June Travis

June Travis

Interview Date: 1999
Program: WICT 20th Anniversary Project

INTERVIEWER: If you could give us your name.

TRAVIS: My name is June Travis.

INTERVIEWER: And your title.

TRAVIS: I’m retired.

INTERVIEWER: What do you want to be listed under, like, former anything?

TRAVIS: Former cable person is fine.

INTERVIEWER: Thinking back to the time when you first got into cable, do you remember what struck you as being the most interesting part of the business at that point?

TRAVIS: Oh, I think when I first joined the cable industry the most interesting things was the rate of growth that was just starting to happen. It was bringing cable into communities that didn’t have television, but very, very quickly. It started to enter the major markets, and it all happened so quickly in the entrepreneurship nature of the business. People could make decisions fast, and cities were franchised and then built. And it was just a very exciting time to see something come out of the ground, and offer brand new services to people who have never seen it before. It was an exciting time in the business.

INTERVIEWER: There’s a lot of change happening in the industry now, and people will admittedly say that they have no idea where things are going. Sort of thinking back to that time, could you or any of your contemporaries even imagine what the industry would be like today?

TRAVIS: I certainly couldn’t imagine what the industry was going to be like today when I first started in this business. We had some five channel systems, and when we finally starting building 21 channel systems I remember sort of going on record saying, who could possible want more channels than that. Right now I’m not sure there are many 21 channel systems left in the country. There’s now hundreds. But I clearly underestimated the amount of consumer interest and demand for diversity of product, and information, and entertainment. It’s been quite a development.

INTERVIEWER: This is the time of year for graduations, and at every commencement address that’s ever given, the person is asked to condense all that they know, all their body of knowledge and wisdom into a few short sentences that describes why they were successful. If I were to ask you to do the same thing, what would you say are the essential elements of your personal and professional success?

TRAVIS: I think the essential elements of my success have been a work ethic that calls for hard work. A real love of the business, and, frankly, I’ve been lucky. I joined the industry at a time when it was quite small and growing, and I was in the right place at the right time sometimes.

INTERVIEWER: You are not the only person to describe this luck as an element of their success. And you’d mentioned entrepreneurship earlier, did that entrepreneurship in the beginning when cable was just building present great opportunities for women, or was, as people describe, the old boy network, sort of, a challenge that you and your contemporary female executives had to overcome?

TRAVIS: I think entrepreneurship really was a benefit for everybody in the business in those days, men and women. Entrepreneurs really want to get the job done, so they go for the best athletes. And if you’re the best athlete, you get the best job.

INTERVIEWER: I think you are probably well aware that a great many women see you as a role model. When you got into the business, who were the people who were your role models?

TRAVIS: When I first got into the business, I’m not sure I really identified anybody as a real role model. But if you look back, almost everybody you come in contact with is a role model. And there’s good ones, and there’s bad ones. And, frankly, I suspect I learned as much from a few role models as I did from the good ones. But there were a lot of interesting people, and they shared their thoughts, and I watched what they did and I tried to emulate the best of the best that I worked with. And I was fortunate to work with some really terrific people in the companies, and certainly in the industry. And so I had a lot of people whom I could watch and say, gee, if I ever got to that level, or, if I ever did that part of the business, those are the things I’d like to emulate. I hate to name names, but if I had to name one, I’d say Bill Daniels. He taught me about giving back to the community, and caring about people. And he was the first person in the business that I think I saw do that. He is now one of many, many who I’ve seen. Doug Granstrom[?] being my last colleague. He had those same values, and those are things that I’ve tried to emulate in my career.

INTERVIEWER: I imagine maybe a continuum of role models that you had, and sort of you had mentioned the one aspect that’s similar for all of them and that’s giving back. Are there certain things that you’ve done as a professional that you’re most proud of that reflect that example that they gave you?

TRAVIS: It’s hard for me to think what impact I’ve had on people, and in–when I’ve been trying to apply those principals. I think the fact that you said that some look to me as a role model is perhaps the best evidence that I’ve done something that people feel that way about. But I have always been very serious about employees, and getting those who wish to advance helping them in some way by giving opportunity, the chance to take risk so that they can succeed in a–moving forward in their careers. I’ve always been involved in my community, and have encouraged anybody I’ve worked with to be involved in the community in whatever way that interests them, not because it’s just good business, but it takes seriously where your employees work, and where they live, and where they raise their families. And I’ve tried to encourage that both in words, and with incentives, but by example by doing it myself as well.

INTERVIEWER: As I mentioned before, a lot of people see you as a role model, and often times all of us who do view you as a role model don’t get the opportunity to sit down and talk with you as I do now. So if you were to have some young woman, let’s say, sitting across from you who were to ask you your advice on how to be successful, what would you tell her?

TRAVIS: I think I’d tell any young person in this business to just work hard, be flexible, look for opportunities. If you love the business, you’re very fortunate to be in one that’s growing so rapidly again. And every time there is growth, yes, it’s a little hectic, but growth also equates to wonderful opportunities. And if you’re flexible, and keep your eyes open, and keep that learning curve going, you’ll get there. It’s different than being in a very staid business where there are opportunities but fewer, and it takes longer to get there. Here, it’s been a very, very open system for all practical purposes, and I think that with the new challenges, if you’re smart and you’re eager, you’ll succeed.

INTERVIEWER: Cable as a business has been doing a lot of retrospective looking at self with the Hall of Fame in the cable center and 50 years of cable last year, in all of that do you think women are being adequately recognized for the contribution that they made to the business as it grew over those 50 years?

TRAVIS: It’s very hard for me to figure out whether women are being recognizes in projects like the cable center and so forth, because I really haven’t been tracking exactly what they’re doing in all honesty. But this is an industry that has been very generous with its recognition. There are a lot of organizations that have awards where women are recognized for all kinds of contributions to the industry, and I think that has been ongoing in the industry. So my sense is that the cable center, and other projects like that are doing a good job with recognition of all people who have contributed to this business.

INTERVIEWER: Every once in awhile, the issue of glass ceiling becomes more prominent, thus more passé, and then back en vogue. From your perspective, has there ever been a glass ceiling, or does there continue to be a glass ceiling in the cable and telecommunications industry?

TRAVIS: Oh, I suspect there has been, and I suspect it’s still alive and well out there in certain companies, in certain markets. But, again, the ceiling gets applied, and that pyramid when you’re going toward the top gets very, very narrow. And men like women hit the glass ceiling. There’s just no place to move up any longer. I don’t think it’s an artificial barrier–or I should say a real barrier for women, however, and getting to be less so every day. Again, I am big believer in cable, however, and I think it’s done a remarkably good job over the years with people, and with getting people positioned to take that next step. And that’s largely the result of a very growth curve in this industry for so many years. I’d certainly hold cable’s record against any other industry that I’m aware of.

INTERVIEWER: Cable always talks about itself in two sides, a distributer side and the programmer side. There’s significantly more female leadership at the top of the programming companies than you might find on the operator side. Has that female leadership on that side of the business, do you think, created a very unique contour to the business on that side as opposed to the one that’s more male dominated than the other?

TRAVIS: I think there’s no question that there are more women executives on the programming side of the cable business, and I think it’s because a lot of women’s interests tend to lend themselves toward creative marketing, real skill sets that programmers use in great, great numbers. Also, programmers are big organizations. They’re concentrated in one city, perhaps, their major production areas and so forth, which are typically large cities, and they have a wonderful pool of talent to draw from. On the operating side, it’s a little harder. It’s very technology based. Again, we’re all learning about telephony, and modems, and doxies, and things of that nature. Things that are–where there have not traditionally been as many women who had huge interest in the technology side, so I think that’s starting to balance out a little bit enough. But I do believe that programming just offers the kinds of positions in greater number, and in greater concentration than cable operators have had over the years.

INTERVIEWER: I’m going to ask you to do some recollection right now about your time with NCTA. . What are you most proud of–women are far more modest than men, I find, and–so I’ll ask you the question, what are you most proud of the NCTA doing while you were at NCTA?

TRAVIS: I think it has to be the ’96 Act that all of NCTA should be congratulated for, and the industry as well. It was a major effort to turn the image of our industry around with our policy makers in Washington–. Looking back, I think, one thing one would have to be the most proud of while I was at NCTA was the ’96 Act which was the culmination of a wonderfully coordinated by NCTA staff, and, frankly, hundreds of people throughout this industry. The industry managed to really change its image with the policy makers in Washington, and it ended up with us being given opportunity to compete in telephony and in data. So that has to be the thing that you would be most proud of as far as what NCTA helped accomplish while I was there.

INTERVIEWER: One of the things WICT talks about in its vision statement is equity in terms of opportunity, in terms of recognition and opportunities. Do you think that there is there equity in the business that women are afforded the same opportunities in recognition as men are?

TRAVIS: I think women are afforded the same equity, and opportunity and recognition that men are in the industry. Again, nothing changes completely fast and that includes women’s desire to do what it takes to get to the top. And things do change over time that way and slowly. But I think that cable has–women have been very, very good to cable, and have made wonderful contributions. And I think cable in turn have helped a lot of women who are still in the industry, who have gone on to form their own companies in this industry; very, very successful people who learn the ropes in the cable industry, and maybe did leave but when on to make their mark in another kind of business and become very successful individuals. It’s a good confidence builder.

INTERVIEWER: You, as much as anybody else know how demanding this industry is, constant change, incredible growth. And young people in competitive job market as they’re deciding what industry to join and what to do, may feel encumbered by that. Is there any advise you could give to a young person who might be deciding to go into this industry about whether they’re going to be able to balance that professional and personal lives?

TRAVIS: It’s hard to keep balance in the cable industry, I think, between your personal and business life because of the rapid pace with which things happen. And the fact that–despite the size of some of our companies, we remain a very entrepreneurish, quick decision-making, let’s get on with it sort of group of folks. And I did a terrible job of balancing my own life, and I’m fully aware of that. But I did that by choice. I wanted, and I loved work so much that I put it a little bit ahead of most other things. But you can keep balance. At NCTA we had a very young workforce, and one, by the way, where most of senior management happened to be women. A lot of whom had children. They did a great bang-up job of being good moms, and good dads, and taking time off when they needed to, and still putting in an outstanding performance for the association–for the industry. They made it a priority, and they then did it. But if you don’t make balance a priority, you’re not going to pull it off at all.

INTERVIEWER: . Looking back over the last 20 years, can you pick out a single greatest, or even a couple of greatest achievements that you feel WICT has accomplished?

TRAVIS: I have long believed that WICT’s greatest accomplishment from the early days to today has been its educational content. I think it has always produced, even in the early days when it was a fairly unsophisticated organization, it produced a good educational product for the people who make up this industry, both women and men. And I think that that has been an outstanding contribution to the industry.

INTERVIEWER: Thinking back to your presidential years specifically, what’s the most memorable event that happened during that year?

TRAVIS: It’s hard for me to remember back that many years when I was WICT’s national president, but I’m not certain we had a huge memorable event. We were still in our very formative years, and trying to gain some respectability and respect within the industry. I think we were trying to get new members, and I had focused and made a very high priority chapter development the year I was president. And so if there was something really memorable, it would be the fact that we probably established several additional chapters that really got them started on solid footing with good educational product and networking opportunities for WICT members around the country.

INTERVIEWER: With any start-up, there’s challenges. Thinking back to that year, can you remember some of the challenges that you overcame? Any particular challenges that you had to deal with during that year, or even since then?

TRAVIS: I think that WICT, in its early years, the challenge truly was to be taken seriously, at the very beginning. To make certain understood that where we were partly a networking organization that I was very important that we were contributors to the cable industry as well. And those were challenges. Again, not too many people knew what we were doing, and how we were doing, and it was sort of a professional society but it was sort of an industry organization. And I think there was confusion on what our identity, and what our mission really was. So I think that’s something that I think we worked very, very hard on, and certainly, in recent years the organization has really fine tuned that, and that message has come through much more clearly than certainly we were able to articulate in those early years.

INTERVIEWER: One of the things we like to tell our chapter of the years nowadays, and I think this extends for our national volunteers as well, the actual act of being a volunteer adds to one’s personal and professional growth. Do you agree with that statement? And if you do, can you think of some things that being a WICT leader helped you develop personally or professionally?

TRAVIS: I think getting involved really in any organization is a huge growing experience for a person, and certainly, when you’re there trying to help create something, like in the early days with WICT, there were all kinds of learning opportunities. I was treasurer for the first couple of years of the organization, and learned how to set up books–I’m not an accountant by nature, and it was fun. I learned a great deal setting up the books. I was–if you want to use the word, given the opportunity to write the by-laws. I did that too. That was fun. I’m not a lawyer either, so it was interesting to research and figure out how do you do these sorts of things? How do you actually structurally put an organization together? And those are enormous learning opportunities that I wouldn’t certainly have had in my position at that time. I think that’s the value of getting involved in any sort of professional organization is that if you’re really involved, you get to do things that you really don’t do Monday through Friday.

INTERVIEWER: What inspired your initially involvement in the organization?

TRAVIS: I got involved with WICT when Lucille Larkin, specifically, and Gail secondarily, Gail Sermersheim said, get involved. And I knew them both very causally. I had just gotten my Master’s Degree while working, of course, full-time with ATC. And they really wanted me involved because I was with a good size company at the time, ATC, which is the predecessor of Time Warner. I was in management. There weren’t a whole number of women who knew one another, and they called and they said, we think this important, and we think we can make a difference in the cable industry. So I got involved.

INTERVIEWER: Talk about the by-laws, and that whole process really defining what the organization was going to be about, and certainty over its emission in terms of the people looking outside at WICT. When you were going through that entire process, were there other organizations that you modeled WICT ____?

TRAVIS: When we were–from a personal standpoint, I didn’t look at other associations or organizations and say, gee, I think we should maybe model WICT after this or that. I think we evolved it. I think we knew when we first did the by-laws, or first did anything that this was a work in progress and subject to change. And I think that’s one of its strengths, but again, I think we learned that from an industry that said, you know, our only constant is change. So we put a framework together that worked, and it has evolved and become much more sophisticated and much more targeted over time as different people have helped mold the organization to make it current with the current cable industry.

INTERVIEWER: Looking back when WICT first announced its existence, how would you say WICT was received by the industry?

TRAVIS: When it was first announced that WICT was going to become an organization, I think there were a few smiles. No frowns, but a few smiles as in, oh, dear, the girls are at it. A little bit, but it wasn’t mean spirited. I’m sure someone has already made this statement, if you’ve talked with Lucille and Gail, but we had that first wonderful little cocktail party and invited many of the CEOs, two of whom who will remain unnamed, walk in and said, let the record show we were here when the coo began. And there was a little bit of that. Having said that, there was enormous instant support. My company was very support of Women in Cable, and they gave of their time, they gave support, and it wasn’t the only company that did that. Many companies, like I say, you get a little bit of teasing from time to time, but by and large, you also earned respect very, very quickly, and garnered their financial, but more importantly their personal support for the organization early on. When we first started the Denver chapter, the very first organizational thing we had there, Bob and Betsy Magness were in attendance. That says a huge amount when you are just a fledgling organization, and you have two people like Betsy and Bob Magness take the time to come out and share a glass of wine with you.

INTERVIEWER: How do you think WICT has influenced the industry at large?

TRAVIS: I think WICT has contributed and influenced the industry, again, through it educational product. I think it has given it an outlet. It has given it a resource that the industry and individual companies hadn’t had at that disposal earlier on. I think that its influence with a couple of the projects that they undertook in salary parody, and things of that nature, have been useful to the industry, useful vehicles. I think their involvement with the center, again, WICT should take great pride in the fact that it partners with other organizations to produce a significant result for the industry. And I think that that is something that the organization can truly be proud of.

INTERVIEWER: There’s been some times since you’ve been president of the organization, so this question probably is most significant to somebody like you, how do you see WICT has evolved since the time you were president? And then we’ll ask you the question, where do you see WICT evolving too?

TRAVIS: Well, WICT is truly grown up since I was president so many years ago. We were really very much a seat of your pants operation. We didn’t have an office. We didn’t have an office staff and an executive director. As I said, I was treasurer early on, and did that at my kitchen table on Saturdays and Sundays. It was very seat of the pants to get it started and growing. And I think we did do a good job with some chapters where, again, networking opportunities were more easily taken advantage of by our members. But it has grown over these last few years into a much more sophisticated organization. The management conference is a terrific educational opportunity for people in this industry. The Betsy Magness Foundation; a wonderful opportunity that certainly I never envisioned back in those days for women to take a year and participate in a variety of activity aimed specifically at making them better executives, and better at balancing their lives. Those kinds of unique contributions to the industry have just evolved over this past 20 years, and it’s really quite amazing when you think of how really seat of the pants we were 20 years ago.

INTERVIEWER: I think McEnroe at Washington, D.C. gala in doing her acceptance speech brought up a rather intriguing idea, and that is that she had hoped at some point that an organization like WICT would no longer be needed. And so with that in mind, where do you see WICT evolving to in the future? Do you ever see a point at which an organization like WICT will no longer be necessary?

TRAVIS: It’s hard to predict an organization like WICT will not be needed down the road, primarily because women may not need it for networking opportunities to help them advance in their careers particularly, but women are different than men. And it’s nice to have a forum in which you can talk a little business, but you can also do it with another woman. It’s very nice–I’ve always enjoyed working with men, and I think work very, very well with men, but there’s a difference when you sit and you talk to a women. We are different. And I think organizations that provide a climate, an environment in which you can be, not only a business executive, but also a woman. Have a real advantage.

INTERVIEWER: Are there any questions you imagined we might ask you that we haven’t asked you, and what would your response to those questions be?

TRAVIS: Not one. You’re just very good.

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