Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Public Affairs, A+E Networks
A believer in the value of surrounding oneself with role models in order to become a better role model, Danielle has fueled her passion through her work with A+E Networks. Leading the company’s award-winning public affairs initiatives, Danielle leverages the company’s media assets to advocate for women, youth and family issues on-air in over 100 READ MORE »
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: I’ve always been passionate about women’s issues and social justice. Following my passion and directing all of my skills and energy toward that purpose has been extremely rewarding and has always led me to make the right choices in my career. With perseverance and a lot of luck, I look back at my first job out of college and realize how pivotal it was to my future success. It wasn’t because of the job itself, but because of the person I worked for. At such a crucial time, my boss was much more than a supervisor in that she was a teacher and a mentor. I realize more and more with each passing year how rare that can be in the workplace and how important she was in laying the foundation for who I am today as a professional. Surrounding oneself with role models is one of the most important things I believe someone can do to enhance and develop their career. But most importantly, everyone should realize that no matter what level you are in your career, you can be and should act as a role model to those around you as well.
Q: Who is a leader that you have great respect for and why?
A: I’ve watched Hillary Clinton with great admiration since she ran for office in 1992. That’s my attempt at telling a joke, but one that is telling about how far we’ve come in how we view women’s leadership. In fact, you can study the public perception of women’s leadership over the past 20 years through the public life of Hillary Clinton. From at first being perceived as overstepping her bounds in the White House when her husband was President to surviving such terrible personal scandal with dignity and grace to running and winning a senate seat in New York to running for President to now acting as Secretary of State, all I can think is what an amazing life of service that this woman has given to all of us. I find it interesting that just twenty years ago she had to bake cookies and serve them to the press pool to prove that she was in fact a mother and wife and as “domestic” as our public demanded of her. She’s always had to be coached on how to soften her image to be more palatable to all of us. And yet, after making 18 million cracks in the ultimate glass ceiling and ultimately losing the presidential election, recent approval and image polls currently put her ahead of the President. It’s been such a long fight for her and one that I don’t think she would have had to endure if she wasn’t a woman. How great it would be to see a 2016 run. When we live in a country that ranks 90th in the world in women’s elected representation, behind countries like Afghanistan and Rwanda, we certainly need women like Hillary that inspire all women they are capable of leadership, especially as it relates to running for office.
Q: What are 3 characteristics that you believe define great leadership?
A: Vision and the ability to inspire others to carry out that vision. Key to this is being a great communicator.
An ability to empower others and an understanding of how to best utilize a person’s skills and talents to the fullest extent.
Humility, grace and a willingness to take smart, calculated risks while also being willing to fail and take the fall.
Q: Can you share a story of how networking led to a great success?
A: In order for networking to be successful I believe it needs to be about getting to know people for who they are as opposed to what they do or what they can do for you. Building authentic long-term relationships is essential to any business success. For example, by getting to know Jane Wurwand, the founder of Dermalogica, over the past several years I’ve been able to understand and appreciate her as an inspirational entrepreneur. Now in my current role at A+E Networks, we found a perfect fit to partner together on Dermalogica’s new JoinFITE! initiative that supports women entrepreneurs around the world with microfinance loans. I’ve been able to feature Jane on-air and promote a cause that I know resonates with our audience throughout our other media platforms. It’s been a win-win for everyone but at the end of the day it’s because we had a trusted relationship to begin with, that we’ve been able to achieve such success.
Q: Many people become discontent with their current career yet are too afraid or reluctant to make a change. What’s your best advice for women in this situation?
A: I think small changes are more palatable and can yield big results in the end. Take small steps and work toward a long-term goal and make sure to write that goal down! Keep track of the steps and feel good about the progress you are making along the way. Before a change is made there are so many ways to dabble in a different field and know for sure if it will be a good fit –through volunteer work, taking courses, getting to know people in that particular field, taking on relevant side work on evenings and weekends and even offering to do a project for free. Nonetheless, sometimes you just need to follow your gut and not question it. If you don’t take risks, new challenges and opportunities may be hard to come by. I often tell myself to take one risk a day, whether it’s expressing an opinion that might not be well received, standing up for something I believe in, or taking an action that isn’t all that “safe.” If I didn’t take these risks I wouldn’t be presenting myself in a way that is authentic and true. In the end, your integrity will need to outlast any job or career.
Q: Do you (formally or informally) mentor anyone? If so, who and why is it rewarding?
A: Mentorship is such a great way to build deep and meaningful relationships. Sometimes at work we need to get outside of our comfort zone and meet new people, and mentorship can be a great catalyst to do so. I find I learn more about my own career philosophies and things I should be doing for myself when I act as a mentor. I’ll often give advice and then have to say that I’m going to follow it too! Everyone needs a sounding board and someone that they can trust to help work through ideas and the inevitable roadblocks that arise in the workplace. Additionally, hearing and understanding someone’s vision for you can be eye opening and a great motivational force in directing your career path.
ON Starting Out
Q: If you had a young sister or a daughter who was a senior in college, anxious about landing her first job or unsure of what she wanted to do, what would your advice be to her?
A: Take a job that meets these two criteria: 1) Will you be working with people that will support you and have a stake in your growth; 2) Will you be able to learn new valuable skills
Q: What simple things in life today bring you joy?
A: Without fail my animals, 2 cats and 2 dogs, can always put a smile on my face.
ON Self Care
Q: Online calendars, emailing ourselves, post-it notes… I’m still struggling to find the best way to manage my time and to do list? What’s your method?
A: My method is somewhat all over the place as well. I have a shared Google calendar for my household and personal appointments and I use outlook for my work calendar. I have two cell phones (unfortunately) as well to keep my personal and work communications separate. I also have a daily calendar/journal book and I start my day with a “to do” list and add to it throughout the day. The bottom of the page is reserved for my personal items and the right hand side acts as my call log. All of my conversation and meeting notes and other thoughts are then recorded by day to enable quick referencing later. I find satisfaction in checking off items on the list – I guess I’m old school in that way.
In 2012 I’m trying to set a new goal: technology-free Sundays (including the phone!). I really feel we have yet to know the complete effects of being bombarded with so many forms of communications every day – instant message, multiple email accounts, social networking, texting and phone calls – it’s just way too much and our minds need a rest.
ON Giving Back
Q: Can you share with us an experience of giving that was extremely rewarding or transformational?
A: Adopting an animal from a shelter is probably one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. When it comes to animals and the myriad of ethical issues our society faces, it’s one of the last big social problems that I feel most people just aren’t educated about. It’s a tough and sad reality and because of the lack of education, they don’t want to know. Four million cats and dogs (about one every 8 seconds) are euthanized every year. The day I walked in, my local shelter had over 200 dogs waiting for adoption. Willa, my little terrier mix, got lucky that day and she’s honestly one of the best dogs anyone could have. There are so many misconceptions about shelter animals and it’s definitely something I try to raise awareness about whenever I can.
Q: What place in the world has the most sentimental value to you and why?
A: Chicago is the place I will always call home. It’s where my roots are and where my entire family lives. If it weren’t for the weather I would definitely be there. It’s such a gorgeous city and the people totally live up to the stereotype—they really are nicer there.
Q: If you love to cook, can you share a favorite recipe?
A: I love to cook! It’s definitely an official hobby. No matter how tired I am, I cook every night after work. This is also forced by the fact that I receive an organic vegetable box at my house from a local farm every two weeks and I need to eat it before it’s too late.
I still love good Midwestern/Chicago comfort food though and here is a favorite party recipe. I guarantee it will be gone almost as soon as you put it out.
Hot Chili Party Dip
2 cans of Hormel Chili
Any type will do – I use the vegetarian chili
2 bricks of cream cheese
8 – 10 ounces of shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
In a 9×13 glass dish spread cream cheese evenly on the bottom. Next, spread chili and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.