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Women of Tech 2015: Theresa Hennesy

Everybody multitasks. Few multitask the technological gamut that is the Engineering & Platform Services group at Comcast. As senior vice president and group technical adviser, Hennesy is a masterclass team builder, connecting the cross-departmental teams that get stuff done — and that, in part, is why the editors of Multichannel News have named her as the 2015 Woman of Technology in the MSO/national category.

One moment, she’s aligning the people in the company’s advanced advertising plan, including the many ad platform acquisitions Comcast made this year. The next, she’s connecting the workflows within Energy2020, an industry-wide sustainability target. And, as a third-year mentor to an all-girls FIRST Robotics team, the Firebirds, Hennesy is a life force when it comes to attracting more young women to roles in technology. Categorically, Hennesy is an indefatigable sponsor of women in tech, of all ages. 

MCN: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Theresa Hennessy: I thought I’d be doing something in athletics and sports. Then, when I got into it, I didn’t like it at all! I realized that what I liked about sports is working in teams.

I also loved physics — I majored in it in college. I didn’t necessarily want to be a physicist, but, I appreciated how physics explains things at a very high conceptual level. I still do. That physics background often helps me to think strategically about ecosystems, dependencies and interoperabilities.

MCN: First job in tech?

TH: Software clerk at MCI, which meant I did the programming into the voice switches that allowed calls to be processed. I knew just about every area code around — give me your phone number, I could tell you where you lived, just about.

MCN: What’s the big thing in tech for your organization in 2016?

TH: It’s the continued evolution of everything hardware to everything software. Programmable networks, programmable data feeds, programmable apps. Everything programmable.

MCN: Where and when are you happiest?

TH: At home with my family and friends, hosting a gathering.

MCN: Favorite geek-out tech term(s)?

TH: The “Firm Order Commitment.” It’s abbreviated “FOC,” and telecom people tend to say it as a word. I’ll never forget the first moment I realized that it wasn’t exactly a mainstream acronym when I said it aloud — and with gusto — in a room full of lawyers and regulatory people. “We were FOC’d!” Whoops!

MCN: What tech term drives you batty?

TH: “It’s up!” Uh, OK, the green lights are on, but is it doing what it’s supposed to be doing? Sometimes just because it’s on doesn’t mean it isn’t a roach motel — packets come in, but they don’t come out!

MCN: Most important quality for women of tech to have?

TH: Persistence and confidence, together. Persistence, to follow through on ideas you know to be the right business solutions. Confidence, for when you don’t know how exactly to do it, but you know how to get the right people together to make it happen.

MCN: Favorite book of all time?

TH: The Glass Castle. It’s the memoir of Jeannette Walls. Just an incredibly inspiring story about overcoming adversities using street smarts, creativity, and self confidence.

MCN: Best advice you ever received?

TH: Make your own choices; don’t let your business make choices for you. You always have a choice. A choice to say yes, no, stop, go. You don’t always have to stay with what you know.

Back in high school, I was one of two girls who bucked the status quo — we signed up for shop instead of home ec. We already knew how to cook and sew! We wanted to build stuff. My sister still has this crazy, three-tier, ornate shelf I made.

MCN: Favorite gadget/app?

TH: My husband and I spend a lot of windshield time driving up and down I-95, so, this is easy: The WAZE app. We use it all the time, to navigate around traffic and accidents. It’s a collection of drivers entering real time information — collaboration for the benefit of all.