"When I was in high school I excelled in math and science," says Stephanie Mitchko-Beale, COO/CTO at Cadent, a leading provider of media, advertising technology and data solutions for the pay-TV industry. Stephanie was encouraged by her father to do anything she wanted and chose to follow in his footsteps by studying engineering, though the male-dominated engineering school was 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 and building them up," she explains. "My career has been built on my curious nature and love of solving problems."
Upon graduation Stephanie worked at Marconi Electronics in military systems development and then at Digital Signal Corporation working on electronic warfare for the Department of Defense. Opting to stay in New York vs. a transfer, she made a connection at Cablevision, which led to a 15-year tenure with the company. "I didn't know anything about cable but decided to go anyway," she recalls. "It was one of my 'say yes' moments; those moments that lead us to places we wouldn't expect and places we wouldn't have arrived at without being open-minded and willing -- and by simply raising our hands."
From there, another "say yes" moment came through an introduction to 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, Stephanie leads the technology and operations teams across Cadent Network and Cadent Technology, focusing on cross-platform advertising and data tech development. She provided details in a recent interview.
Charlene Weisler: Can you elaborate a bit more on "say yes" moments?
Stephanie Mitchko-Beale: I've found that if you just open yourself up and say, "Yes, I can do this" or "I will take a chance" or "I will meet this person" or "Yes, I will be the lead on this project" that doors seem to open up more for you. Before people say yes to something -- and this is especially true of women -- they want to be sure that they know the answers first. If you step up and say yes to opportunities, then it's in your hands to make it work. If someone introduces you to someone, go and meet them and understand what they're about because those are the connections that eventually lead to great things. Not saying "yes" limits your opportunities.
Charlene: How are you applying your broad experience into your current role at Cadent?
Stephanie: It's come full circle really, 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. Presently, that group is breaking ground by leveraging predictive analytics and machine learning for a modern approach to traditional advertising.
Charlene: How do you build a diverse team? How do you retain talent?
Stephanie: You start by not accepting the first couple of people you talk to. That's because people tend to hire the same types of people, it's 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. By having a team of people who think differently, ideas flow and people tend to see beyond their own lens. It is very competitive and challenging to retain talent in the technology space. Good people know their worth. In addition to compensating properly, what keeps people engaged is working with a team and management that truly gives them recognition and visibility. 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 good snacks are important!
Charlene: How has mentorship been important to your success?
Stephanie: 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're people who support you and are genuinely invested in your success and are the best people to align with in your company and your career. I do a lot of mentoring through the WICT organization to help young women to navigate through their career path. Our goal is to try to retain women in the technical jobs because a lot of them leave.
Charlene: How do you achieve work/life balance?
Stephanie: I try not to think of "balance" because (and this is probably my engineering mind coming out) it implies you have to keep things equal, or if you take from one place you have to make it up somewhere else. So I try to integrate my life with my career. That means being present: When I'm at work, I try not to be distracted by what's going on at home and when I'm home with my family I'm present there. It's important to keep your priorities straight so you can be where you need to be.
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