FROM BOARDROOM TO BALLROOM: GAIL SERMERSHEIM, WICT FOUNDING PRESIDENT

 

By Dana Dawson

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about this WICT pioneer, click HERE

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

Networking, not torture!

By Saquonna Duncan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

R.E.A.L MAN OF WICT: Corey Prince

WICT Southeast has lots of R.E.A.L Men in our chapter. These are our male members who personify Rewarding, Equality, and Leadership.   In this new interview series, we have five compelling Questions to get to know these R.E.A.L Men of WICT.

WICT Southeast blog writer, Ana Adler sat down with Corey Prince to get his take on what having a WICT Membership means to him.

Corey Prince

 

Name: Corey Prince

Location: Atlanta

Where do you currently work, and what’s your current role?  Senior Director of People Solutions at UpTV

Why did you join WICT? What inspired you to look past the W in the name?

Many years ago, I was invited to the Red Letter Awards. I was new to TV and hadn’t heard much about the organization at that time. But being at the gala and hearing the stories of all of these accomplished women, blew me away. I was so inspired. I remembered walking away saying to myself, “Wow, I need to be better, I need to do more.” Part of me just wanted to be a part of this success.  I wanted to learn from all these women. So, when I heard they accepted men as members, I jumped on it and joined. Months later, I connected with their Membership Director and asked them to come by the office to do a presentation on the benefits of becoming a member. Because the employees loved it so much, we decided to fund their WICT memberships in January each year. If you are interested, we will cover it. And to this day, we are still doing it.

What is it that you find most rewarding about being a member?

I think developing professional relationships with people is key, but it’s also about giving back.  It’s a great opportunity to learn about people, assess their needs, and then determine how I can help. I just like being inspired by the people I meet and I interact with.

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?

For me, it’s a reminder of the work we still have to do, particularly in my role in HR, around ensuring that people are working in environments that allow them to be successful. Making sure we bring people’s attention to unconscious bias and calling it out when we see it. Even as HR professionals, despite being trained not to let biases influence our decision, we still have to check ourselves and ensure we embrace people for who they are and what they bring to the table from a skillset standpoint.

Our theme this year is Inspire, and others will follow. What has worked for you in inspiring others?

Leading by example, not being afraid to show my vulnerability as a leader.  Being open to doing what is needed regardless of my position. It also means not being afraid to let people fail and supporting failure in a good way, by asking, “What would you do differently?” “How do we learn from it?” versus making anyone feel incompetent. That’s the last thing on my mind. That’s not how you do it. You just help them realize that part of their learning is figuring out what they would do differently. What you find is that people start doing it for themselves and you don’t have to prompt them anymore. That’s when you know you’ve hit it because now, they are walking themselves through that thought process.

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WICT Southeast Blog writer, 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.

 

 

Network Like a Boss

By Olivia Johnson

 

Networking is one of the most important things you can do in your career. It can be nerve-wracking and something we all dread, but that doesn’t negate its importance. There are times when you’re unsure of how to properly network or even simple do’s and don’ts of networking.

 

Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind with the WICT Membership Mixer coming up!

 

Be engaged

Listening is key with networking but showing with body language that you’re actively engaged helps immensely. Making eye contact, smiling, and mirroring actions and posture of the person you’re listening to will help show you’re invested.

Ditch the sales pitch

Keep conversation light and fun by not trying to oversell yourself. Those you’re networking with will see a more realistic version of you if you’re not trying to recite your elevator pitch or list accomplishments. Be your genuine self, and that will speak volumes.

 

Don’t dominate the conversation

When meeting someone new, a nervous reaction might be to be constantly talking, but that won’t get you very far. The best way to network is to make the other person feel important. Ask them about themselves and actively listen to what they have to say. Being remembered as a talker won’t help you as much as being remembered as a great conversationalist.

 

Follow up

Following up after the appropriate amount of time is extremely crucial. A LinkedIn connection with a personal message or through contact information you’ve exchanged is the perfect way to stay in touch. Following up will allow you to keep a connection that you can have for years to come.

 

With the help of these tips, you should be able to inspire your connections with your ideas. Like the WICT Touchstone, ‘Inspire, and others will follow,” these connections, in turn, can help inspire you to reach your full potential.

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Try these tips at 2 upcoming WICT Southeast eventsJune 13th Birmingham, AL and June 25th in Atlanta, GA. Don’t forget, there is still time to join or renew your WICT membership today!

 

WICT Southeast’s blog writer, Olivia Johnson is a recent University of Tennessee graduate and content creator. She carries with her impressive skills in social media managing and copywriting. Currently, she is looking for the perfect job position to flex her skills. 

 

 

 

Five Questions for Cisco’s Morgan Bondon

WICT Southeast blog writer, Ana Adler sat down with Morgan Bondon to ask him 5 burning questions and get the scoop on Cisco’s Inspire to Innovate Fellowship for WICT Southeast.

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Morgan Bondon

Where are you located: Atlanta

Where do you currently work and what’s your current role? 

Vice President, Sales Cable & Media, Americas Service Provider – Cisco

 

 

Why did you join WICT? What inspired you to look past the W in the name?

A couple of reasons, I have an older sister who graduated from Northwestern with a degree in Math.  She went into the “real world” and felt very intimidated in the business world because she was a woman. I was younger and didn’t have an appreciation or understanding of why she felt that way, but that really kind of inspired me to try and make a difference in that if I ever got the opportunity. Secondly, I have a 17-year-old daughter and I’ll be damned if that ever happens to her. I really feel we’re at a moment in time right now, with our generation, to truly make the permanent difference. I want to do everything, on every platform that I have, to help that cause. Also, it’s my industry and I love the people, and I don’t really see a “W” or an “M”, I’m on the board and it’s not uncomfortable for me, I enjoy it.

 

What is it that you find most rewarding about being a member?

I know it may sound cliché, but just listening. I learn a lot and, as much as I have passion around WICT, what it offers and what it can provide, it doesn’t mean that I have a true appreciation and understanding of the issues women face. I have not experienced that in my life and there is nothing I can do to change that, so I like listening and learning. Some of the stories blow me away, I don’t think that way and I can’t believe what some people do, but it’s a good uncomfortable to listen to the challenges that some of these women have had. A good uncomfortable because I’m learning the realities of what people have gone through that I just have never had to go through personally and an appreciation and it makes me a better person, a better leader, a better father a better husband, everything, it makes me better.

 

In thinking of the theme of REAL Men of WICT (Rewarding Equality and Leadership), how has membership in WICT influenced your thinking, either personally or professionally?

To get specific on it, I’m definitely more aware. There may not be a female candidate in the interviewing pool of a job, but I will make sure to have at least one on the hiring panel. I have a much better appreciation and I apply it in my thought process. When I’m talking to other male members of my team, I try to really impress upon them the importance of inclusion because, unless you’ve really taken the time to understand someone’s story, it’s hard to even put that in your mindset when you’re doing an interview. WICT has given me a different perspective and that’s a good thing.

 

Our theme this year is Inspire and others will follow. What has worked for you in inspiring others?

I’m always inspired by learning, as much as I love to talk. I have an Italian mom and talking is what we do, but I really love to listen, and the leaders that have inspired me the most are the ones I learn from, and you can’t learn if you don’t listen. I get more out of conversations with the leaders that have truly made an impression because I learn a lot from them, not just about business, but in general. The leaders I’ve gravitated to have always given me life examples, not just data, and I try to do the same. People tick differently.  If I know they love to travel, for example, I talk to them about that, I try to connect with them on a level that humanizes the interaction. I think so often now we get into this data-driven world and we forget the human element, so I try to make sure that I’m a human first and a leader second.

 

Cisco is providing an Inspire to Innovate fellowship this year. Why do you feel it is important to transform the way we think about and practice innovation? Why invest in a WICT member?

Look if we don’t innovate what are we leaving behind?  I look at what the internet provides: So many wonderful things but also so many awful things. So many people just blindly do things that the internet provides because it’s as easy as the touch of a button, but they don’t think through the consequences of that. So, innovation to me is making sure people understand what could happen but continuing to innovate to make sure we can leverage the good that technologies bring us. That’s what is really important to me. And why WICT? I mean for all the reasons I already told you, it’s a no brainer. I look at my daughter and that’s all I have to do, it’s very simple for me. Chuck Robbins our CEO has really instituted a lot of changes and a high percentage of his executive staff is female. And it’s not by “design.” If you take the time and allow yourself the right process, the right things happen naturally. And so, as a company, we’re massively focused on diversity, all kinds of diversity, not just male-female.

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Apply today for the WICT Southeast Inspire to Innovate Fellowship to attend the Fall CableLabs Innovation Boot camp that will be held Oct. 15 – 18, 2019 in Colorado. The application deadline is May 31st, 2019. Click here to find out more.

 

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