BENGALURU: When Beth Comstock approached the HR at National Broadcasting Company (NBC) for a promotion to Head of Communications, little did she know that they would make the decision for her. The then 20-something was told that she was definitely up for a promotion but at a later stage since she was a mother and the new responsibilities came with a lot of travel. “I was furious that the assumption was made without being consulted,” she recalled at the tenth-anniversary of Literati, a corporate book-club hosted by SAP Labs India, in the city.
But not one to accept defeat easily, she fought for her promotion and got the new role. It’s no surprise then that Comstock eventually went on to become the first female vice-chair at GE. The journey, however, had challenges of its own, said the 58-year-old. Born in a small town in Virginia, Comstock joined a radio station while studying in college before she went on to work for NBC and CNN. During her stint at NBC, which was owned by GE, she got a job to work for the latter, but her first day was far from pleasant.
“Since there were few women in the senior level, the women’s bathroom was converted to men’s. We had to go through the kitchen and use the washroom there. But of course, we did get our restroom later,”
Outside the comfort zone
An introvert by nature, Comstock recalled times she would come out of meetings without speaking a word of what was on her mind.”I felt I was holding myself back. So, I started writing permission slips, where I would give myself permission to do something that I am afraid of,” she said. She introduced the same strategy to her team at GE and claims it worked, despite it sounding “silly”.
Comstock moved from GE abruptly towards the end of 2017. Life since then has not been without difficulties either. “I realised feeling lost sometimes is okay. I would write a to-do list every day
and realised I didn’t have anything to do. But I am discovering new things and coaching teams,” she said, adding that she would soon be back in business with something different.
At the writing desk
Comstock has recently penned a book titled Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change, along with Tahl Raz. “I saw people making the same mistakes that I have made. Hence, I wanted to convey this to them and offer them advice,” she said, adding that she might write more books in the future.