Women of Influence

Kristin Dolan, B.A.'88

Chief Operating Officer, Cablevision

Expertise Comes With Experience

By Claudia Ricci, Ph.D.’96

Photo credit: Brian Stanton

Kristin Dolan, the highly successful chief operating officer at Cablevision, has this advice for students preparing for careers in the real world: Don’t expect to be experts coming out of college.

“You’re never going to know everything going into a job,” she says. “You’re going to learn every day on the job. You really have to be flexible because the world is changing so fast.”

Dolan knows plenty about being flexible. She changed her major at UAlbany three times before she settled on English with a business minor. (The other majors were accounting, economics and computer science.)

The faculty member who most influenced her was writer Mark Nepo, then a professor in the English department. To get into the class, Dolan had to submit a writing sample. Nepo’s class, and his highly successful Book of Awakening, taught Dolan the importance of being present for each and every activity during the day. She carried that attitude – that you had to immerse yourself in whatever you were doing – to other activities, including her other classes and later, to all the positions she held on her way up the ladder at Cablevision.

An avid reader, Dolan decided after college to pursue publishing. Pace University was offering a new M.S. in publishing program and she enrolled, eventually writing her thesis on cable television.

Her first internship was at a start-up magazine operated by former editors from the New Yorker magazine. It wasn’t for her. “The people weren’t friendly and I sat in a room all by myself all day.”

Her next internship, with the American Movie Classics network, eventually turned into a permanent job at Cablevision. Dolan held a series of sales and marketing positions with increasingly more responsibility. After eight years on the job, she became a Cablevision vice president in charge of field communications. The position took her “out into the field, traveling throughout New York and New England to meet with Cablevision’s front-line employees, including cable TV installers.”

Dolan rose steadily through the ranks at Cablevision, eventually heading up the company’s Optimum Services division, where she was responsible for all Optimum products, brand positioning and customer service. She has relied on her strong marketing background to move the company toward a more “friendly” feel. As one report put it, “she wants to get customers to actually like a cable company.”

Named chief operating officer at Cablevision in April 2014, Dolan has been featured in CableFAX The Magazine’s lists of the top 100 cable executives and the top 50 most influential women in the industry. She supervises at least 10,000 employees.

While pursuing this high-powered career, Dolan also managed to earn an M.A. in literature from Long Island University.

As the cable industry becomes increasingly competitive, Dolan says that customer service has never been so important. This kind of attitude generally typifies small family businesses. Cablevision, Dolan notes, “is a small family business that just happens to be a Fortune 500 company, too.”

Now, as COO, Dolan says she has to be particularly nimble, keeping tabs on myriad activities for the cable company. In one day she may have meetings that cover the gamut: advertising, product development, sales and marketing, budgeting, forecasting and operations.

Dolan says that one of her key strengths is continuing to help the company reinvent itself. “I like to fix things,” she says. “I get in and get out. As soon as I do what I do, I move on to the next project.”