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Women of Tech 2016 | April Smith: A Passion for Learning

As a participant in Cox’s LEAD program, April Smith gets an opportunity to rotate within the company to learn and contribute to a variety of initiatives in the role of project manager.

That’s a great fit for an industry up-and-comer with an insatiable passion for learning and for the technologies that are driving cable forward, including TV Everywhere to the new multi-Gigabit DOCSIS 3.1 platform.

She is also active with industry organizations, including the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications and Women in Cable & Telecommunications chapters in Atlanta.

Smith’s ability to learn and excel in a job that requires discipline, desire and a go-get-’em attitude, while engaging with the larger industry and still living a dynamic life outside of work make her Multichannel News’s pick for Tech Woman of the Year in the Rising Star category.

More WoT: Smith is one of five execs selected for MCN's 2016 Women of Tech list; read profiles of eachat

MCN: What sparked your interest in the cable industry? 

April Smith: I knew I wanted to be in the TV industry in some shape or form, I just didn’t know in what capacity. Prior to starting college, I felt there was a lack of representation of African-Americans on TV, and I wanted to be part of the conversation to encourage more diversity on screen. 

I majored in Arts, Entertainment and Media Management with a minor in Television. My goal was to become a leader who influences key business decisions. I knew revenue would be a key driver, so I started working in advertising sales for HGTV and DIY networks.

MCN: What are your current priorities at Cox? 

AS: I just wrapped up one of my first project rotations, working on TV Everywhere for Cox video customers. I recently launched a major enhancement to the company’s new Contour app.  For the first time, Cox’s customers have the opportunity to watch linear programs outside of the home directly via the Contour app, available across Cox’s entire video subscriber base [estimated at 4 million].

I’ve just started a new rotation as a project manager in customer operations. I am serving on two Cox initiatives. The first is the Cox telephony initiative, which requires migrating 400,000 Cox voice customers from CS [circuit-switched] to PS [packet-switched] technology by the end of 2018; the goal is to ultimately migrate customers to an enhanced digital offering and provide a better service to our customers. 

The second project is a network-transformation initiative, DOCSIS 3.1. I’m looking at this project from the customer operations perspective. [I’m focused] on how this transformation will impact our sales, field services, customer care and marketing divisions and how we ensure all of these groups are aligned as we move forward with this initiative. 

MCN: Do you have any advice for women who are trying to break into this industry? 

AS: Be comfortable being uncomfortable. There are so many complexities to technology. Everyone is learning at the same time.

If you're in a business or an area you know really well — say, if you're in marketing — you know marketing in and out. But when it comes to technology, there are new devices that are coming out, new offerings, new regulations and laws. You have to continually learn and be up to speed...and be able to share [those learnings] with executives or someone on your team to help them understand it from a simplistic point of view. 

MCN:Are there any mentors you'd want to recognize that have helped you in your career? 

AS: There is one, in particular, Jennifer Dorian [currently general manager for Turner Classic Movies]. She really gave me a sense of what it means to be a female leader, being a mentor and guiding decisions. She’s someone who has inspired me from a business perspective. 

From the technology perspective, it’s Elizabeth Coffey [senior director, OSS/video portfolio delivery at Cox]. She’s someone who’s supporting me in my efforts and my interest in technology. Technology can be so tough … and there is a very small percentage of women who stay in the technology industry. To stay engaged in the industry, you have to find mentors that will help you and guide you along the way. 

MCN: What do you like to do outside of work? 

AS: I really enjoy playing flag football. It gives me that competitive spirit and it’s a great outlet. 

MCN: Favorite book? 

AS: I like Success Through Stillness by Russell Simmons. I like to meditate and his book is all about the value of meditation and self-awareness. A history book I really like is The Warmth Of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. 

MCN :Favorite movie? 

AS: One I can watch a thousand times is called Brown Sugar … It's about the history of hip-hop, integrated with a really good love story. 

MCN: What's your favorite app or gizmo these days? 

AS: My favorite app has to be the new Contour app … since I helped launch it. [Laughs.] There's no other app to think about right now.