Has seen her share of corporate change and restructuring and has thrived through hard work and her desire to learn.
By Bonnie Eissner“Any good leader understands that their most important role is developing their people.”—Karen Messineo ’78
She Knows What Counts
In the late 1970s, as an accounting major at Adelphi, Karen Messineo ’78, like many women, was given advice on approaching her on-campus job interviews with the big eight accounting firms: wear a skirt suit (no pants) and remove your engagement ring. Ms. Messineo says the implication was that wearing a ring would signal that “you’ll get married and leave and have babies and won’t be committed to the company.”
Ms. Messineo ignored the advice and landed a job with Deloitte Haskins & Sells, the firm that would ultimately become Deloitte & Touche. Two years later, while assisting on an audit of The New York Times, Ms. Messineo realized that she would rather be working in-house for her client. “I was on that audit for a week, and I said, ‘I have to work here.
I love it here. I love the people. I love what it [stands] for,’ ” Ms. Messineo recalls. “I saw the pride that people took in their product.”
She was hired as a staff accountant and stayed with the company for 32 years. Last fall, she was named CFO of the About Group, which encompasses About.com, ConsumerSearch.com and CalorieCount.com. The About Group, which was owned by the New York Times, was sold just this past September to Barry Diller’s IAC/InteractiveCorp.
In her tenure at the Times Company, Ms. Messineo rose from staff accountant to con.troller of The New York Times newspaper and, in 1993, to vice president, chief financial officer of the paper. In 1999, she moved to the then-fledgling NYTimes.com as vice president, finance. She helped steer the business through the dot-com boom and bust and, in 2003, was named CFO of New York Times Digital.
Ms. Messineo has seen her share of corporate change and restructuring and has thrived through hard work and her desire to learn. “I have to learn something new every day,” Ms. Messineo says. She imparts this philosophy to her staff because, she says, “Any good leader understands that their most important role is developing their people.”
A summa cum laude graduate of Adelphi, Ms. Messineo says that learning always came .easily to her. As a young girl, she even want.ed to be a teacher, but her first official job at the McDonald’s in Flushing, Queens, near her home in Whitestone, gave her a taste of .business and awakened her to the possibility of accounting. The owner asked her after .her first six months to work in the office balancing the books, and, Ms. Messineo says, “I was cash-flow forecasting when I was 17 years old.”
Ms. Messineo kept the McDonald’s job throughout her undergraduate years at Adelphi, and even met her husband there. “Work was my social life,” she says, noting she put in about 30 hours a week.
From a young age, Ms. Messineo became familiar with the importance of work and financial responsibility. Her dad took two and sometimes three jobs to support his family. Her mother also worked part time while Ms. Messineo and her sister were in school. “All I knew was work,” Ms. Messineo says. Even two bouts of Hodgkins disease in 1988 and 1991 failed to undermine Ms. Messineo’s own dedication to her career. Yet, creating a life outside of her job has been equally important to her. She is still married to the man she wed at age 22 and, together, they have raised two children. “I proudly say I have a policy of taking every day of my vacation time and don’t apologize for doing so,” Ms. Messineo says.
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