Superwoman: Cynthia Augustine '79
From Cynthia Augustine’s resume you learn that she sits on The New York Times’ seven-person executive committee, serves as president of the media company’s broadcast group (which includes eight TV stations and WQXR-FM), has led five TV stations to the top spot in their markets, and is senior vice president of human resources. Last year, her group’s revenues grew 11 percent to $156 million.
Before she was appointed senior vice president at The Times in 1998, she was a partner with the law firm Sabin, Bermant and Gould, specializing in employment law. And before that, Augustine was a lawyer in the Times Company’s legal department.
It’s a striking list of accomplishments and titles. But what you can’t learn from it is that she is far more than just a vice president or a top income producer. On the job, and away from it, Augustine is also a mentor—counseling other African-Americans who want to reach the top ranks of corporate management.
On the job, that means Augustine is active in a formal mentoring program aimed at helping a group of employees, including mostly women and minorities, move ahead professionally. Her responsibilities at work in that capacity also include “throwing a wide net into the workplace world by establishing relationships with black colleges, and bringing in kids who are interested in editing and writing,” she says.
Off the job, Augustine continues to serve as a role model and informal counselor for members of minority groups. “When people know you’re in a human resources job, you get asked a lot of questions,” she explains. In particular, she recommends that other African- Americans remain open with white co-workers, encourage a dialogue with them and avoid being oversensitive. “But then,” she adds, “that applies to everyone in all groups, doesn’t it?”
Another valuable piece of workplace advice: “Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and take risks,” she says. “People shortchange themselves by being afraid, even when they’re unhappy in their jobs. But life’s too short and too precious not to be intellectually challenged.” After graduating from Sarah Lawrence, where she received the Henry Ladd and Helen Alan Scholarship, Augustine studied law at Rutgers University, earning a J.D. in 1982. Her first job after that was with the employment law department of a large legal practice.
These days, she is up at 5 a.m. and at work no later than 7—planning the day long before the phone starts ringing off the hook and the crush of meetings begins. “I make sure every moment at work counts,” she says, explaining that she learned to be a self-directed person as a student at Sarah Lawrence.
It is a skill that continues to serve her well.
“In fact, it’s one of the most important things I learned in college, a fabulous life lesson,” she says. “Nothing prepares you for life better than learning that, and I’m not just talking about your life at work. I mean your entire life.”
Since her college years, Augustine has learned how to balance work and her personal life, and how to combine the two into a coherent and meaningful whole. She and her husband Paul, a network engineer, have a 14-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son.
“Every moment I’m not with my family has to be very productive,” she says, explaining that she sets evenings aside for them. “I cherish that aspect of my life, and I can’t imagine going through life without a family. It’s figuring out how to do both and do it well that is the ongoing challenge.”