Cathy Baron Tamraz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Business Wire, oversees the company's long-term strategic planning, Internet strategy and global branding. She serves as chair of Business Wire's executive committee. She also serves on the board of directors of Business Wire's joint-venture company, PYMNTS.com, a "first look" website for the payment industry.
Under her stewardship, the company has grown to be the leading global commercial news wire, significantly expanding into new markets, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and Japan among others.
With a pioneering background in corporate news disclosure, Cathy lead the newswire industry into providing equal access to material news for all market participants in 2000 as the Internet gained commercial traction.
Regulatory authorities, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, have sought her input as they develop and refine disclosure rules. In 2000, Cathy was invited to meet with the SEC as they developed their landmark Regulation FD provisions. In 2008, she presented to the SEC's Advisory Committee (CIFiR) reviewing policies on the use of Internet technologies in the disclosure of market-moving material information.
She joined Business Wire in San Francisco in 1979 and opened the New York office in 1980. Cathy was named head of the company's New York region in 1987 and in 1990 she was named a vice president and appointed to the company's executive committee. In 1994 she was named senior vice president, executive vice president in 1998, chief operating officer in 2000, president in 2003 and CEO in 2005.
Prior to joining Business Wire, Cathy worked in the travel industry in Hawaii. She holds a master's degree from Stony Brook University. She participates in conferences and seminars in the investor relations and public relations industries and has published articles on financial disclosure and new technology.
Cathy was the main architect in selling Business Wire to Berkshire Hathaway. Her November 2005 letter to Warren Buffett detailing the synergies between the two firms resulted in the company being acquired on March 1, 2006.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Although I have two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree, it's my life experience that has shaped me as a leader and made me who I am today. Some might refer to this as "How I Got My Street Smarts."
I've lived and worked in Hawaii, San Francisco and New York and have traveled extensively, so that has given me a broader perspective on people and cultures. By that I mean that we all think differently--my understanding is not necessarily your understanding. We don't always "hear" the same things either, so I try and take that into account in all of my interactions. It never hurts to ensure that everyone is on the same page, so clear communication is key. I have found this broader perspective to be a valuable asset while managing 31 offices around the world. It allows me to listen for patterns, as well as anomalies, that we need to be mindful of as we chart Business Wire's global future.
From my life experience, I have learned that anything can and will happen at any time, so always be prepared to handle whatever may come your way. As the adage goes, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Business Wire?
I've been at Business Wire for 35 years, so that pretty much speaks for itself. I have been fortunate because I have done so many different jobs at Business Wire, and lived and worked through so many different business climates. It feels like I have had about 5 different careers as my roles have changed dramatically during this time period. Prior to Business Wire, my husband and I managed a small hotel in Hawaii and did pretty much everything from reservations, to purchasing, to marketing, to making sure guests were taken care of, etc. That experience was very exciting and taught me how to run a business, something I had never done at age 22.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Business Wire?
I've had several highlights worth mentioning. I believe I was the youngest vice president ever to be named and also appointed to the Board of Directors at Business Wire. Being named CEO was another obvious career highlight. But the biggest standout was writing to Warren Buffett about Berkshire Hathaway acquiring Business Wire, and having Mr. Buffett phone me right after he received my letter. I can still remember that day very vividly. The day we closed, March 1, 2006, was such a great day for me and my executive team, because it was a huge testament to the work we had all done to make Business Wire the gold standard newswire, and one that captured the attention of the world's greatest investor. It really does not get better than that. Once the deal had closed, my executive team opened champagne at the same time in our San Francisco and New York offices--it was a very proud and surreal moment. And the entire company received a bonus check to share in our good fortune.
There have been many challenges along the way. 9-11 was one of the most stressful times in my life and career. We had two employees who had meetings at the World Trade Center that morning, so not knowing where they were was extremely concerning. Thankfully, they were both ok. In the aftermath, it took a lot of work to get our network back to normal, so we used backup systems for several weeks. Every day was a challenge during that time. But, as always, we learned and strengthened our network even further. The silver lining on that tragic event was the outpouring of support from around the world and how well New Yorkers came together at that difficult time.
For me, keeping our system up 24-7, 365 days a year is an ongoing challenge, but it is what our clients have come to expect from us. And in today's world, you can add security to the list of challenges, something we focus on every day at Business Wire. As they say, the world has certainly changed amidst this Technology Revolution. As we are a company of "firsts," we work on the "bleeding edge" technologically, so one must possess "Nerves of Steel" in this business.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
My advice to women who want a career in our industry is pretty much the same advice I would give to men: We work in a "crisis du jour" business, so you need to be flexible and able to cope with whatever comes your way. Our is a very serious business as we are handling market moving information, so attention to detail and staying focused at all times is mandatory. Bottom line: you have to love the news and PR/IR business because it is going to take up a lot of your time, intellect and energy. If that is not what you want to do, think about doing something you are passionate about--life is too short.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
The most important lesson I have learned is that things have a way of working out. Related to that, I have also learned to follow my instincts--the answers are usually there.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I think there are ebbs and flows to work/life balance. Sometimes there is no balance, other times it's much more balanced. But we all need to "refresh" ourselves, relax and use different parts of our brain.
For me, that involves tennis, yoga, gardening and just getting outside into nature. I like my quiet time too, watching a movie or reading a great novel.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
It's gotten a lot better for women since I started out in the workforce, but the statistics show that wages are still not equal and I don't think women promote themselves the same way that men do. Perhaps we just were not taught to do that, but, on the flip side, I have seen the confidence in today's working woman rise to a much higher level than it was in the past. Unfortunately, we're still living with some old stereotypes and vestigial thinking, but I choose not to focus on the negative, because it's better to just keep moving forward. As Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've had several mentors in my life and many others that I have observed and learned from. My parents gave me a great upbringing and were hardworking people that believed in me and my siblings. I never felt "restricted" or was told that I could not accomplish something. In business, the founder of Business Wire taught me a lot about how to run a great business and not waste money on the little things. And of course, my current boss, Warren Buffett, has taught me so much, is extremely supportive and really values his managers; I feel extremely fortunate.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Gloria Steinem stands out for me as a female leader that has changed the world, has staying power and is still contributing so much to society. And she seems to be very grounded--I admire all of those qualities.
Hillary Clinton is another standout. As I think about her life and history, is there anything she cannot accomplish? She is a huge contributor and is obviously not done yet.
What do you want Business Wire to accomplish in the next year?
As for Business Wire, we are in our 54th year as a company. I'd like to see us get on that "next wave," have a very successful year and, more than anything, continue to earn our clients' trust. Our industry is an exciting and dynamic space filled with innovative thinkers and companies who are shaking up the status quo. That is the role Business Wire has always played and we will continue to do so. Our past is important and provides us with our foundation, but it's the advances and "first moves" we have made in our industry that continue to keep us on our toes and engaged. At the end of the day, we want to provide more value to our clients and make Business Wire a better company.
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