Photo of Mike Dukmejian.

You’ll Never Believe Where He Started: A Top Publisher Talks About His First Job

Mike Dukmejian is Group Publisher at Bloomberg Media and Publisher of Bloomberg Markets, an award-winning publication serving the global financial elite. In 2014, Digiday honored Bloomberg Media as its “Most Innovative Publisher” for “using its corporate advantages to advance its digital transformation.”

Before joining Bloomberg Markets in 2009, Dukmejian was executive vice president of SourceMedia Inc., where he oversaw the Professional Services division. He spent the majority of his career in publishing at Time Inc., ultimately serving as Group Publisher for Fortune, Money and CNNMoney.com.

An accomplished media executive, Dukmejian started his career in a position very different from the one he has now. In this interview, he talks with Brian O’Leary about his early career and how it prepared him for the challenges he faces today.

Tell me about was your first job in publishing.

I was a financial analyst in Corporate Production, working on Time Inc.’s People Magazine. I wasn’t a very good financial analyst. I had a heck of a time explaining budget variances and spent hours trying to reconcile numbers.

Only later did I realize that all you had to do was put in a “plug” to make it work. What a dummy I was! I started at Time Inc. in the very earliest days of personal computers, so most of my work involved submitting cards to a large mainframe computer and waiting for reports to come back. Yes, indeed, it was a different era and pretty damn tedious.

How did you land the job?

Coming out of business school, I met Alex Hood, who worked in HR at Time Inc. He was a true gentleman. I was just 26, but I found Alex to be so approachable and kind. In those days, landing a job at Time Inc. was like getting a job at Google or Facebook today. It was a special company with great resources and I was so happy to get the opportunity.

What are some of the things you learned?

I learned so many things in those first few years. I learned that you had to work long hours just to keep up. I learned that attention to detail was necessary to succeed. I learned that how you worked with people was just as important as what you did. A bit later, I learned that you were more likely to get fired if you misbehaved at a sales meeting than if you did a lousy job (I did not learn that the hard way!)

I learned that I was no longer as special as my parents felt I was, that the real world demanded everything I had just to keep my job. From a boss, I learned the most important aspect of sales: “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Finally, I realized that working in media made it possible to witness historic occasions, participate in special events and even meet some famous people. To me, selling media, the marketplace of ideas, has always provided a special reward.

How did you ultimately wind up working in sales?

After several years at Time Inc., I was named production director for Time. I was managing a big staff and a bigger budget, but I wanted to do more. Though I wasn’t sure of my next move, I went to my boss and informed him that I would like to become ad sales director.

That was pretty dumb and very naive. But, he liked me enough to say that if I wanted a sales job I’d have to start at the bottom. So, I gave up all the the material stuff that comes with management – those trips around the world, a big office and a nice expense account – and started as a sales rep for Time. I was back where I started, working in a cubicle with no view.

After a few months, it felt like the biggest mistake of my life. But ever since I had been hired to work in Corporate Production, I had learned how to learn, and I managed to make a go of it in sales. That led to a management role, and then more.

I think one of the keys to my success was the breadth of my experience. Over the course of my career at Time Inc., I was lucky to work in every publishing discipline including finance, production, product development, marketing and sales. I got to work at eight different publications, launch new magazines and eventually new web sites. That experience provided me with the foundation I needed to continue to grow.

What advice do you give folks starting out in publishing today?

You are not just in the publishing business; you are in the media business. Media silos are crumbling. Every media brand today needs to be multi-platform with digital at its core.

I encourage people to move around and get a diverse set of skills and experiences. Unfortunately, most people spend their careers in one area, like sales or finance. Future leaders need to gain a wide experience base – it gives them and their brands a competitive advantage.

I see many people move from company to company, something I support, but I think those moves are often motivated by a desire to make more money. Earning more is a good thing, but it’s important to think of transitions as building blocks for future opportunities. That’s what led me to take a sales job at Time.

Media remains an exciting business. I think innovation and disruption offer people starting out today both opportunities and benefits. The digital world will continue to transform media, making it even more important and compelling than it is today, but we are still at the very beginning.

Dukmejian is a director of Morgan Joseph Tri-Artisan LLC. He holds an MBA in finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a BA in political science from Stony Brook University. Dukmejian is on the board of directors and chairman of the audit committee for the Armenian Church Endowment Fund and serves on the School of Journalism’s advisory board at Stony Brook University.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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