Kathryn Tracy Rizzi: This begins an oral history interview with Angela Scalpello, on July 26, 2022. My name is Kate Rizzi, and I am in Branchburg, New Jersey. Angela, thank you so much for joining me for this second oral history interview.
Angela Scalpello: I'm glad to do it.
KR: Can you please state today where you are located?
AS: I'm in Brooklyn, New York, a small borough of New York City.
KR: The last time, we left off talking about your undergraduate years at Rutgers College from 1972 to 1976. What I would like to start off today talking about is you got to Rutgers College in 1972, and you were in the first coed class ever at Rutgers College. How prepared do you think the college was for being coed?
AS: When I was there, I honestly didn't look through that lens. The thing that always came to mind was they had paired each of us with a big brother, and I remember my big brother's first name was Fred. I can't remember his last name. He was a Russian major. He and I went out to dinner at Tio Pepe, which I think is still around in New York City, in the Village. I felt like at least I knew somebody there, somebody I could reach out to, if I had any issues or if I had any questions. In doing this project, I've spoken to some of the other women, and they have stories of there were no sanitary napkin machines. They seemed to notice the things that Rutgers wasn't prepared for in terms of dorm living, et cetera. Honestly, I was either oblivious to that, or I didn't experience it in the same way. I think that it was strange being there were so few of us. I often felt we were under scrutiny all the time. There was a slope to walk into [Brower] Commons, the dining area, and if me and a couple of girlfriends would be coming down, it would be like all these male heads would like turn to watch us coming down that long walk, because having women in the Commons, in the dining room, was unusual. I'm sure Douglass women maybe came over from time to time, but I think the men were almost more unprepared for us than we were unprepared to be there.
KR: In your first interview, you talked about the treatment of some professors towards the women students, which ranged from being demeaning to sexual harassment. How do you think that the male students treated you? I am talking about first-year students like you and then all the way up to seniors. What do you think the treatment was like?
AS: I didn't have any bad experiences, and I think part of it, Kate, is who one chooses to associate with. I didn't have any bad experiences with the men in the class. That was a different time, and I wonder if I step back into that time with today's sensibilities and sensitivities, I might think some of it was sexist. Then, again, I want to be really clear; when you're a seventeen or eighteen-year-old woman who's gone to a Catholic high school, been educated by the nuns, having male attention, although maybe, in retrospect, inappropriately so, was kind of welcomed. Men making comments or men whistling, now I'd be like, "Oh, great, objectifying us," but back then, it was like, "Hey, male attention, bring it on."
KR: Did you feel a sense of belonging when you were at Rutgers College?
AS: I definitely felt a sense of belonging. I didn't feel like an outsider. I had really good friends. I loved campus life. I loved everything about being at Rutgers, and for me, it was close enough to home that if I wanted to go, [I could]. I remember I didn't go home for six weeks. My parents were devastated. I think part of them thought, "Oh, she's close enough to come home pretty often," and I didn't. I wanted to make that separation. I grew up in a very traditional ethnic family, but it was close enough that if I wanted to go home, I could go home.
I liked the women in my dorm. I think I was always in a female dorm. The dorms I was in the first two years [Hegeman Hall] were all women, and then in junior and senior year, I moved off campus. I liked the community of friends. I had some incidents with professors, as we've discussed, but I loved learning. I loved being in class. I had some great professors. I count Barry Qualls among them. Everything felt different to me. Everything felt new. Everything felt exciting, because I lived a relatively narrow life and I also had been in a small Catholic school. Being at Rutgers, there was a lot more diversity, not only racially and obviously having men around, but also just how people viewed things and how people thought and the subjects that I could learn. I used to wander the stacks of the Alexander Library and just randomly pick up books. It's how I discovered Anaïs Nin. It was on a return shelf or a return cart. I'm like, "Oh, this is interesting." That's how I found Colette. Yes, I felt like I belonged, and I volunteered some places. I was a volunteer at, I think it was called, 56 Place. It was a counseling center. I did reviews for The Targum. I did book reviews, theater reviews. [Editor's Note: Barry Qualls is a Professor Emeritus of English who served as a professor and administrator at Rutgers from 1971 to 2017. He served as the Vice President for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Humanities in the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences.]
KR: Did you have much interaction with administrators?
AS: No. The only administrators I ever dealt with were not even administrators; they were people who were at the registrar's office. I had a lot of interaction with professors. I became friendly with my Spanish professor, Señor DeCarlo, and I remember he and his wife had me over for dinner at their suburban house. I was friendly with Barry Qualls. I was friendly with Elsa Vineburg. I'd always been friendly with teachers, even in high school. I don't know what kind of relationship one has with nuns, but I was always [friendly with the teachers]. I'm an extreme extrovert, and, honestly, this is going to sound totally immodest, I probably was a delight to have in class in the sense that I am curious and I loved learning. Yes, I did all the readings. Yes, I got my papers in on time. Yes, I was curious. Yes, I wanted to talk afterwards. In terms of administrators, I'm trying to think of administrators, not really.
KR: What was it like for you living off campus when you were a junior and senior?
AS: The first year, I lived with three women. It was a duplex. It was on Delafield Street, so not that far from campus. It felt very grown up. It also was challenging in that I had only lived with a roommate and then I had only lived with siblings at home, so you had to deal with other people's stuff, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it, and I liked being able to make my own meals. In some ways, I felt that it was a step in terms of my maturation, that living on campus, in some ways, still didn't feel very grown up, because somebody else was providing the housing, et cetera.
This is probably not a funny story because I could have set the whole building on fire, but when I was growing up, my father used to always tell us this story. If you had any of my sisters on this call, you'd say, "What was the story your father told you about fire?" It was called, "Johnny and the Matches." It was about Johnny, a little boy who played with matches and burnt his house down. I was petrified of fire, petrified of fire. If I was someplace with the gas stove and the pilot light went out or the top of the stove wouldn't go on, I would see people, they'd take a match, they put it by the [pilot light], no way. But, one day, I needed to cook, and none of my roommates were home. The oven pilot light had gone out, and I knew exactly where it was, you know, that little hole. I thought, "I'm too afraid." I was so petrified. I was too afraid to put the match there, thinking that any given moment, it would blow up on me. What I did was, we had an old-fashioned broom, like a straw broom. Somehow, I got brave enough to turn the gas on to light the end of the straw broom and then to just about stick the broom in the oven, when my roommate came in and screamed, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm afraid! I'm trying to light the pilot light." Oh, my God, when I think about that. [laughter] Yes, my father's story of "Johnny and the Matches" could have had deadly consequences.
KR: The duplex on Delafield Street, that was your junior year?
AS: That was my junior year. Senior year, that was a trip. Now, New Brunswick has changed so much since then, but I lived off of Easton Avenue, I guess, on Livingston Street. There was a pizza parlor there. I lived on the top floor above the pizza parlor, so I think it was the third floor. I had this landlord, and I had a roommate. Livingston was a little dicey then. I remember we moved in, and there was some furniture left behind. I found, under one of the mattresses, this huge knife, almost as if the person sleeping there had slept with the knife under the mattress. Yes, it was interesting, but I loved it. I loved it. I would have friends over. I would cook meals. That was another person you might want to talk to, Jennifer Pakenham. She was my roommate. She was a friend from the dorm. She was one of my roommates in Delafield Street, and then we got the apartment on Livingston. She was with her boyfriend a lot, because she eventually married him. They divorced years later, but she was with him. He was in one of the frats.
There was a pantry in that apartment. We were right next to a YMCA, and that theater was there. I forget what it was called. Anyway, we were right near the YMCA. We had a pantry, which was fabulous, and it was like a walk-in pantry. It was a very old apartment, and it was sloped roofs. I remember one night, I walked into the pantry. I don't know if I was in my underwear, if I was naked, and I thought, "I just feel like somebody is watching me." I thought, "Angela, don't be ridiculous." Then, it happened again the next night. Then, I looked, and there had been a man who had been watching me from the YMCA. It was strange because I would see him on the park bench, and I'd think, "Oh, my God, that man saw me in my underwear." It was kind of dicey, although, to be honest, I was never afraid. I was never afraid coming home late at night, walking along Easton.
Those are the happiest years of my life. There are chunks of time in my life--I've had a pretty good life overall--but there are chunks that I think, "Yes, that was great," and those four years were great.
KR: You have touched upon this a little bit today and a little bit in your last interview, but what was your social life like when you were at Rutgers? What did you do for fun?
AS: When we were living in the dorms, we hung out with a group of guys from Clothier, so they were sort of our social life. I had lot of girlfriends; we would go out to dinner. I'd go to the movies a lot because I took film class too, so I would go to the movies a lot. I'd read. I'd go to the theater. There was a room in the Student Center on College Avenue that was a room where you could put in requests to listen to albums. I know this sounds totally like when dinosaurs ruled the earth, but you'd go up to the desk and you'd say, "I want to hear The Moody Blues' album," or, "I want to hear the X album." There'd be a list. Then, you'd sit in the room. You'd read your book, or you'd do your homework or whatever, your work for school, and then, at a certain point in time, it'd be time for your album to come on. It was great sound. It's like one of those Bose surround-sound systems. I would do that.
I would go to lectures. Rutgers was great. The thing I rue about college is that I didn't do more of that. Tillie Olsen was there. A number of people came and spoke. I would do that from time to time. Like I said, I would do reviews for The Targum and I also worked at 56 Place. That was a pretty big part. I think I went to one football game; maybe I shouldn't say that. Football: ruining Monday nights for decades. I was never a big, "Let's go to a football game." I think I went to some basketball games. I wasn't a big party girl; I did some but [not a lot].
KR: Who are some other speakers that you remember being on campus, speakers or bands?
AS: I remember Tillie Olsen, because there was a flyer in our dorm. I don't remember seeing her, and then I remember reading her short story, "I Stand Here Ironing," and my heart just broke in half, thinking I missed the opportunity to see her. I'm wondering if I saw Gloria Steinem. I saw a feminist at, I think, not Kirkpatrick Chapel. I saw a feminist come speak to us. I'm trying to think of who else I saw--Nancy, what was her name? She ran the women's history program eventually at Douglass. I saw her speak. I'm trying to think what her name was.
AS: No, I could have the wrong first name.
KR: Mary Hartman?
AS: No. Nancy, or maybe it wasn't Nancy. I can't remember, honestly. Now, here's the deal though; I probably could do this. I am a great letter writer. I don't mean great like I write great letters, although people like to get my letters. I write a lot of letters, and in college, I wrote to my parents. I wrote to friends. My parents are both deceased. They sent them all back to me, and I'll make you a bet, if I look through them, because I'm the type of person who starts a letter by saying, "Dear Kate, I'm sitting here on the front porch, having my cup of coffee. On the stove right now, I'm simmering a pot of …" I'm very detailed and descriptive. I wouldn't be surprised if in those letters, there are things like, "Last night, Tom," my really good friend in college, "Tom and I went to see blah, blah." I had also been keeping a diary on and off, but some years more consistently, since I was twelve years old.
KR: You said the person was the head of history at Douglass.
AS: I think so, the women's studies.
KR: Maybe it was Mary Hartman, later the dean of Douglass, who was a historian.
AS: No, no. She was the head of women's studies, I think. Nancy Bazin maybe.
KR: Yes, Nancy Topping Bazin. [Editor's Note: Nancy Topping Bazin served as an assistant professor in the Rutgers College English Department from 1970 to 1977. During her time at Rutgers, Bazin helped found the Institute for Research on Women (then called the Women's Studies Institute) and served as its director in 1974. She went on to a career as a scholar and professor at Old Dominion University. Her oral history interview is available on the ROHA website.]
KR: Yes, I actually interviewed her a couple of years ago.
AS: Yes, I think I heard her speak.
KR: Yes, she was an English professor at Rutgers College.
AS: Right. Ah, I know who I saw, not such a big fan, but Alicia Ostriker, the poet. Yes, I heard her. It'll all come back to me, I'm sure. [Editor's Note: Alicia Ostriker is Professor Emerita of English at Rutgers, where she was active from 1965 to 2004.]
KR: Gloria Steinem did speak at Rutgers your first year.
AS: Yes, and I think I saw her. Yes, those are the ones that come to mind, Nancy, Gloria, Alicia Ostriker and also Tillie Olsen, who I don't think I saw, but I know she was on campus.
KR: Your sister went to Douglass, and I think you marked down in your pre-interview survey that she left in 1973.
AS: She went for two years and left after her sophomore year to get married. She had a boyfriend who became her husband, the father of her two children, they're long divorced, who literally was intimidated by the fact that she was in college and he was not. He was a construction worker and really pressured her to leave and get married.
KR: Did you spend any amount of time on Douglass Campus or on any of the other campuses, Livingston College maybe?
AS: I spent some time on Douglass, although I don't remember taking a course there. I did take a course up at Livingston, and my friend Tom would remember this. You might have to edit this out because this probably is family company. It was a feminism course of some sort, and the teacher actually put a speculum in herself. It was kind of strange, a little different. Livingston College then was not what it looks like now. It felt very other. You had to take this bus up there. I remember that course was a little bizarre, interesting, different. No nun had ever done that in class, for sure.
KR: To what extent were there women's health services available on campus?
AS: I know there were health services available because I wound up in the health [center]. I wound up there because I was sick, I think. I can't remember, but I remember being there. Was I admitted? I don't know. I never sought out women's health services. I never went for birth control counseling. I don't know; I honestly don't know. Despite the fact that I felt like these were the four most incredible years, on many levels, there was a lot I wasn't paying attention to, I guess, like health services. I knew there was a health [center]. Whether there was outreach for women, I have no idea. Whether there was counseling about birth control or safe-sex practices, I have no idea.
KR: What do you remember about your graduation?
AS: I remember that my beloved teacher and friend Godelieve Mercken-Spaas was there. I have pictures with her. I remember how proud my parents were. I have three sisters. My oldest sister Mary had skipped grades in grammar school, had been a National Honor Society member, but she had quit college in her fourth year. She has since gone back and gotten a master's. So, she had quit college--that had devastated my parents--to get married and be with her husband because he was in North Carolina for a job. My second sister had quit after her second year. At that point, they thought sister number four, my youngest sister, was never going to go to college, and she didn't for a long time. They were really, really proud because their dream of having a child graduate from college had come true, and so it was a really joyous day.
I think, for me, it was also tinged though, because now it's like, "Now, what do I do?" College is a great experience, and it puts you, in some ways, in a holding pattern before you have to enter the real world. I think I had some real trepidation as to how I was going to enter the real world. What does a college English degree prepare you to do? I think it's different now; I hope it's different now. Back then, I think my view at least was very limited by what I saw in my surroundings and the community I grew up in and what roles I saw women in. Now, I think there are so many things that people see because of the internet. You don't have to see that there are female scientists, data analysts, archaeologists, because you see them online. But, back then, I really thought there were two options. You could be a nurse, and many of my high school friends went on to nursing school. You could be a teacher. Many of my friends from high school went on to become teachers. They went to teachers' colleges. What was I going to do? It was tinged with anxiety also.
KR: Does anything else stick out in your mind about graduation?
AS: No, just that it was joyous. You probably know this; I don't know who our speaker was.
KR: It was Millicent Fenwick. [Editor's Note: Millicent Fenwick served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1970 to 1972 and then in the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey's 5th District from 1975 to 1983.]
AS: Okay, now that comes back to me, yes, a much better speaker than my high school graduation speaker. He was a downer, or she was a downer. I just remember thinking, "Oh, my gosh, we've just been lectured."
KR: What did you do after graduation?
AS: After graduation, I think by then, my parents had moved out of state, so there was no home to come back to per se. Marian Calabro and I lived together in her parents' house in Kearny, New Jersey for a while, and then we found an apartment in Hoboken. Before then, I lived with my cousins in Manhattan, and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do.
I got a part-time role, it was a project really, for Rolling Stone magazine, which is hysterical, because I am such a light sound [music fan]. My husband always says I can find the light sound or the light sound station anywhere I travel. My project at Rolling Stone magazine was to tabulate the results of this rock and roll poll they had done. So, I had some projects.
I would go on interviews. Back then, what you did with an English degree was get a job as a secretary or an assistant-assistant-assistant editor at a magazine. Here was the rub: I didn't really type that well. If I had to take a typing test, it was all over.
I eventually got a job at a film company. It was a family-owned company. They rented and sold eight-mm and sixteen-mm films to institutions, colleges, advertisers and agencies, et cetera. I started working there. It was a crazy place because it was family-owned, but I learned so much, learned so, so much. I learned customer facing. I managed somebody eventually. I learned pricing. I learned some marketing, direct-response marketing. It was crazy. It was the type of thing, we would be all ready to do a huge mailing of a catalog we'd already put together, and the president would say that he wanted to rearrange offices or furniture. It was that kind of thing. Plus, he and his sons, who worked in the business, were real screamers. So, I left without a job, which was unheard of coming from my financial and family background. But, at the time, I was with the man who's been my husband for forty years now, and he said to me, "Angela, I have a job," I think we were living together at the time, "Leave. We can live on my salary." We had an apartment at that time in Hoboken, which was a really wonderful floor-through. The landlord was Italian. He adored me. He let me use the backyard to plant a little vegetable garden. I had great neighbors, and I was paying all of 125 dollars a month and that was me and him splitting that rent.
I quit my job, but, you know what, I'm a workaholic. I always have been, always will be, and I was like, "'What am I going to do with myself?" I registered at a temp agency, and I got a job at Transamerica Interway. Now, Interway had just been acquired by the Transamerica Corporation. Interway was a company that sold and leased intermodal transportation equipment units, those containers that go on ships, on boats and on trains. It was the first time I had ever heard of them. I got a temp job there doing basic clerical work.
The office services manager had hired me through the temp agency [for] one day. This is imprinted on my mind; in the afternoon, it was a one-day job, and I remember, Kate, I'll never forget this, I was making photocopies for one of the executives. You remember, you'd put the photocopy on and the thing would slide across. Every time I'd make a photocopy, I would say under my breath, "I graduated with honors. I graduated with honors. I graduated with honors." Then, about three o'clock in the afternoon, a transportation analyst came to me in a frenzy. Her name was, and still is probably, Pauline Pinkus, and she said to me, "Do you know how to type?" I said, "Yes, I know how to type. I'm not fast." She says, "It doesn't matter." She said, "I need to get a lease agreement out by today and I don't have anybody to type it." I said, "Okay." She gave me the lease agreement and the cover letter to the client. It was a huge lease agreement. We're not talking about two units; we're talking about hundreds of units. It had gradations, if you lease this many, if you lease this many. I guess many people, when they type something they're given, don't read it, but I'm a reader. You see me in a car as a passenger, I get upset if I can't read the signs on the highway. I'm typing this lease agreement. I go to her and I say, "Pauline, I know nothing about transportation equipment units. However, I think this letter is wrong, because it seems that the more they lease, the higher the per unit price is." She pulled it out of my hand and she looked at it and she said, "Oh, my God, I can't believe I did that! I can't believe you caught that." So, she revised the letter. Okay, day is done, I leave and go home.
A week later, the temp agency calls me and says, "I don't know what happened at Transamerica, Angela, but they think you're like a certified genius and they have a project. It's going to last a few months, because having been recently acquired by Transamerica Corporation, they have to report pension data to the corporation for the first time, and they need to hire somebody." I thought, "Okay, I don't have a job. Why not?" So, I did that.
Now, at the same time, I was interviewing, I was being considered for a job at Ted Bates and Company, which was an advertising agency. I also had an interview at HBO in their marketing department. At Interway, the head of office services came to me, because what had happened was that she had heard that I was interviewing outside the company and she said, "Angela, if you're looking for a permanent job, I need an office services assistant, and here's the job." You make nothing as a temp. I remember there was a Florsheim Shoe Store underneath the building. It was 522 Fifth Avenue. I would pass it. It was on Fifth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd. I remember I'd look at the shoes in the window and I'd think, "I can't even afford these shoes based on what I get paid." She offered me a job as an office services assistant, and I really thought about it for a while, Kate. Then, I thought to myself, "First of all, you know that you recently did a project in which you did an analysis of which copier is more efficient in terms of how much it costs to print something. Also, you know what, Angela, nobody will call you and say, 'Oh, guess what, my chair didn't break today and my Venetian blinds didn't fall off the window,' but they will call you every time there's a problem.'" So, I turned her down.
What happened is that the head of HR [human resources] heard that I had considered a job, and her benefits administrator had gone out on maternity leave. She asked if I would, once I was finished with that pension project, be the benefits supervisor, whatever the title was, until her person came back from maternity leave. So, I did. I was still a temp. I was still through the agency. I really liked the head of HR, and I liked the other HR person. The woman who was out on maternity leave decided not to come back, and they offered me the job. I thought, "I'll have my own phone line. I'll have my own office," back in the day when everybody had offices. "I'll have my own Swingline stapler. I'll make more money." That's literally how I got into HR. I became the benefits supervisor at Transamerica Interway.
The head of HR, who I thought was going to be my mentor and teach me everything, turned out to be a nightmare, because the minute I was on staff, that was the end of any teaching. I remember, I had to renew a life insurance contract for the company, and she handed it to me. I read it, and I'm like, "I don't know what the hell I'm doing." I went into see her, and I said, "Maggie, I don't really know what I'm supposed to. I don't really understand what I need to do." She literally took it from my hand, looked at it, handed it back, looked me in the eye, and she said, "I think it's self-explanatory, Angela." That was it, baptism by fire.
Anyway, that's how my career in HR started. It started in benefits, stayed in benefits and comp [compensation] and risk management for a while, and then I made the change to more general HR, employee relations, learning and development, et cetera. When I look back at that, timing is everything. If the HBO job had come through ... They put a freeze; at HBO, they were going through a restructuring. If the Ted Bates job had come through ... There was another one I was being considered for, Diener Hauser Bates, because of having worked in that film company; they did the advertising copy for movie studios. If any of those had come through, I would have had a different career.
KR: I am just curious, what year was it that you started working at Interway and then what year was it when you moved into human resources?
AS: I can confirm this, because these dates are on my resumé. I was at Ogilvy, 1983 to 1992. I was at Methodist Hospital before then. It would have been like '77 to '79 maybe.
KR: Tell me about that early part of your career at Interway. What was human resources like then? What were you doing? What did you learn? How did that propel you forward for the rest of your career?
AS: I think there's a couple of things, now that I look back on it. First of all, it gave me a good foundation in benefits, because I took care of the medical plans, the dental plans, the pension plans, the LTD [long-term disability] plans, the workers comp plans, life insurance. I worked with the carriers. I worked with employees. I worked with payroll. Even back then--I look at it now through a different lens--but even back then, I understood how you build social and political capital. I made really good relationships with people. I was never afraid, and I think this has really served me well, I was never afraid to say, "I honestly don't know. Can you help me?" I remember there was a finance man there, this really nice man, older, I thought he was older at the time, and I remember asking him some information on how something was done. He was very generous about it, but I wasn't embarrassed. I thought, "I'd rather go to somebody and say, 'I think I understand this. Can I run this past you and tell me if I'm on the right track?' than to fumble and screw something up." I also was the type of person and still remain the type of person whose first response to something is usually, "How can I help?" I made some good contacts, some good relationships, but at a certain point, I knew it was the time to leave.
There was a headhunter I had worked with at one point. He called me, and he told me about a job at Methodist Hospital in Park Slope. It sounded really interesting. It definitely was a step up. I'd be the benefits supervisor. The hospital at the time, I think, had 521 beds. That's how you always talk about hospitals, the number of beds. It had three unions on site. I'd be the head of benefits. I'd be working with the head of HR. I'd have a team, and I would have a budget. It would be my budget to take care of.
I left Transamerica. I get attached pretty easily. I remember, they gave me a little going-away thing, and then on the subway home, I was with my husband--were we married then? I think we were married. Anyway, everybody on the subway was looking at us, because I was sobbing uncontrollably. I was sobbing because I was like, "Oh, I can't believe I left." I left all these people I really cared a lot about and liked working with.
Then, I went to the hospital, and the hospital was, wow, that was also a huge step up. Now, I'm dealing with the District 1199 [National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees], the Committee of Interns and Residents. I'm dealing with the New York State Nurses Association. I'm dealing with nine hundred non-union employees. I'm on the accident review committee. A hospital is like a little world. We have our own post office. We have our own kitchen staff. We have surgeons, administrators. The frustration of working not in a corporation, a lot of committees, budget issues, but, again, I also had great staff and made some great relationships. I'm trying to think, I had my son when I was at Ogilvy, but I went back to Methodist to have my baby. That was sort of funny; I'm in the hall and people are like, "Angela!"
The same headhunter who put me at Methodist Hospital called me at some point and said, "Unless you're going to commit yourself to the not-for-profit world, you've got to get out. You can't stay there too long, Angela, or that will become how people see you. I've got this great job at Ogilvy," the advertising agency. He talked to me about it. I went for an interview, and I got the job.
That's where my career totally turned around. I started as the benefits supervisor. This is an interesting thing I always work with people on. Your boss is not in charge of your career and make sure you're steering. My boss would give me responsibilities; she'd say, "Oh, I'll put you in charge of payroll now, because that's really good for your career." I'm like, "No, not really." Then, she took on the responsibility--think of this, Ogilvy & Mather, which is a pretty big company--she took on the responsibility in our department to be in charge of risk management: directors and officers insurance, liability insurance, umbrella insurance policies. Now, I'm dealing with brokers in terms of insuring the company and insuring the company's car fleet. However, at the same time, I started to work on things like human resource information systems [HRIS]. I started working on employee-relation stuff. I started working on learning and development. I started working on talent acquisition, restructurings, a lot of internal communication. I stayed there nine years, because every year was like a different job. We moved to Worldwide Plaza, so I was involved in helping employees do the move. We did this whole big thing called, "Ogilvy Moves West." [Editor's Note: One Worldwide Plaza is a three-building complex in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan that was completed in 1989.]
I really learned a lot there. That's where I not only learned a lot but really pretty much solidly moved out of benefits. I always supervised it, but that was not where I was doing my own personal growth and development. I started teaching for Cornell Extension Division. I was teaching a course on employee relations. I was on the board of advisors for their extension division here in New York City. I started writing articles about different topics in HR.
Then, when I left there, because there was a huge management change that was not good for me, I got a job at a small marketing/communications boutique where the woman had been the head of PR [public relations] for Ogilvy. She had been the head of PR for McCann-Erickson. She had been the head of communications for American Express. She started her own company. Then, when she knew I left Ogilvy, she said, "Why don't you join me because I really believe in this idea of inside-out marketing?" You can't be externally with a message about who you are, what your brand is, if you don't have people inside aligned. It's this idea of inside-out marketing.
Working for her, I not only did that, working with clients to align their inside and outside messaging, but I also learned a lot about marketing and worked for some great organizations. I traveled to Madrid to work with the McCann-Erickson sales team. I worked with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. I worked with Price Waterhouse. I worked with Doremus Financial Services advertising. So, I learned a lot. I was there five years, and then I went out on my own for about two years.
Then, I got a phone call from a headhunter asking me if I knew someone I would recommend for the Vice President of Employee Development at a PR agency. I said, "Let me think about it." They went through what they were looking for, and I thought about who I knew. I didn't really know anybody in that industry. I knew people who had HR experience. They were hoping they could find somebody from the media/communications industry. I called her back and I said, "I can't think [of anyone], but the other thing too is, having been in that world, I know the different agencies have very different reputations." At the time, Grey was like a sweatshop. "I know you're not supposed to tell people who you're recruiting for," I said, "but who is this for?" She said, "It's for Ogilvy Public Relations." She said, "Now, they're a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ogilvy. They've broken off from Ogilvy Advertising." I thought about it and I said, "I'm going to throw my hat in the ring." So, I did, and I got it.
I was their VP of Employment Development. Then, I was their Senior VP, and then they asked me if I would be their Chief People Officer. That was during the dot-com boom, and that was crazy, cray-cray-crazy. When people talk now about the Great Resignation and employees feeling entitled and stuff, I remember literally doing a week-long Tech Bootcamp workshop, trying to help our non-tech PR people become tech PR people, because we were working with Pets.com, WebMD, all these companies at the time that were only in their early stages and we didn't have enough people who knew how to work with this new thing called the internet. While they were in class, they were getting phone calls from competitors trying to snatch them away. I would see deliveries of roses coming to the office. I said, "What the hell is going on?" I was at Ogilvy for a while, and then there was a management change. I left in that management change.
Then, within less than a month, I think WPP thought to themselves, "What are we doing letting her go?" I had two offers from WPP companies, Young & Rubicam, and another one, maybe MediaLink. At the same time, I had an offer from PR Newswire, and I thought, "You know what, I don't know what's happening with advertising right now." It was a real shift, because things were moving digital. It wasn't going to be the usual fee structure that advertising had always depended on. I really liked this company, PR Newswire. It was that intersection of communications, information technology and journalism.
I took the job at PR Newswire and had a great run. I had an absolutely great run. Hired two CEOs, onboarded both of them. Consolidated eleven operating bureaus into two superhubs; found those locations, worked with economic development offices, got us tax breaks, got employees to move to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Did some wonderful, wonderful programs. Revamped the orientation. Really made HR a respected business partner in that organization and mentored a lot of wonderful people, who have since then become my clients, because they're now in senior jobs in any number of companies.
Then, from there, since I was part of UBM--in the Ogilvy days, in the Ogilvy PR days, the umbrella was WPP in the UK [United Kingdom]. At PR Newswire, I was in the UBM brand. This is crazy, again; this is another crazy Angela story. I had really good relationships with the head office in London. In one of our big companies in the States, they ousted the CEO and they ousted the head of HR, and the head of HR globally came to me, for UBM, and said, "We would like you to take that job, Angela." It was headquartered in Long Island. It was a bigger company than PR Newswire. It was an incredible amount of change, and it was something I had sort of made a reputation in, helping organizations transition through change. I thought, "I can't leave PR Newswire, not now. We're involved in all these projects." What I did was, I said, "I can't leave PR Newswire. I'll do both jobs." It was crazy. I would be traveling for PR Newswire. I'd be driving out to Manhasset, Long Island. I could spend the next couple of hours telling you everything I was doing, and it was crazy. They hadn't had training in a long time, and because I felt so committed that we had, in this other company, shortchanged them that I created and rolled out all the training online and in person because I wanted them to see that we were making a serious commitment to their development. I wrote handwritten letters to everybody thanking them for attending the workshops and making a commitment to their own development. It was crazy. I then helped them find their permanent head of HR.
Then, the organization came to me again and asked me if I would help a new CEO who was taking over. He was an internal candidate, but he was taking over a bigger business because they had restructured the entire Americas business and now he was part of a much bigger business, and would I help him transform that business? Would I move to San Francisco? At the time, my husband was teaching in Illinois. We had a commuting marriage. The overture was made to me while I was doing a master class in business partnership in Beijing. They made the offer. I said I couldn't do it in terms of I would not move to California, but I would get an apartment there and I would help support the CEO. I did that for two years.
When that was done, I left UBM. They came back after me, after a couple of months, and asked me if I would take a global role, which was the Senior Vice President of Organizational and Leadership Development reporting to the global head of HR in the business. I said, "Yes," and I did that for about a year and then left and went out on my own.
KR: I want to come back to and talk about your going out on your own and founding the Scalpello Group.
KR: We will come back to that. I want to go back to early in your career, when you were at Transamerica Interway and then Methodist Hospital and then Ogilvy the first time. What do you think were challenges that you faced in the early portion of your career?
AS: One of the challenges was age. I was young. I was young, and I'd always been an old soul. I was young and yet I wanted a lot of responsibility. So, that was a challenge sometimes, because I wanted a lot of responsibility. I think the other challenge was, it was a different time. I remember once, when we were doing a job offer for somebody, one of the men actually said, "Well, we don't have to pay her that much. I think her husband's an investment banker." I remember I said to him, "Okay, let me understand this. Based on what we think her household income is, we don't have to pay her that much. But if her husband loses his job, we'll give her a salary increase?" and, "Oh, by the way, if I buy a really big house in Montclair, you're going to give me a salary increase? Since when do we pay based on household income or people's expenses?" There was a little bit of that. There was definitely some gender bias that I saw. There was a lot of sexual stuff. There was definitely so much sexual innuendos. I remember when I was at the film company, I had to actually leave a conference I went to where I was an exhibitor because a man was literally stalking me. I left in the middle of the night. I broke down my booth, and I got on a bus. I had a ride home, but I wasn't staying for the whole thing anymore. He was literally stalking me. He was outside my bedroom door, trying to get in. There was sexual stuff. Being a woman was a little more difficult. Being young in the early years, people would say, "You're too young for that," or, "You're so young," basically.
I think some of it though, Kate, was me not knowing what I really wanted to do also, in my heart of hearts. In fact, people laugh now when I say, "Believe it or not, I started in benefits." I have a client in the Mideast who [is] a startup CEO and she said, "I'm putting together these LTIP programs, long-term incentive programs. Can you help me?" I'm like, "No, I can find you somebody, but no. I never even could understand it myself." Yet, I remember working with the head of benefits and comp at WPP, relooking at the bonus structure. It's not my wheelhouse, but it was what I backed into and I did as well as I could.
KR: The benefit services industry was really booming in the 1980s.
AS: Yes. Also, being the extreme extrovert that I was, don't ask me how this happened, but I was actually a member of the board of HIP. That was a big HMO in New York City at one point. I then was a member of the New York Benefits Group on Health, and then I started a benefits group in the advertising business. Did I call it "Coffee and Conversation," or "Coffee and Controversy," where we'd talk about issues in benefits. At Ogilvy, we introduced the industry's first cash-balance plan. We moved away from defined-benefit plans, and we put in a cash-balance plan. That was new in the industry. I don't usually do anything without being full in.
KR: As you were advancing in your early career, you were a woman in probably at that point a still male-dominated workspace and you're encountering issues that range from lack of opportunity to outright sexism to harassment, how did you navigate that? What did you see with the women who were around you, how did they navigate that?
AS: Because I was in HR, there were a decent number of women around me. The head of HR for Ogilvy was a woman. The director of HR for Ogilvy, in general, was a woman, and the advertising agency had a lot of senior women. The person who ran research was a woman. There were some very senior women on the account side. I think I handled it all with a sense of humor. If somebody said something to me that was sexist or double innuendos, I would usually make a joke of it, laugh it off, not take it seriously.
I had a lot of opportunity at Ogilvy, within my lane. The reason I stayed there nine years was that I felt every year I had a new job--whether I liked it or not was another thing--running payroll, doing risk management, starting this group in the benefits world in advertising, transforming the benefits package, working with WPP and looking at senior compensation, starting to do some hiring, starting to do some restructuring, starting to travel and do some learning and development, putting in an HRIS [human resource information] system. When I think about opportunity, I think about it in [terms of] was it like a jungle gym for me, and did I advance going up a ladder? Yes, but I also, across different projects and programs, felt that I was learning a lot. Back then, I thought I was earning a very good salary and I think I was and I had good benefits, but I didn't have a lot to compare myself to. That was back at a time when people didn't talk about what they made. Coming from the background I did, it seemed like a very good salary, and in retrospect, I think it was a good salary.
KR: To shift and talk about your family, your husband is also a Rutgers alum.
AS: My husband is a Rutgers alum. At that point in his life, early in our marriage, he was a lawyer, and he worked for the City of New York, the Corporation Counsel and then, over time, ran the Administrative Law Department for the City of New York and then became the general counsel for the Department of Buildings. He switched and had a later-in-life career change, but for a good part of our marriage and in the early years, especially when we were starting to have a family, he was an attorney. Honestly, he was a much more present parent than I ever was.
KR: Which school did he graduate from at Rutgers?
AS: Rutgers College, the same one I did. I know things have shifted since then.
KR: How did you meet? Did you meet at Rutgers College?
AS: Yes, we met at Rutgers. He was dating a woman on my floor. It's so funny. He was dating a woman on my floor, Janet Duffy. He was also the roommate of a man who turned out to be one of my best friends and still is one of my best friends. They were roommates, and they were rooming with another guy. In essence, do you know how there's like a gaggle of people you hang out with? Charlie was part of that gaggle of people, and we were friendly. I remember, in college, we took a ride to Princeton together to see a movie; nothing romantic between us, just two friends. He had a car. I'll never forget, I don't remember how we got there, but we were on a relatively small road. We were going to the movies that evening. I think we were going to have an early dinner and then see a movie. It was sort of that magical time of the day where the sun starts to sink and the light starts to bleed across the sky as it turns into twilight. He was talking about two things that I remember. He was talking about a visit home and his conversation over a cup of tea with his mother. His grandmother was a World War I war bride from Birmingham, so tea is a big deal in their family. Then, he was talking about his former high school girlfriend Barbara. I remember in that car, with the light sort of fading from the sky, we're heading to Princeton, I remember thinking, "This is a man who really loves and respects women." That always stuck with me. Charlie and I were friends for a long time before we ever became lovers, ever started dating or whatever, but we met in college.
KR: At what point did you start your family?
AS: We waited a long time. Charlie and I got married in '81, October of '81, and we didn't have David until February of '88. I got married thinking, "Well, I'll probably have a gaggle of kids." Then, over time, I thought, "Maybe I don't really want children." We were trying to own something. We were traveling. We were both focused on our careers. I remember saying to Charlie, "What happens if I decide I don't really want children?" He said to me, "I really want children, Angela." I said, "But what happens if I don't?" I said, "I totally get it, Charlie. I love you and I also understand if you want children that you need to be with somebody who wants to have a child." He said, "I need to think about it." Then, he came back to me and he said, "I love you and I'll be really disappointed and I still want to have a life with you." It was almost like, at that moment, I felt like all the pressure was off, and within the year, we decided we wanted to start trying to have a child. Because we had been together for so long and had never gotten pregnant accidentally, even though we had been sloppy at times, I figured, "Oh, this will take us years." Within the first month, I guess, we got pregnant with David. There are times I wish I'd had more, but I also knew in the moment and in the time I was raising him, I was sort of like a one-child mother. Charlie was a great dad. I remember saying to a friend of mine, "I fell in love with Charlie a number of years ago, and now I get a chance to fall in love with him again because I'm falling in love with this man I've just discovered who's a father." I saw how gentle he was, how loving, how attentive, and that was really great to raise a child with him.
KR: What led you to found the Scalpello Group in 2017?
AS: I left the UBM head office, and I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I had some interviews. I had an incredible interview; it would have been a real change because it was outside the industry I knew anything about. It was, once again, a transformation of a business. The CEO was in Lucerne, Switzerland. The two companies were blending. One was in the Netherlands; one was in the UK. I would have had to move to either Amsterdam or London. At that point, Charlie was still at Eastern [Illinois University], out in Illinois. Me being out in San Francisco those two years had really put a strain on the marriage, really put a strain on the marriage, and I realized that if I was offered that job, that it was making a decision. I either take this job, move to London or Amsterdam--Charlie wasn't ready to leave the university then--and I basically, in essence, end my relationship.
I also realized that as excited as I was about that job, that here's what struck me at the time. I would be really excited about the job. I would love learning. I always loved learning. I love business. You get me on a plane next to somebody who is doing something I think is interesting, I want them to talk to me for hours. I learned more about supply chain management when I traveled on business than I ever thought I'd learn. I thought to myself, "I'm going to go in on Monday. Then, I'm going to go in again on Tuesday, and then I have to go back in again on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, the CEO is going to come to me," because I knew they were in a big acquisition frenzy, "and he's going to say to me, 'I need you to travel next week with me to Singapore to open up a new facility.' Then, I'll come back and I'll go to the office every day, and then he's going to say to me, 'You have to come to London because we're having an executive team meeting.'" I thought, "I've done this for a long time, and I've loved it. I don't want somebody else dictating my calendar anymore."
Here was the other thing, too. When you're a senior practitioner in any field, whether it's finance or marketing or HR, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades because you have to supervise all of them. I didn't want to be in a role anymore where I didn't get to choose exactly what I wanted to do. I knew comp and benefits. I knew risk management. I knew talent acquisition. I knew succession planning. I knew employee engagement. I knew HRIS. I knew all those disciplines within HR, but I didn't want to do a lot of them anymore. I thought, "If I can start my own consulting practice, I can figure out what I love doing the best," which I had a sense that I knew what it was, which was performance enhancement and performance development, and then I get to do only that.
I started sort of like an accidental business. I got asked to speak at a conference, because I was working on the committee. It was the SISO CEO Summit, the Society of Independent Show Organizers. For the first time, they were going to have a women's forum the day before the CEO conference, and I was on the committee. I put together the idea for what the program might look like. They asked me if I would be the speaker. I did. That was in 2017. It's now 2022. I've never had to market for business. It has all been word of mouth from that moment on. I've gone outside the events industry. I've done work for an academic institution. I've done work for Facebook. I've done work for an insurance association. I've done work for a capital management company in Dubai. I'm working with a startup in Kuwait. It's all been word of mouth, people who have worked with me, people who have seen me speak, people who have been in a class I've taught.
KR: What have been some of the highlights and some of the areas that you have focused on during your time owning your own firm?
AS: Some of the things that I do that, for me, are really game changing, [are] I work with organizations, teams usually, there are two things. One is conversational intelligence, helping people have better conversations that in turn create trust, that in turn open the space for innovation and co-creation. That was one of the things I think I talked about on the Scarlet [Speakers] Series. It was transforming relationships one conversation at a time. We have enough information now, because we can go inside the brain to understand what happens in conversations, and whether we open up trust or we shut it down. As you and I know, when you don't trust people, you assume the worst. You look through a lens of fear. You don't share. That's been really game-changing for some of the teams that I've worked with because I've actually had them talk about where they are on the arc of trust and then talk about what would it take if they could move, what would need to be different. I've done that with an artificial intelligence technology company. I've done that with a travel company. So, I've worked with a lot of different organizations to help them understand how to have better conversations. I've done some work with individuals that way to help them understand that it's better that you ask rather than tell and pull rather than push. That's some of the work I've done that I've loved. [Editor's Note: On March 2, 2021, the Scarlet Speakers Series of the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences featured Angela Scalpello in the talk entitled, "Embracing Difficult Conversations: How to transform your relationships and the culture in your organizations, one conversation at a time."]
I love my speaking engagements, too. I love my work with women. I love my work with women. I also am now certified, provisionally certified, in something called The Four Rooms of Change. It emanates from Sweden, and it's a way of helping individuals, teams and organizations successfully move through change to understand what room they're in, how to move through the different rooms, and how the way we approach the world shapes how we look at change. I'll be in Portland, Maine next week doing that. I've done some of it with The Economist. I'm going to be in Connecticut next week doing some of that work, and I'm really excited about that.
KR: Talk to me about the work that you do with women's special interest groups and the development of leadership skills in women.
AS: I'm finishing up a program I did with Women of the Channel. I've done programs with UFI, with SISO, with Reprise. A lot of it is around helping women find their authentic voice, being able to express it, being able to own what they want without going through a filter of other people, because, as I say to them, we "should" all over ourselves. "I should want to do this." "I should do this." "I should do that." It's very hard for us to say, "What does Kate want?" not, "What does Kate want through the lens of her spouse, partner, children, family, society?" But, "What does Kate really want?" and then owning what you want and what you don't want, giving it voice, and then letting people know, and learning know how to self-promote. I will tell you that I've talked to women who are president level and they all admit, "I'd rather fall into a hole than self-promote," because it's almost like, "I don't want to be that kind of person." So, I help women understand that it's a story that you tell about yourself, and if you can see it as the story you tell about yourself, then there's a way to do it. I give them tools and techniques to do it. Another way to self-promote is that you say, "Clients tell me …" You don't have to say, "I'm fabulous." "Clients tell me that I build trusting relationships easily." I help women understand how to get in touch with their authentic self and their voice, how to express it, how to promote themselves, what that brand is of themselves, and then I do a lot of work around how to negotiate. My negotiation is probably a little bit different than other negotiations. It's much more about building relationships, understanding how to label and how to mirror, how to ask questions for which you don't have answers. The title I always use is "If You Don't Ask, You Don't Get" because you could get a no, but you will never get a yes unless you ask.
KR: Over the course of your career, what do you think have been the biggest changes in human resources?
AS: Again, totally immodestly, I think I was early on in a change that happened; I was ahead of when the change happened. That was, based on what I said to you earlier, I am obsessed with business. I was interviewed for the head of HR by the acting CEO of PR Newswire, a man who became the actual CEO and became a personal friend, and I'm still in touch with him. When I go to London, I see him. When he comes to New York, I see him. I helped his son get his first job. He interviewed me, Kate, and he had a pad with him. I'm not saying anything I haven't told him to his face, "You're like the worst interviewer, Charles, the worst." He would say to me, "So, can you do benefits?" I'd say, "Well, yes," blah, blah. He'd say, "Tick." He literally, as he ticked the box, would say, "Tick." Anyway, we went through just about anything he could think that an HR person did. Then, he asked me what he thought was this brilliant question, not so brilliant, "What do you like best about HR, Angela?" I said to him, I'll never forget, I said, "Charles, I'm not going to denigrate the profession that's been very good to me financially and professionally. It's not that I'm in love with HR. What I love is I love business. What I care about is how do we grow this business? How do we help this business meet its objectives by aligning the employees behind the strategy, helping them feel connected to the business, helping them perform better? I just happen to have these tools that most people consider HR tools." I said, "But what I love is business." I've always been a commercial partner who happens to have HR skills.
I remember when I went to UBM Tech out in California, one of the senior leadership team members came up, he was the CFO, in fact, and he said, "I've never had an HR partner like you." I said, "Well, in what way?" It was sort of one of their flagship events. [He said], "When we were talking about that event and its revenue decline over the past two years and everybody was looking to you for advice on maybe if we move Kate into the role, or maybe if we move so and so, that you actually looked at all of us and said, 'Why aren't we talking about sunsetting this show? Maybe this is a show whose audience and time has passed.'" He's like, "I never expected that from you." I think that's the big shift. Leaders need their HR partners to be business partners first who happen to have HR skills and capabilities. In fact, when I did a restructuring at PR Newswire and we had people who were embedded in the business, I remember saying to them, probably nicer than this, but I was serious about it, "Don't think I will allow you to call yourself an HR business partner unless you know everything about that business, who their competition is, how their revenues are, whether they're pricing their services right. You can't be a business partner unless you know the business." That's always been how I've seen it. I think that's the biggest shift.
I had an interview at a company once; it was a very senior position at a very big company. They were having me meet the presidents of the businesses I would support, and to me, this was the deal killer. I met one of the men, he was a man--most of the people I'd be supporting were men--I said to him, "Tell me about your business challenges." He was totally flummoxed. He knew his business challenges, but he never thought that'd come from me. So, I asked him some business questions. Then, he says to me, "Exactly what will you do with me?" He said, "Are you going to help me organize the holiday party?" I was like, "Oh, my God, I'm not working here." I was like, "Really? Really? No. That would be a no."
I got to CMP [Media]. That was the company where I was doing both jobs, PR Newswire and CMP. Every year, they had an annual barbecue, and the HR team was at the grill. I was like, "No, we don't grill. We're not the party sherpas. We don't grill." "Oh, but we've always done that." "I get it, but do you realize how that positions you? [You're saying to us], 'You order the food.' 'You do the grilling.' Most of us are women." I'm like, "Really? No."
KR: A follow-up question to my last question, what have you seen as major changes in workplace culture over the course of your career? Then, how has the pandemic added to that or continued changes or led to other changes?
AS: I think there's been a number of changes over time. I think one has been that there's much more transparency. There's a number of things that came into the workplace because they were legislated, the Americans with Disabilities Act. I'm talking about the states right now; laws against discrimination in hiring and promotions, et cetera. I remember a time--and, granted, we all know if I graduated from the Class of '76, I'm not thirty-five--there would be ads that said, "Men only," "Women only." That's huge; opportunities have opened up. Some of it's been legislated, and then things have come because of it. I think that over time, there's been more transparency around salaries.
I think that a big change, a big change, is that there was a point in time when employees were expected to park their lives at the front door of the building that they worked in and they were supposed to pick them up when they left the building. There was no blending or blurring of the two. I think that now there's a total blur and blend, and I think that there's benefits and there are real downsides. I think that the use of technology has great benefits and it has great downsides, and I think we've got to learn how to manage that much better.
I think that the world of work post-pandemic is still being shaped, because I see a lot of organizations that are struggling with hybrid work and trying to figure out how you build culture, how you build relationships, how you create connections, how you don't overlook people. How do you deal when there's five in the room and five on the Zoom? What does community look like in this new world of work? So, I think people are still trying to find their way.
I think that there's been a big reset, as people look to see what portion of my life should work be a part of? There's huge generational changes that are happening. I'm not a big fan of saying, "This is how Gen X lives and works. This is how Boomers live and work," because I think that overlooks the individuality of all of us. However, as we've talked about and as you probably see in all your various interviews, we're a product of our times and experiences. I didn't grow up in a pandemic, but there are people who will be entering the work world [who grew up in the pandemic]. I know people who are in the work world now who only knew crisis. They only knew 9/11 and all this other stuff that's happened. I think that it's still changing, and I think that the employers who will thrive will be more employee-centric.
KR: I have looked at your website, and I have read some of your very interesting articles that you have written about pandemic-related workplace issues. I was just wondering if you can talk about some of the issues that you have addressed.
AS: One of them, early on, was will we allow ourselves in this pandemic time--and I think even going forward because I think this is now a new challenge--to pause and reflect and not be so busy? I remember that one was a real outgrowth of my own issues around we're all in the busy Olympics. "Oh, I'm so busy. How are you?" "Oh, I'm so busy, too. I think I'm busier than Kate." It became almost like a competition, who was busier. I thought that's sort of a hollow thing to compete on or to want to win the busyness game. Would we allow ourselves the space and the grace, because it was forced on us, to actually take a pause? I think that that's something that's missing in the world of work quite often. I often say to my senior executives that I work with, "My goal is to slow you down, so you can eventually go faster." Now that the world is opening up, and a lot of my clients from the events industry or in other burgeoning industries, I like to say to them, "Where is your built-in time to stop and think, to step back, open the aperture and to assess what you're doing and why you're still doing it?" I think that's one of them.
The other one I felt very strongly about was that it's always terrible to ghost a job applicant, and I think it became even worse during the pandemic, when people were waiting desperately to hear if they had a job, if they were going to come back from furlough, and not even having the courtesy to say, "Kate, we loved meeting you. We think you have some great capabilities, and we hired somebody that had a little more digital experience," just so that you're not waiting at home, saying, "Oh, I might be hearing from such and such company. I'm still in the running." So, I felt really strong about that.
We did some podcasts about the companies who were pivoting. They were pivoting to a new way of working or were rethinking their product. We talked about a restaurant. We had a restaurant in our neighborhood that was an Italian restaurant. Well, they became an Italian takeaway but also an incredible Italian gourmet, a little grocery. Or people who were rethinking what they did and delivering their services but delivering them differently. I think that it was a way of saying how do we get through this and how do we deal with significant change? One of my favorite podcasts is about emerging through times of crisis, and that was one of the stories. It was about Shackleton. Sometimes, it's like Eleanor Roosevelt's says, "A woman is like a teabag. You don't know how strong she is until she gets into hot water." I think that you see character come through or not when you're in a difficult situation, and I think there were some pleasant surprises during the pandemic for some organizations, if they were willing to look for it. [Editor's Note: Sir Ernest Shackleton and the twenty-seven crew members of the HMS Endurance survived an Antarctic expedition in 1915-1916, after their ship became trapped in ice and eventually sank.]
KR: You brought up your podcast, which is called Talking Talent. What led you to launch your podcast? When did that happen? What are some of the other topics that you have explored in your podcast?
AS: I'm not even sure when we launched, but it's been a number of years now. It was before the pandemic because we were interviewing people in person. I remember that. What caused us was podcasts were starting to become a thing, and my son David and I would always talk about talent. Obviously, I'm biased. I adore my son and he's very smart and he's a big thinker. He's a soccer coach in development leagues, so trying to shape young men and women and develop them into not only better soccer players but better athletes, better individuals really, better people. We would always talk about it, and people would always say, "You two should have a podcast." They'd come for dinner [and say], "I could listen to you talking about it." We talked about it and we talked about it and we talked about it. Then, finally, one day I said to him, "You know, David, there's a lot of research around the fact that talking about something makes you believe that you're doing it." Talking about a diet makes you think, "Oh, look at me, I'm on a diet," while you eat a fudge sundae. I said, "We've got to do something." So, I went to a podcast conference. I took a podcast workshop, and I started looking into what kind of equipment we'd need to have, how would we get an account to stream it and all that stuff. He was great because he's much more technology savvy than me. We said, "What do we want to talk about?" We wanted to talk about talent. So, I said, "Why don't we call it Talking Talent?" We're going to talk with and about how talent is identified, assessed, developed, retained, what is talent.
Some of the themes we've explored, we've had two seasons, one of the ones we explored that we're both passionate about is something called untapped talent. In the first season, it was the idea of untapped talent through the lens of Susan Boyle, not that we interviewed her, but the story of Susan Boyle, a woman who took the world by surprise when she opened her mouth and sang but who, in doing so, defied her own definition of what a singer looks like and who a singer is. She didn't show up for one of her early auditions and almost didn't go on the talent show on which she was discovered, because she thought, "I'm too old, I'm too fat, and I don't look like what people expect." She didn't look like Britney Spears or whatever. What does talent look like, and do our own biases about what somebody looks like, how they show up, bias us, and does it mean that there's a lot of untapped talent out there that we don't see or that they themselves don't identify as? [Editor's Note: Susan Boyle is a Scottish singer who rose to fame after auditioning for Britain's Got Talent in 2009.]
In season number two, we looked at untapped talent through the lens of those who have been involved in the criminal justice system, so not only the formerly incarcerated but also people who have had run-ins with the law. Were we overlooking a huge group of people that we weren't tapping because of that? We've also talked to two fabulous women who run apprenticeship programs, and we also talked to Rudy Bell from Rutgers. Aren't apprenticeships, in essence, the best way we all learn? They've been around a very long time. [Editor's Note: Rudy Bell, who passed away in 2022, was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at Rutgers from 1968 to 2020. His oral history resides in the collection of the Rutgers Oral History Archives.]
We've talked to a historian from Rutgers also about what Lyndon B. Johnson tells us about unexpected leadership, when people become leaders either before they're ready or unexpectedly. What did Johnson do well and what did he not do well? One of the things we talk about is what happens when a leader comes into an organization, does he or she swap out the entire senior leadership team? To his probable regret, Johnson kept McNamara. He kept some of the people. How do you step into a leadership role when the person before you is now becoming a legend? Yes, just interesting conversations. [Editor's Note: Robert McNamara served as the Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968, first during the administration of John F. Kennedy and then during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. McNamara is known for escalating U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.]
Sometimes, it's just the two of us talking. One of the most popular ones is something where David and I are talking about the "Ajax dilemma," which is based on Greek mythology. Another one, which had a lot of viewerships and we feel so grateful because he did it only the year before he died, was a conversation with Walter Bernard, who happens to be my first cousin and a graphic designer, and Milton Glaser about what is creativity. I miss doing it, I seriously miss doing it, but my son is working seven days a week. I just had a conversation with a woman in Paris, and I thought, "I think you'd be an interesting person on the podcast. I might just have to do it on my own." [Editor's Note: Paul Woodruff is the author of The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards, a nonfiction work that explores issues of fairness in the distribution of rewards and recognition. The "Ajax dilemma" in Greek mythology refers to Odysseus receiving the armor of the fallen Achilles instead of Ajax, the loyal and steadfast soldier who believed he should have received the prize for being the most valuable soldier. Talking Talent can be found on Angela Scalpello's website at https://www.thescalpellogroup.com/talking-talent-podcast.]
KR: I would like to shift and talk about your civic engagement and the volunteer work you have done with various organizations. I saw that you were a part of the Brooklyn Women's Political Caucus. Can you tell me what you did?
AS: Back in the day, when the Women's Political Caucus [started], there were local chapters, and I had just moved to Brooklyn. I didn't know anybody, and I wanted to get involved. I had heard about this thing called the Brooklyn Women's Political Caucus, and I joined. Again, what did I say earlier? I can't just be a member, and I became the political director for the Brooklyn chapter. I worked with women who were running for office. We had meetings. I went to the National Women's Political Caucus thing in, I think, Washington. I was involved with them for a while. I really thought I was going to run for political office, and the reason why I chose not to is so pathetically embarrassing. There was a woman who was running for office in Westchester, and some of us from our women's caucus wanted to go and support her. We went to a luncheon somewhere up in Westchester. They served Chinese food, and they had a salad. Now, who serves Chinese food with a tossed salad? Nobody, Kate, nobody. I remember thinking, "One, it's a Saturday. Two, it's a beautiful day, and I'm sitting in a hotel room and I'm eating Chinese food and a tossed salad. I do not want this to be my life." I realized that my idea of being in office was being a senator or whatever. The reality of starting out in political life is that you go to what they call rubber-chicken dinners and you cut ribbons at the local daycare center and you shake hands with people, and despite being an extreme extrovert, I thought, "No, not for me." I don't know how I eased out. [Editor's Note: Established in 1971, the National Women's Political Caucus is a political organization that supports female political candidates and elected officials.]
I helped a friend really very vigorously. She ran for City Council, and she became a City Councilwoman. I did petitions and got her petitions signed, et cetera, but I think after that, I was sort of done with it and I realized I wasn't running for office. I've met a lot of great women. Bella Abzug's daughter, Liz Abzug, was in the group. Another woman who worked for a state senator was in the group. In fact, recently, I was helping somebody who was running for district attorney for Manhattan, and the woman, who is like a senior politician in--her name will come to me--in Manhattan, I'm like, "I know her." In fact, I reached out to her. I said, "You and I knew each other from the Brooklyn Women's Political Caucus." She's like, "Oh, my God, Angela, how many years ago was that?" I'm like, "Yes." She goes, "Yes, of course, I remember you." [Editor's Note: Bella Abzug served in the U.S. House of Representatives from New York from 1971 to 1977. Liz Abzug is a professor, lobbyist and public affairs consultant.]
KR: What are some other groups that you have been involved with over the years?
AS: The other group is Bpeace. The Business Council for Peace has been a huge part of my life. The woman for whom I worked in the consulting company between Ogilvy and PR Newswire, she started the Business Council for Peace after 9/11. It was with the idea and the vision and the mission that in conflict-affected countries--at the time, Afghanistan, it was after 9/11, and Rwanda--that helping individuals create jobs would stem violence, that people join terrorist groups and gangs or whatever because there were no economic opportunities. They wanted to be a part of a community. She started this program, and the two countries they worked in initially were Rwanda and Afghanistan.
One of the things they would do is, in part of the program, they would take one of these, what they called, fast runners, businesses for whom they were giving "skillanthropists." If you're somebody who is a marketing person or a brand person or a supply-chain person or a lean-manufacturing person, we would identify the growth project for a business and then we would give you a "skillanthropist" to help you achieve your business project. However, back in the day, we also were taking those fast runners, and we would be bringing them to the United States and embedding them in a business for two weeks. For example, if you were trying to set up a bakery business in Afghanistan, or you were starting to do an IT consulting business in Afghanistan or whatever, you would be embedded, so we would embed you in Pepperidge Farm. I was one of the companies at PR Newswire who took one of the entrepreneurs from Afghanistan and put him in our technology department for two weeks. That was my first involvement; I became a member.
Then, over time, I was working in San Francisco. I was leaving and coming back to New York. They were bringing a group of people over for an educational program. Instead of embedding them in the businesses for two weeks, one week was going to be all classes. One of the most highly-requested classes they wanted was around leadership. Toni, who was the CEO at the time, had founded it, co-founded it, came to me and said, "Would you help us think of the curriculum, et cetera?" I was working with this woman who wasn't that helpful. She was external, and I said to Tony, "I'm going to actually be in New York the two days that you're doing that program. I'll do it." So, I did it. It was such a hit that--there was only a group that came over--there was a bigger group back in El Salvador, and they said, "Would you fly to El Salvador and do this workshop in El Salvador? While you're there, will you meet one on one with the businesses?"
That's something I've repeated for a number of years. I've been to El Salvador, Guatemala. What I do usually is a learning lab around leadership and leading with emotional intelligence or whatever is really relevant to them. Then, I spend time with the businesses working one on one with them to help them deal with their leadership challenges: hiring, family succession. I've done that in El Salvador. I've done that in Guatemala. I've worked with them on their Women Forward Program, which is this incredible program to mentor more female leaders in El Salvador and now Guatemala. We work with the U.S. State Department and some private organizations. Now, I'm on the board. I've been on the board a couple of years now.
I've also done work with the Institute for Women's Leadership. I've also done some work with an organization called Upwardly Global, which works with refugees who have had careers and professional lives. I always say to people, the example I give is the person checking you into the hospital is probably a radiologist from Iran, or the person who is checking out your groceries at Trader Joe's might have been a project manager in pick a country that's under siege, and how do we help them understand how to look for jobs, create networks, here in the United States, to help them give, to the States, all their professional knowledge. I'm not shaming or looking down on anybody who's a retail clerk, but if you've got the skills to make more money and to add greater value as a radiologist, as an engineer, as a project-management person, shouldn't we help you have that life here, that really you fled your country to try and find a better life.
I also do, to my husband's great annoyance, I think, at times, a lot of pro bono work with people who say, "My son's really struggling. He just got out of college. He doesn't know what he wants to do," or, "I think he's going about interviewing the wrong way." Honestly, I could make a fortune probably if I just did workshops for children of parents who spent a lot of money getting a four-year humanities degree and then don't know what to do with themselves.
KR: Maybe a future spinoff of the Scalpello Group.
AS: Right. When my husband was at Eastern Illinois University, I used to go down, I've been twice at least to their career day, talking about why I believe in a humanities degree. You've learned how to research. I think there are so many things we need in this world, and a lot of them only humans can do, emotionally-intelligent humans.
KR: Let us talk about that. How do you think that your humanities degree from Rutgers College has helped you, shaped you, and propelled you throughout your career?
AS: I remember one time, Barry [Qualls] had me come down and speak to a class, and at the time, I might have been in HR. I might have been doing that big bureau consolidation. One of the people said to me--it was so strange because Barry had me come down--but anyway, the question was, "Did you major in business or economics?" I said, "No, that's the whole point. I majored in English." Here's what it taught me. It taught me to be curious. It taught me to put ideas together. It taught me to form a hypothesis. It taught me how to test that hypothesis. It exposed me to different ways of thinking. It helped me be tolerant of other ways of thinking, to be open to them. I often say, CEOs get hired because of their cognitive abilities, and they get ousted because of their lack of emotional intelligence. I think that being open to new experiences and letting college be that experience for you--I remember Barry once said, "I think that the purpose of a college degree is that you leave thinking differently than you came in." That was true; it opened up a whole world to me. When people say to me, "I don't want my son or my daughter to get a humanities degree. I want them to go for STEM or this or that," I think to myself, "Yes, that's fine, and let them take a poetry class. Let them take a fiction class. Let them take an American history class. Let them be open to the world. I want informed citizens."
KR: Another reflection question about your time at Rutgers, what does it mean to you to be one of the pioneering women of Rutgers College?
AS: It means more to me now that we see it that way. Back then, I just thought I was getting a great education at a really good price from an institution that people sometimes thought was in the Ivies because it had been around for so long. Now, I see it differently. I also didn't realize how few had been chosen. Interesting enough, Rutgers is the only place I applied to. It wouldn't have been my first choice; my parents wouldn't let me apply to my first choice. When I was in high school, I was the editor of the school newspaper, and we always used to enter the paper in the competition at the Columbia School of Journalism. In my mind, Columbia was where I wanted to go, but, one, we couldn't afford it. Two, my parents, even though we lived thirty minutes outside of Manhattan, there was no way their child was going into Manhattan on a daily basis, let alone living there. It means something now that I feel more of a community, because of these women that I talk to now and am part of.
KR: I feel like I could ask you questions all day, but I will spare you because you are a busy working professional. What would you like to add for today? What did we skip over?
AS: I often ask people this on panels, because I'm of a certain age now. I don't think I'm in the departure lounge, but my runway is getting shorter as I get older, obviously. I look back at my twenty-year-old self. I look back at my thirty-year-old self. I would tell her to take more risks, not to care less, because I always care deeply about things, but to care what other people think much less than I did, and to take more risks. I think this is a great time to be a woman. I think this is a terrible time to be a woman. If you're watching the January 6th hearings, there are a lot of young brave woman who have come forward. Who is being trolled on the internet? All the women, not the men. I think, fundamentally, many societies, ours included, have a thin and sometimes not-so-thin dislike if not hatred of women. The incidents of violence against women, the recent decision [reversing] Roe v. Wade, women are not treated well. I think this is both the best of times for women and also challenging times for women. I think that the work that Rutgers does around supporting women, the Institute for Women's Leadership, all the programs we have, I think are magnificent. Charlie and I have endowed a scholarship for the humanities, and I believe in first-generation students. I believe in women. I believe in humanities. I know that some things have gotten easier, and I think some things have gotten more challenging. [Editor's Note: During 2022, the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has held public hearings to investigate events that took place on January 6, 2001. On June 24, 2022, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade (1973) and revoked the constitutional right to abortion.]
KR: I will conclude our interview for today, and then we will talk off the record. Does that sound good?
AS: Okay, totally fine.
KR: Angela, thank you so much for participating in this oral history interview. It has been such a pleasure.
AS: Thank you very much. It has been a pleasure for me, too.
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Transcribed by Jesse Braddell 8/25/2022
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 9/26/2022
Reviewed by Angela Scalpello 4/23/2023