By Leona Baker
Region Vice President of Engineering and Operations for Cox Communications
Weather is a big factor in Toni Stubbs’ typical work day. That’s because it’s her job to make sure the signals that bring you your favorite television programming are transmitting like they should, and the seasons sometimes don’t cooperate. But on a planned day, she does a lot of listening and information gathering from her employees.
“I like to find out, from a process perspective, how we can do things more efficiently and better because we have to continue to evolve,” says Stubbs, vice president of engineering and operations for the Virginia region at Cox Communications. “If we just do things the same way over and over, we’ll be like Sony and the Walkman.”
Stubbs has always liked numbers and was interested in how things worked. She got an undergraduate degree in software engineering with a minor in mathematics. But it was her people skills, and perhaps the discipline of a Catholic school upbringing, that set her on her current career path.
Photo by Jim Pile
“I had customers, and sometimes the salespeople would request me as their sales engineer because they were going to some decisionmakers that weren’t really technical, but they wanted to get the deal signed. They would say, ‘OK, I want Toni to come with me because she’ll be able to answer their question in a way that they’ll understand it.’”
When she took on her current role, however, there were doubters, people who said she wouldn’t last. She didn’t have the right type of engineering background, and she hadn’t come up through the ranks installing cable. Turns out she’s been in the job longer than any of her male predecessors.
“It’s more about leadership than the skill,” she says, “because you’re not doing the work itself. There was the perception that the previous VPs would be better because they had done the work. And I said, ‘Is it because they were better or because they were men?”
Stubbs relies on her talented team for the technical aspects while she focuses on understanding what they’re doing and how it’s going to affect customers, reaching out to public and government affairs officials, networking with large Cox Business customers. It goes back to those critical communication skills, which come in handy both on the customer service end and the management side.
“I feel like if I take the time to know the people that are working for me, then they will recognize that and they will give their all, so that’s important to me,” she explains. “I like to say that I am an advocate for my team and that I am here to help them do their jobs better.”
Caring for others seems a natural fit for Stubbs, who has two adopted daughters, two foster children and four dogs at home, and is active in her church. She is thankful that Cox Communications is family-oriented, and though she’s in a critical role, there is plenty of leeway for life-work balance.
Some people might be surprised that a woman in a leadership role in technology and communications has a strict rule with the family at home: “No electronics or television in the kitchen or at the table. We have dinner together as a family.”
Stubbs also sees it as part of her professional responsibility to encourage women in the field.
“I say if I can be a woman at the head of the table and not have women in my organization, then there is something wrong.”
Her advice for young women considering a career in technology: “Don’t get discouraged because there’s one area that doesn’t work for you. There are so many aspects, and it’s always evolving. I really believe that the way technology is growing, it has connected our world, and there’s going to be that need for people who understand it and really any of the STEM fields. If that’s their passion, they should pursue it.”