Even if you love what you do, work can be a drag. Right? Try telling that to these five lucky Main Liners. Granted, their careers may not be the stuff of movie scripts, but they certainly left us envious.
Barbara Balongue, President, Balongue Design
How she got where she is: After working for various interior design firms, Barbara Balongue established Balongue Designs in Villanova in 1989. Since then, she’s worked on projects throughout the Main Line and in Chicago, Boston and New York.
On the benefits of not having a signature look: Two of Balongue’s most current projects show her versatility: Daddy O’s restaurant and boutique hotel in Long Beach Island, N.J., and St. Davids Golf Club in Wayne. The interior of Daddy O’s is New York urban chic with sleek contemporary furnishings. The new clubhouse of the 110-year-old St. Davids Golf Club called for a more traditional design, with beautiful millwork and lots of natural light. “My projects are never alike,” she says. “A successful design is all about understanding the client and creating what’s appropriate.”
What she brings to the job: An uncanny ability to deliver what was envisioned, often exceeding expectations in the process.
How she works: “If I’m designing the interior of a restaurant, I need to know details—like what food they’re going to be serving,” says Balongue. “I’m creating a stage for them to perform; it’s not just about creating another pretty space. These designs need to function well, improve morale and enhance the public’s collective image of the establishment.”
Where she finds her inspiration: “I can be inspired by most anything,” she says. “I’m always asked what my best job was, and I always say that my best job is my next job. I learn something—and take something away from—every job I do.”
Why she loves her job: “The process of being creative and creating something I believe is a gift,” says Balongue. “I love visualizing the interior of a space in my mind and seeing it come to life.”
Chris Blackman, Vice President of News, NBC 10
How he got where he is: Chris Blackman began his career in television as an intern working on Oprah Winfrey’s first talk show in Baltimore. “Oprah was so good to us,” says Blackman, whose identical twin brother, Keith, worked at the same news station. “She became like a big sister to us. We had no money. She would take us out to dinner. She even bought a television for us.” After that, he was hired as a production assistant. “It was amazing the first time I heard my copy being read on-air,” says Blackman, who lives in Wynnewood. “The anchor came to my desk after the news and said, ‘I really liked that story.’ That was a huge thrill for me. And I knew from that moment that this is what I wanted to do as a career.”
On the importance of taking risks: While working for an NBC station in Chicago, Blackman was offered a position at CNBC Asia. “I said to myself, ‘If I don’t do this, I’ll always wonder what would’ve happened if I did it,’” recalls Blackman. “So I took that leap.” During his four-and-a-half years in Asia, he was director of news and an executive producer for CNBC Asia in Hong Kong and vice president of news programming for CNBC Asia in Singapore. “The experience was spectacular,” he says.
How he spends his workday: Blackman oversees and helps shape the news on NBC 10, guiding his team in all aspects of coverage. “The biggest challenge we’re facing is trying to figure out how to be more relevant and competitive in the new digital age, where people have a lot more choices for their news and information,” he says. “Our strength is doing local news better than anyone else.”
Why he loves his job: “Every day in this business, you get to start again and try to do better than you did the day before,” says Blackman. “It’s fun what we do.”
TC Scornavacchi, Executive Producer, Michael Smerconish Morning Show, WPHT-AM 1210
How she got where she is: TC Scornavacchi used to be a teacher at Gladwyne Montessori School, where she taught Michael Smerconish’s children. “It’s a lot different than what I’m doing now,” she admits. A biology major at Harvard University, Scornavacchi had left teaching to work out of her in-home stationary studio in Villanova when the call came from Smerconish, who was looking to hire an executive producer for his morning show. He asked her to come to the studio to see what the job entailed. More than three years later, she’s still there.
On the merits of experience: “I had no radio experience at all,” Scornavacchi admits. “And I think that was an advantage in getting the job. I never say, ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ I believe you can learn anything.”
What she brings to the job: A tenacious attitude and inherent organizational skills. Scornavacchi also describes herself as “unfailingly polite,” which comes in handy when daily deadlines demand pushiness.
How the job has changed her life: “For one thing, I wake up in the middle of the night to go to work,” she says. The alarm sounds every morning at 3:15 a.m., giving her just enough time to get ready and drive to WPHT-AM in Bala Cynwyd by 4 a.m.
How she spends her workday: Scornavacchi preps for the show with Smerconish just before its 5:30 a.m. airtime. “Right after we go off-air (at 9 a.m.), we start talking about the next day’s show,” she says. “It’s an all-the-time job.” She spends much of the rest of the day on her Blackberry booking guests for upcoming shows, and on the computer scouring countless websites looking for story topics. “I’m a news junkie,” she says. “It’s fun coming up with ideas for the show.”
Why she loves her job: “It’s something different every day,” she says. “It’s challenging—and it’s a privilege to do what I do.”
Cara Bradley, Owner, Verge Power Yoga
How she got where she is: Cara Bradley grew up figure skating and ran track at New York University before becoming an investment banker. Her love of athletics eventually drew her to professional rollerblading as a member of Team Rollerblade. Years later, Bradley got hooked on yoga tape, and after a year of study, she began teaching. In 2004, she opened Verge Power Yoga in Wayne.
What yoga isn’t: “People think it’s all about stretching or doing expert poses that they see illustrated in magazines,” says Bradley. “It’s neither of these things.” Every month, Bradley offers her “Brand New Beginners” series. “It’s a non-intimidating atmosphere because everyone in the class is new,” she says.
How she spends her workday: In addition to running the studio, Bradley teaches up to seven yoga classes a week with students of all ages. “Kids love yoga because they enjoy the non-competitive environment in the studio,” she says. “They know there’s no need to please anyone with a perfect pose because there’s no such thing as a perfect pose. Their practice is their own.” Bradley is also director of Balanced Athlete, a company that incorporates yoga science into modern-day strength-and-conditioning practices. She works with Villanova University’s men’s basketball, soccer and football teams, as well as the women’s basketball team. The Conestoga High School boys’ and girls’ soccer teams are also clients. “My passion is working with athletes,” she says. “As an athlete myself, I can speak their lingo. I know what they’re going through.”
Why she loves her job: “To share the gift of yoga with others is a tremendous honor,” Bradley says. “My passion lies in seeing students leave class as more passionate, peaceful and stable people.”
Steve Mountain, Owner, Cornerstone Management
How he got where he is: Steve Mountain started his post-college career working for Big Brothers Big Sisters. “I did love the job,” says Mountain. But there were things he didn’t love so much—like wearing a three-piece suit and working for a board of directors. Moonlighting in bars—where he did everything from bartending to booking bands—introduced him to local music. “I started meeting managers, agents, and producers,” he says. “I began to learn what was important to these bands, who were primarily self-managed.” His career as an agent began with Philly rock favorites the Hooters back in 1983. “Twenty-four years later, they’re still my clients,” he says. “So I’d have to say that partnership was a success.”
Steve’s A-list: Mountain’s roster of clients in the music, radio, sports and entertainment fields includes WIP’s Angelo Cataldi, WMMR’s Pierre Robert, the Orlando Magic’s Jameer Nelson and the Edmonton Oilers’ David Rohlfs. “I don’t spend any time recruiting any clients,” says Mountain. “Most of my business is word of mouth. I do a good job with someone, and they tell someone else.”
What he likes most about his job: “It’s more interesting to me that I don’t work for a ton of people,” he says. “I work a lot of hours, but I feel I’m relatively independent. On one hand, I’m the employer; on the other hand, I’m the employee.” Six years ago, Mountain debuted the first of three Summit Sports Training Centers. “I opened with the intention of giving my pro players a place to train every summer,” he says. “I also wanted to provide kids with the opportunity and ability to make themselves better and to train exactly how professionals train. In my center, kids train right alongside the pros.”
On being an agent: Mountain prefers to be called a manager. “When you’re an agent, the connotation isn’t always what you want it to be,” he says. “A manager has the ability to sit with someone, work with them and help them fulfill their dream. When they fulfill their dream, I fulfill mine.”
Second Time Around
For those who’ve ever fantasized about ditching their current career and starting fresh, Wayne’s Jane Mingey has some advice: Go for it.
Jane Mingey is constantly asked the same question: “How did you do it?” The “it” refers to her changing careers in her mid-40s. But what people really want to ask her is not the how, but the why. After a lucrative 20-plus-year career in the financial accounting software industry, why did the 49-year-old Wayne resident decide three years ago to make a leap into a new venture? More to the point, how did she muster the courage to let risk trump complacency?
Granted, a career in the financial accounting software industry is not what many would describe as glamorous. But as a director of global accounts, Mingey traveled around the world. And in 1999, she relocated to Paris for three years. Before returning to the States, Mingey took advantage of an unpaid, six-month sabbatical offered by her employer. She spent the time leading bike trips in France and the United Kingdom. “My true passion has always been in health and wellness,” says Mingey. “Those six months put enough of a taste in my mouth to know that I wanted to change careers.”
Though she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do, Mingey did know she wanted to engage people in a healthier lifestyle. “In the software industry, I didn’t feel like I was making a difference at the end of the day,” says Mingey. “And that’s what I wanted to do.”
When another company acquired her employer, she opted for a retention bonus that amounted to six months’ salary. “I knew that if I was ever going to make a career change, this was the time to do it,” says Mingey.
She enrolled in Cabrini College’s lifelong learning program with a concentration in exercise science and health promotion. “Cabrini was a total jewel,” says Mingey of the 12-month program. “They were so great in custom designing a program for me. People can’t believe that I did it. The kids welcomed me from day one. They couldn’t have been nicer.”
Mingey’s experience extended beyond the classroom with an internship working on Philadelphia accounts for a company that provides health promotion programs and fitness opportunities to clients nationwide. “The faculty at Cabrini introduced me to many contacts in the industry,” says Mingey.
Upon completing the program, Mingey took a position with a company that would become part of CHD Meridian Healthcare in Chadds Ford, the leading provider of integrated workplace health and productivity management solutions. Mingey is currently vice-president of sales and account development for CHD Meridian, where she also helps coordinate wellness programs for corporations and organizes charity events.
It’s not just Mingey’s career that has changed. “I feel so content now,” she says. “I feel very committed in my job. I know that my work is having a positive influence on the health of many clients.”
Mingey also is much happier with her work/life balance. “In software, the normal week was 60-80 hours, with a lot of travel and deadline pressures,” says Mingey. “Now I’m working more normal hours, and there’s not as much travel.”
And the intangible benefits are priceless. “My current job is not as lucrative as when I was in software, but I don’t care,” she says. “It’s well worth it. I’m so happy now.”
Ready to try a new career? These local experts can help.
Barbara Bair (M.Ed., CMP), (610) 325-0756
Newtown Square’s Barbara Bair is an internationally certified career management consultant and training professional with a finely honed ability to “listen between the lines,” enabling individuals and organizations to achieve higher levels of performance excellence. She’s recognized for her “high-touch/high-tech” approach to coaching/training, which involves an extensive understanding of the Internet and its role in enabling personal and career growth.
Ford Myers (M.Ed.), (610) 649-1778, careerpotential.net
Since 1983, Haverford’s Career Potential has been providing professional services in executive career consulting and coaching for both organizations and individuals. Myers has helped thousands of clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love and earn what they deserve.
(610) 293-1115, kelleherassociatesinc.com
Kelleher Associates boasts more than 20 years of experience in human resources and career management. The Wayne-based company offers customized career transition counseling programs for corporate and individual clients.
Life In Progress
Ed Hunter (MBA), lifeinprogresscoaching.com
Wayne’s Ed Hunter is a qualified career and executive coach who works with clients seeking greater success in their current career, a new career or a more balanced work and home life.
Beth Ann Wilson (M.Ed., CMF), (610) 566-7734
An independent career-consultation practice with offices in Media and Philadelphia. With more than 20 years of experience, Wilson specializes in career planning, transition and management for clients of all ages and from diverse fields of expertise.
Change Your Job, Change Your Life
5 tips for jumpstarting a second career.
A 40-hour workweek can seem endless if you hate what you do. We’ve all been there. But risking the steady income and stability of even the worst job to try something new can be a frightening prospect. “I’m a big advocate of moving toward your next step, rather than running from your current situation,” says career consultant Beth Wilson of Media. “People wait until their work situation becomes unbearable. Then they make the mistake of rushing into a new situation that may not be the best fit.”
Career management professionals like Wilson are in high demand these days, as more and more workers seek guidance. Wilson strongly recommends pondering the following before you make the leap:
1. Answer the “why.” It’s important to be clear about what exactly you’re unhappy about in your current position. “I’ve had clients say, ‘I can’t stand being a lawyer anymore.’ After some discussion, they realize that it’s really the law firm—or the type of law they’re practicing—that they’re unhappy with,” Wilson says. “It could be that you need a job change, not a career change.”
2. Look inward. A complete self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, personal characteristics, interests, skills, education and experience is critical before you dive into any career change, says Wilson. “It’s an invaluable tool to identify possible career choices and measure your potential for success given the realities of the job market,” she says.
3. Manage your time. Most of us must continue working full time while we’re looking for a new job or researching a new career. Be realistic about other demands on your time and plan accordingly.
4. Contemplate training. Are you willing to go back to school? Contact local colleges and universities to inquire about programs and the options they have for adults making a career transition. Many institutions offer online courses that are more manageable for adult students working full time.
5. Budget for change. Take an honest look at your finances. How much wiggle room do you have with your salary if you need to take a pay cut at a new position? “If you’re married, you’ll have to have a discussion with your spouse about lifestyle changes that this may require,” says Wilson. “And you’ll both have to be willing to make those adjustments.” Whether you’re married or single, consult with a financial advisor.