Kate Hampford

Kate Hampford

Interview Date: 1999
Collection: WICT 20th Anniversary Collection Project

HAMPFORD: I’m Kate Hampford H-A-M-P-F as is in Frank -O-R-D. I’m senior vice president of Cross & Resources, Inc.

INTERVIEWER: So how did you originally get involved in the industry?

HAMPFORD: Well, when I was in college I came down to Washington, D.C. on an internship program and got some perspective into the industry and when I graduated I realized it was the only business I knew anything about. In addition, my grandfather was in the business and he suggested some people I might want to talk to, people like Brian Lamb and Tom Wheeler who ultimately pointed me in the right direction and I ended up getting a job with Cablevision Magazine in their D.C. office. It was a great place to start in the business.

INTERVIEWER: What was the most stressing aspect of the cable industry when you began your career?

HAMPFORD: Well, it was 1980 and you think things are changing fast and it’s a new and exciting industry now – it was unbelievable then. New networks were going on the air all the time, there was tremendous opportunity if you were willing to work hard, stretch yourself and go the extra mile – anything was possible.

INTERVIEWER: I know several successful women CEOs 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?

HAMPFORD: I would say so, especially in the ’80s because you had all these new programming services starting up. They weren’t really operating strictly on the broadcasting model so there was tremendous opportunity. On the operators side I think the business is a little bit older and more established and I think it’s been harder for women to break into very senior level positions on the operating side of the business, but overall it’s really been industry that’s had tremendous opportunity for women because it is new, because you didn’t have the old entrenched establishment quite the same way as you would maybe in radio or television broadcast.

INTERVIEWER: What would you say are the key elements of personal and professional success?

HAMPFORD: Well, I think I’ve been in the right place at the right time in a lot of situations, but I’ve also been fully prepared for those opportunities when they’ve presented themselves so the years of hard work, attention to the big picture of what’s going on in the industry as well as the detail of my functional areas of responsibility I think have prepared me well, so I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had both the opportunity and the right preparation.

INTERVIEWER: What would you say is your greatest professional achievement?

HAMPFORD: Oh, absolutely the people that I’ve worked with and the things that they’ve gone on to do. I can list a long roster of people that I’ve worked with over the years that have gone on to do tremendous things in the industry and how I feel when they’ve told me that I’ve positively influenced them and seeing that and seeing what they’ve accomplished is almost as gratifying as what I’ve been able to achieve on my own.

INTERVIEWER: Do you have any contemporaries you view as role models?

HAMPFORD: Oh, over the years I’ve been lucky to have worked with and for some great people. Barbara Ruger, Katie McEnroe, Ann Carlsen, Pat Gushman, Paul Fitzpatrick, Brian Lamb, Susan Swain. I’ve been blessed in being able to work with some of the best people I think that the industry has.

INTERVIEWER: What lessons did these role models teach you? How did you use those lessons to further your own success?

HAMPFORD: Well, I think they taught me two things. One is how to achieve success on your own which is by always going the extra mile, trying to do things as thoroughly as you possibly can; trying to see ahead a couple of steps, not just one step but several. And also they’ve shown me how to manage, how to inspire people, how to motivate others and I’ve tried to emulate them in the way that I’ve managed the people that I’ve been responsible for over the course of my career.

INTERVIEWER: Well, would you have any advice for young people entering the industry today?

HAMPFORD: Be flexible, be adaptable and by that I mean the industry continues to change in an ever increasing pace and you’ve got to be willing to constantly be looking for opportunities and I don’t just mean job opportunities. I mean opportunities in the work that you do on a day-to-day basis and look for ways to take advantage of them for your company’s benefit and for your own. But also be prepared to deal with the inevitable bumps that are in the road. I mean I think we all see how fast things are changing and it requires the ability to lay a plan down but then be able to adjust that plan based on what the marketplace deals… what am I trying to say? Based on what the marketplace — the curve balls that it throws you. So if you can plan well, work hard, but be ready to respond quickly to changing circumstances you’re going to be successful.

INTERVIEWER: Well, I’d like you now to comment on the industry and what changes you foresee in the future for cable and telecommunications. I know there are a lot of changes.

HAMPFORD: Well, it’s been one of those businesses — I’ve been in it for almost 20 years and every year you say God, what an amazing time we’ve just come through and could the next three to five years be as exciting? And in every instance it has just become more and more interesting. I mean I think it’s obvious the convergence of video, voice, data is becoming a reality, probably in ways that we might never have anticipated ten years ago and what that all means probably still ultimately needs to be determined, but clearly, you know, from the technological standpoint understanding what that convergence results in, as well as trying to get a handle on what it means as far as implementing and in real ways for customers on a day-to-day basis.

INTERVIEWER: Are you satisfied with the progress that women in particular have made in the industry? Do you believe that parity has been achieved?

HAMPFORD: I wish I could say yes to that question but I can’t. I mean the most recent surveys that Women in Cable & Telecommunications have done just underlines that. Certainly people that do what I do know there is not parity — neither in pay nor in stature achieved. There are a lot of women that have accomplished a tremendous amount and occupy positions of great authority and power, but there still is not parity. You look around at the major cable operating companies and there aren’t any women running them other than Carolyn Chambers. On the programming side of the business, there’s certainly a lot more women in senior management positions, but there could be more. And if you look on the hardware and the converging areas, the new media organizations, women are not as well represented as they are in programming in this business, so I think there’s still a gap to be closed. But I think if we’re vigilant, we have a good shot at accomplishing that.

INTERVIEWER: There was a lot of talking in the early ’90s about the glass ceiling. Do you think there was a glass ceiling preventing women from reaching their full potential?

HAMPFORD: There was and there is which isn’t to say that there haven’t been women that have achieved tremendous levels of success — there are. We can point to many, many women that have done that, but I don’t think that in general the same opportunities are always available to women and one of the underlying reasons for that is the unresolved issue of how we manage the raising of our children and I don’t know what the answer to that is because on the one hand you look at what’s happened in Littleton and in Georgia and you say who’s minding our kids? And on the other hand you want to see women, you know, accomplish everything that they possibly can and I don’t know as an individual, as an industry or as a country we have answers to those questions yet.

INTERVIEWER: Do you have any strategies that you could share with how to balance your professional and your personal life that may be of use to other women?

HAMPFORD: I think the one thing that I’ve really discovered and I’ve thought this for a long time because I did buy into the “you can have it all” concept — I truly thought that I could pull that off, but I’ve come to realize that I can have it all, I just cannot have it all at the same time so there are things that I’ve given up to do what I do now in order to be closer to my children and to be around them more, not to travel as much as I used to. But they are things that I’ve been willing to negotiate for being the kind of mother that I need to be, so I think if I could tell, especially young women something it would be — you know, realize over the course of your life you can have it all. It’s just very, very difficult to have it all at the same time and give yourself the freedom to not expect that of yourself. To take time to pursue a career and then to be a mother because you can and I fully intend to put my career back into the gear that it was before I had children once they’re grown.

INTERVIEWER: But do you think the emergence of the female CEO in the cable industry has influenced the shape of the industry at all?

HAMPFORD: Oh, I hope so. I mean I hope we’ve really added to the dialogue. You know, you look at the women running companies in this industry and they’re fantastic. I mean they’re smart, they’ve got a vision, they’ve built this industry, helped build the industry.

INTERVIEWER: Has the woman CEO changed the shape of the industry?

HAMPFORD: Yes, I think absolutely they’ve contributed significantly to the dialogue that’s gone on as the industry has grown. I think they’ve helped see the importance of the woman as a consumer and as a result we’ve seen a proliferation, especially most recently of networks that serve women in some special way, but overall the dialogue, I think we’ve advanced tremendously.

INTERVIEWER: In your own life have you ever seen gender as an impediment to your success?

HAMPFORD: I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve worked for companies that there’s been a lot of opportunity, so I wouldn’t say that I’ve experienced the kind of discrimination that some women that I’ve talked to have. But it’s still — you know the bottom line is still that it’s difficult and when I was not doing recruiting, which is what I do now, when I was in sales, it was very difficult to be a mother and do that kind of work. Was there discrimination at my company? No, I don’t think so. Just the nature of the job made it difficult to do that well and be the kind of mother I wanted to be so that’s why I talk about the whole issue of how the country and the industry and in addition to individuals try to reconcile that raising of our children with accomplishing as women and as individuals what we can. It’s a very difficult issue.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think the recent and very dramatic changes in the industry have a specific effect on women? Does it give them more opportunities?

HAMPFORD: I think up until very recently I think you could probably make that argument but I think with the kind of consolidation that’s going on — I mean clearly there are not going to be as many, for example, corporate NSO jobs, so there will be people left, you know, if we were referring to this as a game of “Musical Chairs” there would be people left without chairs and I think there’s a potential for that also to happen at the regional level on cable operating companies because consolidation and mergers are usually done so that there can be some cost savings accomplished and ultimately make the company more profitable so there’ll be fewer chairs there. I think there’s also the potential for there to be the same kind of consolidation period on the programming side of the business and where that will probably most affect the industry from a personnel standpoint as affiliate sales and marketing and that’s one of the functional areas in the industry that has been most receptive to women and where women have done the best in this industry. So, you know, I think there potentially could be some fallout, but on the other side you see growth of companies coming out on this whole convergence issue and that replaces, I think, some of the opportunities that may be lost through the consolidation and merger, so hopefully it will be a wash.

INTERVIEWER: What was the most memorable event from your presidential year at WICT?

HAMPFORD: Single event — oh, boy. Well, I think when we published the results of the Hudson Institute Study on the Year 2000 Work Force, that was pretty exciting. It was the biggest thing we had done as an organization up until that time. It was a — you know, looking back we didn’t spend that much money on it, but it was the biggest expenditure we’d ever made. We wanted to make a big splash from a publicity standpoint and really have people pay attention to what we had discovered as a result of this research and it was very gratifying to see at that time how people paid attention and since then the foundation that it laid for a lot of women in cable and telecommunications.

INTERVIEWER: How did your tenure as president contribute to your personal and professional growth?

HAMPFORD: Well, during the year that I was president I found the experience to be very rewarding. It was at a tumultuous time in the organization’s evolution, we were executing a strategic plan that we had instituted the year before. We were publishing our first major study, The Cable Force 2000 Study. I think I got a tremendous perspective on what it’s like to lead a group of women in changing times. So from a professional standpoint I think it built my leadership skills and credentials tremendously, but from the personal standpoint, they’re some of the most fabulous women I’ve ever met — smart, interesting, funny, passionate — just the relationships and the give-and-take, not that we always agreed on everything, but we had a spirited dialogue and I think that resulted in good things for the organization and for the industry.

INTERVIEWER: How do you see WICT evolving as we move into the next century?

HAMPFORD: I’m so proud of what Women in Cable has accomplished that I think that the years that lie ahead of it could be the most fruitful and the organization has continued to contribute to the dialogue. It’s made important contributions to the things that the industry thinks and talks about. I wish I could say that we’ve reached the point where the need for an organization like WICT has gone, but I think there’s still some things we need to accomplish and I think the organization has achieved a level of credibility in the industry that’s going to allow it to continue to have a tremendously positive impact on the future of the business.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Specifically, how do you see WICT influencing the industry at large?

HAMPFORD: I think WICT has had a tremendous influence on the industry in the past and then going forward I think it continues to have some opportunity, specifically in the area of continuing the dialogue on compensation and opportunities for women to advance. The organization has been, I think, tremendously proactive in developing programs that will help women develop the kinds of leadership and management skills that will prepare them to be leaders in the industry going forward and I think we keep a dialogue going about the human side of the business that needs to occur no matter what industry you’re talking about.

INTERVIEWER: How is WICT unique for you?

HAMPFORD: Women in Cable is unique and I think therefore has been successful in this industry because I think it addresses some very specific needs. You know we have other wonderful organizations in the industry that serve their specific niches. Women in Cable has been a place for women in this industry to grow and develop and learn and excel and, you know, achieve and not that every woman in the business has needed that or wants it for that matter, but it’s been available and it’s been, I think, a tremendously positive force in the industry.

INTERVIEWER: How initially did you become involved in WICT?

HAMPFORD: Lucille Larkin invited me to a cocktail party at her house in the fall of 1980 and kind of took me under her wing a little bit, introduced me to the players in town, encouraged me to continue attending functions and within a year or two I was on the board of the D.C. chapter and went on from there.

INTERVIEWER: I know you now talk to a lot of the local groups. Is there a specific message that you tend to emphasize?

HAMPFORD: Well, right now the hot topics are how you increase your organizational effectiveness; how do you stay relevant and important to the firm that you’re currently working for, increase the value to your current employer. But recently I’m also spending a lot of time talking to individuals and groups about how you handle being acquired or merged into another firm because it’s a situation that although a lot of people in the industry have been through it, a lot of other folks have not and it can be a very stressful time for folks so I think a lot of things that people need to keep in mind in going through that process that will allow them no matter what happens to them to come through it as successfully as possible.

INTERVIEWER: Any key tips — I know you probably have a lot to say on that issue — but like in a nutshell, is there a little piece of advice you might give someone?

HAMPFORD: If you’re involved in a corporation that’s been acquired or merged and you are on the acquiring or merged side of the equation, I would say a couple of things. Stay positive; don’t listen to the gossip mill, rumor mill. Form your own opinions about your new bosses, your new company, and your new culture. Remember that you almost need to start over again in terms of establishing your credibility. You need to keep in mind that the new people you’re working with may not have any appreciation for what you’ve already accomplished and you can’t resent that. You really need to embrace it and look for ways to help them understand what you bring to the table. Be flexible and be positive, as I said before. A positive attitude can take you through a lot of situations and bring out the other side, hopefully in better shape than you were when you went in.

INTERVIEWER: Are there any questions that I didn’t ask you or that something you might want to share about cable in general that you wanted to say but didn’t come up?

HAMPFORD: I think the one thing that I haven’t said is one of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about the industry and especially about Women in Cable & Telecommunications is the people that I’ve gotten to know, especially the women involved in leadership at Women in Cable. Those have been among the longest lasting and most satisfying relationships I’ve had in my adult life and the brilliance of the women that I’ve met has been astonishing. They’re funny, they’re warm, they’re smart, and they’re strong. They’re incredibly capable and it’s just been a joy to know them.

INTERVIEWER: I know you’ve been involved with Past Presidents Council originally. What was your aim when you established that?

HAMPFORD: Well, the Past Presidents Council was established to find some way to keep the women that had been participating in the organization at the board level or the chapter board levels involved after they had been on the boards, to find some way for them to stay in contact with each other and then we expanded the concept as time went on to include just senior level in the industry to give them a place once or twice a year to get together and share and learn from each other and it’s been tremendously gratifying to see how that institution that we established, I guess, in ’91 has grown and flourished and continues to exist today.

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