AD AGE SPECIAL REPORT: WOMEN TO WATCH: SEVEN SISTERS EXPERIENCE HELPS BIG-CITY PAPER EXEC: BOOST BY 'TIMES': LEARNED ON SERVICE BOOKS

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In the early 1980s, Janet Robinson decided to change careers from teaching to publishing.

"I must have gone on a good 20 to 25 interviews in 1983," she says, before landing a job as the New England rep for Tennis, a New York Times Co. title. "I felt if I was going to make the kind of career path I wanted, then I had to be persistent."

In the ensuing 14 years, she has survived corporate intrigue, the departure of several mentors and the 1994 selloff of McCall's and Family Circle.

Last September, she was promoted from senior VP-advertising at The New York Times to president and general manager, making her the highest-ranking woman at the nation's second-largest daily paper. She reports directly to Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.

The journey to her current position was almost derailed several years ago.

In 1993, she moved from senior VP-advertising and marketing for the company's Women's Magazine Group to an ad sales post at the company's flagship newspaper.

The next year, in a surprising move, the women's magazine division was sold to Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing. Many of her one-time colleagues either found themselves downsized or working for a new corporate owner.

Ms. Robinson says the transition to the rough and tumble world of big-city newspaper ad sales was helped by her days selling pages for women's service magazines.

"Because there are so many competitors, it was probably the most challenging sales job," she recalls.

And in a rarity in today's business environment, where company hopping is the norm, she has spent her entire 14-year pubilshing career with The New York Times Co.

"Luck plays some role in everything," she says, "but I think interpersonal skills with peers and senior management are the most important qualities [for women executives]. It's certainly helped to advance my career and made me a

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