HR Executive Spotlight: Mediacom's Italia Commisso Weinand
Commisso Weinand has 41 years of experience
in the cable industry. She has served in
a variety of executive roles at Mediacom
Communications Corporation since 1996 and
currently holds the position of Executive
Vice President of Programming and Human
Resources. Prior to 1996, Italia held various
management positions with Comcast and Time
Warner. Italia presently serves on the board
of directors for The Cable Center, the Emma
Bowen Foundation and CTAM Educational Foundation.
On the heels of being named WICT’s
2018 Woman of the Year, we invited Italia
to share insight into her core values, career
milestones and pioneering leadership throughout
Mediacom’s growth from a small company
to one of the top MSOs in America.
What have been the biggest challenges
in growing Mediacom from less than 20 employees
in 1996 to 4,600 today?
Our biggest challenge was consolidating nearly 700 head ends in 22 states while quickly upgrading our systems to be comparable with the state-of-the-art technology in other metropolitan areas. On the HR side, we needed to meet and, in many cases, exceed expectations in terms of health care and ancillary benefits.
Q. You have responsibility for both programming and HR. What are the synergies between these two areas?
People, people, people.
Q. How does being a family-run company impact the workplace culture at Mediacom?
We always - ALWAYS - believe that treating our employees as family is essential. We treat people like we want to be treated and that has established the culture across our organization.
Q. Fairness is a core value at Mediacom. Can you share some specific examples of how fairness is integrated into your HR practices and policies?
We definitely practice what we preach about fairness. I believe that Mediacom’s open door policy created the foundation for our company’s culture, and we are transparent and truthful when dealing with employees. Every decision we make is with the belief that it serves all - from medical benefits when we are confronted with increased costs to how do we raffle off 20 baseball tickets when you have 400 people who want to attend. We always try to think through the fairest way of approaching everything we do.
Q. How did your prior tenure at Comcast and Time Warner shape your HR vision for Mediacom?
I learned from the best. I learned the key to managing financial expectations, how to get the best out of talent and, most importantly, how to treat and not treat people.
Q. From being named a Cable Pioneer and being inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame, to being WICT’s 2018 Woman of the Year, you have received a lot of well-deserved accolades. What’s been the most meaningful achievement in your career?
When I was informed that I was selected as WICT’s Woman of the Year (Operator), the notice came with a huge bouquet of pink roses. It was a few weeks after my mom’s passing and my best friend’s passing, and I was deluged with condolences flowers, so I did not immediately realize the significance of the flowers.
When I read the note, I realized in that moment that the honor came from all the great ladies who are members of WICT, but also from my two angels - my mom and Joyce - the women who helped me be the woman I am today.
When I was tasked with putting together a video for the awards ceremony, I reached out to some very significant people who touched my cable life and all said that they would like to participate. I believe that it was Abbe Raven who said that “although we are on different sides of the table – she is respected by all sides.” I think that was the most revealing and touching thing to me.
Q. Throughout your career, you have been involved in many industry organizations including The Cable Center, the Emma Bowen Foundation, the CTAM Educational Foundation, Cable Positive and WICT. You’ve also dedicated yourself to causes including Hope Through Care, which provides homeless women and their children with temporary housing and access to supportive services. What has been the driving factor for your involvement in nonprofit organizations?
In my third year at Fordham University my Sociology/Philosophy professor invited (volunteered) me to join a group of ex-Jesuit priests who worked with a community group in the South Bronx. I was forever transformed. So much of what I learned with this inspiring selfless group I use today.
Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced in your career?
I left the industry for six months and quickly realized that I made a mistake. I subsequently had to move to Chicago to find an opportunity. With that move, my world opened up exponentially! I would not change a thing about that experience.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?
“Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are!” -My mom.
“When you start believing in your own press, you are done!” - My husband.
Q. What three pieces of advice do you have for someone who is just starting a career in HR?
1. Be kind.
2. Try not to judge.
3. Sleep on any critical decision and trust your gut.
Also, not taking the job home has been a guiding rule for me.
Q. What do you foresee as the industry’s biggest HR challenge in the next five years?
Hanging on to great talent while controlling compensation costs.