Interview Date: Tuesday July 13, 1999
Interview Location: New York, NY
Collection: WICT 20th Anniversary Collection Project
Note: Video not available at this time
HERMANN: This is the easy part where I can spell my name. Okay, Beverly Hermann, the whole name? B-e-v-e-r-l-y H-e-r-m-a-n-n, and I’m a consultant with Portin, that’s P-o-r-t-i-n, Parker Consulting, Inc.
INTERVIEWER: How did you initially become involved in the cable industry?
HERMANN: That’s a pretty good story, well, it’s not a long story. I graduated from college and looked for a job with a hot industry which wasn’t cable at the time, actually wanted to work for an ad agency and had no luck after looking for a long time, and I resorted to looking in the classified ads, the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Saw an ad for South Media Company, a secretary, called them and I got the job, an $11,000 a year job, within about a week. So that was my first job in cable, but it was a small office with about five of us in it and I was able to do basically anything I wanted. That helped me learn the financials, the marketing, and I wasn’t a good typist. I think my first job saved my typing test and still laughs about it, but I was able to do other things to help them out so.
INTERVIEWER: Could you talk about just the general progress of your career from where did you go after this office?
HERMANN: After South Media Company which was a small group of cable systems, radio stations and newspapers all run by a man, Charles Smithwall, which was bought by telescripts, a venture between TCI and Scripts Howard at the time. I went to work at Showtime networks as an account executive in the Atlanta office. From that point in Atlanta, I was moved to the New York office to work in national accounts, and handled some of the top MSOs at the time, then it was Warner, TeleCable and Comcast. At that point, I just needed something else to work on, and I wanted to manage people. So I was hired a Lifetime as the regional director for the eastern region, and then moved on to be the VP of the eastern region after that managing all aspects of the MSO business for that region as well as I worked with marketing projects, public affairs, new projects that the company dealt with developing the staff, and eventually oversaw the local ad sales business for the company.
INTERVIEWER: What was the most striking aspect of the cable industry–
… Sorry, we’ve had just an audio glitch. You can just do the question again.
INTERVIEWER: If you could just tell me about how your career developed over the process of a few years?
HERMANN: How my career developed over the process of a couple of years, I started at the South Media Company, a small company in Atlanta that owned cable.
… Go ahead.
HERMANN: So do you want to start that one again, how I started my career in cable?
HERMANN: I started with a company called South Media, now we all know the story. I started with a company called South Media in Atlanta that owned cable, newspaper and radio stations in the southeast, and when that company was sold to Telescripts, a venture between TCI and Scripts Howard, I moved on to be an account executive at Showtime Networks which almost more than doubled my salary. Since I started at $11,000, I was thrilled about moving up to a different leg then in salary, and then worked as an account rep in all areas of the southeast for Showtime. Then was moved to work in the national accounts division on Warner, Comcast and TeleCable accounts, and handled all aspects of the contract negotiation and everything that goes with the pay business in those accounts. And then I really wanted to learn the basic business, manage people and an opportunity came up at Lifetime Television. So I moved to Lifetime as a regional director for the east coast office, and then was promoted to vice president managing what you do in affiliate relations, sales, distribution, marketing, public affairs, and then handled local ad sales for the company.
INTERVIEWER: When you began your career in cable, what was the most striking thing you noticed about the industry?
HERMANN: Well, I think beginning my career in cable, I thought the cable business, none of my friends had ever heard of cable TV. It was grassroots, it was exciting, it was entrepreneurial and it made a lot of cash, and I was just amazed that such a grassroots type business could be so quiet and be making so much money.
INTERVIEWER: What elements of your own personality do you think has contributed to your success in the industry?
HERMANN: What elements of my personality have contributed to the success in the industry, I think overall, self confidence, wanting to learn and lead people, and also wanting to help others once I was in a position of leadership. And I think early on in my career, I was afraid to take risks and then I became more comfortable as I grew in the different companies I worked with and now as an independent consultant, you just grow and learn to take risks and once you do it and make a few mistakes, then you learn, you’re not afraid to. But I think overall, self confidence is really important.
INTERVIEWER: In starting your career, what would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment?
HERMANN: I think overall, I have to say that I learned a lot professionally from Women in Cable, and it felt great to be president. And from all the experience that I had already had and being able to stretch myself. And I totally forgot to mention when you asked me my career, what I do now, so I just kind of left off my corporate level. That’s okay.
INTERVIEWER: I’ll come back to that because I do want to record what people are doing.
HERMANN: Yes. Because I mean that was like two years ago, I completely left out what I do now.
HERMANN: No, it’s not. I just happen to not like leaving stuff out that I wanted to make points on, and you’re pretty good with this.
… Okay, go ahead, any time.
HERMANN: Now what was the question again?
INTERVIEWER: What would you say is your greatest professional achievement?
HERMANN: My greatest professional achievement was probably learned through all of the experience I had in my career and through being president of Women in Cable and just through my experience, fund raising, being a trustee, but I think it was the guts to go out and do what I’m doing now, the consulting, and move out of a corporate environment, set my own rules and stick with them. To me, that was very difficult for me to leave a corporate environment that I loved and really enjoyed my job but when my lifestyle changed, I knew I wanted to stay in a business and I created my own set of rules and got out there and did it.
INTERVIEWER: Could you talk about what you’re doing now?
HERMANN: Yes. I work with Sharon Portin Parker who has established our consulting business, Portin Parker Consulting, and we do a lot of new business, development in the industry and with different media companies, business development, assisting companies through transitions, many different types of projects.
INTERVIEWER: And what influenced your decision to leave the corporate–…
HERMANN: Yes, I’m just not always very comfortable with it.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, you were talking before about leaving corporate America, how did you decide to leave the corporate environment?
HERMANN: How did I decide to leave the corporate environment, it was pretty easy for me to make the decision, although it was a difficult thing to do. When I had my first child, it kind of made the decision. I wanted to wait and see how it would go and I thought I would be the last person who would leave a corporate environment, but I’ve always been a very hard worker, worked late hours, and I just decided with my job, I was traveling a lot too, it required it, and I just didn’t want to do it. And I just remember going in to tell my boss that I was going to leave, and just like walking out of the office crying which was not what I would do, but it was just going through the leaving. Although I was very happy with what I did, to leave the corporate environment, for me it took a lot of guts, but I was very proud of doing it and going into the consulting business and being able to set some of my own rules.
INTERVIEWER: Some successful women have said it was easier for them to enter the cable industry during its formative years because there were no definite rules, would you agree with this assessment or was that your experience?
HERMANN: I think overall it was probably easier for anybody, both women and men, to get into the industry a long time ago because they’d take anybody because the credentials weren’t as necessary.
INTERVIEWER: Some successful CEOs have said it was easier for them to enter the cable industry during the seventies in its formative years because there were no rules. Would you say it was easier to enter the cable industry during that time?
HERMANN: I think it was definitely easier to enter the industry early on, late seventies, early eighties when I entered it, and now it’s become such a much more mature business, and the credentials that are required to get in have just changed. Companies demand more of who they hire whether it’s men or women, I think that affects both genders, I don’t know if I’d be allowed in. I think it’s a much different business now, and that just happens when a whole business matures. I think the Internet business now is very much the way cable was when I started in the early eighties.
INTERVIEWER: Often the cable business has been characterized as fraternal and entrepreneurial. Did this club of mostly men turn out to be a hindrance or an enhancement to your career?
HERMANN: I think the cable industry being characterized as fraternal although entrepreneurial and being mostly men, I don’t think it ever hurt me in a negative way. I actually think it helped in certain instances and I think although it was never 100%, you have to learn about operating in all types of environments and I always worked with men who were supportive. From my first job on up, I worked with terrific people that were good team players and helped my career.
INTERVIEWER: Obviously there have been many rapid changes in the business, do you have any predictions for the next five or ten years where the industry might be headed?
HERMANN: Predictions for the next five or ten years, that’s scary. I think overall that cable has to continue to move quickly and stay on the edge and be entrepreneurial, and embrace the new technology of the Internet as so many businesses and retail organizations have already. And it’s a good time, and cable people are best to adapt to do that. They did it a while ago and just have to learn a new technology and harness it and bring it into how they can work with cable and what they have now.
INTERVIEWER: I was wondering if you could speak to the subject of female entrepreneurs. I know that you’re in a consulting firm, do you see female entrepreneurialship as sort of a leveler between men and women?
HERMANN: Do I see female entrepreneurship as a leveler between men and women? I think in many respects, being entrepreneurial certainly helps women. When you specialize in an area or can gain a specialty in any area, I think it helps anybody. So if you can know something or become knowledgeable in areas that people don’t want to deal with or that they don’t know much about, I think that helps anybody and certainly has helped women. I also think in the new Internet environment, gender doesn’t matter as much and neither does age. It really matters how smart you are, how fast you are, and how you can adapt your experiences to help a company make a business.
INTERVIEWER: Let’s talk a little bit about role models and mentoring. Did you have any role models in your career?
HERMANN: I really can’t say I had any one particular person, but I kind of picked up a lot of, I’d pick and choose from different things I liked about different people, and that’s where I think I learned so much from different people at Women in Cable. I first became involved in Women in Cable through seeing Ann Carlson and her passionate speech at the acolytes breakfast many years ago, never thinking I would want or become president of this organization, but I got hooked. And I do think that, you know what?, I just lost my place, I’m sorry. I lost my train of thought, you guys.
… That’s fine, role models.
HERMANN: Role models, okay.
INTERVIEWER: She gave another great speech this year, Ann Carlsen.
HERMANN: I know, I heard that and I had to miss it, but that’s what got me hooked. Okay, role models, let me get back on track here, I’m sorry, you guys. I’m still a little uptight. Okay, role models I’ve kind of picked and choose from different people, and I think there are a lot of great women in this industry and I feel very fortunate to have been able to get to know a lot of these great women through being involved with Women in Cable which I think provides a great forum for people to create their own networks of people that they want to talk to about different things that are happening to them personally and professionally. And really help each other and that’s what I really admire most about the organization that it allows women to have that forum to help each other, and women that have the authority and the power can reach out and help those that aren’t quite there yet and help each other in a gentle way.
INTERVIEWER: How do you think that WIC influences the industry at large?
HERMANN: I think overall WIC has done a tremendous job of making a thumbprint on the industry or making a mark I should say on the industry for the programs that Women in Cable has initiated. The one with the most visibility right now is probably the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute, but there’s also the pay parity study, the work life chug here initiative and through the different initiatives, there’s really something solid that people can say, oh, Women in Cable did that, and companies now have to pay attention to those different issues that Women in Cable has brought to the forefront.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember one key event or initiative that was launched during your presidential year you’d like to share with us?
HERMANN: One key event or initiative during my tenure as president, I think the one with the most impact was getting the strategic plan launched and finalized and going. I just remember the conference calls, the countless conference calls, and the meetings to get the whole thing to where it was working for the board, the organization, all of the mentors that kind of helped pull this thing together, and it was an interesting year because we just changed the name to Women in Cable and Telecommunications. We had recently taken the organization to be on its own in Chicago, Pam and the executive team running the organization versus an agency. So it was a big time transition, but I think the thing that I feel the best about was the strategic plan.
INTERVIEWER: Did you see your tenure as president contributing to your professional or your personal growth?
HERMANN: Overall, yes. I definitely saw my experience as president contributing both to me personally and professionally and at the time, I really needed something else to grow from the job I was in and Women in Cable gave me that opportunity because when you—Okay, let me look at my notes real quick so I’m more business like…
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me how your tenure as WIC president contributed to your overall professional growth?
HERMANN: How my tenure as WIC president contributed to my overall professional growth. I think my experience as WIC president helped me in several ways but I think overall, one of the main benefits of being a member of Women in Cable is to be able to stretch yourself beyond what you would normally do in your job, and I normally wouldn’t be chairman of an organization in my job. So in that respect, I really loved the opportunity to look into the many different areas that Women in Cable was looking at and what the transition going on, all the transitions in the organization, it was a great time. Pulling together the strategic plan helped me tremendously to think a little differently then I would have had in my company environment, and I think overall my company looked at me a little differently when I became president of Women in Cable, and they were really proud of it too. So from that standpoint, I received more exposure in the industry for what I did with Women in Cable as well as in my job.
INTERVIEWER: I’m going to talk a little bit now about balance. I know you have an interesting child care arrangement, and a lot of young people now are concerned about balancing their professional and personal life. Could you talk a little bit about how you balance your personal and professional life?
HERMANN: How I balance my personal and professional life, well, it used to be not as good a balance in my personal and professional life, but I was forced to take a harder look at it when I went out to do the consulting business with Sharon Portin Parker than I did do now, and I think the most important thing is setting your own guidelines. I’ve never had to stop work at 5:30 before because I had a babysitter that was going to leave, now I do that and my rules are kind of governed by that. So it’s kind of forced on me by having children, knowing your babysitter has to leave, and then if you have to do something later, you just budget time for it. And I have to say, I’ve always been an organized person, but I’m much better at budgeting time for different projects and knowing my schedule, I’m scheduled with everything. But when you have children in the mix and work out of a home office, if something happens, you just kind of have to go with the flow and rearrange your schedule and balance is never easy, but I think there’s a way to control it and minimize some of the crisis and surprises.
INTERVIEWER: Would you have any advice for young people entering the industry today? How should they prepare themselves, what should they expect?
HERMANN: I think to enter the industry today, it’s probably as I mentioned earlier, it’s probably tougher, the credentials are probably a little tougher, but to find a good role model, be very self confident, you got to be smart, you have to work hard, and I do think it’s important especially today to establish your sense of balance early on. I didn’t do that early on enough in my career, but I think people that do that are just much more ahead of the game, and get involved with organizations that can help them help themselves if they don’t have role models in their organization. Women in Cable can really help young women learn from the growing pool of more senior experience from within the organization.
INTERVIEWER: I just want to talk a little bit about women and their place in the industry. First of all, do you think that women have made any progress within the industry since you entered it? Do you think a level of parity has been achieved between women and men?
HERMANN: I think women have certainly made progress in the industry since I’ve started, I think that’s a no brainer. I think women have made progress in the industry since I started. They obviously haven’t achieved–I think women certainly have made progress in the industry since I’ve started. I don’t since there’s a parity yet. If there were a parity, there wouldn’t be a reason for Women in Cable or salary parity studies. I think it’s great to see the achievement and how far women have come, but it’s also wonderful to have the environment that Women in Cable affords to continue the growth, and women are 51% of the population and they certainly aren’t represented that way in salary or in the work force in senior management. And some of that I think is time and experience, but the good news is I think it’s come a long way.
INTERVIEWER: Do you predict that parity will be achieved between men and women in the next five or ten years, is it on the horizon?
HERMANN: Do I predict parity will be achieved in the next five or ten years, I really hope so and I think it has taken a lot of guts for a lot of people to address it publicly and not publicly, and companies that have looked harder at their own makeup of men and women and what the salaries are and coming forth and telling other companies what they’ve done about it. Do I think it will really be there? I hope so, it’s really hard to say.
INTERVIEWER: I was wondering what you think the recent consolidations and mergers, what sort of affect they might have on women? Do you think it’s going to be good for women or bad for women?
HERMANN: I think the recent consolidations and mergers will force women and men, but probably, well, actually both genders, to look other places and to think about being more creative. So I think overall it’s good, it’s fresh, it creates a whole new environment for people to think and it forces people to think differently which is always good. This industry has always consolidated and changed so in some respects, it’s not what’s happening with mergers is not too much different than what’s happened before, it just becomes a smaller playing field and maybe more corporate because companies are becoming so much bigger, but then you’ll have people looking other places like the Internet and the new media areas which are also becoming so much more attractive to those types of people.
INTERVIEWER: Maybe just a couple final questions about WIC. How do you see WIC changing in the next five or ten years?
HERMANN: I think it’s really going to be very exciting to see how WIC changes in the next five or ten years. When we did the strategic plan, it kind of brought us through this first group of years, but I think the organization has come to a whole new level and focus, and it’s a matter of redirecting that focus to meet the needs of new media and the future. I see it embracing more of the new media type people because of the telecommunications name and it’s gone that direction, but I think it will go further. I think it’s got a really exciting future and some day I hope we don’t need the organization, but it always will be a great forum for women to get together.
INTERVIEWER: Did I overlook a question that you wanted to answer or is there something else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked you directly about?
HERMANN: There’s something else, am I allowed to look at my notes real quickly?
INTERVIEWER: Yes. I ask you these very difficult questions like what is the future.
HERMANN: God, don’t quote me on that one, I wouldn’t know about that, but let me just see if there’s anything else. I can add a few lines.
HERMANN: Let’s see, you covered a lot, didn’t you? Let me just see if there’s something. Sorry, guys, I want to make sure I’m not leaving out anything I don’t want.
INTERVIEWER: I appreciate that you have your notes.
HERMANN: I hope they came across okay.
HERMANN: I guess if there’s anything else I would like to add, I would just add that I think Women in Cable and Telecommunications has been an invaluable experience for me personally and professionally, and I think at first I didn’t realize how important it had been until I got to the point in my career where I really needed to take a risk and realized everything I had learned from being president, being fund raising within the organization, and I was able to pull a lot of—
HERMANN: …things together for myself and set my own boundaries based on the experience and the network of people that I have dealt with and who have helped, the executive team in Chicago who have all kind of helped me and helped a lot of people get to where they went within their companies, and helped me make the leap from my corporate life to my consulting life now which is very different. But I think overall, I learned to set my own boundaries, set more of my own rules although you can’t always live by them, at least you can set that as a goal and set goals and plan. And I think the organization should be very proud and is of what it’s accomplished over the years. Is that okay?
INTERVIEWER: Yes. Thank you very much.