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Shellie Rosser

Shellie Rosser

Interview Date: Thursday October 06, 2005
Interview Location: Denver, CO
Interviewer: Kristin Van Ormer
Collection: Share Your History Collection
Note: Audio Only and Transcript Incomplete

ROSSER: My name is Shellie Rosser and I'm a consultant in the technology supply side of the cable television industry. I started in the business in 1976, so I've got 28 years of reflection on how the roles of women have changed over those years in the technology side of the cable business. In 1976, I had three semesters of liberal arts college under my belt and I had to drop out of school to earn some more money and go back. My choices at the time were fairly limited. I had been tending bar; it was the best money I could make at the time and it was time to get a day job. So when I started looking around at my choices I was frankly very alarmed that most personnel agencies considered me as a secretarial candidate but I couldn't do that because I could only type as well as I could for a term paper at like 15 words a minute or something and it was kind of making my skin crawl to be pigeonholed into that kind of a category. So I started looking around at what else I was qualified for and I actually interviewed to be a corrections officer at Rahway State Prison, a maximum security facility. I got scared off of that pretty well by somebody who kind of had to offer me a job because I tested so high, but he closed the door behind me in his office and said, "Young lady, you really don't want to do this," and he started to explain why and he scared me. He was right, I didn't want to do it but I was just looking at my options. I went out interviewing for a sales job for a paper company and was told – this was pre-EEO when people could actually be honest with you about why you weren't being hired so you could deal with it more directly – but he said, "You know, it just isn't right for a young lady like you to carry these heavy samples around."

So I was being blocked by my gender everywhere I turned. The other opportunity I had was to serve cocktails on spiked heels at the local Playboy Club wearing little bunny ears and a cotton tail on my butt. Not an attractive option. Finally I met a personnel agency who told me she was going to send me on a job interview with a company called Anixter Wire and Cable and she thought this would be a really good match for my resume since I had been a theater major in college and she said they have a lot to do with television and I'll probably meet a bunch of actors there. So I went in to interview with John Egan at Anixter Wire and Cable. At the time I think he was 28 years old and he was managing that regional office for them in New Jersey, and realized that this was a distribution company and they sold nuts and bolts and everything it takes to build a cable system with. Well, I didn't know what a cable system was, what HBO was, and cable television was nothing I'd been exposed to before but the job was really interesting. The training program went something like this – "Here's your desk. Here's a catalog of all the stuff we sell. Here's a phone and here's a Fact Book that has all the cable company in these five states. Call the people in this Fact Book and sell them this stuff from the catalog and if you have any questions go out in the warehouse and ask the warehouse manager where it is." So that's how I got started and I got absolutely hooked on it and helped to build the cable industry literally from the ground up. We would ship materials to these construction crews on these job sites and the shipping location would actually be a bar and the telephone number to call before delivery went to the pay hone at the bar and it was the bartenders who were asking the head of the construction company to come and sign for the delivery. I would have these construction crew guys – I can't describe the scent or the look of these guys – but they would come off the poles...