It isn't always easy for second-generation cable executives to succeed in the business. And the task gets a little tougher when you're a woman who faces a male-dominated culture and a society that often sends conflicting signals on the role of women and motherhood within the executive ranks.
But after spending five minutes with Nomi Bergman, executive vice president of strategy and development for Advance/Newhouse Communications, it's obvious how she's met all those challenges. The daughter of Advance/Newhouse chairman and CEO Robert Miron displays a boundless energy and an eternal sense of optimism about the tasks she faces and people she encounters. It's easy to see how she could rise through the executive ranks and successfully balance a career with raising her three children, who are all under 12.
Bergman says she was “a pretty quiet kid” growing up. She chose the University of Rochester, where she majored in math. “I loved it there. I loved math and became more interested in the applications of math.” That led her to Arthur Andersen LLP, where she worked as a consultant. “I interviewed with many different companies, and I liked the idea of being more of a generalist,” says Bergman. “I didn't expect to be in cable. I wasn't thinking that way.”
At Arthur Andersen, Bergman helped design systems and system solutions to improve client companies' efficiency. It was a good test.
“The client thinks of you as an expert, and that forces you rise to the occasion,” she says.
She continued in that line of work at Advance Publications Systems Group, which owned The New Yorker and Condé Nast Publications, and at the Newhouse cable properties. One of the projects she worked on for the newspaper and magazine division caught the eye of her father, who was running Newhouse's three cable properties — Vision, MetroVision and NewChannels.
Miron was looking to update and converge the billing systems across all three MSOs. Bergman took the job and soon found herself as a full-time cable employee, going from system to system to help with the conversion. “I learned a lot about the operations side of the business,” she says
As Bergman finished up the conversion work, Newhouse was forging a joint venture with Time Warner Cable. During that period, Bergman was in Charlotte, N.C., managing regional call centers. The job enmeshed her in a variety of different facets of the business, including marketing, operations, engineering and even programming. “I was learning how to work with a bigger team,” she recalls.
At the same time, high-speed data was cresting on the horizon. Bergman says she applied for the Road Runner position in Charlotte and got the job. “It was especially exciting to me. I loved the product,” she says. And, as a mother often pressed for time, she could see how the application could help families be more efficient, just as she helped companies be more efficient at Arthur Anderson.
She spent the balance of the '90s in Charlotte, a 10-year stint. When A/N ended its partnership with Time Warner Cable and took control of 2.1 million cable subscribers in 2002, she moved to its corporate headquarters in Syracuse, N.Y.. She currently works alongside her father and brother Steve, president of the MSO.
Although they are separate from Time Warner, Advance/Newhouse's Bright House Networks systems still enjoy a strong relationship as a cable cousin. Newhouse has rolled out voice-over-Internet protocol in Tampa and Orlando, allowing staff members to redefine their duties as the MSO rolls out new products. “This makes their jobs more exciting,” she says.
Bergman has helped Newhouse strengthen its VOD architecture and the channel lineup across its systems. “It's doing well, and we're watching usage going up,” she says
HDTV, high-speed Internet access and wireless products all fall under Bergman's purview. “We do believe in wireless,” she says. “It's a great opportunity to leverage the infrastructure.”
But with even more competition expected in the future, Bergman says new services are only one part of the picture. “Customer service is most important. We're working hard and investing in that.”
Bergman is quick to point out the support she has received from her family throughout her career. “My husband gives me loads of support and confidence,” she says. As to balancing home and work: “I'm blessed with having a lot of energy. Being a working mother requires an enormous amount of energy. You have very little personal down time.”
Bergman and her husband build weekends around family time with the children. “We try to maximize family time,” she says, whether that's hiking, skiing or just going to a bookstore. Bergman, who was named Woman of the Year last year by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, acknowledges that it's challenging for women to find success in cable's technical arena. “They often face a lack of credibility and confidence,” she says. Colleagues might underestimate them. “But through working hard and determination, you can always surpass expectations,” she says.
And that determination might well have been developed at home. “My father taught me to solve things independently. … He always gave me the impression there is nothing I could not do,” she says.
“She was always a hard worker and always had lots of determination,” says Miron, who's quite proud of his two children in the cable business.