D'Arcy F. Rudnay on Comcast's New Innovation & Technology Center

by nick diulio | May 29, 2015 | People

As Comcast’s billion-dollar tower takes shape, D’Arcy F. Rudnay remains on the front lines of the media powerhouse’s future.

One for the city: Leading Comcast through a series of growth means D’Arcy F. Rudnay is propelling Philadelphia as an international hub of media and technology.

Seated inside Ralph’s Café on the 43rd floor of the Comcast Center, D’Arcy F. Rudnay looks out at a clear, cold April sky and imagines the massive tower that will climb even higher than the one she’s currently in. Designed by Norman Foster, Comcast’s 59-story, $1.2 billion Innovation and Technology Center will soar 1,121 feet above Comcast Corporation’s global headquarters on Arch Street and house the company’s growing workforce of “technologists, engineers, and software architects” upon completion in 2018. It will also house a 200-plus-room Four Seasons hotel with a top-floor restaurant along with local broadcast stations NBC 10 and Telemundo 62.

“It’s going to be amazing and a real point of pride for this city,” says Rudnay, chief communications officer, and the first woman ever to hold the title of executive vice president, for Comcast Corporation. “It will continue to reframe how people think about us as a technology-driven city, which is a big deal. And it’ll give this city a booster shot of civic pride, just like this building did in 2008. But then again, I am a little sappy about it.”

When it comes to talking about Comcast’s ever-growing footprint, Rudnay is unashamed of her so-called sappiness. When she was recruited 12 years ago, Comcast had just completed a multi billion-dollar acquisition of AT&T Broadband. Rudnay has relished the corporation’s thirst for expansion ever since. “I came on at a time when we went from being the fourth-largest cable company in America to number one—and it was fascinating,” recalls the Wayne native, who moved to Comcast from her VP position at Lincoln Financial Group. “I need to be challenged and have lots of things going on at the same time. And I really like change.” Good thing, because she has gotten her fair share of it at Comcast.

Most recently, the media giant announced a $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable that will require an incredibly complex and challenging transitional period involving tens of thousands of new employees, millions of new cable subscribers, and regulatory approvals at the federal, state, and municipal levels, including some of the nation’s largest markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas.

The move, says Rudnay, allows Comcast to obtain a truly national footprint and compete side-by-side with the likes of AT&T, Verizon, and Google. But her role in this move began more than a year and a half ago, when the merger was still an abstract concept.

“A huge part of my job was to facilitate daily discussions with [Chairman and CEO] Brian L. Roberts, [CFO] Michael Angelakis, and [Executive Vice President] David Cohen,” recalls Rudnay. “And everything came back to one big, overriding question: Is this right for our company going forward?”

That question has defined Rudnay’s responsibilities at Comcast. Sure, her résumé says she “leads the management of the company’s brand, reputation, and strategic communications activities,” but those who know her maintain it’s more nuanced than that.

“D’Arcy is such an important part of this company, and a trusted advisor to me and to the entire senior management team,” says Chairman Roberts. “She has expertly guided us through some of the biggest moments in our history with grace and impeccable strategic instincts.”

A conference room tableau represents the myriad services Comcast offers.

Rudnay’s role was never more critical than when Comcast announced it was buying NBCUniversal, in 2011. The $30 billion trans action meant the cable provider was suddenly an entirely new entity. It was Rudnay’s job to figure out what that meant.

“NBCUniversal is this crown jewel of America, and buying it drastically changed our company,” says Rudnay. “During that first year, we needed to figure out how to talk about ourselves in a different way. What had changed [about this company] and what hadn’t? That’s hard work. Much harder than almost anything I do on an operational level.”

It took the better part of a year, but Rudnay—with the help of consultants and members of Comcast’s leadership—eventually presented the new brand to a room full of executives. What emerged was a slogan now found all over Comcast’s promotional literature: “Shaping the future at the inter section of media and technology.” “That’s what Comcast is now. Prior to that, people thought of us as [just] a cable company,” says Rudnay. “That whole experience was one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my 38-year career.”

Rudnay is also the founding chair of Comcast’s Women’s Network, which seeks to advance and develop women within the corporation and has grown to include more than 1,100 members since its inception three years ago. “When I graduated from college in the ’70s, there were several women who helped mentor me, nurture me, and advise me, and I remember thinking I would always do that for young women who came up behind me,” says Rudnay. “And that’s also part of working for a company that’s growing and changing. On many levels, it’s my job to help create that vibe.”

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photography by daryl peveto