Friday

The Importance of Saying Yes. Interview with Stephanie Mitchko-Beale



“When I was in high school I excelled in math and science,” noted Stephanie Mitchko-Beale, COO / CTO at Cadent, a leading provider of media, advertising technology and data solutions for the pay-TV industry.  As a high school student, she was encouraged by her father to do anything she wanted, she then decided to follow in his footsteps and study engineering in college. 

“Engineering school was filled with only men and not the easiest place to be for a young woman. But I loved it because I love problem solving, mathematics, decomposing problems into minuscule pieces and then fixing them and building them up. My career has been built on my curious nature and the love of solving problems,” she added. 

Upon graduation Stephanie worked at Marconi Electronics in military systems development and then at Digital Signal Corporation doing electronic warfare for the Department of Defense. But when she was asked to move to Virginia to be closer to clients, she decided to stay in New York and, through a friend, met someone at Cablevision. This led to a 15 year tenure at the company. “I said that I didn’t know anything about cable but decided to go anyway. It was one of my ‘say yes’ moments,” she explained, “Those moments that lead us to places we wouldn't expect and places we wouldn't have arrived at without being open minded, willing and simply raising our hands.”

From there, another ‘say yes’ moment came when through a mutual friend she was introduced to the Board of Directors of Cross MediaWorks, a family of companies that builds media solutions driven by data and technology. What started as a friendly consultation turned into a job offer as CTO for their media services arm, Cadent Network. Today, she leads the technology and operations teams across Cadent Network and Cadent Technology, focusing on the development of cross-platform advertising and data tech.
I sat down with Stephanie and asked her the following questions:

Charlene Weisler: Elaborate a bit more on what you mean by ‘say yes’ moments?

Stephanie Mitchko-Beale: I’ve found, over the years that if you just open yourself up and say ‘yes, I can do this’ or ‘yes, I will take a chance’ or ‘yes, I’ll meet this person’ or ‘yes, I will be the lead on this project’ that doors seem to open up more for you. I think a lot of people, and this is true especially for women, before they say yes to something they want to figure it all out to be sure that they know all the answers. I found that if you just step up and be at the table and say yes to opportunities then it is in your hands to make it work or not. I tried to say yes to every new project that came out and that afforded me the opportunity to keep doing new things. I also say yes to meeting people. If someone takes the time to introduce you to someone else, go and meet them and understand what they are about because those are the connections that eventually lead to great things. By not saying yes you are limiting your opportunities.

Charlene Weisler: Let’s talk about building a diverse team. How do you start? How do you retain talent?

Stephanie Mitchko-Beale: When I was at Cablevision I was very fortunate to be able to hire most of the people who worked in my organization. For me, you start by not accepting the first couple of people you talk to for any position. That is because people tend to hire the same types of people because it is comfortable and easy. You need to build diversity – and I don’t just mean diversity among the people themselves but also in the way people think – diversity in background, formal training, etc. And you have to start by really paying attention to who is on your team and who you want to bring into your team. Every time I talk to somebody, I think about what is different about their philosophy, their technical background, and their experience that brings a different thought processes to the group. By having a team of people who think differently, ideas flow and people tend to see beyond their own lens which makes teams more productive and more capable of seeing the bigger picture. 

It is very competitive and challenging to retain talent in the technology space. And good people know their worth. I believe, in addition to compensating properly, what keeps people engaged is working with a team and management that truly gives them the recognition and visibility they deserve. I also try to talk to my people about the company vision and where the company is going so they are engaged and focused on moving the company forward beyond their day-to-day tasks. And of course you have to feed them. Good snacks are important!

Charlene Weisler: I remember that at Cablevision!

Charlene Weisler: Let’s talk about who inspired you and mentorship in general.

Stephanie Mitchko-Beale: I was fortunate. Both of my parents were very supportive of whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t have any stereotypical limits growing up. Through my career it was not easy being the only woman most of the time. But at Cablevision I had wonderful mentors who helped me move up and take on more opportunities. I call them Champions, not so much mentors. They are people who support you and who are genuinely invested in your success. They are the best people to align with in your company and in your career. 

I do a lot of mentoring through the WICT organization and every year I take on another woman who is either in the cable industry or who is in a supporting industry. Our goal with the program is to try to retain women in the technical jobs because a lot of them leave for various reasons. As a mentor, I feel that it is my job to support and help young women to navigate through their career path and develop strategies. 

Charlene Weisler: How do you achieve work/life balance?

Stephanie Mitchko-Beale: This is not my favorite question, by the way. I try not to think of balance because when I think of balance (and this is probably my engineering mind coming out) it implies that you have to keep things equal, or if you take from one place you have to make it up somewhere else. So what I usually talk about is how I try to integrate my life with my career. That means things like ‘being present’. So when I am at work, I try not to be distracted by what is going on at home. And when I am at home with my family, I am present there. When you can achieve that, you never feel that you are missing out on something. I also try to keep my priorities straight. I raised my three kids while I was working full-time in executive positions. It is important to make sure that you keep your priorities straight so you can be where you need to be. 

Charlene Weisler: How are you applying your broad experience into your current role at Cadent?

Stephanie Mitchko-Beale: It’s come full circle really. It comes back to math and science, which we look at as data and analytics today. When Cross MediaWorks acquired BlackArrow, now Cadent Technology, I was charged with integrating the technology teams. The foundation for coalescing the teams was built on creating a strong data and analytics group that spanned across both divisions. Presently, that group is breaking ground by leveraging predictive analytics and machine learning for a modern approach to traditional advertising.  

This article first appeared in www.MediaBizBloggers.com

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