Carleton College – B.A.
Harvard University – M.B.A.
The next time you’re watching something news-based on a particular TV channel, don’t think for a minute that you won't see that content somewhere else. Licensing and distribution is a growing division for many outlets, especially Bloomberg Media Group. Susan Vobejda has responsibility for all third party agreements involving Bloomberg media content—from news to photography to TV to video.
Susan’s role is an important one, since it focuses on the growth and monetization of content. This year, Susan's team closed a number of big deals for the company, including a joint venture to launch the first business television channel available in HD throughout Mexico and Central America.
What’s more, Susan’s resume has quite the roster: global head of marketing and business development at Bloomberg Digital, vice president of marketing for Yahoo! HotJobs and Yahoo! Small Business, senior brand marketing positions at GAP and Walmart.com and Leo Burnett.
One more thing we love about Susan? Her moxie. At 28 years old, she applied to business school, just to see if she could get in. She ended up with a fellowship from Carleton to attend the prestigious Harvard Business School.
Being a leader is not about you. It’s about the people that are on your team and how you can help them be successful.
Your role was created for you by Bloomberg executives. How did that develop?
Publishers around the world come to Bloomberg for our high quality news and information, and we’re very well known for our expertise in reporting on finance and business. Because of this, there are hundreds of companies we work with who license our content. A couple of years ago, those deals were scattered around the company among different groups. In 2012, our executive management decided to consolidate that responsibility and they asked me to lead it.
What are your key responsibilities in this position?
I’m the general manager of global content licensing and Americas television distribution. What this means is I have a full profit and loss responsibility for this business and I manage a global team of about 60. Our group works with hundreds of publishers and non-traditional media companies around the world—ranging from newspapers to web portals to retail locations to cable operators.
The variety of work we do and the range of partners we work with is what makes my job so interesting. An example of this is a deal we just did with JP Morgan Chase to stream live Bloomberg TV into their Private Client branches. We also work with emerging media, including several mobile partners.
What are three skills necessary to your role in media licensing and distribution?
The first thing I do is very clearly define our strategy. What are our goals and what are we trying to accomplish? When our goals are defined, it’s my job to make them very clear for our team and to help everyone stay on point and prioritize work based on what we’re trying to do as a group.
Second, I think it’s very important to organize and create an operating structure for success. This operating structure includes who’s in what job, clarity of roles across the organization, definition of the processes and clarity on meetings and their frequency, so we can work effectively as a group. Getting that right is critical.
Finally, learning to identify the best people for each role is a vital skill. This is a skill that’s talked about a lot, but is very rarely done. I have worked to make this a priority from Day 1 and to make sure I have the best people possible in my organization.
What is the Bloomberg culture like?
One of the fun things about Bloomberg is it’s such a unique culture. It’s extremely fast moving and collaborative. It’s really a culture where if someone needs you to answer a question or give an approval, you respond. And you respond quickly. It’s understood here that you help each other move fast. You don’t want people waiting on you and you do the work quickly—together. Also, the face of the organization is very open. Our desks are set up kind of like a trading floor. That way we can grab people quickly and really interact with others. Bloomberg has more than 15,000 employees, but the open environment of the company is very similar to a tech startup.
One piece of advice often shared on I Want Her Job is "stay close to a company's revenue stream." With that in mind, how does your area of expertise help support the bottom line at Bloomberg?
Personally, I really enjoy being as close to the revenue stream as possible. I love being on the front lines, and it’s exciting when you’re working on a piece of business and it starts to really take off.
In my current role, we’re innovating the types of partnerships and how Bloomberg content is seen around the world. For example, we just signed an agreement with El Financiero to create a Spanish-language television channel in Mexico and Central America that will expand Bloomberg's presence in very important markets for the company. Expanding our brand around the world is something I’m very focused on.
You've worked for some incredible companies focusing on various industries, from Gap and Walmart to Yahoo. What is one underlying strategy you learned at those companies that help you in your position with Bloomberg today?
I’ve been so lucky to learn how to run a business from watching some of the best in the world. What I’ve learned is it’s important to have clear goals, organizational structures and a process for working. It’s important to think: What are the meetings about? What are the touch points? What is everyone working toward that supports outstanding work?
I’ve learned from the best—like Jeanne Jackson, who I worked for at Banana Republic and walmart.com, and who is now at Nike. Watching Jeanne manage a team has been extremely influential on my leadership style.
You’ve worked with some incredible people, but would you say you’ve also had a mentor along the way? If so, what is a piece of advice shared by him or her that you still value and practice today?
I would say I have more of a personal board of directors and I’ve added to that group of advisors over time. It’s so important to seek advice. And I will go about that formally, asking someone if they can mentor me. People have responded very positively when I ask them.
I have a broad background. I’ve done a lot of different things in my career because I tend to focus on what’s interesting to me and where I can make an impact. My mentors have advised me to follow the path of what matters to me instead of focusing more on the next title. It’s about putting yourself in a situation where you can learn the most.
I also tend to turn to my personal board of directors when I’m thinking about changing jobs—especially when negotiating an offer. I have not hesitated to ask for help or guidance from others about that, so I make sure that I understand fully how to approach a negotiation.
What advice do you have for our readers on honing their leadership skills?
Being a leader is not about you. It’s about the people that are on your team and how you can help them be successful. So much of that is putting the context in place for your team and focusing on: what’s your mission, what are your goals, what’s your role in achieving them, and what are we expecting you to contribute?
I’m a very big proponent of informal feedback—making sure people know when they’re doing a good job and when there’s an opportunity for them to improve their performance.
What are three things you look for when making a hire?
I tend to gravitate toward people who have an understanding and a passion for our business, as well as for financial news and information in general. It’s important they feel connected to what we’re doing and demonstrate that while interviewing.
I interviewed someone recently and asked this person why she was interested in working for Bloomberg. In her answer, she focused on what she didn’t like about her current role … I didn’t hire that person. I’m looking for someone who’s positive in general about the work at hand.
Is work/life balance an issue for you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you've found to create equilibrium?
We’re so busy and connected 24/7 now, that balancing work and our personal lives is an issue for everyone. I really make sure to spend time on my health and wellness. One thing I do every day is walk to work through Central Park. To be in a green environment before I start work and at the end of the day helps clear my mind.
What is something we might be surprised to learn about you?
I’m obsessed with learning golf right now. It’s very addicting. A few years ago, I joined a golf and tennis club near New York City and started playing golf there. I just really enjoy it. It’s a very challenging sport, but if you hit one fantastic golf swing every round, then you want to come back for more. It also strikes me that again it’s an activity that’s outdoors in a green environment, which I love.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
One thing I’ve learned is you never know what’s going to happen. I really try to focus on taking things one day at a time, on doing work that’s interesting and on building teams that are doing really great work. I’m really focused on doing my best work and on being as good of a leader as I can—having as much fun as possible along the way.