Mary Jo Moehle, Vice President Communications & Investor Relations, Charter Communications, Inc.
Please tell us what your career path has been. For instance, when and where did you start working in communications? When did you start working for the cable industry?
I actually started in a very different profession – public accounting. After a tax internship, I started in the audit group at PriceWaterhouse following graduation. My largest client was Ameren, a large public utility company, and they recruited me into financial reporting and investor relations in 1996. Charter went public in 1999, and I joined the Company and started the investor relations function shortly thereafter. Over the years, my communications responsibilities at Charter expanded to cover media and employee communications as well.
What skills do you think a cable communicator needs to advance in his or her career? How did you acquire those skills?
Thinking strategically, focusing and prioritizing are skills necessary for career advancement as a communicator in any corporate environment today. Knowledge, as much as possible, of the wide range of telecommunications services and products available to consumers is also essential. The best way to acquire those skills is definitely on the job. Sink or swim is a powerful motivator to learn.
How have the communications skills you've acquired helped your career advancement?
I have always worked closely with the corporate communications team. Investor relations articulates company messages and information to the financial and investment communities as well as to shareholders. It's critical that the two disciplines – investor relations and communications – be in lock-step, communicating consistent and accurate information to stakeholders, internal and external audiences. Since coming to Charter, I've always been a communicator; getting to the heart of the matter, thinking in key messages and conveying it to multiple audiences so that it's consistent and understandable.
How do you keep up with communications trends and changes in the cable industry? Which of these changes or trends do you think is the most important to your career?
I listen. There are telecom experts all around me at Charter and I ask them questions and they provide me answers. I try to be informed and spend time each day reading a variety of articles that our department puts together and check out what the bloggers are saying. I believe that it's imperative for communicators to try to stay at least several steps ahead of change and certainly a big part of my job is managing change and communicating. It's not easy. Heightened competition has definitely influenced the need to keep communications lines wide open.
Ann Carlsen, founder and CEO of Carlsen Resources, an executive search firm, said in an interview in CableFAX Daily that this is the age of the specialist, and they have become more employable than generalists. Do you agree with this? If so, how have you seen it reflected in your career or in those of your colleagues?
Economics dictates whether or not you operate in a specialist or generalist environment. I believe a healthy mix of both is beneficial I our industry. Specialistsconcentrate on one function or discipline; they become very knowledgeable and experienced at problem solving.
Generalists are professionals whose time and projects demand they learn broadly. They have an advantage of having a good understanding of the intersection between functions in our business and I believe they are extremely valuable because they see issues and details from multiple perspectives, bringing a broad view to the business.
Have you had any mentors along the way? Who has helped you the most and how?
Yes, there have been several key influential people along my career. Most notably, Eloise Schmitz, Charter's SVP of Strategic Planning. Eloise really helped me grasp the financing aspect of Charter – which is no easy feat with a complicated capital structure and $19 billion in debt- and always encouraged and pushed me to take my responsibilities to the next level.
How has membership in professional organizations such as ACC impacted your career?
I've been a member of the National Investor Relations Institute for years and have benefited from resources like newsletters, research, etc., but more importantly, I think the relationships with other members are really the most important. I've only recently become a member of ACC and have already found this to be true.
Do you have any further career advice for your fellow cable communicators?
Focus on the business needs, not on the communication.
What special set of skills does a communicator in investor relations need to succeed?
Confidence to make decisions quickly; act with grace under pressure, exceptional listening skills and good humor.