Viacom

Talent for Good: Viacom’s JM Chilgren Auditions for The Actors Fund

The Actors Fund website was designed in 2001, a relic from the dial-up era. Beyond the unintentionally nostalgic design, the website was challenging to manage and almost impossible to navigate. The Actors Fund, a nonprofit that provides services and programs to members of the entertainment community, was struggling to serve its members with this outdated Internet presence. ​

Compounding that problem was that the organization did not have the resources or the expertise to re-design its website and transform its relationships with clients and donors.

It was a situation perfectly suited for Viacom’s Talent for Good program, part of our Viacommunity social impact umbrella. The Talent for Good program matches employees’ professional expertise with nonprofits to serve a need that those organizations can’t fill themselves.

JM Chilgren, senior product manager on the Multiplatform Monetization team at Viacom, is no stranger to Viacommunity and to volunteering. He’s a co-chair of LGBT Employee Resource Group Emerge, an active participant in Viacommunity Day, and a frequent volunteer with LGBT nonprofits.  Chilgren was asked to join the Talent for Good pilot and acted as project lead on the team that would help The Actors Fund overhaul their website. Chilgren’s team included a Senior Product Director Kimberly Hicks, Design Director Al Lucca, Senior Manager of Emerging Trends Product Research Tracy Stender, Software Engineer Martino Buffalino, and UX Researcher Mike Suneja, all from Viacom’s Central Product Group under David Kline.

“Talent for Good allows individuals to grow in the corporation by contributing their skills,” said Chilgren. “The program makes it easy to pair yourself with a nonprofit. More importantly, it’s an amazing way for Viacom to not just give money to an organization, but contribute actual talent to solve real world problems they are facing.”

The project began with significant communication between Chilgren’s team and the Actors Fund to identify the website’s most pressing needs. The Viacom team then presented the nonprofit with recommendations and finally created a prototype of a new website. Each of those steps drew considerably on the Viacom employees’ professional experiences, but more importantly, depended on their ability to combine their different expertise to serve the project. Chilgren highlighted the interdisciplinary aspects of the program: “Working with the other team members, we all gained experience and learned a little bit about areas that don’t involve our day to day.”

As he conducted weekly check-ins with the Actors Fund leadership team and developed a website prototype that matched the organization’s needs, Chilgren gained an appreciation for how a large company like Viacom with extensive resources can work with smaller organizations to benefit both groups. “The most rewarding moment was realizing the impact our work with The Actors Fund would have on people’s actual lives – that thousands of people will be able to better find the services and benefits that they need and depend on through The Actors Fund website,” he said. “We hope The Actors Fund will be able to better communicate their mission through their Web presence, helping to raise more money and allow them to continue to grow and support their amazing community.”

The Actors Fund is working on building the website right now, with the hope that they can soon go from their current site (on the left), to an updated site based upon the Viacom Talent for Good team’s wireframe (on the right):

Actors Fund Website Current  Actors Fund Website Wireframe

Chilgren has already paired up with another nonprofit through Talent For Good, conducting a website audit for Live Out Loud, which pairs LGBT youth in high school with mentors and professionals.

Viacom and She’s The First Unite to Celebrate Education

Chanel J Cathey 1 by Chanel Cathey, Viacom
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Education has the power to break the cycle of poverty. Those words encourage the groundbreaking nonprofit She’s the First to fulfill its mission to sponsor scholarships for girls in low-income countries, helping them to become the first in their families to graduate from secondary school.

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An MBA Intern Invests in a Summer at Viacom

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Hanging out in the lobby of 1515 Broadway. Photo courtesy of Tanmay Monohar. Read More

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“This is not some internship where you’ll run around getting coffee for people. I want to give you a challenging project with a tangible outcome that we can point to at the end of the summer and say, ‘Tanmay did that.’ It’s going to be hard work, but along the way, dude, you’ll have fun.” Hearing that on the first day of work from Bryson Gordon, senior vice president of data strategy, immediately quashed any doubt that spending the summer at Viacom was going to be epic. Given the ludicrous amount of television and movies I watch and my love for acting, working in media and entertainment felt like a no-brainer.

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Building a Habitat for All

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Long before Viacom’s Viacommunity Initiative was formalized and began impacting communities and making a difference across the world, the company started small and local. A dedicated group of Viacom executives walked across the street from the organization’s New York City headquarters to paint a homeless shelter. Among them was Lou Converse.

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Ready, Set, Code: Viacom Hosts Girls for a Summer of Learning

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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Twenty-five software engineers walk into a room. How many are women?

This sets up like a joke, but the answer is not funny: three.

Or that is the average, anyway, based upon research from Girls Who Code, an organization determined to equip girls with the computing skills necessary to compete in a 21st century job market.

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Gettin Our Comic Con On

The annual San Diego Comic Con is home to diehard fans celebrating their favorite comic books, movies, TV shows, and characters with outlandish costumes, fan activations, and packed panel discussions. With deep stables of iconic properties, Viacom’s MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon helped drive the festival’s excitement, giving hardcore fans a close-up dose of their favorite shows. Viacom booths integrated fans into their worlds while panel events with cast members and producers connected them with beloved characters. And all three brands teased upcoming or current shows, including MTV’s Scream, Comedy Central’s Moonbeam City, and Nick’s Pig Goat Banana Cricket.

Check out what each brand served up to its fans during the event:

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Way Outside the Digital Signage Box

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AV Technology Magazine recently announced the creation of the “Out of the Box Award” to recognize something that “sets a new standard of immersive, customized, interactive digital signage with specific benefits for tech managers and operations managers.” The big winner of the magazine’s inaugural award? The lobby of Viacom’s newly renovated Time Square headquarters.

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Scripting a Future in Technology for Students in Need

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In June, Viacom hosted 70 students from ScriptEd, a start-up nonprofit that aims to equip students in under-resourced schools with the fundamental coding skills and professional experiences that create access to careers in technology. The event was part of a three-day program to prepare ScriptEd students to enter professional environments for a six-week paid summer internship. Viacom employees ran a workplace skills training session with lessons about email etiquette, networking skills and much more.

Maurya Couvares founded ScriptEd based on her experiences working with students in New York City public schools and her interest in technology. “Students love technology,” she said. “They’re surrounded by it in their everyday lives. At the same time, before ScriptEd started almost no schools were offering computer science education. ScriptEd was created to give students an avenue to pursue their technology-related interests and passions.”

ScriptEd has grown expansively since its inception in 2012, with 27 students in two high schools. Now, the program serves 13 schools and 275 students and will grow to 30 schools across New York City next school year. That expansion stems from technology developers taking an interest in ScriptEd and connecting with those working in the industry, like Meghan Knoll, director of Product at Nick Jr. She began volunteering regularly with the organization after encountering some of the students while she was volunteering at a hackathon.

“I was really inspired by the students and how passionate they are about coding and just the mission of the program,” said Knoll. “So I reached out and became a classroom volunteer after that, which means I go into classrooms twice a week to teach HTML, CSS and Javascript to the students.”

ScriptEd has been recognized by numerous organizations for its work in expanding technology education in New York public schools, including the White House, Teach for America, South by Southwest, Huffington Post, American Express, Ashoka and Google.

Viacom Shines at the NYC PRIDE Parade

Viacom employees were out in full force this past Sunday, wearing their pride on their sleeves at the annual New York City Pride March. With our EMERGE LGBT resource group and Logo network, our teams brought their spirit to the walk, dancing down Fifth Avenue to the beat of the Logo float.

From 39th street to the West Village, the air buzzed with energy and excitement. Spectators’ cheers and jubilation filled the air in the wake of Friday’s historic Supreme Court ruling. Back in March, Viacom joined 378 companies and organizations in a submission to the Supreme Court arguing in support of marriage equality.

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