Just six years after successfully completing his MBA at Bentley University, David Pietrycha finds himself at the top of NBC News. Hear from David about his career success and coveted role.
Q. First, we want to know: What’s it like to be senior vice president and chief financial officer of a major television network?
News is a very dynamic business! And, I have to admit, I thrive on the often unpredictable nature of my role in this industry. You can’t know what the news cycle is going to be, which means you don’t know how much money you’ll have to spend covering it. At the same time, there are budget commitments that we need to hit. So every day brings a different challenge.
In my role, I am involved with overseeing finance-related matters at MSNBC, as well as the rest of the NBC’s news programming and businesses — including Today and Dateline. Day to day, I can be working on anything from budgeting to controllership.
Q. Tell us about a specific challenge you have been faced with in your role.
The first quarter of 2011 was especially rife with financial quandaries. Several major world events — from the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to an earthquake and tsunami in Japan — broke in quick succession, and at NBC News, we pulled out all the stops to report on each story.
My role in these situations is to work with the News division president and others to determine the financial tipping point of decisions such as sending Ann Curry, Brian Williams and other top-line talent to cover stories on location. We look very closely at when it makes the most sense for talent to come out, from a cost and a ratings standpoint.
Q. So, prior to moving to New York City and landing a job at NBC, you decided to pursue your MBA at Bentley. How did you make that decision?
An element of the leadership program I was a part of at BAE was pursuing an MBA. But, admittedly, this was a goal of mine even before then. I felt that having an MBA would help position me better over the course of my career giving me a well-rounded skill set.
I chose to pursue my MBA at Bentley because of the reputation of their part-time program. I wanted a program that would help me develop my skill set, allow me to engage with other professionals and provide me with a solid business background.
The program was pretty intense, but the fact that I have my MBA has been a differentiator for me in the way that I’ve gone about my different roles. It has allowed me to have a better perspective.
Q. How has your MBA experience helped you get to where you are today?
My MBA definitely helped me develop my analytical and strategic thinking skills, allowing me to tackle whatever challenges come my way. At the end of the day, it’s nice to hit our number, that’s important, but even more so – I need to get the big picture and see if there is something we overlooked or some new opportunity that we can talk about. Those are the things that get me excited.
My career experiences since graduating have proved how immensely beneficial it was for me to have pursued my MBA, despite the commitment it involved. It’s been very rewarding.
Q. You didn’t start out in this role fresh out of your MBA, so tell us how you ended up as senior vice president and chief financial officer for NBC news.
I actually started out as finance manager for the small store at 30 Rockefeller Plaza that sells NBC merchandise. When I tell colleagues about that, they always get a kick out of it. But, my wife and I had always wanted to live in New York City, and after earning my MBA at Bentley in 2005, we made the move, but I had no idea where I would land.
From the NBC retail store post, I moved to the network’s Stations division. My job in the Financial Planning and Analysis group involved accounting, budgeting and other highly detailed tasks. It’s important to understand roles like that, because you’ve got to know what goes on in a quarter close before you can oversee a team that does it.
Fortunately, I was able to continue to grow within NBC and eventually I was giving the reigns as chief financial officer at MSNBC in 2010. Then, in October 2011, I became senior vice president and chief financial officer for NBC News. It’s been a very dynamic experience over the course of my career at NBC.
Q. How is your role influenced/changed by the changing media scene? Does this affect how you make financial decisions?
The landscape of news reporting certainly has changed in the age of social networks, blogs and the like, forcing us to shift focus a bit and prioritize digital content.
This shift brings on the challenge of how we dedicate funds, especially when some of these economic models aren’t really proven yet. At the same time, I’m aware that to be relevant in the game, we have to allocate resources and play in this digital space. We just have to be careful about how heavily we jump in.
Q. Now, the fun stuff. There must be some perks working for NBC, right?
Whatever the challenges, working at NBC does have its privileges. Over the years, I have attended presidential debates, toured the White House with newsman Chuck Todd, and bumped into everyone from presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to celebrity guests of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Just walking around this building every day, you never know whom you’re going to run into – it’s just amazing that way.
And, recently, I was able to play host to a pretty cool audience – a group of current Bentley students. About 30 students interested in working in finance and accounting visited me at our NBC offices, here in New York City. It was part of a career services program and I was able to share with them my own experiences, answer their questions, and share more about a role in corporate finance. It was great to give back and hopefully it was helpful to them.
Learn more about the Professional MBA at Bentley University.