City Focus: Philadelphia
Business Chief explores Philadelphia, a city famed for its historic role in the American revolution, its art and its culture. ‘The City of Brotherly Love’ is also a major hub of industry and commerce.
The sixth-largest city in the United States, Philadelphia is the capital of the State of Pennsylvania and steeped in the history of the American Revolution. Founded in 1682 by an English Quaker, Philadelphia played host to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 by the country’s founding fathers and is the home of many American firsts. The so-called ‘City of Brotherly Love’ is home to the United States’ first library, medical school, hospital, stock exchange and business school. By the 19th century, the city had become a major hub of industry and the nation’s railroads.
Today, the city remains a center for commerce in the state, with its collective gross metropolitan product (GMP) being estimated at $490bn in 2018. While industries like communications and tourism continue to play leading roles in the Philadelphia economy – an estimated 42mn domestic tourists visited in 2016, contributing approximately $11bn to the economy of the city and surrounding area – the area is also emerging as a national hub for biotech investment. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, as of September 2018, the city had seen almost $775mn in venture capital investment in the previous 18 months. Currently, Philadelphia biotech firm Spark Therapeutics is undergoing a $4.3bn merger with Swiss company Roche, which is expected to be completed in 2020.
In addition to its tourism and biotech scenes, Philadelphia’s surrounding area is home to 15 companies on the 2019 Fortune 500 list. Of those companies, two of them have their homes in the city proper: telecommunications colossus Comcast, and food industry services provider Aramark. Business Chief takes a look at the two biggest companies from the home of the Liberty Bell, the Eagles and Benjamin Franklin.
Headquartered in the heart of downtown Philadelphia, Aramark Corporation has operated as a food service, facilities, and uniform services provider to the education, healthcare, business, corrections and leisure industries since its original founding in 1936. The Company employs more than 227,000 people worldwide and has been a part of the Fortune 500 list for 25 years.
Committed to not only supporting its Philadelphia workforce, but all of its workers across the US, Aramark announced in July 2019 that going forward, it will provide the opportunity for eligible hourly employees to receive full tuition coverage for college degrees. The new program has been designed specifically to help industry-leading companies to connect and build relationships with universities.
The Aramark Frontline Education Program is part of a $90 million investment the company made in its employees earlier this year that also includes targeted wage and benefit increases, as well as additional training and development, according to the company.
“Our mission to Enrich and Nourish Lives means we have a responsibility to help our employees achieve their full potential and lead fulfilling lives,” said Eric J. Foss, Aramark’s Chairman, President and CEO. “Education is key to making that happen and we are proud to provide this learning pathway to our dedicated frontline team members who want to advance their education and grow their careers.”
The application process for Aramark employees will begin in October, with the first batch of students scheduled to start in Spring 2020.
Telecommunications conglomerate Comcast is one of the largest owners and operators of broadcasting and television assets in the world, the largest provider of internet services in the US and a leading home telephone service provider. The company is based in the City Center West area of Philadelphia and operates out of its own dedicated campus. Its three primary business units are Comcast Cable, NBCUniversal and Sky.
According to Fortune, Comcast completed its $39bn bid for British broadcaster Sky in October, meaning it now owns 75% of the European pay-TV giant, dramatically expanding the firm’s global footprint.
This expansion and diversification is a key strategic goal for Comcast, as cable subscriptions across the US continue to decline, replaced by streaming services like Netflix, Hule and Amazon Prime. While its NBCUniversal division is slated to launch its own streaming service in 2020, the media giant is also taking steps to explore new innovative revenue options in its home town of Philadelphia.
This year marks the start of the second round of the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs program. “Spanning the entire fourth floor of the new Comcast Technology Center, LIFT Labs PHL is a unique place where startups can elevate their companies with support from mentors, experts, seasoned entrepreneurs — and one another,” writes the company.
This year, Comcast has selected 11 startups from around the world to participate in the incubator program. The companies, which range in scope from artificial intelligence (AI) to fitness apps, will spend the year participating in custom workshops, training sessions, and business meetings unique to the company and its LIFT Labs program throughout the course of the accelerator. Comcast is also promoting diversity in its selection of companies, with one third of the startups having a female founder.
“We are incredibly excited by the passion, drive, and foresight of the founders of these companies,” said Sam Schwartz, Chief Business Development Officer, Comcast, in a press release. “The program will provide them with support and access to Comcast NBCUniversal leadership, and help them push their boundaries in new ways to produce more competitive and successful businesses. At the same time, we will learn from some of the best new entrepreneurs in technology.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.