Welcome to another installment of “Behind the Click.” I am particularly excited to profile someone I recently had the opportunity to share a panel discussion with at the annual Minority Media Telecommunications Council in Washington, D.C.: Brigitte Daniel, the executive VP of Wilco Electronic Systems, an African-American-owned private cable operator. We recently caught up in Philadelphia for brunch not long after the panel. Here’s a peek at part of our conversation…
Lauren deLisa Coleman: Brigitte, where did you do your undergraduate and graduate work?
Brigitte Daniel: I attended Spelman College in Atlanta [and] Georgetown University Law School in Washington D.C. I loved both of my experiences at these schools. Spelman provided me with a wonderful foundation for womanhood, scholarship and character. Georgetown provided me with the professional skill set to have a career in the fields of law and business.
LdC: Talk about your transition from school into the “family business.”
BD: I am the daughter of one of the last remaining African-American-owned private cable operators in the nation. In 1977, the year of my birth, my father started his company with $4,000, a vocational education, a strong work ethic and a good head for business. He is affectionately known as Philadelphia’s “last man standing” within the cable industry. The significance of a company like Wilco meant little to me when I was younger. At the time, I thought the cable industry was uninteresting, uncreative and simply a way of watching television. It wasn’t until I grew older that I realized the historical importance of being in an industry that determines how people communicate now and for generations to come; the sacrifices made in order to stay in business for over 30 years; and the community significance of legacy building and passing on businesses to subsequent generations.
Thus, I found myself taking up the challenges of the communications industry, just as my father did 33 years before. By the time I was 21, I was vigorously pursuing communications law and the art of business practices within the telecommunications industry. The industry I once found uninteresting and mundane now held my every interest and dramatically sparked my ambitions. The transition from lawyer to communications “business woman” has been a steep learning curve. But I wake up every day inspired that my family supports my leadership and I look forward to continuing our legacy and leveraging this unique family business.
LdC: What’s a typical day at your office?
BD: I am now taking over most of the principal roles that were held by my father. To make sure my head is ready for any day, I usually start out with a good 6 a.m. five-mile run or class at my gym. By 8:30 a.m., I am usually meeting with my senior executives to go over the status of the departments. Throughout the day, I am in meetings.
LdC: As digital converges more and more with cable content delivery, what are the difficulties for Wilco?
BD: When I came to Wilco, the cable world had undergone a new technological revolution. From the proliferation of computers and increased access speeds, to the convergence of images, sounds and texts into various digital platforms now deployed over new fiber optic networks, I realized quickly that our longstanding family business either had to grow or go. I found myself faced with the challenges of transitioning Wilco from a cable company to a technology company.
The difficulty in staying relevant and up to pace with industry technologies is an every day battle. However, I will say that this new Information Age has allowed for lower barriers of entry into markets and opportunities for our company to create new lines of business. With the influx of mobile applications and affordable emerging technologies, many new doors have opened for us to chart new paths in cable, content delivery and broadband access.