Throughout her childhood, Kim Norris was an IBMer — in the sense that both of her parents worked for IBM. This helped shape Norris, now executive vice president of emerging business and data analytics for Cablevision Media Sales, in several ways.
For starters, Norris was more tech-savvy than many kids her age. “We spent a lot of time talking about computers in my family,” she said, adding that her brother became an engineer.
The other influence was more subtle, yet no less important. “My parents did a lot of entertaining, so I was exposed to a lot of executives. That helped me — when I grew up, I was never afraid to reach out to senior-level executives. In my job, there have been a lot of instances where I was the only woman in the room, but I didn’t even notice it because I felt comfortable doing my job.”
There’s a third way that Norris’ childhood impacted her professional career, though it’s not IBM-specific.
Her father’s job took him overseas, so she grew up in the Middle East and in Paris. She didn’t live in the United States until college, when she came “home” to attend Boston University.
“It was very formative, going all over the world, and very exciting,” she said. “I saw a lot of different cultures and people. It made me a curious person. It made me pretty openminded and helped me work with diverse teams and to see the value of understanding different people’s opinions. Those are things I use to this day.”
Norris didn’t initially expect to use those skills in cable television. In high school, she wanted to be an anthropologist. “I was fascinated by how people build civilizations and use tools,” she said, pointing to the connection between those interests and her current job, in which she fi gures out how to use technology (simply modern society’s tools) and must also understand what motivates people.
In college, she majored in psychology, which also proved useful.
“I started in ad sales after college, and understanding the human condition was something I used a lot in sales, with customers and in working with teams,” she said.
She also loved analyzing statistics in her psychology classes, a data-oriented approach that indicated she’d be a good fit in her current job.
Her ability to foster teamwork has served her well. “She’s bright, charming and detail-oriented,” Tad Smith, president of Cablevision’s Local Media Group, said. “She has a way of bringing a group to the right answer without it being a big issue. If she were in the House of Representatives, they’d have a 90% approval rating.”
Some of that goes beyond negotiating skills.
“She just has a deep, personal warmth and she is so passionate about her job,” Stephanie Mitchko, senior vice president of interactive platform technology at Cablevision (and a Wonder Woman in 2011), said of Norris.
That first job, back in 1982, was actually with Cablevision.
Norris was planning to go into a traditional management training program, “which everyone did in the ’80s.” But a family friend suggested that cable was an industry with plenty of opportunities and room for growth.
This was early enough in the history of cable that Norris lays claim to being the first account executive to sell cable TV spots in Fairfield County, Conn.
Norris settled down there, in Ridgefield, in 1987. Though she was tempted to take a job overseas when her two children were young (they are now 20 and 17), to help them benefit from the perspectives that she had, she instead put down roots and settled for traveling extensively with them.
She never got restless in Connecticut. But by 2003, when she had risen to senior vice president of ad sales, she was getting fidgety in her job.
So when Comcast called to offer her the chance to build an advertising division for its Northeast television markets after the company bought the former AT&T Broadband, she jumped at the chance.
“It was very decentralized, so there were a lot of general manager responsibilities,” she said. Norris oversaw everything from engineering to operations to human resources in the ad-sales division. “I got to learn new skill sets.”
Once the division was up and running, Norris wanted another challenge, so she left Comcast to become founding president of the Digital Place-based Advertising Association, or DPAA, formerly the Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau.
“It was a valuable experience,” she said, getting immersed in digital media and working with small startups.
In fact, she was beginning to explore job offers to become a CEO or COO of a startup when Cablevision set out to woo her back. “They wanted me to build a new operation focusing on advanced advertising and interactive TV.”
That felt, in the entrepreneurial spirit, almost like a startup, and it played into her interests in technology. She oversees advertising and data strategy, development and deployment, spending a lot of energy on data analytics development that helps brands and advertisers optimize consumers’ engagement and response to advertising on television and other platforms.
“I have as much, if not more, fun talking to the engineers as I do to the sales people,” she said.
“She has the ability to handle technically complex material and explain it in simple, digestible terms,” Smith said.
Mitchko said Norris has a wonderful ability to see things from each department’s perspective: “She loves technology and she knows how to drive an idea through the entire organization to get it implemented.”
Norris said her previous jobs had been more top-down, and now she has to take a more horizontal approach.
“I had to figure out how to work across an organization, working with different groups but a common objective to get something deployed,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot in my two years here.”
TITLE: Executive VP of Emerging Business and Data Analytics, Cablevision Media Sales
CAREER: Started out selling ads for Cablevision Systems in the early 1980s; went to Comcast Spotlight and became a division VP; then joined the Digital Place-based Advertising Association as founding president before returning to Cablevision
QUOTABLE: “I love that I’ve been able to use my analytical skills to reinvent myself in this role. Everything I’ve done has led me to this.”
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Stuart Miller has been writing about television for 30 years since he first joined Variety as a staff writer. He has written about television for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Vulture and numerous other publications.