Remember, Remember the 11th of November – Viacom Honors Vets

Clockwise from top right: the author summoning the Viacommunity spirit, employees hard at work for vets, notes to vets in progress, final boxes ready to ship. All photos by Studio Brooke.

It occurs on the 11th day of the 11th month of every year: Veterans Day. Creativity and patriotism were flowing at Viacom during the lead up to the holiday this year, a time dedicated to honoring American military veterans.

This year, Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish shared his appreciation to those who have risked their lives for our country by sending personal emails along with MyViacommunity gift cards to the more than 85 employee vets. The veterans can then use the gift cards to donate to a charity of their choice.

Viacommunity and Community Service in a Box (formerly known as Operation Goody Bag) also honored our nation’s bravest by inviting employees to decorate goody bags and send handwritten notes of encouragement to our servicemen and women currently on duty across the country and overseas.

Nearly 100 employee volunteers showed up, designing and assembling 500 Veterans Day-inspired goody bags. Viacommunity sent these gifts to the USO of Metropolitan New York.

Viacommunity featured the project on Viacom’s social pages and LinkedIn highlighted employees’ personal stories:

Viacom on LinkedIn:

“Veteran’s day is important to me because my grandfather was a veteran. He served in the Vietnam war. I have other cousins in my family who are also in the military, and these people give their lives to make us safe here at home. A lot of them travel and live in different places around the world. It must be so hard for military wives and husbands who have partners out there risking their lives, so this day really speaks to me.”

Viacom on LinkedIn:

“What I love about Viacom is the people that work here. The empathy we are trying to create within the company is something that I feel should be established in all companies. I’ve always felt that we should be more sensitive to our surroundings. When we impact people positively, they gravitate towards us. I am here today to write notes to our Viacom Veterans because I want to thank them for their service. Even though I am not their family, I want to let them know that we are grateful for everything that they do.”

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Comedy Central PSA Takes Action Against Sexual Assault

Comedy Central’s recent short-form video isn’t exactly slapstick humor. It’s a PSA in partnership with national organization #ItsOnUs, which is committed to ending sexual assault on college campuses.

The video features a young, male college student named Guy Davis. It’s narrated by a man with a deep, sonorous voice who deems Davis “Action Guy,” a heroic figure with superhuman powers to prevent sexual harassment, armed with a shield to repel obnoxious bros.

Picture a millennial Clark Kent at a frat house, who overhears an argument between fellow students. He rushes downstairs and finds a guy groping a young female student.

“Stop,” says the woman. “I said stop!”

Action Guy tells the jerk to leave her alone. The narrator makes a reference to “superhuman detection skills,” but Action Guy isn’t having it.

“I just heard her,” he says, looking perturbed. “With my ears.”

The message is obvious, but the PSA spells it out anyway: “Be an action guy: no superhero powers required.”

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Viacommunity Takes Talent for Good West

Last month, Viacommunity journeyed to Viacom’s Hollywood office, the Paramount Lot and the Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank as part of an official West Coast launch of Talent for Good, Viacom’s skills-based volunteer program in conjunction with Catchafire.

The program kicked off with an exclusive Rapid Fire event in Hollywood. We matched five teams of Viacom and Paramount volunteers with one of five local nonprofit organizations to take part in a two-hour brainstorm, exploring solutions to each nonprofit’s challenges. All five teams then shared their solutions, forging connections with their colleagues and local nonprofits. Each organization left with clear next steps and tools to overcome their challenges and move closer to achieving their missions.

Viacom volunteers and their community partners met to explore solutions to the organization’s concerns at Viacom’s new Hollywood facility in October 2017.

The participating organizations and their respective challenges were as follows:

Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest legal organization advocating through impact litigation and public policy work for the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV. The organization’s premier L.A.-based annual event, the West Coast Liberty Awards, attracts more than 400 supporters to honor advocates, activists and companies whose work complements Lambda Legal’s mission. Lambda Legal seeks to elevate their visibility as a Hollywood “influencer” so they can appeal to a new, younger audience.

My Friend’s Place assists and inspires homeless youth to build self-sufficient lives in Los Angeles. In 2018, the organization will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a spring gala and special campaign, complemented by storytelling that communicates and celebrates their heritage. The group needs creative thinkers to brainstorm inventive ways of sharing that history through unique storytelling that will drive engagement with their anniversary celebration.

Brainstorming sessions between Viacom volunteers and community partners at the Viacom Hollywood office.

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Viacom’s Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program Grad Ceremony Inspires Teen Coders, Employees and Company Executives

Each year since 2015, Viacom Headquarters has opened its doors to a group of teenagers, letting them loose on the floors of our tech department and off-site broadcasting control rooms.

Sound hectic? Well, it’s part of Girls Who Code, a nationally-renowned nonprofit initiative which aims to increase the number of women in computer science. It teaches young girls computer programming skills, which they can use towards a future career in tech, or any number of jobs where this knowledge is essential.

Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation ceremony at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters inspired a new generation of teen techies.

Viacom provides expert mentors from various fields in the company to teach the girls what it takes to become a force in any industry they pursue. We host field trips to off-site locations such as The Daily Show production studio, where the teens can see how many ways tech can be applied in the media industry.

And yes, the result is a bustling summer of adventure and learning, with crowded elevators at company headquarters and wide-eyed teens gazing at the walls of our building as if it were a majestic castle. It’s also a valuable learning experience for current employees.

In many ways, our GWC program reminds me of how lucky I am to work at Viacom—a place where we’re encouraged to learn new skills, connect with colleagues in other departments, and walk through hallways covered with exquisite art.

At the end of August, the company held a graduation ceremony for these students at our Times Square Headquarters.

The 2017 graduating class of Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish spoke at the event, telling the audience how Viacom’s involvement with GWC personally resonated.

“Speaking as an engineering grad – but more importantly, as a dad of two teenage girls, it’s especially gratifying that Viacom is part of this incredibly important work to build a strong community of female leaders in computer science,” said Bakish.

“[Viacom] brands create great content that drives culture and conversation in more than 180 countries. Coding enables us to do what we do – from production to distribution, operations to advertising, broadcasting and beyond.

It is the glue that holds our digital infrastructure together…and it’s the foundation for the new and innovative experiences that allow our fans to connect even more closely with their favorite Viacom brands and content.”

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish speaks about the value of diversifying tech at Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation ceremony at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters.

Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami also spoke, telling the audience of graduates, employees and family members how crucial coding is for women. “There are so many places where females are underrepresented and its inspiring to know there are movements like Girls Who Code who are trying to change that,” said Zarghami.

The Nickelodeon executive followed up with an pertinent example of how the network broke gender tropes with an iconic 90s show, Clarissa Explains It All.

“It was an important show because it broke a lot of rules. We were told that boys wouldn’t watch shows about a girl. And that more girls would watch a show about a boy than about a girl,” said Zarghami. However, the show defied stereotypes: “It was a giant hit.”

There is so much more to be done, Zarghami stressed. “There aren’t enough women directors, or screenwriters, or producers. Or female leads in super-hero movies,” said Zarghami.

“But there is a movement now to change all of that, not just in TV and tech, but in every field. And you, and your generation, and organizations like Girls Who Code, are a big part of this change.”

Hear from the grads

“Thank you Viacom for this amazing opportunity and for helping to combat the stigma that girls can’t do math or STEM because WE CAN and WE WILL!” – Group Body Posi+-

“Viacom helped bring a real-life touch to coding.” – Charlotte, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“It was so cool being here at Viacom. We went to see The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. We got to see the whole studio and all the people working to make the production come alive, which was cool especially since I’m interested in entertainment and the more creative aspect of production. It was interesting to hear from the staff the paths they took to get to their career, which weren’t necessarily conventional [production-oriented] paths. I grew up watching Nickelodeon. We got to see where the magic happens and how [shows] are made. It was great to see how we can take what we learned in seven weeks and use that to actually help people and create things on your own in the future.” I’ve never coded before, so I was a little nervous about that. However, the other students in the program were supportive, amazing and just so friendly, and it was amazing being with such a diverse group of girls. Everyone was different, they had different ideas, came from different backgrounds…it was just so cool. I definitely made some great friends here.” – Alaire, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“We really enjoyed our guest speakers. One of the speakers gave us really good insight about being a woman in tech, life in general and how to maintain a balance between work and play.” – Maitri, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“Going on what Maitri said, this speaker told us that you don’t always have to stick to one thing, you can always go around and you find different things and eventually you will find something that you are the perfect fit for.” – Brianna, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

 

Photos by Amy Pinard Photography 

Viacom’s Third Annual Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program Opens Doors and Unlocks Keys to Diversity

Since 2015, Viacom has welcomed 60 high school girls to its Times Square Headquarters as part of the nationally-renowned Girls Who Code summer immersion program. Girls Who Code is a nonprofit organization driven to close the gender gap in tech by giving young girls a foundation in coding.

“Coding is a skill that can open up many doors for someone,” said Viacom Senior Director of Technology, Aurelie Gaudry. “Viacom is the perfect partner for a Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program because it introduces young women to beginner computer science concepts while also allowing them to see many different paths coding can lead you down.”

💙💕💛💕💙 #Viacom #NYC #gwcviacom

A post shared by Girls Who Code NYC (@girlswhocodenyc) on

At Viacom, these paths include careers in TV production, or creating apps for Nickelodeon and BET. It could be a managerial role, directing a team of engineers to develop new online games, or even one in communications, acting as a liaison between coders and brand representatives.

“One of the wonderful benefits of hosting the GWC program is watching our technology team find inspiration from the passion and caliber of the young women involved,” said Viacom Chief Technology Officer Dave Kline.

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Nickelodeon Helps Break Bread and Boundaries for Child Refugees

Children mingle with SpongeBob at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters during a UNICEF Refugee Welcome Dinner in partnership with Purpose and Playworks. Photo by Tatiana Cadet.

Twenty people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution. This adds up to 65.6 million people around the world, 22.5 million of whom are refugees – a person forced from their country to escape war, persecution, or a natural disaster. Unfortunately, these stateless wanderers are not always met with open arms. Many are denied a nationality and access to basic rights when the countries they flee to struggle to cope with the influx.

Companies across the U.S. have stepped up for refugees who struggle to find a community and a place to call home. Here at Viacom, Nickelodeon’s pro-social team recently participated in UNICEF’s Refugee Welcome Dinners, along with the organization’s local partner agency, Purpose, and Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play partner Playworks, which uses play to improve children’s physical health and social and emotional learning. UNICEF brought kids and families from Guatemala, Mexico, Guinea, Venezuela, Botswana, and the Central African Republic to the Lodge cafeteria at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters to join the Playworks kids for a Nickelodeon-style pizza party.

The gathering was complete with a Paw Patrol AR pictures booth, a four-square recess game, and a dancing SpongeBob SquarePants. Kid-friendly Top 40 music filled the air, and the kids showed off their best Backpack Kid dances. Tables topped with orange table cloths and piles of candy adorned the space and a Nickelodeon promo video took over the Lodge television screens.

Children mingle with SpongeBob at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters during a UNICEF Refugee Welcome Dinner in partnership with Purpose and Playworks. Photo by Tatiana Cadet.

Regardless of race or creed, each guest came together and broke bread and boundaries, in the true spirit of Viacommunity. The event in its entirety made a powerful statement about the importance of tolerance, positivity and acceptance. Above all, it showcased the true impact that joining together in play has on the wellness of children’s souls.

MyViacommunity Stories: Opening Doors for Others

We sat down with Jason Williams, vice president of Global Consumer Products at Nickelodeon, to discuss Viacom’s UP Mentoringthe program he started through Viacommunity.

Q: Talk a little bit about your mentoring program.

A: UP Mentoring started in New York with 60 volunteers from Viacom in 2014, with a business-oriented program. That first year we focused on 20 students, and after three years, we’ve had over 200 Viacom employee volunteers and upwards of a hundred students. We’ve expanded the Viacom UP Mentoring program to include a creative component called UP Creative. There’s a great team I’ve assembled across the entire company, and they help guide the decision-making for all of this, and maintain the partnerships and the momentum for the program.

Q: What first drove you to volunteer?

A: When I came to Viacom, I looked to see what kind of mentoring programs there were at the company. And I wanted to find a way that I could create a space for students –young, aspiring students who wanted to get into the media and entertainment industry—to break the door down and get exposure.

Q: What would you tell people who are interested in volunteering?

A: Always think about how when you open the door, that it’s always important that you hold the door open to allow the right person to come in behind you. I would tell people who volunteer to continue to hold that door open for others, and to give of yourself. We really encourage everyone to drop what they’re doing and go out into the community. It shows that at the core of Viacom, being at the cusp of social issues is in our DNA. It’s unlike any other media company out there, because of our roots.

Cycling the Crossroads of the World with Cycle for Survival

Clockwise from top left: Cycle for Survival takes over Times Square; the author and intern Tatiana Cadet on their bikes; a Cycle for Survival bike; Cadet challenges herself to a great workout.

Times Square – the heavily nicknamed Crossroads of the World, Center of the Universe, or Heart of the World (among others) – draws an estimated 50 million annual visitors; more than 300,000 pedestrians pass through daily. It is also home to a pair of towers where Viacom keeps offices.

This bustling pedestrian and entertainment center provides the perfect backdrop for an annual Times Square Takeover by Cycle for Survival, the movement to beat rare cancers that is led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

Earlier this year, I joined the battle alongside 60 employees across 23 departments in Viacom’s New York, Hollywood, and Paramount Pictures offices by participating in Cycle for Survival’s 11th year of rides. The energy was incredible, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to represent Team Viacom by participating in this year’s Times Square Takeover.

In late September, corporate communications intern Tatiana Cadet and I took to bikes smack in the heart of Times Square for an hour-long ride. We were there to support the cause and raise awareness and excitement among employees for our larger company-sponsored Cycle for Survival ride next spring. Jubilation, motivation, hope, and friendship filled the air.

Read Tatiana’s description of the event:

“It was the end of September, it felt like summer, and I was in the middle of Time Square on an exercise bike. My heart was racing, my legs were moving, and the sun was beaming on my face. I could feel the sweat dripping down, but the woman on stage motioning us to crank it up and keep pushing harder for the people that can no longer push kept me pedaling. It was my first time participating in Cycle for Survival, and I was amazed.

“At first, I was nervous because I heard about friends talking about extreme Soul Cycling classes that left them drained, but this was nothing like that. Cycling in the middle of New York City was enough to make it different, but the trainers from Equinox who led us on our cycling journey were great motivators. They reminded us that we weren’t just cycling to get some exercise for the day, but to be a part of a great cause.

“It felt good to be surrounded by so many people that care about making a difference. Between high-fiving my cycling neighbors and riding to positive music and motivating trainers, I left the event feeling really good and proud to be a part of Team Viacom, which shows a dedication to serving diverse communities and staying involved.”

Relive the experience as it appeared on @Viacom’s Instagram Story:

2017 Nickterns Spruce Up California Boys & Girls Club

The summer 2017 Nicktern class united to create a mural at the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley. The mural, which is one of their largest to date, covers more than 300 square feet and employs a number of Boys & Girls Club themes. The mural was designed by Colton Davis, Gabrielle Dolbey, Tom Fields, Courtney Lovett and Alyson Wong.

Viacom Summer Intern Avonna Zheng: From Homeless Youth to Nickelodeon Team Player

Nickelodeon intern Avonna Zheng worked hard and played hard at her 2017 summer internship. (Photo collage created by Zheng)

When I was in the eighth grade, I was one of the thousands of homeless children in New York City. I was constantly moving from shelter to shelter.

At that point in my life, attending college and having a successful career did not seem nearly as important as worrying about where I would be sleeping at night.

Luckily, I was raised by a mother who encouraged me to work hard and get an education so I would not have to live through this struggle again. The adversities I faced growing up, along with my mother’s strong, positive influence inspired me to pursue a better future for myself.

During high school, I joined Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, an organization that helps students from underserved communities access opportunities to attend college and start a career. This organization helped me earn a six-week scholarship for Syracuse University’s summer college program, which ultimately let to my enrollment as a full-time student at Syracuse University.

I worked hard in college, and in the summer of 2017, my dedication and determination paid off when I applied for a Viacom summer internship and was selected to work with Nickelodeon’s project management department.

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