Spirit of the Midwest Voting

Volunteer of the Year

This award recognizes an individual who has shown exemplary volunteer support for The WICT Network: Midwest.  This leader should show dedication to volunteering/serving to help grow the Midwest Chapter and inspire others in the community.

Eligibility:

  • Recipient will have been in the industry for at least three years.
  • Must exhibit the Touchstones of Leadership – Know Yourself, Communicate, Listen, Be a Catalyst, Be Fearless, and Inspire.

Nominees:

Marcy Bursac
Nominee: Marcy Bursac
Senior Internal Communications Tech Analyst, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Esperanza Hunter
IT Director, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Anna Jankord
Operations Training Manager, Midco

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Esperanza: In 2021 Marcy Bursac stepped in for Sally West to lead our chapter’s Mentor Program. Through her creative and strategic efforts, during her 8 months of service she grew our chapter’s Mentor Program by 27% and she earned our chapter 2nd place in Mentoring Excellence among all WICT chapters. In addition, Marcy inspired our chapter by presenting tips for designing a personal brand and she inspired WICT Greater Ohio members as well by writing an email article about adoption which was featured in the chapter’s newsletter for National Adoption Month (November).

Anna: Marcy is a force for good – and not just within her company, the industry, The WICT Network but also her passion for child adoption and her own adopted children. I met Marcy through our PMDS cohort and our relationship blossomed through her generosity of words, kindness in the face of vulnerability and the sheer enjoyment I get from her inspirational personality. Marcy served as The WICT Network: Midwest Mentor Program Chair and took the program to the next level. She understands how to connect with individuals on a large scale – she is great with words, an intentional and influential leader, and exudes passion that is contagious. In this role, Marcy provided great insight as to how mentorship relationships should blossom and build into something special – and in a sustainable manner. As part of the mentor program during this year, I used the resources and communications Marcy provided to enhance my conversations with my mentor – creating a deeper bond between my mentor and me. I proudly nominate Marcy for Volunteer of the Year – continue reading for an incredible story as to why.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Esperanza: Marcy has shown exemplary volunteer support by stepping in to fill a role when the opportunity arose. She did not step in to simply maintain the program, she came with fresh ideas and a growth-mindset. She evaluated the program format and reduced the time commitment to accommodate to the efficiency of video meetings. She also leveraged the ability to pair mentors and mentees from different cities and states because the landscape of virtual communication tools lends itself to this format. Her dedication to volunteering and serving our chapter are apparent with her successful PMDS recruitment efforts for 2021 and her prior service helping with membership recruitment under the leadership of Jennifer Petrarca.

Anna: In 2021, Marcy decided to enter Mrs. America. Yes – she was entering a beauty pageant. But listen to this, Marcy was entering a beauty pageant to create a loud voice for child adoption across the country! And my goodness, was her voice LOUD! You can follow her story on her LinkedIn profile. There, you can see the incredible advocacy and effort she put into sharing her story of adopting as well as becoming a prevalent advocate in the adoption space. During this time, Marcy wrote a kids book about being adopted to make it less scary. She partnered with organizations across the country to bring more voices to the work and truly make the effort more widespread. How does this relate to being a WICT volunteer? She does all of this through the WICT Touchstones of Leadership. She grew her leadership foundation through The WICT Network’s PMDS program as well as volunteering for the board! Prior to her involvement in PMDS, Marcy changed industries, joining Spectrum from the nonprofit world. Marcy not only learned the most about herself in PMDS but she is utilizing that knowledge to support her growth within the newly entered telecommunication industry. Marcy puts everything she into the things she is passionate about. I follow her journey and am proud to know her. I am inspired by her. I bring that into my work as a volunteer…for The WICT Network. If she is doing this for me, she is doing this for others within her network. This is a direct impact on The WICT Network: Midwest.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Esperanza: Marcy contributed to the growth and development of members. She recruited mentors who brought diversity to our chapter including males and those that speak Chinese. Her ability to find and attract leaders in the industry who have a passion for more women in the field is a talent. While our industry has been impacted by the Great Resignation, several mentees have expressed how the WICT Midwest Mentoring Program has given them the language and confidence to pursue an advanced or more flexible role in their current company or externally.

Anna: While I don’t work directly with Marcy, I know she entered a male dominated team, an analytical team, when she started at Spectrum. I listened to stories about how she brought empathy and new perspectives to her team. She told me stories about finding and building advocates within Spectrum for women leaders and personal growth.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Esperanza: Testing research that men mentoring women provides women with greater access to information and broader networks, Marcy recruited a number of male mentors and mentees and have found the relationships lead to increased confidence, career advancement, and a spirit of inclusiveness. The Spirit of Midwest is to lift others up and to give others opportunities to grow. Marcy has done just that as a volunteer in our chapter and she is deserving of this award.

Anna: Not only is Marcy an incredible volunteer with The WICT Network, she is an incredible volunteer in her community, region, and nation. I look forward to talking with Marcy as she inspires me to do more and do good. She is deserving of recognition for all she does!

Woman in Technology

This award recognizes an industry woman serving in a technical position who has contributed significantly to her organization as well as the cable and telecommunications industry.  In addition to her technical expertise, she is a valued team member who is committed to supporting and motivating others.

Eligibility:

  • Recipient will have been in the industry for at least five years.
  • Holds a management/leadership position within her organization.
  • Must exhibit the Touchstones of Leadership – Know Yourself, Communicate, Listen, Be a Catalyst, Be Fearless, and Inspire.

Nominees:

Esperanza Hunter
Nominee: Esperanza Hunter
IT Director, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Jim Keller
Sr. Director, IT, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Patrick Hunter
Sr. Director, IT Systems Operation Center – Network/Security/Transport, Charter Communications

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Jim: Esperanza has worked for Charter for over almost 8 years as both a consultant and an employee. During that time, she has risen in the ranks to the position of Director. She is responsible for a department of over 65 fte’s and contractors. Her role extends in a matrixed fashion to influence over several hundred fte’s and contractors. She has taken on challenges to align, improve and expedite numerous processes and procedures to make the broader IT Infrastructure Team more effective and efficient in program, project, fiscal and resources. She has an unbridled thirst for knowledge and learning which makes her both a dynamic catalyst for change, but also a fearless and inspired leader who seeks to get the most from her team. She drives accountability and integrity in everything she does. She holds herself to the same high standards and expectations as she does everyone else. Her self awareness and emotional intelligence are key to her ability to lead. In some cases she steps back to allow other to blossom and grow, while all along helping to coach and guide them. She is an adroit communicator who understands the need to listen actively and objectively for understanding and to not form bias. She definitely puts the welfare of the team in front of her own and she is valued and respected for that. It is an understatement to say that she inspires her team, that is a given. What is more important in the fact that she inspires others who are her peers or not on her team.

Patrick: Esperanza is a consummate servant leader and embodies the essence of the WICT touchstones. She has been in cable telecommunications for at least 7 years and has more than 20 years of broad telecommunications experience. Throughout her tenure at Charter, she has proven to be a dynamic, energetic, and capable leader and teammate.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Jim: Esperanza’s leadership style brings forward the best in her and others. She is very self-aware and works with me every year to identify areas of improvement to help her become more accomplished personally. She is an excellent communicator and listens more than she speaks. She is truly an active listener, looking for understanding in the communications of others before she responds. Her desire is to understand first, then try to find the appropriate manner and time to respond. She is definitely fearless, he personality is very outgoing and demonstrative. She embraces change and growth in a way that inspires others to act. She is that catalyst that helps to usher in change, but she is also that calm, assertive person who helps to keep it going until it take root and becomes the norm. She puts the organization and her team before herself and is always leading from the front no matter cause.

Patrick: Esperanza is the picture of self-awareness and empathy to everyone with which she comes in contact. An encounter with Esperanza is usually unforgettable because you always come away feeling better and more energized than before. Her commitment to the mission while supporting the team is unparalleled. She has proven to be an articulate communicator and an even better listener. When you interact with Esperanza, she gives a vibe of being truly present and really hearing what you have to say. She also practices what she preaches in terms of taking on new challenges and not being afraid to challenge the status quo, albeit in a professional manner every time. Those of us who have had the pleasure of being around her for a number of years have been inspired to do more and do better every day. It is truly a site to see: her impact on everyone around her.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Jim: Esperanza’s contribution to the telecommunication industry has come in two primary tracks. Being an outspoken and respected leader who is able to get the most out of her team and drive to high standards of accountability and integrity, she sets the stage for her team, especially the women on her team to excel and gain the confidence and experience to prepare them for future positions of leadership and authority. Secondly, Esperanza has worked to create processes and tactics to enable her company to be more competitive in the cable telecommunications industry. Most meaningful among these has been her emerging excellence in the area of data analytics and program management. She is being a disruptive change agent that is focusing program delivery on outcomes based metrics instead of simply scope, schedule and budget.

Patrick: Esperanza has participated in the Midwest WICT team for 2 or 3 years now, and has also taken many informal mentorship roles with members of her own team, as well as others in other organizations. It is the hallmark of her legacy that she has always had a heart for lifting up other people as she meets them. When they show drive and desire for self-improvement, she almost can’t help herself. She springs into action with ideas and suggestions, and – more importantly – she follows up with them! This passion isn’t just a fleeting feeling she gets for a moment in time, but rather something that sticks with her long after she’s parted ways with an individual.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Jim: Esperanza exhibits all the traits of an excellent leader, coach and advocate. She embodies the principals of being self aware, emotionally intelligent, empathetic and disciplined. She holds herself and her team accountable to high standards and is always willing to lend a hand or listen when they have issues or concerns. She has been a driving force in developing two PMO’s at Charter and continues to inspire all who work with her. She has been a catalyst for change and improvement, even when it wasn’t the most popular thing to do and does not back down in the face of adversity.

Patrick: Esperanza is a success story worth telling. She has overcome many challenges to reach the heights to which she has ascended in her field. She is regularly recognized by executive leadership as a “go-to” person; someone who will “get the job done.” But she has never done that at the expense of anyone else nor her own principles. Rather, she is the embodiment of the Touchstones in every meaningful way, as described above. She is one of the very few truly genuine “givers” I’ve ever known and I’m proud to have been associated with her through the work we’ve done together at Charter these last few years. Her future is bright and I believe an award like this is as deserved for her as it has been for anyone before.

Gretchen Kelly
Nominee: Gretchen Kelly
VP, IT Enterprise Communications & ERP, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Lisa Neuwirth
Sr. Dir ERP Strategic Readiness Charter Communications

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Gretchen is Vice President Enterprise Communications & ERP/HR Systems at Charter Communications. She has over 20 years of experience guiding major communications organizations to meet and exceed corporate goals. She has a successful track record of creating and leading high-performing teams through significant change while achieving or exceeding financial targets. She has demonstrated talent for resolving issues in networks and technical systems with specific focus on continuous improvement. Gretchen has proven success developing and coaching diverse highly technical resources to create a positive and motivating work environment.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Gretchen demonstrates all of the WICT Touchstones of leadership. She is a confident connector and knows how to build her network. Her work experience is a clear indicator that she is a catalyst to getting things done. She is a diligent communicator and promoter. She is fearless and inspiring as she takes on many complex technical challenges. She gives back to the industry as demonstrated by her attendance at a recent College of Engineering and Science Advisory Board meeting.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Gretchen leads the Enterprise Communication Systems organization responsible for the operational support, continuous improvement and development of Charter’s communications & ERP/HR systems. She is accountable for the health and performance of Corporate Email, Active Directory, Security Tools, Collaboration Tools, ESSO, HR, ERP, Supply Chain and Commissions Systems. She is responsible for coaching and development of highly technical resources and ensures adherence to best practices and overall operational excellence. Prior to her position at Charter, she work for Bright House Networks where she led an IT operations organization that included production support for Applications and corporate IT. She also had responsibility for billing operations and environment configuration management. Gretchen drove the continuous improvement program and managed a large portfolio of highly impactful technical projects. She was responsible for the coaching and development of highly technical resources, ensured adherence to best practices and overall operational excellence of IT Operations Also while at BHN she led the Application Operations organization and was responsible for application repair and operational readiness. She was responsible for transformational technical projects in the areas of Root Cause Analysis, Technical Trial Support and 24/7 application support. She also drove operational improvements and deficiency resolution through automation and process improvement.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Gretchen’s years of experience, contribution to the industry, dedication to technology and advocacy for woman in technology all make her deserving of this award. She consistently recognizes women in the industry and diligently promotes the accomplishments of others.

Rising Leader Award

This award recognizes an industry woman, considered a newcomer to the industry, who has demonstrated her own personal leadership style and has become accomplished in both her job and in her working knowledge of the cable and/or telecommunications industry.

Eligibility:

  • Must exhibit the Touchstones of Leadership – Know Yourself, Communicate, Listen, Be a Catalyst, Be Fearless, and Inspire.

and meet one of the following:

  • Recipient will have been in the industry for less than five years.

-OR-

  • Changed career paths/business fields within the past two years (e.g. from marketing to operations).

-OR-

  • Received a promotion within the last year to the manager level.

Nominees:

Anna Jankord
Nominee: Anna Jankord
Operations Training Manager, Midco

Nominated by: Chris Garhart
Director of Operations Training, Midco

Nominated by: Lisa Rahja
Training Coordinator, Midco

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Chris: Anna Jankord joined Midco in August of 2019 as a Training Coordinator, the first in this position for for the company. She was promoted to Operations Training Manager in March of 2020. Since Anna has made a great deal of contributions to advancing the Training Coordinator role, as well as our Autonomous Learning Program. All while building relationships with her team and collaborating across boundaries.

Lisa: Anna demonstrates the WICT Touchstones of leadership in her daily actions and she changed careers from leadership development at a college to operations management at Midco. This was a big career change, but she has done it with such passion, grace, and humility that others admire.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Chris: Anna has a great deal of self-awareness; she understands when she needs help and when to take risks. When faced with a challenge she will seek understanding from the employee, her manager, or a peer to insure we reach the best solution. She is not afraid to share ideas or have a challenging conversation.

Lisa: Know Yourself – Anna knows that her strengths are organization, collaboration, and communication. She admits her weaknesses and surrounds herself with team members that can help ensure the team is successful in reaching our goals. CONNECT – Anna is always willing to meet new people at Midco, in the telecommunications industry, and in other areas to grow her network. This allows her to bring new ideas to the team and provide new network connections for people on her team. LISTEN – Anna tries daily to listen to more than just the words people are saying to truly understand the issue and the person. She can easily make connections with others to build lasting relationships. INSPIRE – Anna leads her team by providing a clear vision, clearly communicating what needs to be accomplished, and guiding her team through the process. She is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and do the work along side her teammates.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Chris: Anna has done an incredible job leading her training team through the ongoing development of Midco’s Autonomous Learning program. This program has allowed Midco team members to increase their speed to proficiency and allow our team members to standardize the career path that has ultimately decreased employee churn.

Lisa: Anna joined Midco when we were launching the first Autonomous Learning program. She oversaw the implementation of the program and the mentors who assisted in reinforcing the learning. She took her knowledge from her collegiate career and implemented new ideas at Midco. This allowed the business to seamless implement the autonomous learning program, which was essential since COVID soon drastically changed training at Midco. Because of Anna’s knowledge, we were able to quickly reset all of our training to become online learning. This allowed Midco to continue hiring during COVID while allowing employees to work remotely. We were able to not only continue training, but we increased the speed at which we were able to train and expanded the areas that we hire. Without with the online training, we would not have been able to provide the excellent customer service that we promise our customers.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Chris: This team would not be in the great shape it is in without her. She is intentional about understanding the different skill sets and personalities on the team. She has also brought awareness of this to the team by completing strength finders with the entire group, this was a fun and informative exercise. Anna has worked closely with our many stakeholders on how we can deliver bestness, this has us set up for a very successful 2022. Anna is fun to work with and brings a positive attitude to everything we do, this also makes her a great culture fit to the team.

Lisa: Anna is living the WICT Touchstones of Leadership in her daily actions. She is truly a role model for her team and others at Midco. She has earned this award because she was completely new to the telecommunications industry but didn’t hesitate to make a huge impact that positively changed the way Midco trains employees. We would not be as successful today without the Autonomous Learning program that Anna lead.

Karen Zumwalt
Nominee: Karen Zumwalt
Director, Reporting and Analysis, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Sally West
Sr. Director, Reporting and Analysis, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Maryann Eastman
Sr. Director, Charter Communications

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Sally: Karen just hit her 5-year anniversary a few days ago, and has already received 2 promotions since entering the industry in 2017. This recent promotion from Senior Manager to Director involved a change in career paths, from managing the NetOps data warehouse to directing the reporting and analytics for all of Charter’s Network Operations verticals. On a daily basis, Karen embodies the WICT Touchstones of Leadership, as described in detail below.

Maryann: Karen is an outstanding candidate for this award. She moved from the health care industry 4+ years ago and has taken telecom by storm. She came in as a manager of a metrics and reporting development team, was promoted to Senior manager and then was asked to move over to lead the Data warehouse team which had been without a manager for many months. During this, Karen completed PMDS and was awarded the most likely to implement learning award. She then applied and completed Rising Leader and came back to the department full of inspiration and knowledge sharing on how to lead and build her brand. A Director position opened up last fall which she was offered and she has once again been diving in and developing new reporting and analysis that is impacting tactical development projects which improve the customer experience trajectory.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Sally: Karen exhibits the Touchstones in so many of her daily activities. Know Yourself: Karen makes a concerted effort to understand her own strengths and areas of opportunity. An example is the way she seeks feedback from others on how to improve. In PMDS a couple of years ago, she participated in the 360 evaluation, but went a step further to create a tool using a word cloud of adjectives found in the feedback. Communicate: Communication is key in Karen’s position, as she takes report requirements from multiple sources and translates those into meaningful assignments for the analysts on her team. Karen is great at bringing in multiple examples of a concept to ensure everyone is on the same page. Listen: As mentioned, Karen takes input from multiple internal customers and translates that into substantive reporting and visualization requirements. Listening is a strength that enabled her to be promoted into her role and to be successful in it. Catalyst, Inspire: Karen has sparked the desire in others to continue their education, to become WICT members, and to join the mentoring program. Her ability to remain positive and inject fun and humor into her interactions make her someone that everyone wants to know. These characteristics make her a positive influence on her team, internal customers and the Chapter. Fearless: Karen is an example of not letting fear prevent one from seeking new challenges. She’s always up to trying something new if it will benefit the team or help her grow.

Maryann: Karen is the most motivated, dedicated colleague I have worked with in the 15 years I have been in the telecom industry. Karen exhibits all the touchstones of leadership each and every day. She is always willing to be a catalyst and help others on their journey. She inspires her team, her peers and people she gets to know to help them be and do better. She actively listens in both meetings and casual conversations and has a reputation for being connected and building relationships. She is always able to find a way to communicate her position and understand the perspective of others. Karen is very self-aware and enjoying developing her soft skills and reflecting on where she wants to go and how she wants to lead others.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Sally: Karen is dedicated to self-development. She has taken multiple company-sponsored courses in order to grow as a leader. She completed a degree plan while taking on new assignments at work, and is now close to completing her Master’s Degree. She has put in additional time to brush up on her considerable knowledge of our reporting software, Tableau. She is committed to giving back, as evidenced by her initiative in designing coursework and teaching our team to use this tool Her ability to learn quickly and adapt well to new roles, first as Senior Manager, then Director, has been impressive. She has made a meaningful impact on the industry by leading a team that transforms network operations data into actionable information, allowing Charter to better serve its customers. If you add to that, the personal touch that she gives her work and her advocacy for women’s career growth and development, it’s easy to recognize the impact she is making on cable telecommunications.

Maryann: Karen has lead two teams that have made significant impact on Network Operations and improving customer experience. One particular team she took over was not doing well. Morale was low, the team was not getting along and had been left to languish when their previous leader left the team. She stepped in and developed an understanding of the group and where she wanted to take them. She developed perspective on key areas: mission, tasks, deliverables, capability, moral, roles and responsibilities and gaps. She started building trust with in the team and began making changes to improve team health, productivity and capability. The team went on to develop two complex and powerful data schemas which are used daily by network operations to produce accurate data analysis which is used to develop tactical initiatives to improve customer experience. The changes she made for her team were huge and a big win for the department.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Sally: On a regular basis, I see Karen mentoring less-experienced women on her team, preparing them to become leaders, and I was happy to see her elected to lead the WICT Midwest Mentoring Program. Prior to this board position, she was our WICT IT Webmaster. Karen regularly takes advantage of WICT programs such as Tech-it-Out, Spirit of the Midwest and webinars offered by WICT Global. A few years ago, she completed our local chapter’s Premier Management Development Series and later attended and completed the WICT Global Rising Leader Program. Last year Karen attended the WICT Executive Development Seminar (EDS). In all of these events, she has soaked up the curriculum like a sponge and put the principles into practice on a regular basis. Karen has a natural ability to lead and to build relationships, and makes a positive impact on management, co-workers, internal customers and the WICT Chapter.

Maryann: Karen is a rising leader. Over the past four years, the three teams she has developed have made significant and marked impact on the department and company. She builds and develops her teams to grow and become the best version of themselves and their work. She took on her current team eight months ago and already has two team members in PMDS this summer. She invests and genuinely cares about helping others develop their brand and career. In addition to other training , she applied for a scholarship and was selected to attend EDS last Fall and came back even more confident and passionate about what she wants to do and achieve. Karen became the mentoring chair for WICT MW in 2022 and is excited and full of ideas for what she can bring to the program.

Kelly Salsman
Nominee: Kelly Salsman
Sr. Manager, Learning & Development, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Cary Johannes
Director, Learning & Development, Charter Communications

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Kelly Salsman is not a newcomer to our industry. She’s been at Charter for 15 years, but she is a newcomer to her current role as Sr. Manager, Learning Delivery as she was promoted to a Sr. Manager role in October 2021. During her career she has risen to be the leader she is today. Especially during the last year when she was promoted and during 2022. Her experiences have molded her to the leader she is today with qualities that are difficult to find in other leaders.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

I see Kelly exhibit all of our WICT Touchstones of Leadership qualities on a daily basis, but a few are more prominent that constantly propel her team to achieve results: Communicate with Passion and poise, in writing and in-person. Kelly consistently articulates and speaks with purpose in meetings, one on one conversations not only with her peers and colleagues but with Executives. She is logical and communicates with precision so all of know exactly where we stand with any interaction. Be a Catalyst and set the wheels of change in motion. Kelly is constantly strategizing how we can move the needle with our learning experiences. In fact, she led her team to develop the first Digital Workbook for Charter and now all Learning & Development team members across all of Charter utilize this modern modality. Know Yourself and what you stand for and where you are headed. Kelly knows what her strengths are as well as areas of improvement. She was previously under a leader who did not coach or guide her. She rose to the challenge and took stock of herself and set goals for herself, maintained her composure and stood by her beliefs and standards. She took stock of her career and decided to go back to school to obtain a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Kelly has advanced our learning experiences with new modalities and has created and implemented to means for others to use these modalities. She created Digital Workbooks and was the first team to utilize a learning Cohort in our team. She and her team have advanced the learning of our other team members by teaching them how to utilize these new modalities. In 2021, she has led her team to: Launched Disability Support Curriculum Development for our new queue. Created 9 eLearns and 1 Assessment for Repeat Caller Prevention enabling a 2% increase in First Call Resolution (FCR). Rolled out Repair Convergence learning model (3 curricula to 1 standard) changing our assessment strategy from weekly to be Mission-based.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Since Kelly was promoted to a Sr. Manager, Learning Delivery in October 2021, her leadership has been tested as we had to right-fit her team and separate from an employee who was not performing. Kelly was sound in her objectivity and purpose. She didn’t waiver and was a caring and thoughtful leader in the process. Her experience during the last 15 years at Charter set her up for this moment. I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in 2022. I’m here supporting her every step of the way.

Lisa Rahja
Nominee: Lisa Rahja
Training Coordinator, Midco

Nominated by: Anna Jankord
Operations Training Manager, Midco

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Lisa joined Midco in 2020 – shortly following the start of the pandemic. She came from the healthcare field, not knowing anything about the telecommunications industry. Why was she hired? Because of her passion, knowledge, and experience is creating an open and supportive learning environment for team members. In the last 2 years, she has proven that she can execute that type of learning environment simultaneous to her extensive learning of the industry. With that, I strongly recommend Lisa for the Rising Leader Award.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Know Yourself – throughout the year, I ask my team to report professional development opportunities they complete throughout each month. In 2021, Lisa completed 24 professional development experiences AND The WICT Network: Midwest PMDS program. She doesn’t complete these to check a box…she brings the key learning points back to her daily role to execute and practice new skills. She also actively asks for ideas from me (her direct leader) to implement, who to connect with for further development, and feedback as she becomes a stronger leader. Lisa is passionate about knowing herself to better understand her relation and impact on others. Communicate – I don’t know a better communicator. From day one, I made sure Lisa knew that overcommunication was key to being successful as a training team. Lisa certainly took that to heart. She is great at seeking to understand which means she doesn’t just talk she listens… Listen – Lisa works directly with team members in training programs. She listens to their needs to be successful and communicates to find answers he doesn’t have to better support learners. She just started coordinating a new coaching program – she’s so good at it because of her ability to listen and then act. These next three (be a catalyst, be fearless, inspire) go hand in hand with Lisa’s abilities and presence. She makes things happen and in an innovative way. In addition to her daily role, she volunteers for The WICT Network Midwest Board as Outreach Chair.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Lisa’s impact on the telecommunications industry directly relates to onboarding new customer care team members. In 2021, Lisa impacted over 104 new hires through 32 new hire cohorts. She spent over 150 hours in orientation with them. She coordinated over 25 mentors to support these new team members and create a sense of belonging with them. Her direct impact to Midco employees is unmatched. She continues to coordinate training programs to enhance and upskill a variety of customer care teams – indirectly improving their ability to support our customers. The programs Lisa coordinates are called Autonomous Learning which was implemented in 2019, one year before Lisa joined Midco. Lisa has been a key contributor to the AL programs and due to her incredible work, she has supported an overall increase in Customer Care team member retention of nearly 50%. Lisa builds relationships with these new team members and ensure their supported and find success in their training in the vital first year of employment. She helps coordinate other Trainers to ensure the training programs are a positive experience for these members. As Lisa’s direct leader, I am so thankful for her dedication to this work.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Everything I wrote above is why I believe Lisa has earned this award. She is actively involved in Midco, does incredible in her daily role, and volunteers time to her passions and community that create a huge impact for people state-wide. As her leader, I value her input, her perspective, and LOVE learning with her.

Melody Ross
Nominee: Melody Ross
Sr. Manager, Learning Delivery, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Cary Johannes
Director, Learning & Development, Charter Communications

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Melody was promoted to Sr. Manager, Learning Delivery from Manager, Curriculum Development in June 2021. Melody has leadership qualities which have enable her to lead all L&D Operational aspects for our Internet Repair, Voice Repair and PAC queues. Since her time joining Charter 8 years ago, she has progressively had roles with increasing responsibility and promotion. This is evident and her superior qualities make her stand out with peers, other Leaders and Executives.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

While I’ve seen elements of each of our Touchstones of Leadership in Melody’s style, these two stand out: Inspire and Fearless. Inspire and others will follow – Melody mentors her team and guides them. She helps them reach their full potential and creates succession opportunities. Example: When the Curriculum Manager position became available on her team, Melody promoted an internal candidate into the role. This employee started as a Representative in the Bridgeton Call Center, was promoted to Writer, then APM. Melody has been an inspiration to this employee, bringing her along and getting her to a point that within 6 months she is one of our top performing Curriculum Managers. Be Fearless and confident in your convictions as you take risks and bring others along – Melody consistently demonstrates to be a driving force for creating best in class learning content from training to knowledge content. She has defined vision and her team follows her lead and believes in the mission.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

In 2021 and to date in 2022, Melody and her team embarked in transforming the learning for our frontline representatives: Internet New Hire Redesign, PAC New Hire Redesign, Basic & Advanced Streaming & Voice Repair New Hire Redesign. The redesigned learning curriculum utilizes new learning methodologies including self-directed, self-paced learning promoting virtual learning, enhanced assessments and real world scenarios. In 2021, she led her team to produce a variety of learning opportunities to reduce transfers. Finally, with respect to knowledge content, she managed the team to consolidate content articles by nearly 70%.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Simply put, Melody is a well-rounded and sound leader. Daily, she consistently demonstrates aspects of our WICT Midwest Touchstones of Leadership. Melody also tackles challenges and meets them with creative solutions. Above all, she is dedicated, is extremely detailed, and never misses a beat with respect to working or leading the team. That quality is an important one and often one that is not recognized. She shows up and shows up well. Melody isn’t afraid to challenge things and always stands strong in the face of adversity. Grit and dedication aren’t necessarily qualities that one can teach. Melody is not one to want attention or shine in the light. But, she does in every way. I’m so proud of her. I can’t wait to see what she will continue to accomplish as a Leader in 2022 and beyond. I’ll be here cheering her on and supporting her along the way.

Swetha Srivastava
Nominee: Swetha Srivastava
Manager, Network Engineering

Nominated by: Chris Asher
Spectrum Reach/Charter

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Swetha was recently promoted to a manager level position after starting with the company as a Data Architect in 2019. In this short amount of time she has accomplished some pretty remarkable things. She was recently selected into the WICT Rising Leaders program. Additionally, she was chosen for the Nomi M. Bergman Fellowship program. These are two highly competitive application based programs. I believe this speaks to Swetha’s potential as a leader in the industry.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Swetha has an amazing story, which I have been fortunate to learn as her mentor over the past two years. She was born to a middle class family in India where her parents gave her and her siblings the best education they could afford. Seeing how hard her father had to work to make sure she had a bright future motivated her to excel in her academics. She was even awarded a scholarship by the government of India in 7th grade. One other notable part of her story that began when she was in 7th grade includes a time she had to walk home because she missed her bus when school had been canceled due to weather. On the way home she saw kids from a government school that were still in class. Curious to see what the were still doing in school she went inside, what she saw changed her and inspired her to act. She saw the plight of the school, which was not good. So after talking with her parents, teachers, and school leaders, she spent Saturday’s teaching the kids of that school even though she was just a middle school student herself. It didn’t stop there, she kept doing this for the next 5 years, recruited others to help, and her sister continued the program. She obtained a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and then came to the US and obtained a Masters in Computer Science. Currently she is a mentor, a new leader at Charter, and she is a diversity and inclusion volunteer at her son’s school. All of these things speak to Swetha living the WICT Touchstones of Leadership.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Swetha has been instrumental in the design and development of the data warehouse that was built for the Charter Network Engineering and Operations team. It is a mission critical tool for the organization.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Swetha has had a meteoric rise within the company over the course of the past three years. As her mentor I’ve seen her hunger to improve, her willingness to listen, her curiosity, her drive to succeed, and her drive to help others succeed. She truly is a Rising Leader both for Charter and the industry.

Spirit of the Midwest

This award recognizes an industry woman who has made significant contributions to the cable and telecommunications industry throughout her career, serves as a mentor and role model for others, exhibits leadership qualities that have made a difference in her organization, is a risk taker and a groundbreaker, and inspires others.  This woman is highly regarded by her peers and teammates for career accomplishments and quality of work-life balance.

Eligibility:

  • Recipient will have been in the industry for at least ten years.
  • Holds a management/leadership position within her organization.
  • Must exhibit the Touchstones of Leadership – Know Yourself, Communicate, Listen, Be a Catalyst, Be Fearless, and Inspire.

Nominees:

Jeannie Thurston
Nominee: Jeannie Thurston
Vice President of Marketing, Midco

Nominated by: Amber Schwiesow
Vice President of Procurement and Supply Chain

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Jeannie has been in the industry for 19 years. Jeannie has progressed from an individual contributor to the highest position currently within marketing.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Jeannie is true to herself always. she is humble and kind and doesn’t force herself to adapt to other’s styles. She is her own person and she is wonderful. She is constantly inspiring me to be more of myself. She delivers great and fearless feedback to her team and she navigates a very complex portion of our business. She serves internal and external teams, works with advertising, creative services, broadcasting, and so on and so on.  Jeannie has faced tremendous challenge navigating multiple unexpected roadblocks throughout her 19 years, and I have always been amazed at her ability to keep a really solid head on her shoulders. She leads her team with steady ease and while things might be tumultuous under the water, the top of the water is still. Jeannie deserves this award because she has been a true example of resiliency in spite of the challenges that have come before her. She has taken feedback, been vulnerable, leaned into discomfort and been a rock for me as I have navigated through these things in my career. I couldn’t be more proud to nominate a woman in my company. I am inspired by Jeannie, she is a confidant for me and helps me feel more comfortable in my role as a leader. Jeannie and I were both recently went through a huge re-org in which our teams were impacted and at the end of the day, not everyone was happy with the results. Jeannie and I have met many times to discuss how to navigate this as women and as leaders, and her feedback and friendship has been a constant north star for me during this transition. I am better because I have her and I know that her team is solid because she is their leader.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Jeannie Thurston recently helped lead Midco to win the JD Power award for best internet service provider in the west. This was a huge undertaking and required massive attention to detail and love for our customers. We would not be where we are today without this amazing women. This achievement is nationally recognized and takes thousands of right moves to achieve. Marketing is a cornerstone to making sure that our message and our customer’s voice are in sync.  The J.D. Power Residential Internet Service Provider Customer Satisfaction Study is based on market leading data science, delivering the most accurate, unbiased values in the industry. The study is based on responses from more than 27,000 customers and measures overall customer satisfaction based on five factors: Performance and reliability Cost of service Communication and promotions Billing and payment Customer service. Midco’s achievement of this award was achieved in a large part by the continuous dedication that Jeannie has shown to Midco and our customers.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Jeannie has rebranded Midco from Midcontinent Communications.

She has married marketing analytics with consumer research to enhance service offering for our customers.

She has been a partner to internal teams to ensure product launches were within the needs of customer sentiment.

She is a calm voice and steady head in all interactions.

She is kind and a real person, and she brings that authenticity to work.

She has dedicated 19 years to our industry and has developed teams, friendships, brands and vision for success.

Marisa Trueblood
Nominee: Marisa Trueblood
Administrative Support Manager, Midco

Nominated by: Anna Jankord
Operations Training Manager, Midco

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Marisa Trueblood is a driving force for good at Midco and within the industry. I know Marisa well through our involvement on the New Team Member Strategy Team. We are charged with reinvigorating Midco’s orientation and onboarding processes following the challenges of the pandemic. Marisa was chosen to serve on this team given her in-depth understanding, knowledge, passion, and support of Midco. For most of her of Midco career, Marisa served as the Administrative Assistant to Field Operations which encompasses a majority of Midco’s team members – Field Technicians and construction units. Supporting these groups is a rewarding challenge as they span our geographic footprint and present a unique set of needs given they are traveling, interacting face-to-face with customers, as well as expected to be experts in our products as services. In December of 2021, Marisa was promoted to Administrative Support Manager, expanding her scope of support to all Midco Operations through the impressive work of her team. Marisa is a thoughtful and humble leader. Her expertise is grounded in her attention to detail, stellar organization, passion for collaboration, and contagiously genuine personality. For these reasons and many more I will share here, I excitedly nominate Marisa Trueblood for the Spirit of the Midwest Award.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Marisa’s ability to organically exhibit The WICT Network’s Touchstones of Leadership is inspiring. She is my women empowerment role model as she is the epitome of a successful woman in a male dominated industry. Specifically, Field Operations is male dominated and Marisa is seen as a vital leader, responsible for keeping the day-to-day moving forward successfully. Our interactions almost always lead to a discussion about women leadership and influence whether it is being a mom and team member simultaneous (que 1 year old playing in the background of our virtual meeting) or talking about the best way to approach an orientation session about belonging. Her ability to listen, seeking to understand, is her superpower. Marissa has been a Midco team member for over ten years and as a specialist in administrative support, her work is vast and wide, supporting a variety of processes and people. Amid these extensive duties, Marisa finds time to mentor Midco team members. I recently asked her to mentor one of my team members who was looking for guidance in skill development related to influential leadership vs. positional leadership. I immediately turned to Marisa as she has the gift of influencing and inspiring those around her. People stop and listen to Marisa because she is genuine, attentive, and caring in all interactions. She provides valid, relatable, and knowledgeable perspective creating a power influence. That is why she is known across the company as a catalyst!

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

In Marisa’s daily activity, she promotes excellence through One of Marisa’s significant impacts to Midco is her deep involvement in planning and execution of leadership development programming. These programs are specific to collaboration and development of Midco leaders. I view this as Marisa’s direct impact on the industry as her role is key in ensuring Midco remains a top leader in the industry through our team members. More specifically, she plays a vital role in the following Midco programs, such as:

  • Women’s Leadership Summit: Marisa serves on the planning team as well as co-chairs the Book Club associated with the programming for women leaders
  • Operations Summit and Field Operations Summit: Marisa serves on the planning teams as well as day-of coordinator for both programs. Believe me when I say, everything runs smoothly thanks for Marisa!
  • Orientation and Onboarding: Marisa served on the strategy team and transitioned to the implementation team of Midco’s new orientation and onboarding program, to be launched in May 2022.

While this list is impressive, it is more important to understand these programs impact over 500 team members annually. Marisa’s expertise transcends the planning details into the inspirational role of content and experience developer. She works tirelessly with the planning teams to ensure the presentations, activities, and development exercises are relevant. She asks the hard questions that always lead to deeper thought and a better experience.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

In my first week of Midco, my leader was educating me about the company and people I should know – going down the list of people quickly as I wrote them down. He got to Marisa’s name and said, “now that is someone you need to know and know well.” Nearly three years later, I could not agree more. Marisa is deserving of this award as she is one of the hardest working, impression leaving, kind-hearted team member I have the pleasure of working with. Her impact to the industry is this – she inspires people. She knows how to engage them based on job function. She knows how to engage managers in company-wide initiatives so they can implement in a way that works for their teams. She is always considering alternatives for broader buy-in and implementation of initiatives that drive positive company culture. She is Midco!

Patsy Baldes
Nominee: Patsy Baldes
GVP, External Reporting Charter Communications

Nominated by: Lisa Neuwirth
Sr. Dir. ERP Strategic Readiness Charter Communications

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Patsy was introduced to the cable industry while working in public accounting on the Charter Communications account. She assisted with Charter’s initial public offering (IPO) which, at the time, was one of the largest IPOs in history. Patsy joined Charter in 2002 and has led several teams within the Accounting group including internal and external reporting, technical accounting and accounting policy, consolidations, fixed assets and programming accounting. In 2007, she was promoted to Vice President and in 2017, to Group Vice President. She currently oversee SEC reporting, technical accounting and accounting policy, consolidations and programming accounting.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Even with an extreme workload and challenging experiences, she still maintains a balance between work and life. Patsy applies only the highest standard of ethics in all that she does. She has worked through and communicated complex issues and made a significant impact in her company. Patsy listens to those with whom she interacts. She is aware of her team and is intentional about keeping them engaged and providing opportunities for development. Patsy connects with those around her and volunteers her skills. She serves on the Board of Directors of St. Francis Community Services (SFCS), an organization that helps thousands of poor and vulnerable individuals each year in the St. Louis, MO region and she volunteers at her children’s school. When Patsy see’s a need, she gets it done. She is a catalyst for change. She was a strong proponent and helped facilitate a pilot mentoring program within the finance group which is still going strong today. Patsy is fearless. Patsy takes any challenge and gets it done. Working through what could be considered very intense situations for some, such as SEC investigations, bankruptcy, multiple acquisitions were seen as opportunities by Patsy. Patsy is an inspiration for us all. She leads by example. She is collaborative and action-oriented. She is a mentor and always willing to share advice and guidance. She recognizes when there is a need, assesses the situation and goes after it.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Patsy has contributed to the cable industry in a variety of roles throughout her career. She had a role in the restatement of financials and an SEC investigation, managed the process to complete the financials, served as a liaison with auditors and determined the correct accounting for complex accounting transactions, oversaw the programming accounting department and determined proper accounting for complex programming contracts. She has led an internal reporting group, worked through complicated bankruptcy issues and oversaw the completion of Fresh Start Accounting which resulted in revaluing the Company’s balance sheet based on the fair value of the Company at the time of emergence from bankruptcy. She has set the strategic direction, provided executive level support and developed teams in the areas of SEC reporting, consolidations, technical accounting and programming accounting. She was involved in the integration process for two different acquisition transactions and led the fixed assets group to implement a new basis for capitalization that required complete revision to the processes previously used to capitalize labor. She has also provided advisory counsel to the Chief Accounting Officer on the strategic direction of the accounting group.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Patsy is a true leader. She has a desire to learn, to engage in new and challenging experiences and welcomes feedback. She recognizes the power others have in her life. She exerts influence and shares back what she has learned from people and experiences to help others develop and grow. She is bold, but not selfish. She knows who she is and uses her resources to easily navigate uncertain situations. She is collaborative, action-oriented and leads by example.

Sally West
Nominee: Sally West
Senior Director, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Colleen Lowther
Senior Manager, Charter Communications

Nominated by: Maryann Eastman
Sr. Director, Charter Communications

How does the nominee fits each of the desired qualifications and eligibilities listed for the award?

Colleen: Sally has been in the cable industry for 24 years. She has been in management for most of that time.

Maryann: Sally has been in the telecom industry for 22 years, and has been an inspiration, role model and champion for leading and developing those around her. She has built her brand around being kind, compassionate, highly effective and solution oriented. Sally brings people together and has made lasting impact on so many people around her. She conducts herself with the highest level of integrity and sets the example in each of her interactions. She has excellent work / life balance and sets the tone in the office to be light and fun. It’s truly a pleasure to be able to work with her every day and be inspired by her leadership, conduct and energy.

How does the nominee exhibit the WICT Touchstones of Leadership? (Know Yourself. Communicate. Listen. Be a Catalyst. Be Fearless. Inspire.)

Colleen: Sally has always had strong morals, values and ethics that she holds herself and others to. She communicates passionately in person as well as in writing. She is an active listener and connects with her peers and everyone around her. She’s had scares and has come through on top, every time. With a smile. She takes the initiative every time and inspires others to do so.

Maryann: Sally knows herself and is able to help those around her reflect on themselves. She communicates with poise and her emails are lessons on how to get it right in written communication. I am grateful to be on an email thread were Sally is sharing her point of view. Its gold. She is a great listener and genuinely hears what is being shared. She negotiates with strength but is also reasonable. Sally is a catalyst for change and improvement and works hard to understand what needs to change to improve the teams’ inclusivity, morale and productivity.

How has the nominee has made a meaningful contribution to the cable telecommunications industry?

Colleen: Sally West has made a meaningful contribution just by being Sally West. Her mentorship seems effortless to her as if she were born into it. She also leads through example. Inspires others to catch more flies with honey. The cable industry can be rough n tumble but Sally West takes it in stride and handles any obstacles with grace and poise like the Texan lady she will always be. Make no mistake, she is never to be underestimated or walked over because she has the knowledge and experience to win you over.

Maryann: Sally has been actively contributing to the advancement of women in Cable for as long as she has been part of the organization. She is always developing relationships and connections with women and men in WICT and the workplace and encouraging them on their journey. Sally is a graduate of the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute, the rising leader honoree in 2014, she served as a WICT Leadership conference roundtable leader, served on the WICT leadership Conference Planning Committee, she was the WICT MW Mentoring Chair in 2018, 2019 and took runner up in the year end WICT awards for the program while chairing it. She is currently serving as WICT MW Chapter advisor. In addition to all the ways she has been making a difference in WICT, Sally has been crushing it in her department. The growth, development and impact of the data analysis and reporting done under her leadership has changed the way Network Operations looks at developing tactics for improving the network quality and impact to customers.

Why do you believe the nominee has earned the award you are nominating them for?

Colleen: Sally West is simply the best. Better than all the rest. She continuously raises people up, whether they work for her or not. I have known and worked alongside Sally for 10 years, she is highly regarded in the industry and I could not imagine a better boss.

Maryann: Sally genuinely embodies the Spirit of the Midwest award and all it represents. Working with her and serving with her leaves one grateful and honored to have had her leadership, guidance and friendship. She has inspired and encouraged so many grow, invest, develop, lead and achieve their full potential. She continues to learn from what she shares and raise the bar for what comes next.

Board voting is now closed.

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