Looking back at my professional experiences, the best career advice that I can offer is to be a sponge, always absorbing knowledge. Learn from anyone and everyone around you. Keen observation is key. Watching how successful people whom you admire conduct themselves in the workplace and how they handle various situations and overcome challenges provides lessons well-learned.
One area that stands out based on my experience is being mindful of how people treat others. I could never understand some senior executives who were prima donnas and threw their weight around. Yet others in leadership positions had respect and appreciation for rank-and-file employees, who jumped through hoops for them, increasing the productivity and cohesion of the company. It’s a truism that you reap what you sow in the workplace and in life.
My first job was as a waitress in a coffee shop when I was 16. I learned how to deal with different types of people while exercising patience and tolerance. I never considered waitressing long term. At that time, it was something available for young girls entering the working world at that age. I ended up in the fast-paced world of magazine publishing in New York City during its heyday, and, while it was a very different environment from that coffee shop, I certainly had to have plenty of patience and tolerance.

Although I think I did pretty well learning my craft, I do wish I listened more closely to the advice of my older, more experienced colleagues. There’s always room for further growth and learning.
My all-time most admired mentor was a man by the name of Carl Portale. He was a publisher for many titles over the years, including Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, European Travel & Life, Mirabella, Good Housekeeping, The Book: Neiman Marcus magazine, Town & Country, and Glam, to name a few. I met him when I worked at Colonial Homes magazine, where he was the advertising director. We worked very closely together creating magazine layouts and placing ads. What I most admired about him is that he was fair with his sales staff. Everyone wants the first 10 right-hand pages in the issue and, of course, it was impossible for everyone to get those spots. He didn’t play favorites. After our stint at Colonial Homes, Carl and I worked together at European Travel, a start-up title to which he brought me along, and Life. What a ride! I stayed in touch with Carl, who sadly passed away in 2016.

I had a few assistants over the years, and, following Carl’s lead, I never placed myself above them. We worked together. I’m still close with each of them, and, although we don’t see each other as much, we can pick up where we left off even after years of not seeing each other.


When I started working in the publishing field in 1979, it truly was a man’s world. Almost all the publishers and editors were men, and unfortunately there was a rampant lack of respect for women. Through observation and my own experience, I learned to persevere and ignore bad behavior. I never minded the off-color jokes, but I did mind the ogling and inappropriate staring that would happen, especially after male executives returned from a long lunch—often three hours long, with many cocktails—staggering back to their offices. Heavy drinking was a normalized part of the culture, and women weren’t as respected at that time as they are today.
While sexism in the workplace is certainly still a problem today, progress has been made since that era. I can only speak for IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants), as I’ve been out of the publishing world now for more than seven years, but I don’t see it here at all. Everyone is respectful, mindful, and cognizant of others. I believe it’s due to our culture at IMA and the training and continuing professional education that we receive from time to time.
Despite such maddening challenges, I was fortunate to work with many of the best publishing companies—Penske Media Corporation, Fairchild Fashion Media, Condé Nast, and Dowden Health Media. I started out as a receptionist, became an editorial assistant, and was subsequently asked to work in production. Admittedly, I didn’t really know what that was at the time that I was moved over to that department, but I soon learned that it’s the processes that go into the manufacturing of a magazine from the time that the editing is complete to when each issue hits the printing press. Early on, I went along for the ride and learned about printing presses, ink rotation, paper stock, etc. It was on-the-job training for me in a fast-paced environment, and I loved it from day one. I eventually became a production manager, and I never looked back, nor did I regret it.


Coming to IMA in 2016 was a new learning experience for me, as the administrative role that I took on for our governance team was so different from my previous roles. I’m still learning, which keeps me interested and engaged in my job.
At IMA, although I’m not working on Strategic Finance, my role in organizational partnerships is very similar to working in publishing in some ways because I have deadlines to meet, advertising materials to distribute, and schedules to keep. It’s in my blood, so for the most part it was an easy transition. Even on the volunteer relations and engagement side, my role lends itself to overseeing the schedules and deadlines for our members who volunteer to serve on the IMA Global Board or a committee to submit compliance forms. I’m the ultimate pain when it comes to hounding people regarding deadlines, but it’s part of the job, and I always remain courteous.
I worked for many publishing companies, but IMA is my only experience with a not-for-profit. A nonprofit is always changing, and your role is always evolving. You have to jump in wherever you’re needed and take on new tasks, whereas at most for-profit companies, you’re more likely to have a dedicated fixed role—at least, that was my experience working in production roles at publishing companies. In either case, you need to do your job to the best of your ability, and flexibility is a virtue.
My previous advice bears repeating: Be a sponge. Take advice and learn from others around you who are more experienced than yourself. As important as getting a good education is, you can’t assume that you’ve learned what you need to know to achieve professional success until you have on-the-job experience. It sounds cliché, but don’t let anyone or anything get you down. Believe in yourself and stick with it, and you will succeed eventually.

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