Diva Tech Talk interviewed Nadine Heinen, Comcast Corporation’s Vice President (VP) of Field Operations for Indiana and Kentucky. Comcast, an American multinational mass media company, is the largest broadcasting and cable company in the world measured by revenue. Nadine describes the corporate culture as highly communicative, and constantly working to improve and serve its employees.
In her current role, Nadine leads 650-700 technology staff for those two Midwestern states. She does this, successfully, by visiting every location as often as possible; meeting with all new hires, and conducting roundtables with her team members at least twice a year. She is a dedicated hands-on practitioner of “getting in the weeds.”
Starting out, Nadine never imagined she would become part of the tech world. “I wanted to be a writer from the fifth grade on,” she shared. But while working her way through college in the fast food industry, she was referred by a friend to the local cable company, in Cincinnati, Ohio, where her first job was as a dispatcher. She says she “took to the technology” and credits her innate aptitude for innovation as a key to career progression. Having figured out improved methods to accomplish things, she said “I wasn’t afraid to speak up and say ‘I think we could do it better this way’.” That approach quickly enabled her to move into her first management roles.
Nadine helped create and lead one of the first cable industry NOC’s (Network Operation Centers) in the mid-1990’s. She became familiar with fiber networks, and spent much time in the field, mastering fiber splicing, and performing a variety of field technical tasks alongside technicians who worked on her team.
She points to that experience, and her willingness to absorb as much knowledge as possible, as crucial to her adoption of her next challenge: Director of Affiliate Authorizations for HBO in New York City. Nadine’s team monitored uplinks for HBO, Cinemax and “on-demand” uploads. She was frequently involved in a number of new, exciting technology projects during this period, and, as usual, she gained knowledge from them.
This led Nadine to another leadership position where she created,in 2 years, and then managed a high performing NOC in Los Angeles for Time-Warner when Adelphia, Time-Warner and Comcast merged operations from 2005 to 2008. Nadine shared that the project was so successful that the NOC was selected as the supervision endpoint for cable networks throughout the country. Along the way, Nadine says that her philosophy has always been to always be involved in “building things that make sense.” She emphasized that “I never wanted to go with the ‘status quo.’ I want to do it better than anyone else can do it.” Much of Nadine’s inspiration comes from “developing teams --- moving them from point A to point Z,” and “seeing an idea come to fruition.”
Nadine learned a number of leadership lessons along the way. “Treat people as you would want to be treated,” she said. She advised that leaders, while needing to be tough, should also strive to be “good, likeable people.” She spends a lot of time listening to people, to build trust. She also counseled that excellent leaders must have the courage to deal with difficult issues, directly and immediately.
For budding women leaders, Nadine shared four key pieces of advice for women in tech:
- Believe in yourself
- Know your capabilities
- Work on your brand
- Step out of your comfort zone. You will expand your knowledge.
On a personal level, Nadine also says that her individual approach is to “stay humble” and “laugh at myself!”
Finally, Nadine explained that she thinks occasional sexism is still alive in the technology world. “I started out in the ‘80’s. In my field, everyone was male. I dealt with discrimination,” she said, but “I decided I was going to ‘keep my eye on the prize’ and I wouldn’t let them do that to me.” In a very recent example, she had a vendor challenge a request that she made of him, going behind her back to her male peer to check on the validity of it. How did Nadine deal with the issue? She took direct action, confronting the vendor representative. Her advice to other female leaders is “Don’t let that kind of situation get you down!”
Nadine can be reached through Twitter at @nheinen1201
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