BUILDing the Future with Student Entrepreneurs

Students of BUILD visit Viacom’s NYC headquarters for a panel on college and careers.

Students of the entrepreneurial program BUILD pulled no punches in the Q&A following a recent Viacom panel on college, careers and career advancement. The high schoolers’ tough questions on content, ratings and profitability showed an understanding and insight into business that signaled great things to come from the group of sophomores.

BUILD (Business United in Investing Lending and Development) uses entrepreneurship to motivate low-income and disengaged students to succeed in high school, graduate, and go on to college. On top of launching actual businesses, students get tutoring, test prep, mentoring and advising on school work and college planning. For a behind-the-screen look into the entertainment and media business world, approximately 50 students from Boston had the opportunity to hear from Suzanne Rosenthal, Senior Director of College Relations; Jennifer Kling, International Brand Management Coordinator and Co-chair of Thursday Think, a networking group for young professionals within Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion; and Jacob Shwirtz, Director of Product Development and Social Media.

Each panelist spoke about his or her own path, the skills and experiences developed in college, and their translation into the workplace and current roles. Those paths varied greatly, whether a communications job led to a career in Human Resources or a start in catering ended in an International Brand Marketing position. The stories’ common theme was that of mobility and openness to alternate opportunities; roles have grown and evolved as the panelists have.

When it comes to digital, BUILD students are in exactly the right place at the right time to go off to college and attend classes on technology, social media and Internet strategy that didn’t exist five years ago, according to Shwirtz. Along with many companies, Viacom is doing everything it can to maximize its presence across social media, with over 200 people working on over 1,000 social media accounts and more being added every day. There are departments dedicated to studying the things that come naturally to BUILD students; such as their use of technology, online interactions and behaviors with friends and brands. Shwirtz noted that the students are uniquely positioned to succeed as companies try to adapt the practices that come to young people organically.  

The students are already leaving their mark on the working world and Viacom. Two young BUILD businessmen were interviewed on their products for Spike’s All Access Weekly. Cristhian Belisario, CEO of Dream Team, developed iPhone cases with inspirational messages, and Alex Gomez, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Muzentil Media, created a pen with an MP3 player for school that plays positive music.

College Tech Projects And High School CEOs – Episode 121
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Some very relevant advice from the panel for those climbing the ladder at any age:

  • Gather your own personal board of directors throughout your career
  • Get a mentor, then a second, and a third
  • Reputation is everything
  • Ask all the right questions and aim to make life easier for your boss
  • Stand out as a big fish in a big pond by taking on additional responsibilities, as Kling did through her duties with Thursday Think

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