September 2011

Catherine MathisCatherine is a communicator and storyteller and president of New York Women in Communications, 2011-2012. “As senior vice president, marketing and communications, for the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, my job is to tell the story of my company, so that our employees, customers, the media, policy makers and others understand our role in the market. I love what I do and work with a terrifically talented team.” 

What’s up for NYWICI  “We have three goals: to educate, to connect and to grow. “We offer a wide range of events to educate women (and men) at all levels and stages of their careers on everything from affective marketing to presentation skills. This year we are particularly focused on all things digital. Technology is changing rapidly, and we are creating programs that help our members understand the changes and how they can apply them successfully to their work."
 
“We are working on a members-only panel with top recruiters. And we will be continuing our segmented industry groups, renamed Industry Insider, for a members-only connection to those who are thought leaders within our industry. Our motto is ‘Connect with the women who connect the world.’ We think this is particularly appropriate as we work to help our members secure new positions or make career transitions. With the economy fragile and job creation limited, this is of critical importance. And lastly, we want to grow NYWICI. This is a great organization of more than 2,000 passionate women from the fields of advertising, marketing, public relations, digital media, journalism and arts and entertainment. We want to expand our ranks.”
 
Queen of crisis “If you ask my husband about my work, he’d say I’m the queen of crisis. And, certainly, I’ve handled my share. Since joining S&P in 2009, our president has testified before Congress — twice — about the financial crisis. We downgraded the debt of several eurozone countries and the United States, prompting both rousing congratulations (one man sent the PR department flowers) and scathing condemnation. 
 
“Before S&P, I spent 12 years at The New York Times Company, with the last nine as the head of corporate communications. During that time, we experienced six anthrax hoaxes. Three people climbed the exterior of its 52-story office building. One reporter spent 85 days in jail for refusing to divulge a confidential source. Another plagiarized the work of a journalist at a competing news organization, resulting in a front-page story in The Times and coverage from more than 140 media outlets on every continent except Antarctica. And a reporter was kidnapped by the Taliban, but, thankfully, escaped after nearly eight months in captivity.” 
 
The “it” of communications “Obviously, things are never dull in the communications fields. In fact, there are days when I’ve prayed for dull. Whether it’s working on a rebranding campaign, developing new ways to communicate with employees or creating a social media strategy, the work has proven to be interesting and valuable.” 
 
Kissed under the lilacs…“I grew up in Minnesota and wanted to be a writer. I kept a diary and read voraciously. One reason I landed in New York City was that I read Marjorie Morningstar as a girl and wanted to be kissed under the lilacs at the Cloisters as she had been. As soon as I read the book, I said, ‘That’s it. I’m moving to New York when I grow up.’ This was despite the fact that I had to look up the word ‘cloister’ in the dictionary. I was also drawn to business and, through a happy accident — a friend in human resources thought my skills would be a good fit — I ended up in investor relations. In my spare time, I’ve written short stories and magazine and newspaper articles.” 
 
Chillaxing “Recently, I’ve taken a trapeze lesson. Given my fear of heights, it was an act of courage. But it was exhilarating. I love to eat and cook (with more than 150 cookbooks), and also to exercise. I have run one marathon, which was enough. I still run regularly in Central Park.”
 
Books on the nightstand “I just finished Lords of Finance, the story of four central bankers who managed their countries finances in the aftermath of World War I and leading into the Great Depression. Now, I’m on to In the Garden of Beasts, which recounts the tale of the U.S. ambassador to Germany in 1933 as Hitler’s power was growing. It is a fascinating study of the use of communication and the power of symbols.”
 
A job that fits “Always put yourself in a place to succeed. Organizations are like people, and they have personalities: Some will fit well with you and some won’t. Find the one that will bring out the best in you, that will nourish you and that will stretch you. Life is too short to be unhappy.”
 
As told to Michelle Lodge