To celebrate Women’s History Month, HUDSON is shining a spotlight on some of the incredible women that call Hudson Scenic Studio home. Today we are spotlighting two women from the Finance Department: Jo Ann Veneziano (HR / AP Manager) and Melissa McGhee (Purchasing Manager). We chatted with them about how they ended up at Hudson, what their day to day is like, and advice for young women interested in this industry.
The interviews below have been edited for clarity/length.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your career path, how did you end up at Hudson?
JV: Out of college I was interning at an Off-Broadway theater and then jumped from there to a General Management office and that’s where I met Sam [Ellis, Hudson Theatrical Associates]. I did a whole bunch of different things, theater, workshops, all sorts of different hands-on theater experiences, trying my hand at that. Once Sam had moved up to Hudson, he said “as soon as I find a job that is worthy of your commute, we’re going to bring you up here”. And that’s how I ended up at Hudson.
MM: I’ve been at Hudson since 2001, so I’ve been here 20 years! I found an ad that Hudson had put out for a Purchasing Assistant. At that time, I was working as a Purchasing Expeditor for a medical company in Westchester. I lived 5 minutes from Hudson at that time, so I said you know what let me apply for the job and I went in for an interview and lo and behold here I am at Hudson Scenic 20 years later! [Ultimately the job] was so much better than I even thought it would be.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you in the office at Hudson?
JV: I am the Human Resources Manager and the Accounts Payable Manager, which are two completely different jobs! Sometimes there is overlap, but with Accounts Payable it is writing checks to vendors, managing payment terms, coordinating with purchasing and upper management to get things paid, maintaining vendor relationships, some tax filings, some compliance filings; everything that goes along with that. [In addition to that] I am the Human Resources Manager, so all of the company payroll, admin, staying on top contracts, compliance issues, again some tax filings, maintaining relationships with the payroll company, outside vendors, benefit administration, OSHA compliance, workman’s comp administration; pretty much juggling all the players in that sphere. There are some basic day-to-day things, time card entry is something that happens every day, paid time off requests every day, invoice entry every day. There are a few things I can count on doing [every day] but you never know what the next call is going to bring.
MM: The first thing I do is [look over] my e-mails. From there I would check my PO list which tells me if there is a requisition and whether it needs to be generated into a PO. I am also checking my reports as far as the items that we didn’t get in yesterday, I am entering receipts, so it all depends. That’s kind of the way I flow, is that I begin with my emails. I am constantly staying on top of my emails and every time someone emails me, I want to respond right away. Really, I’m not on the phone that much, it is very much email oriented. It’s always staying ahead of an email!
Q: What is the most interesting or challenging part of your job?
JV: The most interesting is the changing field, especially with Covid. The number of compliance issues [can] change daily, not just federal but state and local, and how that all works together. Making sure people know what their rights are and making sure we are doing what we have to and sorting all of that out. It is definitely interesting and also that’s probably the most challenging. Your day can be consumed by the regular activities I mentioned and then it can be easily consumed by a phone call that requires a ton of research, so it’s a lot of time management but it keep you on your toes. You’re never bored.
MM: Probably keeping prices the way they were. Things are constantly changing. I am constantly getting several quotes just to make sure we are in the ballpark. [If I see something] went up, I’ll check with two other vendors to see if the price went up. Staying consistent with pricing is very challenging. The pricing is changing so much, and I am trying not to [unnecessarily] spend Hudson’s money! I am always trying to save as much as I can definitely with items that we buy on a regular basis.
Q: Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on at Hudson?
JV: I guess I would be lying if I didn’t say Spring Awakening. (Editor’s note: Did you know that Jo Ann and her love of theater has been featured in the New Yorker? Check it out!) I started [at Hudson] in July of 2006, and Spring Awakening was in the process of transferring to Broadway and I fell into it and was very personally attached to it outside of my Hudson responsibilities. I mean everyone thought I was seeing it for free, which I wasn’t, but it was interesting that Hudson was working on it and I was just so involved for those two plus years. I was at Hudson every day and Spring Awakening every night. I didn’t have to be!
MM: There was one a long time ago, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I enjoyed that, I enjoyed the visual of it. And the most recent one was Ain’t Too Proud, I went to see that one and I thought that was spectacular. But a lot of times I don’t even know what jobs I am buying for! I am just focused on what I am buying.
Q: What advice would you give to women early in their careers who are interested in this line of work?
JV: I think just show up and be prepared. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. And that would be the same for a young woman or anyone else. Don’t wait for other people to validate you. Know your stuff, stay on top of it, you know that you are prepared. Because if you’re not, no one is going to accept excuses.
MM: The main thing that really encouraged me and drew me to Hudson was the interaction with others. It was very pleasant. Everyone was friendly. Just being able to get along with everyone. So, I think [my advice is] being able to get along because you deal with a lot of people and you deal with different moods and attitudes and you can’t let it pull you in any negative direction. Really being able to communicate with people and be patient is key. And that’s something I am always working on because what I do here, I want things done right away, I want them to respond to me-- basically just really knowing how to handle other people. I work with everyone at Hudson in some way or capacity so getting along and communicating [is key].
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
JV: I mean, there’s a reason it is 15 years later, and I am still here. It was an accident that I ended up here but not an accident that I stayed here. When I first started, I had a foot in the door because I was a personal referral. I was a little unsure, but I jumped right in and got into the problem solving. [I said to Neil] “I would like some feedback since I am here because of Sam.” He said “No, you were here the first day because of Sam. It’s been you ever since”. That was validating and I have held on to that for the past 15 years. There’s a reason why I’m still here and it continues to be mutually beneficial I would say, and I hope.
MM: I think back to day one at Hudson Scenic and I think I always told Neil I love working here because everyone, even Neil, is on point. He is so friendly, I have never had any negative interaction with him. Even from day one I didn’t even know who he was when he came into the office, and they introduced him to me like ‘this is Neil’ like [he was] anybody else. Then later on that month I realized ‘oh Neil is the owner!’ It has definitely been a thrill. All these 20 years being a part of a family-oriented company and I feel like others have my back. It’s just a great company, I have always felt this way.