April 5, 2015 | last updated April 5, 2015 5:10 pm
Women In Business 2015

Roberts leads Comcast's community outreach

PHOTO | Steve Laschever
PHOTO | Steve Laschever
Kristen Roberts, vice president of public relations & community investment for Comcast, pictured with her first mentor, Attorney Michael Dowley.

Who is your mentor and why?

I didn't realize at the time that my first boss, Attorney Michael Dowley, was my first mentor. I worked at his law firm part-time while in college and then full-time. He continuously supported my career advancement and professional development and afforded me the opportunity to pursue my paralegal and Master's degrees.

He loved to share his knowledge and I absorbed as much as I could from him every day. He instilled a family-like culture in a fast-paced environment. I enjoyed the variety of the work and that he involved me in some projects that were challenging and others that became routine where I was able to work independently.

My passion for community involvement started there. He encouraged me to get involved in community organizations so not to miss out on networking opportunities with other young professionals.

Dowley supported me personally and professionally—then and still today. It is because of the experience and skills I learned there and relationships I built along the way that opened doors to job opportunities that advanced my career.

How do you mentor your staff?

I have regular one-on-one meetings with my team and support their individual development plans where we review short-and long-term goals and plans for development. Whether through programs at Comcast University or industry organizations, I support their professional development and encourage networking within and outside the company.

Additionally, I challenge them to stretch themselves outside their comfort zones; for instance, getting involved in a nonprofit organization to strengthen a desired competency like taking on a treasurer's role to help develop financial acumen.

What advice could you offer to people thinking about being a mentor?

Be authentic and listen. Care and support career development and provide both recognition and constructive feedback to help their mentee grow personally and professionally.

Kristen Roberts, vice president of public relations and community investment for Comcast's western New England region, is a master networker and connector and face of the company, according to one of her staff.

"She not only knows everyone and is very entrenched in the community and the business world in Connecticut, but she also goes out of her way to connect people," says Laura Brubaker-Crisco, director of public relations at Comcast's regional office in Berlin.

Roberts genuinely wants to help nonprofits and businesses she works with be successful, Brubaker-Crisco says. Additionally, Roberts serves on several boards of directors.

"She also always is championing Comcast businesses," Brubaker-Crisco says. "… You'll find her at networking events or chamber meetings or nonprofit partner types of events whipping out her iPhone and showing off the latest Xfinity products … so she evangelizes the Comcast product offerings as well."

In her role, Roberts, 47, oversees community investment and public relations for the company in Connecticut, western Massachusetts, Vermont and the Carmel, N.Y., area. She is also a company spokeswoman. Roberts is proud of the relationships she's built with nonprofits over her 13 years at Comcast and making a difference in communities the company serves.

Roberts started with Comcast in 2002 as public affairs manager for Connecticut, and gradually moved up the ladder until she was promoted to her current role in 2010.

"Since I started at Comcast, my role has always been relationship-building," says Roberts, who grew up in Middletown.

Comcast builds those relationships to last, she says.

"We don't believe in just writing a check and moving on," Roberts adds.

She points to the Urban League of Greater Hartford as an example of a strong community partnership, noting in an email: Comcast's vice president of marketing sits on the Urban League board, the company powers the Urban League's computer lab with Xfinity services, the marketing department supports the organization's Equal Opportunity dinner, the league is the beneficiary of a Comcast Foundation grant and the two partner on conquering the digital divide through the company's Internet Essentials program.

Says Roberts, "We really work hard at connecting all the dots to have sustainable relationships and build business relationships at the same time."

Roberts also is proud of building a regional community investment and public relations team, which was previously managed at the division level. The team handles media relations and pitches national and community news to local media.

Roberts began shaping her relationship-building and networking skills as a paralegal for a small law firm in Middletown. She worked there part-time while getting her bachelor's degree at Central Connecticut State University, after which she worked full-time. She then went on to earn a paralegal certificate at the University of Hartford.

Her law firm boss encouraged her to get involved in events and projects with people her own age because the firm was small and he didn't want her to miss out on opportunities. So she joined a new chapter of the Middletown Jaycees, working as public relations director promoting community events, then joined the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association, participating on its programming committee and organizing events.

"Hard work paid off," she says, noting she was elected president of both groups.

Working full-time at the law firm, she obtained her master's in public administration at the University of Hartford. She later joined a startup HMO, MedSpan Inc., as paralegal in contracting and compliance in 1998, became marketing consultant in 2000 and community relations manager in 2001 before joining Comcast. She heard about the Comcast job through Larry McHugh, president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, when she sat on the chamber's board.

Roberts recommends women get involved with volunteerism, whether on work projects or in the community, "but something that takes them out of their comfort zone to help them grow as individuals and leaders. And most important is to really build that network of colleagues within and outside your organization and even within and outside your industry."

Roberts also takes a lot of pride being a mom of a 9-year-old girl after years of fertility struggles during her early years at Comcast. That's her biggest accomplishment, she says.

"I was determined to have a baby and it paid off," Roberts says. "I feel so proud to work for a company that supported me during some difficult years and it's really a passion of mine now to make sure that all women feel supported in the workplace."

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