Inspiring Culture Moms Interview: Tammy Ross from HBO

This week INSPIRING CULTURE MOMS interviews Tammy Ross, Vice President and General Manager, HBO Sports and Pay-Per-View.   

I met Tammy after our daughters bonded in the playground at school where they are both in 1st grade.  A fellow Larchmont resident, Tammy and I had an immediate rapport and I am thrilled to interview her this week and find out more about her fascinating career and how she juggles work as a single mom.

Tammy has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) with Honors from Radford University and a Juris Doctor (JD) from the Bridgeport School of Law.  She started her legal career at HBO and, after a few years as legal counsel in the areas of advertising, marketing and trademark licensing law for Tommy Hilfiger companies, the World Cup USA ’94 and HBO Pay Per View, she hung up her legal hat and took the business helm of HBO Pay Per View as the head of distribution, marketing and public relations. 

Tammy was born in Long Island but as her family moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia when she was 7, she considers herself more a southern girl than a  Long Islander.  Her parents always said she was their “NY child” and that she would end up back here.   While she is divorced, she has an amazing 7 year-old daughter who keeps her laughing, amazed and inspired every day.

Here is what Tammy had to tell the Culture Mom Blog about her career, life balance and, of course, culture.

CultureMomBlog: Can you tell us a little bit about your job at HBO and what you are responsible for there? 

As Vice President and General Manager, HBO Sports and Pay-Per-View, I am responsible for distribution of sports and entertainment programming through the pay-per-view platform; the development and execution of integrated marketing programs (creative, media, publicity and promotions) accompanying such programming; and for the development and implementation of the off-HBO digital media strategy for HBO Sports’ programming. It’s a multi-faceted position, but as HBOPPV is, in a nutshell, a mini advertising, media and promotions agency, we cover a lot of business areas.  

CultureMomBlog: You began your career as a lawyer. What made you decide to enter the foray of television programming?
I guess you could say that television found me as opposed to the other way around.  When I was in law school I took a media and communications law class and fell in love with media and the first Amendment.  I studied under a professor who followed Jerry Falwell during his lawsuit against Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine and I was hooked!  After my second year of school, I applied for 2 jobs for the summer, one with Playboy in Chicago and HBO in New York.  The Playboy job fit right up my alley for First Amendment, but the HBO job was local to where I was living in Connecticut, it won out and I haven’t looked back since.  The summer turned into a part-time legal job during my last year of school, which turned into a permanent job as an attorney after graduation and provided a tremendous platform for me to develop as a professional business woman. 

CultureMomBlog: Best thing about your job? 

Hmmm….the best thing about my job is that I am constantly challenged. I think that was one of the reasons I decided to become an attorney way back, I liked the idea that situations changed frequently and I could be part of that. While my days are manageable they are not regularly predictable. 

CultureMomBlog: What are you working on? 

When HBO Pay Per View was established back in 1991, the mission was to offer big-ticket boxing events into the home on a pay per view basis.  So, while we every so often get to distribute other sports and entertainment (concerts) programming, for
the most part our business is, (1) boxing, (2) boxing and (3) boxing.  HBO PPV is, in a nutshell, a mini advertising, media and promotions agency.  Right now my team is developing print marketing, television spots, long-form and short-form promotional programming for TV and internet, radio commercials, the media planning and developing a publicity event plan for events scheduled for March, April, May and June.  We are certainly busy.  

CultureMomBlog: You must have met a lot of celebrities – can you please share a memory or two?
The environment at HBO is a place where celebrities and creatives can feel comfortable just being here and thus, yes, they come around frequently. I remember the day I collided with Sarah Jessica Parker who was literally running down a hallway trying to be inconspicuous (quite unsuccessfully I would say, as no one here really runs down hallways, so just doing that made her stand out). At our boxing events, we encounter countless celebrities, all whom are fairly regular people and sometimes are even a little humbled by the big boxing event environment. I think one of the few times I was taken-aback actually surprised me a lot as it isn’t unusual to entertain the likes of Derek Jeter, Will Farrell, Mark Wahlberg, Jay Z, and the like at our pre-fight/post-fight receptions. A few years ago I was introduced to Bart Connor (pictured on right) the former world class/Olympic gymnast, and I thought to myself, this guy was what the Olympics stood for when I was growing up and I couldn’t believe I was meeting him. I felt silly, as I was fairly speechless, and the encounter really caught me off guard.
CultureMomBlog: How do you juggle motherhood and work? 

I think I’m very fortunate that having been with the same company in the position I am in for a long time, there is an element of trust that allows me to structure my day in the office around dropping my daughter off at school and being home at a reasonable hour so we can have dinner together and have quality time together in the evening. There are also those times when I just need to be home and I make sure I can. The trade-off, well, my 9:30p-11pm time-slot belongs to work and I’m glued to a blackberry just about all of the time I’m not with my daughter.  I finally gave in and switched from carrying a blackberry and a phone to a single blackberry, as I just couldn’t keep carrying both.  The downside is that the blackberry is always with me, but on the plus side I’m not in my office. 

CultureMomBlog: What is, for you, the most challenging aspect of being a professional mom?  What is your favorite part about it? 

While being incredibly rewarding and what I hope is a good example for my daughter and other young girls, being a professional mom is tough. Especially in the community where I live community where there are so many fabulous, intelligent women who do not work and get to spend time on worthwhile causes and endeavors. I think there is an element of “the grass is always greener,” but I chose a long time ago to follow a career path and I think I do a pretty good job of keeping things balanced.  Truthfully, if I had changed jobs more, I don’t think I would have the balance that I do, my commitment to my company has afforded that luxury.  My favorite part is that when my daughter talks about her mom, she is proud, when she comes to my office, she sits at my desk, plays “boss” and I know she feels good about her mom. I love that my work challenges me, keeps me sharp, lets me thrive in environments that I never thought I would, much less work in, meet incredibly interesting people and come home and share the fruits of all of that with my life outside of the office. I think it all makes me a better professional and, more importantly, a better mom. 

CultureMomBlog: Can you please share a few strategies that help you get through the days at work and at home?
As most moms, working or not, appreciate there just do not seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done.  From making sure lunch is prepared, to straightening the house before the housekeeper comes (why we all do that, I’ll never understand, but we do), to school drop off in time to catch the train, time just always seems to run out too quickly. What I’ve learned and need to remind myself constantly is to be “present” in whichever environment I’m in.  From the minute I drop my daughter off at school until I walk in the door before dinner, I am a worker, of course a worker who is scheduling after school playdates, gymnastics make-ups, weekend time, etc., but for the majority of the time, I am in a work zone.  From the minute I walk in the door at home until my daughter’s eyes are closed for the night, that’s mommy time. I don’t answer the phone, check emails or think about much besides being present in my home life.  Presence is so important, otherwise nothing feels important. Another trick? Breathe, and breathe often. I find that the long second or 2 it takes sometimes is enough to keep things in perspective. 

Do you take your daughter into the city often for cultural events – what have you seen or done with her recently? 

We love what Westchester County has to offer, but of course, we love to go into the City and try to often.  We have a few Broadway plays under our belt and she recently has come into the age where she appreciates museums s
o we’ve been exploring The Natural History Museum and the Hayden Planetarium.  We’re working up to the Met (my personal favorite) and I can’t wait to share the Guggenheim, I know she’ll love it. 

Where have you and your daughter traveled to recently and what are some of your favorite places to visit?

We actually travel often visiting friends and family in various parts of the country. As I travel to Las Vegas frequently for business, when my daughter was little I used to bring her with me every so often  so she would have a frame of reference as to where I was when I wasn’t home.  It was a great consolation at the time when the trips there were as many as 12-13 per year. Our tradition is to spend a vacation week in Vermont every summer with  friends. Not to be corny, but we love Vermont, especially in the summer.  We have our usual stomping  grounds and love spending time there. We always travel over the December break and this year we actually did something different and took a cruise to the Bahamas. It was a really great, low maintenance way to travel and there was so much to do for families and for grown-ups and kids individually. I try to visit London at least once a year to visit the city that is my second love (behind NYC of course) and the many friends who have recently moved there. I’m working up to taking my daughter there,  maybe next year.

Please join the Culture Mom Blog next week for another installment of our new column, INSPIRING CULTURE MOMS.

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