Still Learning, Still Teaching

Ann Montgomery, regional senior vice president for Comcast Cable, has a big job. She heads the Southwest region, which comprises the company's cable systems in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California and represents more than 1.4 million cable customers. That's a lot of territory, and it keeps her very busy. "Thank goodness," she says, "my dog can go long hours without having to be let outside."

Thank goodness, too, Montgomery, who is receiving this year's Vanguard Award in the Cable Operations Management category, is passionate about her job. She sees herself as a "a catalyst for connecting people: collaborating with our customers to meet their needs, collaborating with our employees, coordinating solutions, delivering results, and having four teams of people doing it together."

Her philosophy is that "all success is based on how people work together." Montgomery believes in "teaching people to fish, as opposed to giving them a fish;" you let them learn to think on their own rather than just telling them what to do. You want to explore the options with your people, allow them to take risks, she says, "and support them in their failures as well as in their successes."

Montgomery sees herself as more than a manager. "I'm adamant about positive reinforcement and educating and teaching people. I really think my role as a leader is more one of an educator [who is] establishing a sense of urgency and culture but [is] really an educator of others."

She's proudest of the people she has worked with over the years, "of the flexibility of our front-line employees and others across the industry and what they've contributed to the technology developments, new products, new lineups."

It's exciting, she adds, to see "the change that occurs around us and to watch people be able to grow and develop into leadership roles and help navigate that landscape." She offers the example of a former administrative assistant who worked for her 14 years ago and is "now leading a whole section of Comcast video-delivery processes." It pleases her to see "people grow and develop in the industry … it's such fertile ground for entrepreneurs and people with passion."

She proud of her industry, too: "The products and services we have are so much more complex today, and there are new products and services coming out all the time riding on broadband. I think we have formidable competitors in each of our lines of business both as a company and as an industry.

"We operate under some unfair regulatory conditions," she adds. "As our product continues to evolve to VOD and new elements of products that our competition can't offer, I think we'll get better and better. Customer service and differentiation in service are going to be key in getting and maintaining subscribers in our extremely competitive environment."

Before joining Comcast in 2002, Montgomery worked for Adelphia Communications Corp. as senior vice president of operations.

Prior to that, she was executive vice president of fulfillment services and operations
for AT&T Broadband and its predecessor company, Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI). There, she oversaw customer care and field operations as senior vice president of customer operations and vice president of customer billing systems.

Originally from Louisville, Ky., the 42-year-old Montgomery began her cable career as a conversion consultant for American Express Cable Services Group, "going around the country converting cable offices from index cards into a computerized billing system. I learned so much about cable," she says, "from dispatch and marketing reports to customer service and order entry. It was a very good foundation for understanding workflow of a cable operation."

Next, she expanded her cable knowledge by working in ad sales, traffic, and billing at Compulink. When she joined TCI as office manager in Boulder, Colo., she gained experience in customer service and care and was promoted to a leadership position in customer service, training, and call-center management for the Denver Metroplex region.

In addition to her operational responsibilities at Comcast, she is involved in a number of industry organizations, including her second year as chair of the Women in Cable and Telecommunications Foundation's board of trustees.

Montgomery has served on the executive committee of the board of directors of the Texas Cable and Telecommunications Association, has participated in National Cable & Telecommunications Association committees on customer care and community service, and is a member of the National Association of Minorities in Communications and the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing.

She's the recipient of several industry awards and honors, including selection to WICT's Betsy Magness Leadership Institute program and her recognition as the organization's 1999 Accolade "Woman to Watch."

Montgomery also received the 2001 Cablevision/WICT "Wonder Woman" honor for her achievements in the industry.

Montgomery has a BS degree in business administration from Regis University in Denver. She is currently attending University of Denver, completing her masters degree in professional leadership with a broadband telecommunications emphasis.

"I started [the advanced degree] a couple of years back when I was living in Denver," she explains, "and now they have an online program. So it's very convenient. It's really for the love of learning and to keep my knowledge abreast of the changes. I want to be able to learn about the theory and then understand how to apply it to our product delivery. I love learning."