If you’d told Sandy Grason 10 years ago that she’d be working in telecommunications, she would’ve said “no way.” It was keeping an open mind — both about applying her talents and learning new things — that allowed her to find a dream job she’d never imagined at Spectrum.
An entrepreneur-turned-senior-director, Grason entered the industry looking for the benefits and compensation that would help her support her daughter through college. But she says she’s found so much more.
Her entrepreneurial spirit has never felt stifled at the company despite its large (and growing!) size, which has allowed her to find an environment of growth and a host of absorbing work. Plus, she manages a team of more than 50 unique, hardworking individuals who are full of good ideas and interesting insights. As a former coach, she’s had the unique chance to help these members of her team develop their own careers — a part of leadership she’s incredibly passionate about.
Recently, we sat down with Grason to understand how she made the transition to a leadership role at Spectrum and the strategies that have allowed her to be successful in an industry she had no prior experience in. She also shared the advice that’s guided her career path, how women in technology can stand out as they progress in their own careers and more about what makes Spectrum such a fulfilling place to work.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
Prior to joining Spectrum, I was an entrepreneur and had always been my own boss. I never thought that I’d work at a large corporation, much less in the cable/telecommunications industry. I started out as a consultant but never expected that it would grow into a full-time career. Since becoming a full-time employee of Spectrum my role has expanded and evolved. I’ve been a Senior Director of Video Software Development with Spectrum for about five years now.
Tell me a little about your transition from entrepreneurship to working at a large company?
I like to joke that I used to be a “self-help guru” — but I got sick of myself. My oldest daughter was about to start college, my husband and I were both entrepreneurs and we decided it was time to look for corporate roles in search of a more steady income. I honestly thought I would hate it, but I found that so much of my entrepreneurial endeavors translated to the work I was doing and I really fell in love with the people at Spectrum. This definitely wasn’t part of my “master career plan,” working at a company of this size, but being able to bring my entrepreneurial spirit and energy to my teams and projects has been exciting and keeps me learning. Every day is very interesting. I also have the confidence of knowing that there is a large team backing me up who are extremely knowledgeable and have been doing this work for a very long time. I love being surrounded by smart people who challenge me.
What first got you interested in Software Engineering?
Software development has always been part of my life and my companies. My big dream was to be a published author. I wrote a book called “Journalution” and was initially turned down by over 20 agents. I eventually landed an agent and sold my book to an amazing publisher. However, I quickly learned that most authors make only about $1 per book, so I built a very large business around my book in order to make a living. This included a Web and Digital Media Company, managing multiple software teams to implement design ideas across broad technical and business disciplines as well as designing and leading the implementation of an online portal that combined a robust blogging platform, private community dashboard and online store filled with digital & physical products.
What projects or programs are you currently working on? What about this type of work most excites you?
I run the Cloud DVR team, which is really exciting. We build the technology behind our Cloud DVR scheduler service. I also work with the team that oversees the system designed to protect our customers’ experience if there is ever an outage. Many of my teams build or work on the backend services, which interface with other platforms like Roku and Apple TV.
It’s amazing because these are things I was not familiar with before joining Spectrum. If you had asked me five or six years ago, “Do you want to work in cable?” I would not have told you “that is my dream!” Because I was open to anything and really curious, I landed in a place with great people and a great opportunity. I’m very happy with the way things have worked out. I have the opportunity to grow and learn something new every single day, and this job offers me great benefits and compensation. I couldn’t be happier.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I currently manage about 50 people and consider myself a collaborative leader. I believe in militant transparency and humble leadership. I think one of the reasons I was successful early on at Spectrum was that I didn’t know who anyone was or what their title was. I was focused on the job I was hired to do, which is part of my entrepreneurial nature that never leaves.
I take my work very seriously, but not myself, and I treat everyone with the same respect regardless of their title. Every single person on my team has a voice and we are partners. Good ideas can come from anywhere.
What is your favorite aspect of working at Spectrum?
I am endlessly fascinated with working for a Fortune 100 company. One of the most interesting things about my role is that it’s always changing. When I landed at Spectrum we were a very young software team. For some that probably felt frustrating, but for someone like me who was coming from an ever-changing environment, it excited me. That’s where the real opportunity lies. Opportunity doesn’t show up in a nice little package wrapped with a bow — opportunities usually show up disguised as hard and uncomfortable situations. The real opportunity lies in places where it’s young, new and fresh and everyone is still trying to figure things out.
How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work?
It is very important to me when you are climbing that ladder of success to make sure you are reaching back and lifting others up with you. A huge part of my former business was to mentor, support and encourage other women. I spent almost 10 years of my career speaking to and coaching female entrepreneurs all over the world. I also have two daughters (21 years old and 22 years old) who I want to set an example for.
I don’t believe in competition; I believe in collaboration. We have amazing female leaders in the tech space at Spectrum, which is so exciting to see. I was asked to be a part of Grace Hopper last year (the world’s largest gathering of women technologists) and I was able to bring two female engineers with me from my team. It was so inspiring to be able to expose them to this amazing conference with other women in the industry. To be able to stand in a conference hall that's filled with technologists who are all women was an incredible experience for all of us.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
“'Do what you love and the money will follow’ is really bad advice.” This quote comes from the book Rise: 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life, written by Patty Azzarello. I’ve worked with many, many women who invested so much of their time trying to figure out the perfect career, what they are “supposed to be doing,” what’s their “passion and purpose.” Heck, I spent a big chunk of MY life trying to figure that out. It was such an energy drain. I loved Patty’s advice: Do what you love for free and work for money. Then take that money and spend it on the things you love to do outside of work.
What advice do you have for women in your industry who want to take their career path to the next level?
One thing I love to ask my team to think about is, “What would you do if you were the boss, or what would you do if this was your company?” It is so essential to find your voice and be able to share your thoughts and opinions with your colleagues. Think as if you already are the boss, take ownership and act as if you are the owner of the company. You will immediately get new ideas and a fresh perspective.
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