Become an expert, but don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way, says Karen Buchholz, vice president, administration, Comcast Corporation and board member, Pennsylvania Conference for Women. She recently shared a few lessons she’s learned on her own career path. Scroll down to listen to the full interview.
Q: How did your professional career begin, and how did you end up in the role you are in today?
A: I started my career in politics; I worked for U.S. Senator John Heinz from Pennsylvania. I’ve had many jobs, from politics to development of a private club to development of an arena to leading the city and Commonwealth to get a national political convention and then to Comcast. And even at Comcast, I’ve had really two separate careers. I started here first as head of corporate communications and then moved over to a more administrative role for an opportunity to build the company’s headquarters.
Q: Has there been a leader or someone influential in your life or career who really stands out as someone who has been influential in your career?
A: Yes. Actually, there have been several people who have been incredibly influential, helpful and mentors to me throughout my career. But one person I would mention is Ed Rendell, the then Mayor of Philadelphia when he hired me to go after a national political convention, and then he was the Governor of the Commonwealth. He is such a charismatic leader and such a visionary; he can be in a room and convince everyone in that room to get on the bandwagon to accomplish something that no one else thinks is possible, and it’s really extraordinary.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to a new employee to help them succeed?
A: The first piece of advice I would give them is to know your stuff. You really need to be an expert. Once you’re sure you are an expert, and you work collaboratively to get all of that information, then it’s time to network and work through it and get to know as many people in the company as possible. But you have to be an expert first.
Q: What would you say has been the driving force behind your own professional success?
A: I’ve always believed I have to work really, really hard, and I have not been afraid to ask for help along the way. That’s actually critically important, because nobody can do it alone. I’ve been very fortunate, but I’ve also worked very hard for great relationships with people who in turn have helped me. What’s neat about that is when you do succeed and everybody feels like they are part of your success, they want to help you to continue to succeed.
Q: How do you share the experiences you have had and the lessons you’ve learned along the way with your team?
A: I have a very communicative style. I am in constant contact with my team. I am very open. I am very honest. I allow them to do their job, but I do share all of my life lessons. I give them book recommendations that we talk about, so that we are all learning from each other. I learn as much from my team members as I hope they learn from me, but I certainly benefit tremendously from those types of dialogues. I also ask my team to constantly challenge me, so that we all are making the best decisions that we can.
Q: What’s one thing that you make time for that helps keep you positive and focused and refreshed?
A: This is not something I’ve been very good at in my life. When I hit my 40s I realized I needed to do something for me as opposed to always putting myself last on the list. As a matter of fact, I saw Gloria Steinem speak at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women and she said, “reverse the golden rule, treat yourself the way you treat others.” I have to say I took that to heart. So now I really try to make sure that I get some personal time in throughout the week, whether for journaling, whether for yoga, whether for reading something. It really does make a difference.
Interview by Whitney Wilkerson