We kicked off our Inspired Leadership Fireside Chats last night in the serene home of Partners Laureen Ong and Richard Skwarek. Nestled at the base of Camelback Mountain, Laureen and Richard’s home blends old with new and pays homage to Laureen’s roots and their years spent living in Hong Kong. While the rain drizzled outside, 15 Partners gathered around the fireplace indoors for delectable bites and libations, and to hear Laureen’s inspiring journey (and infectious laughter) to success within the television industry.
Raised in a conservative home in New Jersey, as a young girl Laureen was expected to pursue education, which she did, but a summer in New York City as a receptionist led her on a journey to television sales and programming.
In an industry dominated by men, Laureen learned early and quickly that a willingness to do work beyond her job title was a door opener. She sought mentors – formally and informally – who shined light on new opportunities for her to pursue along the way.
That mindset led her to Chicago, where she met Richard, and built paid programming in the sports broadcasting world for the Chicago White Sox. She spent almost eight years with the team, and has a celebrated World Series ring to boot. After tackling and mastering sports media, she went on to syndication sales in cable for the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” In a time when sales were generally down, Laureen dominated the heavily male team, and continued to surpass expectations.
From Chicago, she and Richard criss-crossed the country, taking opportunities in Philly, San Fran, Phoenix, D.C. It was in D.C. that Laureen was more deeply exposed to the foray of the nonprofit world in her role as President of National Geographic Channel. Richard shared that it was here, in the nonprofit sector, that allowed her to finally think beyond numbers and bottom lines and lead with her heart. “It changed her and she blossomed more completely,” he said.
They took that new balance of heart and mind to Hong Kong, which was the most enriching point in their lives for both of them. Not only was it an opportunity for Laureen to hone in on her cross-cultural management skills, leading offices in Jakarta, Hong Kong, Dubai and beyond, she was also to explore her family roots. Richard continues to hope Laureen’s path will take them back there again. “When you live aboard you become a better American,” Laureen said. “You appreciate what we have.”
Laureen’s career culminated with Scripps International and the Travel Channel in D.C. Laureen is still active in several boards and consulting pursuits, including serving on the WWE Board of Directors. She and Richard spend time equally in Seattle and Phoenix, supporting #svpfastpitch as mentors in both affiliates, where they love applying one of Laureen’s early lessons in the value of mentorship. “Everyone loves to mentor, you just have to ask,” Laureen said with a smile and laugh.
We are so lucky to have them in Phoenix sharing their time and talent.
We welcome you to an evening of Inspired Leadership. A night led and hosted by Partners for Partners. Next in the series. Secure your seat TODAY:
April 11, 6 p.m., with Steve Seleznow
June 7, 6 p.m., with Jerry Hirsch and Lois Savage
The Inspired Leadership Series is for our Partners only and limited to 15 Partners. The evenings are first-come, first-serve. Registration links are only communicated in The Missive. If you would like to learn more about this series or are interested in being a featured Partner, please contact Sentari Minor.
Written by Meghan Leatherman, SVPAZ Communications Manager. Meghan is passionate about leadership, mentoring, and empowering women in sharing their voice. Meghan joined SVPAZ in June 2016.