LEADERSHIP PROFILE – Terri Gunnell

Sponsored by:

Terri Gunnell

Senior Vice President of Audience Monetization Solutions

Turner

 

Tell me 3 personal things that people might find surprising.

  1. The first one is that I run a technology division at Turner. I was an English and Communications major in college, and I wanted to be a writer or a journalist.
  2. Unsurprisingly, I’m a media-holic. I consume media on a regular basis and am always looking for a new show to watch… but my main guilty pleasure is watching The Real Housewives of, basically all of the cities.
  3. The third thing is I love to cook and bake, and I’m obsessed with Pinterest from that perspective. I’m always looking for new recipes to try and I always take a picture of the successful ones to see how close I can get them to the ones posted on Pinterest. I’m competitive that way!

Briefly, tell us about your path to your current position at Turner.

I went to Florida State where Ted Turner gave the commencement address at my college graduation. He inspired me, so I quit the job that I had secured for myself post-graduation and drove to Atlanta determined to get a job at Turner. I landed a job as a temp in Turner Sports as a production assistant where I did all sorts of fun things like shooting T-shirts out of guns at Atlanta Hawks games, helping cameramen with their equipment, getting coffee for people and typing up memos. I eventually landed a full-time job in Sales Operations scheduling commercials on the log for TBS and TNT. I loved it and the people I got to work with every day. A few years later, in a supervisory role, I started working closely with the New York Ad Sales planning and pricing team. A New York-based manager job on that team became available, so I interviewed and got the job. This position taught me the Ad Sales side of the business and I fell in love with New York City! When the technology division based in Atlanta began building some tools for us, I started working with them as a business partner. This first generation of business analysis led me to pitch the need for a technical Product Management team. Ad Sales created a Director role for me, and I built the first Product Management, Reporting and Analytics group. That’s how I got into technology. A few years later, my role and my team transitioned to the Global Technology Organization and I moved into a more senior role as a VP, overseeing the product owners for Ad Sales Research and Sales Operations in both New York and Atlanta. About three years ago, my role expanded significantly, and I assumed a wildly talented group of technologists that also provide solutions for Programming and Promotions and was promoted to SVP. It’s been an exciting, winding road so far!

Now, I am a full-on STEM girl! I think there’s just such opportunity for women in this in this field. There aren’t enough of us so, I hope I can help convert other people that didn’t have a science, math or technology background to think they can do it too.

WICT Southeast and Turner are hosting a Women in Technology event on Oct 31st, What advice would you give to someone with a television background who is considering breaking into a career in technology?

I would recommend that you connect with somebody in the technology division of your company. Find out what they do. How do they spend their day? How do they help the business? I think that will help you set the stage for understanding. There’s more to technology than meets the eye, right? All of us aren’t sitting at our computers writing code. There are so many cool jobs in tech. Take a training class, something that sounds interesting, and see how it might apply to your job. Look at the systems and applications you use at work. Find out a little bit about the vendor company that provides that application and see if there’s anyone you can meet via LinkedIn and connects to them. The more people understand the different types of jobs that are available in technology, the more it might just pique their interest.

With technology, things change very quickly. How do you personally deal with change and how do you help your team navigate it?

In my position, I hear about all the distractions and the change headed our way every day, but I think my job, and my leadership team’s job, is to focus people on specific, achievable missions. These missions are tied to an overall goal, but we try not to plan to concretely beyond six months. As a result, our development teams are amazingly resilient and can adjust their priorities weekly or monthly. We try to filter through all the noise and keep people focused on something that we know is achievable: Here’s what you’re doing, here’s why you’re doing it and here’s what’s going to be awesome about it.

Why do you think It’s important for women to get more involved in today’s technology industry?

One obvious reason is that the data says companies are more profitable when they hire more women and when leadership is balanced out across the gender lines. Selfishly speaking, having more women around the table also makes it easier as a woman to get a word in edgewise. The reality is that having more women building products and applications, developing media content and providing programming direction makes a company strong and successful. I remember reading an Arianna Huffington article just recently saying that women globally spent about forty trillion U. S. dollars last year. That’s a ton of buying power to connect with from a technology perspective, so I think it’s a no-brainer.

Do you have any tech organizations, books or training that you would recommend to our readers?

General Assembly in Atlanta is an amazing institution where adults can become students again and learn new skills to get ahead in a changing workplace. It is a great spot to meet other people who want to do the same thing. So many people on my team and on teams across the technology organization at Turner have gone there to learn new skills. It’s an amazing resource.

WIT, Women in Technology is an organization whose mission is to empower women and girls in STEM.

I have also just finished reading a book called Geek Girl Rising: Inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech, by Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens. It’s such an inspiring read, hilarious, true and informative.

This year’s theme for WICT is “Be a Catalyst.” In what way does this resonate with you and why do you think it’s important to push the envelope?

I love the idea of “Be a Catalyst” because it’s something that anybody at any level of any organization can be a part of. Being a catalyst isn’t just a leadership thing. You can be a successful catalyst no matter what type of job or role you have. What do you truly excel at? Bring that to every meeting and every project or mission, to every opportunity that comes your way and make it better. It will force people to think differently. I think this is such a such an inspirational little phrase too – Be a Catalyst! Catalysts are everyday people hiding out in everyday positions in your company and they are changing things, shaking things up and making things better wherever they are because they bring something that you don’t already have to the table.

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Don’t miss Women in Tech: Navigating Untraditional Paths on October 30th from 6-8pm, an exclusive, unique experience presented by WICT Southeast and Turner. Connect with representatives from Digital Craft, General Assembly, Girls Who Code and Women in Tech. Then, join an intimate and interactive discussion featuring leading technology industry executives who will be sharing stories of their untraditional paths to success.