Gloria Pitagorsky on the importance of community

Gloria Pitagorsky is Managing Director at Heard City, an industry leading audio post-production facility with clients including AT&T, ESPN and IBM. As the daughter of immigrants, Gloria has worked tirelessly to follow her passion and establish a life for her family in the US. She attributes much of her success to the kindness and generosity of the community around her and as such is committed to giving back by mentoring and supporting young women in technology and advertising. She also sits on the board of the Food Bank of New York City.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
It was actually pretty far from where I ended up. When I was a child my mother, who is fortunately still with us, was very sick. She had breast cancer and an aneurysm so she spent a lot of time in the hospital. Just being around doctors was very soothing to me. There was something very comforting about having factual information and people who were in control, trying to provide solutions. It had a huge impact on me - I thought they were god-like. So not surprisingly, I wanted to be a doctor.

Who would you most like to be stuck on a desert island with?
I must say, there's a long list of celebrities, writers and artists that would be great... but nothing beats spending time with my family. Particularly in the US we are so driven to be workaholics. It’s okay to be productive but I value my time, take my vacation and spend time with my family. Those are moments that can't be replaced.

What single book has had the greatest impact on you? Why?
It’s hard to name one book but I like to go to ABC Carpet in New York City where they host readings with lots of authors. I went to see Arianna Huffington, who I've had the pleasure of meeting a couple of times. Her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder resonated with me in a very big way.

The way we set out to get to our goals can sometimes be all consuming and it doesn't have to be that way. It can be recognizing that this is what you want to do with your life and the mark you want to leave, but at the same time it's important to take a pause, smell the roses, and be in the moment, not driving ourselves crazy by trying to do it all.

When do you go to bed and when do you get up?
I'm an early riser. I like that 6am time which I call "my time". I love to read the New York Times from cover to cover and I do not check my phone at all. It's something that I've had to force myself not to do. For a while it became all-consuming first thing in the morning but I don't want screen time at that time.

For bedtime it depends, but I do like my sleep. At home we all have different clocks. My son likes to go to bed late, I go to bed early and my husband is somewhere in-between but I think you have to be respectful of your clock and get what you need. I need my sleep.

Can you briefly explain your career path to date?
In my late teens I studied at Hunter College and worked at a development office at the same time. An intern opportunity came up at Howard Schwartz Recording so I went for the interview, got it and started the next week. They saw my potential and offered me a full time job two weeks later. It was quick and fast and I loved it. I had great mentors, which was something I really looked out for. I was raised by my grandmother and my mother and they always stressed the importance of building your community, building your advocates and being an advocate as well. I felt like I was thriving. I really enjoyed the industry and the people. I worked at about eight companies over a number of years before Philip Loeb, Keith Reynaud and I decided to launch Heard City in 2012. I knew ultimately I wanted to be a business owner and the time was right.

Recently I have been made a Partner here, which I’m so proud of. It’s great to get recognition for my own hard work. I’ve helped grow this business and done everything from the hiring process to the business plan. We are an audio post-production company and that involves doing sound for commercials, films and all forms of content. We work with advertising agencies and production companies and I do the bidding, client maintenance, client retention and personnel.

We're a small company and one of the things that we set out to do when we launched was to create an environment that is very employee-centric. Collectively we looked at everything that wasn't working at all these other companies and sort to establish a successful company that would also factor our employees happiness into our success. So we set up profit sharing. We are also very supportive of people's interests outside work. There's nothing that makes me happier than seeing employees thriving professionally and personally. That's one of my biggest motivators.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome, as it relates to your career or industry?I think we all face adversity – wherever and whoever we are in life. I am part of an immigrant family who came to the States with very little. We relied on food banks when I was young and we had some pretty serious challenges in our childhood but my mother always said that it was temporary. She encouraged me to work hard so I always had a strong work ethic but she also stressed the importance of supporting your community. For instance, my grandmother would make dinner for all the kids in the neighborhood and people were always coming and going. It wasn't about focusing on only on you. You want to grow yourself but you also want to grow those around you as well. That has always launched me forward.

I've had lots of challenges but we all have our challenges and it's how we take those, move forward and overcome them. I sit on the board for the Food Bank of New York City. I'm in a position now where I can give back and it's not because I want to feel good, I feel it's something that I must do. 

What motivates you?
I've always had a fire in my belly. When I look at it from a basic lens, for me it was always survival. When we came here, we were basically homeless with no money. I was encouraged to focus on school and work hard, no matter what you do.

I want to have a comfortable life and I want my son to be comfortable. I want him to have what I didn't but at the same time I also want him to know that this is paying it forward and he needs to pay it forward too.

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
One of the biggest things is that I'm very analytical. So I analyze something then formulate a plan for how to move forward. Unfortunately I let fear creep in at the beginning and that has made my decision-making process really hard. It shouldn’t be like that. Sometimes you really have to shoot through that, rip that open, face it, deal with it and not let fear be the thing that decides things for you. You have to stand your ground and say, “I'm going to take risks."

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I'm proud for all I have achieved in the business world but I feel so rich in life and I'm not talking about money. I'm talking about my community of family and friends. If I had to say one greatest achievement it would be raising a balanced kid in New York City.

What do you believe has been the key to your success?
It goes back to the community aspect of life. I've always surrounded myself with people that are positive, active and purposeful. Nurturing relationships has been essential for me and I've been so lucky have some pretty phenomenal men and women in my life that have vouched for me, taught me and advocated for me.

What is your life motto?

1. Be relentless about pursuing your dreams: The fire in belly is key to achieving what you set out to achieve.

2. Be a lifelong student: Actively seek out to learn more. Immerse yourself in thought provoking ideas, books, articles and experiences. 

3. Tell loved ones you love them: Life is fast. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
The advice to invest in myself. Whatever that may be, whether it's education or having a period of reflection. Making sure to take stock and acknowledge how I am going to feed and grow myself - however that may be.

Who do you most admire in business? Why?
I don't have one person. There are so many people that I admire across many different professions. One in particular that I do admire, and she's been a great mentor to me, is Soledad O'Brien. She set out to start her own company and tell her stories. I think that's a very important thing to be able to tell your life story the way you want it to be told.

What do you believe is the secret to rising up to the top?
I don't think it's just one thing. I think the most successful people are the ones doing what they love to do. That is the biggest driving force. Pick something that you are really passionate about and want to do, then set out to do it. Between your work ethic, your commitment and community, you can make it happen.

Who do you turn to when the going gets tough?
That's something I have learnt over time. I can't be my own problem solver. I believe in bouncing of ideas of friends. I have a close group of girl and guy friends and also my husband. Getting different perspectives that way is very helpful.

What are your favorite traits about women in the workplace?
This may be a generalization and I believe both men and women bring valuable traits to any business. What I do believe is that women are incredibly smart and appreciate the value of diversity at the table.

What's next?
I really want to preach the importance of mentorship. I believe it's our duty to do it and I always ask people if they have a mentor or if they mentor someone. It doesn't matter what industry you're in but I push for that because we really can impact someone's life in a big way. I believe advocating for people and encouraging that behavior as much as possible is something that I will do until my last breath.


As told to Caroline Hugall at Heard City New York Office on Friday 5th June 2015