At a recent NYWICI event, we caught up with Maureen Sullivan, president of AOL.com and lifestyle brands, for an exclusive interview.
The executive was honored with a WiCi Award celebrating career achievements of rising stars in communications.
MediaJobsDaily: Let’s talk about leadership roles and tackling new responsibilites.
Maureen Sullivan: If you have a great advocate and boss and someone who really believes in you and thinks you’re ready for the next challenge, in every phase of your career you don’t necessarily have that person…I’m really lucky for Tim [Armstrong, AOL’s CEO & Chairman].
He created awesome opportunities for me and said, “Do you want to try this? Do you want to go for it?” I don’t know if I was naïve enough or brave enough or didn’t know better enough to say, “Yeah, sure. I’ll take that on.” I think the more you do, then you have to go for it. Things do fall into place.
MJD: So many people don’t like their boss. According to a recent Monster survey, nearly 40 percent of workers rated their boss as downright horrible. So, how do you describe a good boss?
MS: It’s a combination of a good advocate, a good sponsor – someone who knows your strengths and your weaknesses because I think sometimes I think you can have someone who’s great and wants to give you a good opportunity but you can get thrown in the deep end and you’re like, “Ahhhhhh!”
So it needs to be someone who knows you well enough to know what you can really nail and something that maybe you would be in over your head and finding that balance. I’ve been very fortunate. All of my jobs at AOL have been Tim saying to me, “Are you ready for the next challenge?” And answering yes — it’s worked out well.
The biggest decision is who’s your partner in life in your personal life and then who are you working for. You don’t always control that, but that relationship is really important to us in our day-to-day life. You have to choose wisely when you look at the leadership of a company and think, “Are these are the people I want to work for and are they going to help me get to the next level?” If you’re a good leader, you’re thinking about that all the time, too.
MJD: What’s next for AOL?
MS: MAKERS is going to go more global, we have this incredible app and delivering technology to expand new stories. One of the big things across all the lifestyle stuff we’re doing is being more open. [MAKERS is a digital and video storytelling platform aiming to be the largest and most dynamic collection of women’s stories ever assembled. It launched online in 2012 and premiered on-air in 2013 on PBS.]
Meaning, we don’t want to only create content that we make. We want to find a way for more people to really open up our platform and create content. Especially with MAKERS, we meet so many people who are like, “I have a MAKER for you.” And we’re like, “Aahhhh, we wanted to send a camera crew,” but we felt limited by our own production and we feel like there’s no excuse for that. Technology has advanced so much. The answer shouldn’t be, “Okay, when we get the film crew there.”
Go tell that story right now. I think the entire lifestyle industry is going to undergo that transformation. We’re doing it on MAKERS because there are such important stories but that same idea for being open is what’s going to transform most of the media industry.