tremendous encouragement and guidance. And thank you to the WICT Southeast membership for allowing me to be your president.  It was my privilege to lead the WICT Southeast Chapter this year and I look forward to what’s ahead for 2021!

Thank you!

 Renita Griskel

WICT Southeast President

3 Questions for the 2020 Red Letter Award Recipients

Congratulations to Kristina Stafford KellyMonika WilkinsCatherine Mitchell, Kimberley Euston, Melody Smalls, Rose Chambers, and Roxanne Cloutier, WICT Southeast’s 2020 Red Letter Award Recipients. 

We recognize these women for their outstanding achievement and leadership. 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 17th annual Red Letter Awards, we asked these seven women three questions so you can get to know them better. Check back daily as we post their answers. 

It’s not too late to register to this first-ever free and virtual gala to be held on Thursday, October 22nd at 4:00 pm ET.  Click  HERE for more information.

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2020 Inspiration Award Honoree
Roxanne Cloutier


Name: Roxanne Cloutier

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Title: Senior Vice President, Enterprise Systems & Strategic Planning

Where do you currently work: WarnerMedia

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

The Inspiration Award is quite an honor. I remember listening to some of the amazing women who have received this award over the past few years and being in awe of their tremendous accomplishments and contributions to society. I am humbled to be among these incredible role models. 

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 am very passionate about building genuine connections. I have successfully built and consolidated amazing and highly successful teams over the past few decades. I am a natural connector and spend a considerable part of my time mentoring and helping others to achieve their goals through connections. 

I credit several incredible mentors and role models who have shown me the importance of leading from a place of service, integrity and relationships. 

There are 3 elements of connection that I have woven throughout my personal and professional life:

  • Leading from my own unique toolkit – connecting the right people, ideas, skills and strategies. 
  • Connecting others – throwing the ladder back down and leveraging my personal successes and resources to connect others to opportunities
  • Cultivating my passion for team building – focusing on people and finding the win-win through connections.

These have become my strengths and I feel honored to be recognized for something as important as this fabric of our life.

This year’s theme is Connect to your peers, your industry, and everything around you. Why do you think connecting is more important than ever in 2020.

When I think about the theme “CONNECT” and its importance, particularly in our current climate, I am convinced that more than ever we are stronger and better together.  

The pandemic that surrounds us has impacted our ability to connect physically. With that, how we define connection has changed, but the power of genuine connections is shining brighter than ever before. 

In this time when many of us are isolated in our homes and are inundated with so many negative stories about the pandemic and social unrest, focusing on connecting with and uplifting others can provide us with the inspiration we need to keep pushing forward. 

I remain committed to carrying that forward through mentoring, growing, encouraging and sustaining others as we maneuver through challenging times. 

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2020 Catalyst Award Honoree
Melody Smalls

Name: Rose Chambers

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Title: Vice President, Construction Planning & Program Management

Where do you currently work: Cox Communications, Inc.

What does getting the Catalyst- Woman in Technology Award mean to you?

Like many, I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to pursue a career and – although very gratifying – it’s been hard work. I’ve always been driven by providing value. That’s what fuels me and makes me push myself. Being recognized by an industry that I have been in for many years and by peers that I’ve worked beside is an affirmation that I’ve provided value. That affirmation humbles me, but also makes me proud. I’m very grateful for the recognition and hope that this recognition inspires other women who might be on a similar path to ask themselves, “why not me?”

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? 

Oh, so very true that this one is difficult! But it is one thing we all need to do better. I think one of the biggest contributors to my success has never been shying away from a challenge. I’ve described myself in the past as a compulsive hand-raiser. I was always raising my hand, saying, “I’ll do that,” even when I wasn’t completely sure I could do it. It’s not that I wasn’t afraid. I was, but I had enough faith in myself to know that I could tap into trusted advisors and figure it out. Also, a mentor very early in my career taught me the lesson that leading by authority does not achieve sustainable results; enlisting the hearts and minds of the team around a shared purpose and vision produces results that last. I hope I’ve modeled that to the best of my ability.

This year’s theme is Connect to your peers, your industry, and everything around you. Why do you think connecting is more important than ever in 2020.

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a year of extraordinary and unanticipated change. The abrupt interruption of the connections we all so took for granted has had a profound impact on all of us, and I’m not sure we yet recognize the full impact of that disruption. Our families, businesses, and communities have all been greatly impacted, and it’s rare that we’re dealing with disruption that acute across all three of those dimensions at once. Connection in these circumstances is more important than ever – whether it’s the connection that allows you to continue to work, the connection that allows you to educate your child, the connection that provides access to your family and friends, or simply the connection that affords you the opportunity to binge-watch baking shows to escape (my current escape 😊)! My hope is that we emerge from this with a deeper appreciation for the essential need for connection and a desire to extend each other a little grace.

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2020 Horizon Award Honoree
Melody Smalls

Name: Melody Smalls

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Title: Executive Vice President, Global Human Resources

Where do you currently work: Allen Media Group is a global media and technology company  which is comprised of several properties such as: The Weather Channel, TheGrio, LocalNow,  15 broadcast stations, Syndication,  ES Motion Pictures, Freestyle Digital Media,  Pets.tv, Justice Central, recipe.tv, my destination.tv, ES.tv and Comedy .tv to name a few.  

What does getting the Horizon- Woman To Watch Award mean to you?

It means the world to me.  It’s important for hard work and excellence to be recognized by industry peers.  I try to do my best at being resourceful and connecting those that can benefit from one another.  

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? 

Thank you and you are right.  It took some time for me to truly enjoy the fruits of my accomplishments!  I believe I was selected for this award because I have demonstrated excellent performance CONSISTENTLY.  I give my effort in every facet of my role and oftentimes outside of my role. I am laser-focused on employee engagement and productivity that results in high performance for our company.  

This year’s theme is Connect to your peers, your industry, and everything around you. Why do you think connecting is more important than ever in 2020.

Connecting is at the forefront of 2020 ( and likely beyond).  Since we are amidst a pandemic, we must be intentional about maintaining our relationships, reaching out, sharing ideas and best practices. This pandemic has certainly taught many of  us to “build an airplane while in the air.” . 

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2020 Mentor Award Honoree
Kimberley Euston

Name: Kimberley Euston

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Title: National Business Development Leader for the Technology, Media and Telecommunications Sector

Where do you currently work: PwC

What does getting the Mentor Award mean to you?

It is an incredible honor, and the fact that it comes from a group of outstanding women that I respect and admire makes it even more special.

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 am lucky to be close with a group of women who love and support each other, who see us for the things that make each of us wonderful, and advocate for each other. We could not accomplish anything without our tribe. 

This year’s theme is Connect to your peers, your industry, and everything around you. Why do you think connecting is more important than ever in 2020.

Your connections are important every day, every year, but this year has been special. I have looked to my connections to help me overcome the physical distance imposed on us and the emotional pressures created by all the turmoil that 2020 has brought. They never disappoint!

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2020 Mentor Award Honoree
Catherine Mitchell

Name: Catherine Mitchell

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Title: Vice President of Product Development and Management for Cox Business

Where do you currently work: Cox Communications, Inc.

What does getting the Mentor Award mean to you?

It’s an honor to be recognized amongst women that I admire and look to as mentors myself. 

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? 

For 30 years, I have been a quiet mentor to many in the telecommunications industry.  And those mentees have achieved great things on their own through merit, grit, and talent.

This year’s theme is Connect to your peers, your industry, and everything around you. Why do you think connecting is more important than ever in 2020.

In whatever ways we all planned to connect this year, the plans have changed.  My mother held a “Happy Mother’s Day sign” out to me across a parking lot in May … and my daughter broke the distance barrier and ran over to hug her.  We all want connection, and this year we have to work harder than ever to make it happen.  Our experience in 2020 has helped us cherish our relationships even more with family and colleagues.

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2020 Rising Star Honoree 
Monika Wilkins
2020 Rising Star Honoree
Monika Wilkins


Name: Monika Wilkins

Location: Smyrna, Georgia

Title: Director Credit & Account Services

Where do you currently work: Comcast Cable

What does getting the Rising Star Award mean to you?

Receiving the Rising Star Award means I am headed in the right direction as a leader.  It means I should stop and think about all the skills and knowledge that I have gained, find more efficient and productive ways to transfer this knowledge to others and determine my next steps to ensure I do not become complacent.  This award makes me think about people that have been here with me throughout my journey.  They are the real MVPs- from my children, giving me a reason to wake up every day and want to be a rising star, to the people that look up to me and remind me that failing is not an option…they make this award worth receiving.

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? 

This one is really hard for me because I am no stranger to hard work. My father was the hardest working man I have ever known, and he instilled in me that anything less is mediocre.  Due to the lessons that I learned from him, I have always worked very hard to ensure the job gets done while keeping my people first.  Without the people, everything fails, so it is critical that I always do right by my people.  I feel this is the reason I was selected to receive this award.

This year’s theme is Connect to your peers, your industry, and everything around you. Why do you think connecting is more important than ever in 2020.

If you think back to 2019, you could easily meet someone new in a hallway, the breakroom, a networking event, or even an elevator.  Due to our new normal, these types of connections are virtually impossible in the workplace.  To foster any relationship, you have to be intentional in your outreach, which can sometimes be intimidating.  Due to this, some individuals may not take the extra step to meet new people and learn new things, causing them to stagnate.  Being stagnant can impact your overall growth and cause frustration and demotivation.  That is why being connected is more important now than ever.           

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2020 Rising Star Honoree
Kristina Stafford Kelly

Name: Kristina Stafford Kelly

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Title: Senior Director // Head of Public Relations

Where do you currently work: UP Entertainment 

What does getting the Rising Star Award mean to you? 

I am incredibly appreciative of this award. I have attended the Red Letter Awards for the past five years and have been in awe of the inspiring women being recognized. Multiple honorees over those years have directly influenced my career. I felt honored just to be nominated.

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? 

As the head of Public Relations, the campaigns I manage have been featured in top outlets such as People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, ET Online, Deadline, Southern Living, Yahoo, Elite Daily and Rolling Stone to name a few, with hundreds of millions of media impressions garnered for the company each year. 

I’m thankful to be part of company that’s supportive of its employees and fosters a collaborative work environment. By working alongside such smart and creative colleagues, I know I’ll never stop learning. In the five short years since joining UP Entertainment, I’ve been able to grow as a leader while successfully executing multi-platform campaigns. I’m proud of the work that’s been accomplished and excited for what’s to come. Plus, I absolutely LOVE what I do, which means my job doesn’t feel like work. It’s a passion.

This year’s theme is Connect to your peers, your industry, and everything around you. Why do you think connecting is more important than ever in 2020.

Connecting is essential in 2020 for our mental and emotional well-being. Texting, phone calls and video chats have taken on a completely new role in our lives. I’m so appreciative of the technology that allows us to feel connected while apart. 

I’ve made an extra effort to be available to college students seeking advice as they try to figure out what the pandemic means for internships and first jobs. A lot of their plans have been completely turned upside down, so I’ve been talking through different opportunities and ideas to help them navigate during this time. While companies have had to alter day-to-day operations due to the pandemic, I hope this thinking is integrated into traditional workplace culture post-Covid. The increased use of technology has allowed us to connect more with peers from other parts of the country and across various industries.