By Khali Henderson & Dana Farahani
By all measures, Michele Thornton is an impressive and successful woman, who wears many hats – media executive, author, wife and mother. She serves as the Head of Television Sales for Centric TV and BET Soul and has worked at networks including CNN, HLN, A&E, among others. An advocate of women and diversity, and the recipient of numerous professional accolades, Thornton’s accomplishments are numerous. Perhaps her most impressive undertaking is her commitment to sharing with other women the lessons and strategies she has acquired throughout her personal and professional life.
On Aug. 14, Thornton will be sharing some of these strategies as keynote speaker at the 12th WiCConnect Networking Event during the Channel Partner’s Evolution Conference & Expo in Washington, D.C. Featuring advice from her first book, “Stratechic: Life and Career Winning Strategies for Women,” Thornton’s keynote will highlight key strategies intended to help women live their best life, successfully.
To give you a sneak peek at her address, “PowHer Playbook: Strategies for Growth,” WiC interviewed Thornton on a range of topics from her early career in telecom to the transformative moment in her life that empowered her to change her status quo to her 10-step framework for helping women to be successful, personally and professionally.
It goes without saying that you are an accomplished career woman. You are a top media executive and now an author as well as a wife and mother. But it wasn’t always that way. Can you share where you started and what motivated you to change your life? As I write in my book, we all go through life- changing events that tell us to change something or do something different and most of us don’t listen. I was 26 and in a really bad relationship and had a dream. God presented himself to me and didn’t say one word. When I woke up, I remembered every word. I began to analyze my life and change the things that were not in alignment with the passion I had for myself, my future and success.
Since you’ll be speaking to Women in Telecom/IT, we have to ask about your early career. You once worked for PacBell and PacTel (now part of AT&T). What was your role there and why did you leave? Funny enough, I was a tax accountant. My degree is in finance. I graduated with a degree in finance. I wasn’t happy. And I probably wasn’t that great at it either. I loved people and this didn’t allow me to really be myself. I joined an internal organization that allowed me exposure to different departments. During one of our presentations, I met the CFO and we began to communicate. He asked me why I wasn’t in sales. I was very interested because my dad was in sales. I felt sales would allow me to make more money and interact with people on a more consistent basis. He told me that he would introduce me to the heads of a couple of different sales organizations. I interviewed with two groups. Kelly D’Angelo hired me and the rest is history.
Congratulations on your new book, “Stratechic!” You’ve said it seeks to help women live their best life. What do you mean by best? That’s up to each woman to determine. Are you happy, are you successful, do you have a strong group of people that surround you, are you optimizing your time to be your best person OR do you spend more time helping others live their best lives? There are fundamental things that need to happen to even begin to answer “best”. My book is the foundation to begin to explore what that means. An executive once told me: “Be successful or have a family BUT don’t have neither.” I’m trying to have both!
The Stratechic Framework is a 10-step plan. How did it come about? Life experiences have made me understand what’s critical to be your best person. I turned 50 last weekend. What I’ve learned is when you feel good about yourself, have a group of really strong supporters, eliminate the people that are praying against you and not for you, when you allow yourself time to build a plan and have the courage and wherewithal to execute the plan, I guarantee you can start to live your best life.
Will you preview the first step? The first step is to understand that women are not taking enough time for themselves. Women spend too much time making others look good and feel good and then at the end of each day there is no time for our own growth. I ask women to create a time wheel and see exactly where their time is spent and begin to get time [back] from people and things that haven’t earned it. “Time is the foundation to greatness.”
At Women in the Channel, we are focused on empowering women to advance their careers in telecom/IT. Much of that is focused on personal professional development, but we also spend time on advocacy. What advice can you offer for promoting gender equality in our industry? I’m smiling because if women were paid and promoted based on their contributions, this wouldn’t be a conversation. We, as women, have to learn to ask for what we’ve earned and hold people accountable. We can’t be afraid to leave employers that have no respect for our contributions whether [we’re] a woman or not. I’ve had to ask several bosses what’s the criteria for growth, document and then follow-up for accountability. If they give me another set of criteria, then I have to evaluate [whether this is] the right place for me.
Is there a question you wish that we would have asked but didn’t? If so, what is it and what is your answer? Why did I name the book Stratechic? It’s simple — women are born strategists; we just spend most of our life strategizing for everyone else. This book is a call to action to begin to build a plan for ourselves. Once we have a plan and execute it on a timeline, we will be unstoppable!!
Khali Henderson is Chair and Dana Farahani is a member of the Women in the Channel PR Committee. Henderson is senior partner at BuzzTheory Strategies, a marketing consulting firm. Farahani is a marketing and event specialist for GENBAND, a global leader in real time communications, network transformation and unified communications.