Norma Salamy took several years away from her career to grow her family. Little did she know, she’d return to her career in a role that’s let her passion for leadership shine through at a company that’s evolving every day. Now Midwest Sales Operations Manager at NCC Media, Salamy has built teams from the ground up, managed people who are older than her, managed teams across four states and learned a lot about the ever-changing cable business.
Still, for Salamy, the principles of good leadership are the same, whether you manage three people or 300: empathy, an appreciation for diversity and a genuine care for your team members.
We spoke to Salamy about her advice for successful onboarding (arguably one of the most stressful parts of leadership), team development and getting the results you need out of every team member. Then, she shared her best advice for women who are considering a new role or returning to the workforce after a break. Hint: dream big.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I’ve been in my current role for five years, but it still feels new to me. Before joining NCC Media, I worked on the agency side. It’s where I spent most of my career — until I had children. I decided to take a break from the workplace until my children, who are now eight and nine, were ready to go to school. When it was time to go back to work, I wanted to continue my career somewhere that would keep me close to my family; I traveled a lot when I was on the agency side.
How did you hear about NCC?
While at my last agency, I worked in the automotive category, and NCC was one of my partner companies. I had many points of contact, so I was quite familiar with the Company. But even better, they remembered me.
One day, I got a call from a VP who offered me a role in Finance, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. Thankfully, I was later approached with a Sales Operations job. Did I know much about Sales Operations at the time? No. It was definitely a career change for me. The great part was that I had experience managing a team and was able to use those skills quickly. I believe in molding and growing employees who work for me. I love teaching people.
Tell us a bit about your job. What are your priorities at work?
I oversee sales coordinators in Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis and Detroit. One of my main priorities is making sure that our coordinators understand what’s needed and can balance their workload. My motto is: “If you think you can do it faster, there’s probably an easier way to do it.” So, I’m always thinking about how I can help them best execute their work. I make sure to motivate our team and coach them as they progress in the role of a sales coordinator.
What about this company stood out to you and made you want to join?
I was excited about the opportunity to work in and understand the sales side of the TV industry. NCC Media is an industry innovator so I found that appealing too. I loved the idea of being a part of a company that is continuously evolving and that provides continuous learning and growth.
When I joined NCC Media, we were helping brands connect with consumers who watched TV. But today, you can watch TV everywhere, so we’ve evolved to help brands find their audiences. I think that’s exciting and can’t wait for what’s next.
Tell me a bit about your first day (or week). What made you feel comfortable?
Chicago is notorious for its bad weather and my first day happened to be within the first week of the year. Not so coincidentally, it was also the first day of an ice storm. So, my first day turned out to be a work from home day. A lot was going on that first week and that meant jumping in with both feet. The great part is that I already had relationships with people at the company and that made it feel relatively easy to acclimate.
What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?
It’s always coffee first, then I walk around to greet my team and I start plugging into our work. Ninety-nine percent of the time, there are issues to manage. I repeat this exercise at the end of the day, because I want to make sure we’ve addressed any open issues and my team has confidently and thoroughly addressed them.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
Never forget where you come from in terms of your career. It impacts how you lead. You have to remember how it felt to have your first job out of school so you’re able to empathize with the people you lead.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about climbing the career ladder?
When I was younger, I managed people who were older than me. It wasn’t always a pleasant or comfortable experience. I often felt I had to prove myself, so they’d change whatever perception they had of me. What I came to realize is that your work will speak for itself, and even if someone doesn’t appreciate you, you have to set that aside and continue doing your job.
What advice would you give to other women interested in making a major career change?
Do not be afraid of change. Take the new assignment, move to a different country, go for the job you think you’re unqualified for. I come from a very strict upbringing, but I’ve always pushed boundaries. Everybody has an opinion, but your opinion matters the most. You have to be assertive. Just do it.
While at this company, you’ve built a team that you’re now leading. How did you approach this?
Being the oldest child taught me at a young age to be a leader and make the right choices for those that look up to you. I use this philosophy at work and with my team. They learn by doing, not watching. Gaining their trust is key for long-term success.
While building this team, what did you learn that surprised you most?
One of the things I’m most proud of is really cultivating my team so that they move on to other roles within the company. It’s my job to help grow their career, and employees trust that by being on my team, they have a future at our company.
How do you get your team to behave in the same way?
I delegate and push. Sometimes my team’s not comfortable completing tasks, but through encouragement and support, they start to recognize their strengths.
What do you believe is the no. 1 thing managers must do when onboarding new employees?
First, make them feel comfortable and confident, so that they can be themselves. Also, generate enthusiasm.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the people I work with and I think it’s essential to have a diverse team. Each person brings something different to the table — whether they’re math-savvy or people-savvy. I couldn’t imagine having a homogeneous team.
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