April 25, 2006
To Whom It May Concern:
In my long career as a journalist, and digital media manager, I have learned that hiring the right people is probably the single most important accomplishment an executive can make. Find great talent, nurture it, let it bloom and then try to keep it — that was my strategy. (And I must say, it was a recipe that worked — and brought a great deal of reflected glory and success to me personally.)
In my three decades of journalism management, the last 11 years spent starting and running the Philly.com website for Knight Ridder, I have made no hire more important or successful than that of Rajiv Pant. I was lucky enough to find Rajiv back in 1995, when both he and the Internet were young. Brought in as a software developer, he showed brilliant technical and programming skills, as well as a strategic maturity that belied his age. Within a couple of months, he was practically running the place, and the publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer was calling him in for chats about new online publishing ideas. Another boss might have been threatened. But I had enough sense to see that Rajiv could help me grow my business both tactically and strategically. Philly.com became an early leader among newspaper websites, and much as I enjoyed taking the credit, I knew where the real credit lay.
After more than five years in Philadelphia and the development of many unique and creative online publishing successes, I proudly recommended Rajiv to Knight Ridder Digital’s headquarters office in California for promotion to network-wide responsibilities. At KRD, his technical expertise and project management skills were greatly prized. And his ability to lead a team of people was fully recognized. The situation at KRD was not an easy one; there was no shortage of aggressive would-be leaders vying for dominance in a quickly growing company. Many were either very talented, or were very good at pretending to be. It was a politically-charged environment, not easy to navigate. But through it all, Rajiv’s quiet strength and resolve made him stand out. Throughout the company, people knew that Rajiv was smart, approachable, loyal and dedicated. Plus they just plain liked him and liked working for him. It’s a rare treat to find someone who has his talents who is also a truly nice guy. His staff trusted his judgment in large part because it was always based on both a wealth of technical knowledge and a clear desire to do what was right for the company and its people.
After he left Knight Ridder, I no longer worked directly with Rajiv. But I have followed his career with great interest. I could not be more proud of his successes, or of the fact that he continues to be so highly regarded in digital media circles. Sadly, I can no longer steal any credit from his successes. But I take great joy in seeing how fully his great potential has been realized. I count him as both my greatest hire and as a true friend. I would be happy to discuss Rajiv and his work with you if that would be of further help.
Fred Mann was formerly Vice President, National Programming, and Regional Vice President, Knight Ridder Digital and General Manager, Philly.com. He was Rajiv’s supervisor for 5+ years.
(Published with permission)