Ahead of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Cable-Tec
Expo (Nov. 15-17) in Atlanta, Multichannel News is spotlighting three women who have
made significant achievements in technology positions in cable operations, vendor support
and programming, as well as as an “up and comer” in any of those realms.
They are, respectively: Charlotte Field, senior vice president, Infrastructure &
Operations, National Engineering & Technical Operations, at leading cable operator
Comcast; Vibha Rustagi, CEO of interactive-television software provider Itaas; Trish Jones, chief emerging technologies officer at Turner Broadcasting System; and
Patricia Kellaghan, vice president, Operations & Program Management for Video &
Advanced Advertising, at Cablevision Systems.
Following are edited versions of interviews with Multichannel News reporters,
presented in Q-and-A fashion.
SVP, Infrastructure & Operations,
National Engineering & Technical Operations
by LESLIE ELLIS
Charlotte Field is one of the most highly
respected women in the industry’s technology ranks.
If you’ve ever seen her in action, you’ll know why: She’s
smart, direct, a quick thinker and an inclusive personality.
People who work with her regularly speak of her multitasking
prowess, recounting tales of being in meetings
when Field is also listening to an outage call on speaker
phone, putting out a different fire via email and and
calmly conducting a meeting with a coworker — and not
missing a beat on any front.
She spent 25 years at AT&T, starting at Bell Laboratories, where she helped build out the
first nationwide fiber-optic system. She got into cable after AT&T bought Tele-Communications
Inc. in 1999 and created AT&T Broadband. She moved to Comcast after it acquired
AT&T Broadband in 2002. In her current role, she leads a combined organization responsible
for supporting the Comcast national infrastructure and operations for both the Enterprise
and Customer Facing Networks/Products. She supports more than 900 professionals.
Here are some of her views on women, technology and cable:
First job in cable? To establish a network-operations center for AT&T Broadband that
could support voice and data in March 2000.
First job in technology? Working with NBC, CBS and ABC in New York on videodistribution
technologies. Working for AT&T, specifically, which was providing distribution
services for video way back then. It was all microwave at that time.
From there, I moved quickly into fiber optics, deploying it for AT&T’s Northeast
Corridor. First day on the job, I actually climbed on top of 32 Ave. of the Americas [in
New York] to see the antennas supporting the broadcasters. We had to wear dresses
back then, so I made sure the guys went up the ladder first and me second — and
the reverse going down.
Tech people you look up to? John Schanz — good engineer and operator. And Tony Werner
— great visionary. They’re two people who are helpful to many in the industry, have a good
approach to people in technology and a sense of humor. It makes working with them fun!
When did you know for sure you were destined to be in tech? I graduated high
school early and went to work for an insurance company called Metropolitan Life.
I worked in their accounting department, which used my math skills, but I thought,
“I sure as hell don’t want to do this for the rest of my life!” At 17, I went to a tech
school, originally thinking biotech. Then I changed to electrical engineering.
The thing that drives you most crazy about non-techs? They don’t understand that
they actually are in technology. Technology is everywhere!
Top three things on your work to-do list for the rest of 2011? Continue to drive
operations excellence; ensuring that we close out all our projects open for 2011;
making sure that we take care of all of our people as we enter holiday season. Making
sure that people have time off to recharge for 2012. Some people think that if
you’re not committed to [your boss] 100% of the time, you’re not committed to the
company. I don’t see that. Work is a part of your life, not your life. The worst bosses
are people who don’t understand that people have lives and respect that.
The best thing about being the lone female in the room? There’s no line for the restroom. And, related: You don’t have to worry about someone overhearing your
conversation in the restroom … because no one else is there.
The worst thing about being the lone female in the room? People who don’t know
you or your reputation expect you to prove yourself. This is a big problem for women
early in their career, where people want to see their work prior to judging their value.
All people need to assume that the individual in question is a valued resource until
by TODD SPANGLER
To Vibha Rustagi, interactive TV is the overnight sensation that’s
taken more than a decade to come to fruition.
Rustagi in 1999 was one of three founders of Itaas, the Duluth, Ga.-based ITV software-
development and consulting firm she now heads. The startup expected interactive
television to quickly rocket into the mainstream — but ITV is just now becoming widely
available and finding new footholds with the rise of smart phones and tablets as “companion
devices” for TV viewing.
“We’re still waiting for ITV to kick in on a large scale, but
it’s finally happening,” she said.
In the meantime, Rustagi has built Itaas into a key
cable-industry partner with deep expertise in ITV and
digital video. The company now has about 250 employees
worldwide, serving more than 100 customers and
with products deployed in 50 cable systems across North
Rustagi is an electrical engineer by training and has
her name on seven patents developed during her tenure
at Scientific Atlanta (now part of Cisco Systems). But after
several years as a cable engineer, she ultimately wanted to
move into a higher-level executive role. On the plus side,
the EE background means she knows what she’s talking
about: “I can definitely ask the engineers for as much detail
as I want.”
When did you know you were destined to be in tech? In the eighth grade. In addition
to being from a family of technology experts, I had a wonderful physics teacher in
India who inspired me through her class and the projects we developed.
First job in cable? My first job in cable was at Scientific Atlanta as an electrical engineer,
where I was involved with the design of the first digital networks. During my 11
years at SA, I moved into marketing and business development, at one time reporting
to Mike Hayashi [now Time Warner Cable’s executive vice president of architecture,
development and engineering], who was a mentor for me … I was hooked on this
industry from the start!
Tech people you admire? This industry has many tech people I admire. I must,
however, say that my brothers and my dad were the initial role models who piqued
my interest and curiosity. I remember one brother in particular bringing “cool” school
projects home that really got me interested in physics. I went on to receive my
degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.
Who would you have dinner with, alive or dead? It would have to be Steve Jobs. He
was a genius who had the unique combination of technology and creativity.
What drives you the most crazy about engineers? From an engineer’s perspective,
everything is doable. From my perspective, while everything may be doable in theory,
I want to understand the reality … what will it really take to get solution in the time
frame that is compelling to the market? It’s the aspect of theory versus reality.
The top three things on your work to-do list for the rest of 2011? The top item on
my to-do list at any time is “meeting customers’ expectations” — making sure that
the projects that Itaas is working on for our customers will be delivered on time and
will exceed expectations.
What’s the strangest thing that’s happened in your career? In the last 18 months,
no one expected how tablets are changing the dynamics of the industry. That was
one of the most interesting and unexpected changes that nobody anticipated. Everyone
has accelerated the momentum and pace of the technology enhancements.
Chief Emerging Technologies Officer
TURNER BROADCASTING SYSTEM
by CRAIG KUHL
Trish Jones’ ascent from legal
counsel to chief emerging technologies
officer at Turner Broadcasting System
was driven by a passion for learning and
an insatiable intellectual curiosity.
Jones, who began her career as a lawyer,
worked her way up at Turner to become senior
vice president and deputy general counsel.
She led legal operations, technology, real
estate and privacy matters and served as executive
vice president and general counsel of TBS
These days, she is the force behind the creation
of Turner’s Audience & Multi-Platform
Technology team, a global technology and
strategy organization responsible for Web,
wireless, emerging technology, audience insights
and sales-technology initiatives. Her
AMPT organization has more than 500 employees
and a budget of more than $140 million.
Colleagues describe her as innately curious,
approaching each experience as a learning
opportunity. She’s quick to synthesize critical
information and convert it into actionable
guidance for her team, driving results. She’s
also viewed as a gifted collaborator, partnering
with colleagues to build Turner’s technology strategy.
Jones’ technology teams are fueling Turner’s TV Everywhere initiative. They’ve recently
achieved a significant milestone, making content available to more than 50 million authenticated
pay TV subscribers across platforms and devices.
Her teams are responsible for delivering Turner’s domestic portfolio of digital apps and
games. Notable among them is Turner’s NCAA March Madness on Demand app, accessed 52
million times during this year’s Men’s Basketball Tournament — up 63% from 2010.
What was your first job out of college? Once out of college (Spring Hill College) and law
school (Georgetown), I was thrown into technology practice in the late 1980s. I became
fascinated by technology and how it was setting new frontiers, so I knew I would never be
What one tech person do you most admire? Grace Murray Hopper. She was an early
pioneer in women’s computing and technology, beginning in the early 1900s and into the
1990s. She really did her own thing.
When did you know you were destined to be in technology? I figured it out in the mid
’90s, when the law firm I was working for asked me to go on-site to Hayes Microcomputer
Products. I was bitten by the technology bug and the whole technology environment. I had
never thought of technology before and never would have predicted a technology career.
What are the things you’ve built that you are most proud of? Well, it’s really not in technology.
It’s building my current team that is turning out a lot of great products. I’m most
proud of building high-performing teams.
Who would you have dinner with, alive or dead? Absolutely Katharine Hepburn. She was
a pioneer as well: fiercely independent, strong-willed and didn’t capitulate to societal pressures
or norms. And I loved her sense of fashion!
What drives you most crazy about engineers/technologists? They are often times myopic.
They must pull back from the trees so they can see the forest. That’s especially true
in solving engineering problems.
What drives you most crazy about non-techs? Their lack of patience in understanding
technology and engineering. Most cop out when their eyes glass over about technology. In
the past four years, I’ve learned more than I ever have about technology. It takes a lot of
The three top priorities on your to-do list for the remainder of 2011? Continue to work on
TV Everywhere, prepare for the NCAA Tournament and for the 2012 presidential election.
The weirdest question about your career and job? I get this one all the time: how do you
go from attorney to technology chief? The answer is it takes someone who is a change
agent and has a risk profile. And you just dive in. I yearn to know how things work and I’m
fascinated with the digital age.
What’s the best thing about being the only woman in the room? In both careers, attorney
and technology, it immediately sets you apart and creates an opportunity when you’re
What’s the worst thing about it? No guy will tell you if your mascara is running or
you have lipstick on your teeth. Guys are petrified to tell you that.
VP, Operations & Program Management
for Video & Advanced Advertising
by TODD SPANGLER
PARLEZ VOUS cable tech?
Ireland native Patricia Kellaghan studied
Russian and German at Trinity College Dublin,
and also speaks French and Irish Gaelic
(which is compulsory for schoolchildren
in the Emerald Isle). In 1991, she immersed
herself in Russian literature and politics,
spending six months at Leningrad State University.
So how did a linguistic maven end up in a
technology career track?
Kellaghan, first came to New York in the
early 1990s, eventually working with interactive
media agencies including Grey Direct,
T3 Direct and Frankfurt Balkind. She found
her language background gave her the skills
to translate between the worlds of business
“Working with clients big and small, oftentimes
they couldn’t articulate their
business needs and how they related to technology,”
Kellaghan said. “There were similarities
with multiple languages, in how you
derive meaning from context.”
Kellaghan concedes, however, that her
foreign languages have grown rusty: “I put
languages aside to fill my head with tech.”
First job in cable? After I earned my MBA [from University College Dublin], I started
to look at the cable industry and just found the dynamics of the industry and the
potential for the product-development area, which was my sweet spot, was very
compelling. Cable just drew me in. I started to job-search and network, and got the
opportunity with Cablevision in 2003. I joined their broadband-development group
at a time when we had less than 1 million subscribers. Part of the feature set I was
lucky enough to be engaged in was to build out our first premium broadband product,
Optimum Online Boost, which was really around higher speeds, enhanced email and
Technology people you look up to? I’m never one to want to pick the obvious, but
I kind of have to. The two big tech leaders during the last 15 years of my career
have been Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. I have admiration for both of them for multiple
reasons. But, for both of them, I admire their passion, their innovation — and their
risk-taking in a measured fashion.
Who would you have dinner with, alive or dead? I’m going to go way back in the past
with this one: Leonardo da Vinci. There are parallels about how he was the embodiment
of change in his time. He was a humanist and a scientist, and his scope of
talents and abilities is absolutely amazing. I’d like to probe his ideation process, as
well as understand the psychology of how he navigated a politically perilous world.
What drives you the most crazy about engineers? I have known some engineers not
only in my career, but in my personal life. My father is a retired civil engineer. The one
thing I always found challenging was how engineers would focus immediately on the
narrow pursuit of a project and not incorporate the holistic environment. But having
worked with so many of them over the years, I’ve learned a new ability from them
— teaching myself to think differently about a problem and about the need for rigor
What’s been your experience in the male-dominated area of cable technology?
What’s interesting is, fairly early on in my career, I was aware of being the only
woman in the room. I will say over time — whether it’s society evolving, or business
evolving or myself evolving — I don’t notice it as much anymore. One of the
advantages I’ve found being the only female in the room, and this has come with
maturity and time for me, is that sometimes it can be percieved that you don’t
have the knowledge and insights to contribute. What that has enabled me to do
is listen very carefully and critically, read the room, then contribute more thoughtful,
Any kids, cats, dogs, hobbies? I’ve given up a lot of hobbies over the years with a
young family. Their hobbies are my hobbies. I have two young boys, a 3-year-old and
7-year-old. They keep me busy, whether it’s playing soccer or my oldest teaching me
chess. Obviously, it’s a balance you have to have between career and family. One
thing I have really valued being their mother is that these kids are so curious, they’re
so imaginative, it reinvigorates me after a long day at work.