Back in the Saddle, on a New Trail

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If you’re like most of us, you love reading about your colleagues’ career moves and what motivated them to rock the boat. As a journalist, I’m in the enviable position of getting on the horn, chatting people up and now sharing, in this case, one prominent woman’s career change.

Last week, Maggie Bellville, best known for heading up the operations side for Cox Communications Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. — essentially the No. 2 spot at both MSOs — took a gig as a headhunter at an unknown Atlanta-based search firm, CarterBaldwin.

Few women in the cable MSO hierarchy had ever reached Bellville’s level as the person responsible for making all the trains run on time. That is a man’s world, which in cable means that men like to surround themselves with people who look and act like them. So be it.

Maggie, from all accounts, is a nurturer and a team-builder. It makes sense that she is doing what she’s now doing — continuing to build operations. And she has the experience and track record, because in essence, she’s already done the job herself.

So those CarterBaldwin folks, who no one has ever heard of, chose wisely. The company is well-positioned to compete with Korn Ferry, Carlsen Resources, James & Co. and the other executive-search firms who do most of cable’s searches.

Maggie took an interesting detour after her bumpy ride at Charter. She went back home to Atlanta, where learned to play golf and ride show horses for the past seven months. But she also kept up with CarterBaldwin, which she had retained while at Charter to conduct a search for a customer-care head for the then-bleeding MSO.

I can actually envision Maggie falling off a horse, as she did at both Cox and Charter, and picking herself up, dusting herself off and getting ready for the next ride. She says that in this age of nonstop industry consolidation (she predicts there will be more), there will also job creation at the satellite and telephone-company competition.

Clearly, this is not a woman who is going to sit around and rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, a comment that’s been made about how cable is inadequately preparing itself for the next round of telco competition. For example, lots of folks are wondering why Time Warner Cable has taken some six months to fill its own chief operating officer opening.

Maggie has an interesting take on corporate America, which is largely beholden to Wall Street. She thinks it’s overly focused on the bottom line, rather than on building new revenue-generating products that customers want. She calls that mentality “death by a thousand cuts,” or “squeezing the nickel so hard that the buffalo roars.”

Clearly a colorful woman for a colorful industry which faces some daunting challenges. So Maggie is now a partner at an executive-recruiting firm that wants to forge into the volatile world of cable and telecommunications. Welcome to the fray.

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