Our relationship started well before I became executive vice president of NCTA. I was Barbara York’s first convention chairperson, now more than 25 years ago. I’d been named chair of the convention and Barbara Creech left the association and Barbara York came in. I was a little bit of a mentor to her back then, and we became very close.
I knew nothing about how to plan a convention and she knew nothing about the cable industry. She needed to get up to speed to put the convention together, particularly the panels. I casually used the term “head-end” and she had no idea what I was talking about, so it occurred to me that she needed a primer on cable. I needed one on how to put a convention together. We were perfect for each other, and in the process became very, very close friends, and we always kept our relationship up.
In fact, I was on the convention committee for many, many years afterwards, so I continued to work with her from the time I met her many years ago.
She is absolutely brilliant and she’s a very thoughtful person and gets things done in a very quiet way.
The NCTA Cable Show was much smaller than it is now, and Barbara has changed the show to keep pace with how the industry has changed and showcase its selling points because it’s the industry’s largest vehicle for reaching Wall Street, Capitol Hill and national media.
A few years ago, she started putting together the Broadband Home of the Future, and how that technology impacts the home. She’s been very astute in figuring out where the industry is and where it’s going, and then highlighting those things. She’s good at doing that in putting panels together; she picks the right people who have different points of view so it’s an interesting conversation. She also targets the messages in the way the panels are put together. She picks the topics, and they tend to reflect the industry, its strengths, where it’s going and how it’s competitive with other industries.
I believe she’s done more to highlight the cable industry and its achievements, through the show, and she does it all without wanting to be in the limelight at all.
Barbara attracts some real visionaries and leaders in the industry who don’t always want to sit down in a panel. You can try to say no to Barbara — if you don’t mind failure. She’s had Bill Gates on the panel and he’s a very busy young man; certainly the heads of the cable organization; and people from outside the industry, like Paul Allen, who may have a partnership with the industry and have a different view than our die-hard cable TV executive.
No matter what, Barbara will not settle for second-best. It has to be excellent. She does it all in a quiet, unassuming way.
She’s also done bunches of stuff that never get recognized. She takes care of the board meetings, all the logistics of all the meetings. She managed the building of the new NCTA headquarters in Washington, which is another showcase building that is there partly so congressional staff can see our technology in action. It’s extraordinary how she did it.
I know she loved the CableACEs, the national and local programming competition, and she managed that entire competition, which was a huge logistical feat, and put the TV shows together.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever known anyone who works harder. She’s very organized and can juggle several dozen things.
One of the things that I love most about her is that she’s ethical and has great integrity and a great sense of humor.
We also both love food and cooking. After the first time I ever had dinner with her, all those years ago, the next time we got together, she remembered that I liked Italian food and preferred red wine. If she gets together with someone only once, she remembers what he or she likes and will point him to the right restaurant, even down to the right ambience. She’s unbelievable when it comes down to that detail and caring about people. She’s shared that with me over the years. When I lived in Washington, D.C., we cooked together. She’s a wonderful cook. She’s been known to put together 10-course Chinese dinners complete with printed menus. I cook for her with great trepidation.
June Travis was NCTA executive VP from 1994-99.