Six Quotes Overheard at Viacom’s Campus to Career Multicultural Media Summit

Earlier this summer, Viacom’s Campus to Career program hosted its inaugural Multicultural Media Summit at the company’s New York City headquarters. The day-long series of executive panels and Q&A sessions focused on the future of television/media, spelled out unwritten rules for career success, and offered inside advice on landing a job or internship at Viacom. Students from universities across the nation presented a pitch to top Viacom leaders, then joined a networking session with executives, Viacom recruiters, and representatives from diversity partner organizations.

Clockwise from bottom left: BET Networks EVP and GM Michael Armstrong addresses the crowd; attendees gather in the amphitheater at Viacom’s world headquarters in Times Square; a brainstorming session after the event.

Here are six of the quotes that best defined the summit’s energy and positive message:

  1. “Whether or not you realize it, today could be your very first day working in media. We hope you learn something. We hope you’re inspired, and we hope you inspire one another.” – Michael Armstrong, Executive Vice President and GM, BET

2. “Be a good storyteller. At the end of the day, even when you were a little kid, all you wanted was for someone to tell you a good story.” – Rob Gregory, President, WHOSAY

Viacom executives at the Campus to Career Multicultural Media Summit. From L to R: Michael Armstrong, BET EVP & GM; Sean Coar, SVP, Data Strategy; Rob Gregory, President, WHOSAY; Zuri Rice, SVP, Original Short Form Content, Viacom Digital Studios – Nickelodeon

3. “Diversity is at the core of business. It makes good business sense to be as broad as possible and to have as many voices building your content as possible.” – Zuri Rice, Senior Vice President, Viacom Digital Studios (Nickelodeon Short-Form Content)

4. “You have to set the tone for yourself. How you show up and the narrative you set for yourself dictates how people will treat you. People will look at you the way you want to be seen. When you know who people are and not just what they do, you win the race.” – Michele Thornton Ghee, Senior Vice President, Ad Sales, BET Her

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Viacom’s Corporate Amusement Park Offers a Thrilling Ride for Interns

Interning at Viacom feels like visiting an amusement park, only better… and with pay.

At an amusement park, there’s something for everybody: steep, butterfly-inducing rollercoasters; games with prizes; fireworks illuminating the night sky – hundreds of smiling faces enjoying every second, constantly exploring and soaking in the moments. When you finally head home, you reflect on your adventures and how rewarding they have been. Later that night, struggling to fall asleep, all you can think about is going back.

Working within the walls of the skyscraping Viacom headquarters at 1515 Broadway in New York City left me with these same sensations. I spent 10 weeks of my summer in Viacom’s Campus to Career program, interning more than 500 miles away from my home in North Carolina, and my only wish is that I could stay longer. From the first day on the job, top talent, thought leaders and Viacom employees continually fueled my inspiration to succeed.

The view from the cafeteria deck, overlooking Times Square from the seventh floor of 1515 Broadway. Photo courtesy of Ariana Wiggins.

The first thing that stood out: the building’s amazing interior design. Each floor has its own personality, city views and unique decorations. My cubicle was down the hall from a set of lockers seen on Victorious and the Bottle Bot featured on iCarly, two of my favorite Nickelodeon shows growing up.

Sitting at that cubicle, I had the time of my life. As an Office of Global Inclusion intern, I helped coordinate Employee Resource Group events, exposing me to the experiences of different communities represented throughout the diverse Viacom family.

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Viacom Interns Paint and Pack Meals for First-Ever Intern Viacommunity Day

The White Box event space at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters was getting loud and rowdy in the late afternoon on Tuesday, July 16 as 95 interns from three New York City offices sang along to music, socialized and volunteered to help others in need. Meanwhile, similar events ramped up at the Los Angeles and Nashville offices, as approximately 160 interns in all three cities got to work for two incredible non-profit organizations, Rise Against Hunger and Free Arts NYC.

The coordinated cross-country sessions were part of Viacom’s first-ever Intern Viacommunity Day, a scaled-down version of Viacom’s annual global Viacommunity Day, which places thousands of volunteers to help out in local communities, typically in the spring. The collaboration between the Viacommunity corporate social responsibility team and the Campus to Career program grants summer interns a chance to participate in an equally impactful event.

“Viacom’s internship program is great; I’ve had a ton of exposure to company-wide events,” said intern Aliza White. “Summer interns aren’t here for Viacommunity Day, but the intern-only rendition of this was super cool. Viacom’s dedication to giving back and to helping others is amazing, and it really drives the great internal culture of the company.”

Interns painting for Free Arts NYC. Photo by Essence Dashtaray.

On one side of the large New York City room, interns created an assembly line to package food for disaster relief. They cheered each time the massive gong sounded, indicating that they had boxed 1,000 more meals. Overall, our Burbank and New York interns prepared more than 20,000 pre-packaged meals for Rise Against Hunger, which will send them out to feed the most vulnerable among us.

Elsewhere, interns painted bags with designs ranging from SpongeBob characters to inspirational quotes and images. The teams in New York and Nashville decorated more than 100 bags that Free Arts NYC – which seeks to empower underserved youth through art and mentoring programs –will disperse to children in their programs.

“Strategizing new ways to give back to our communities is one of the things that I love most about working at Viacom,” said CSR Coordinator Margarita Papadogiannis. “I believe that when we encourage our young professionals to volunteer, we are also inspiring them to continue to advocate for the causes they are passionate about. My goal with Intern Viacommunity Day is to equip more millennials with the mindset, tools and connections necessary to influence social change.”

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The 22nd Annual Viacommunity Day Was All Good, All Around (the Globe)

Friday, April 20 was truly a global day of giving. Nearly 4,000 employees from 25 different regions around the world contributed ideas, talent and compassion to more than 125 projects in local communities for the 22nd annual Viacommunity Day, a celebration of the company’s values and commitment to giving back.

The day’s theme was “ALL GOOD, ALL AROUND.” The scope of Viacom’s traditional day of service reflected this motif well, as all around the world, employees did good: helping at their regular offices, like Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters; trekking to community organizations, like Chrysalis in downtown Los Angeles; or cleaning up the shores of Australia’s Sydney Harbor National Park.

Viacom Corporate Social Responsibility Director Adam Robinson woke up at 4 a.m. in Los Angeles to watch employees begin to share photos and footage from sites like these around the world in real time on collaborative video production tool Seenit.

“It was as if I was watching Viacommunity Day unfold on the horizon line,” said Robinson. “Australia, Asia, Europe, New York, Nashville, Chicago, all the way to Los Angeles.”

Watch below:

“This was my 21st Viacommunity Day,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, who circulated through the on-site activities at 1515 Broadway, Viacom’s global headquarters in New York City, this year.

“Throughout this time, I have worked in [Viacom Headquarters], downtown Manhattan, Westchester County, Putnam County and Fairfield County,” he continued. “I’ve stuffed bags, provided ideas, painted objects, cleaned in all kinds of ways, painted fences and walls, raked and moved wood chips – lots of different things. What’s always the same is the passion and heart that our employees, and a select group of our talent, show as they help the community. What’s always the same is the happiness and thanks that comes from those that are being helped.

“As I visited different groups today, that’s what I saw once again. To me, that’s what makes Viacommunity Day such an important part of our culture and heritage. It is another reason why it is such an honor to be CEO this great company. I saw many great things today. All of the people involved reminded me, once again, just how important this initiative is to our company. Thank you everyone. You represent Viacom every day. In a world where there is incredible change, where some things are evolving and others arguably devolving, overall, Viacommunity Day is a constant.”

Let’s take a tour of these incredible sites, starting with our West Coast offices in California.

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Exploring the Trump/Hip-Hop Conundrum at Viacom HQ

“How can the country that elected Donald Trump president be the same country that rates hip-hop as the number one mainstream genre?”

This is the question that opened Viacom’s Hype & Influence panel, moderated by Marketing Strategy’s Brooke Ozaydinli and featuring MTV’s Wanda Coriano, BET Music & Talent’s Bianca Edwards, and rapper Maliibu Miitch. The exploration of the state of Hip-Hop in today’s culture was a Black History Month event organized at the company’s Times Square headquarters by The BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African-American experience), the Marketing Strategy team, and the BET Music Meeting.

“It’s not surprising,” Edwards said to Ozaydinli’s opening question, “because hip-hop thrives in environments with oppression and adversity.”

The Hype & Influence panel built on a video series of the same name, created by Viacom’s V By Viacom platform to explore cultural trends. The first edition, featuring BET’s Connie Orlando, 300 Entertainment co-founder Kevin Liles, and Miitch explored the same themes as the panel, which opened with a viewing:

Here are a few other highlights from the afternoon, from thoughts on the authenticity of Cardi B to the power and potential perils of hip-hop:

“People are used to everything being cookie-cutter”

Miitch addressed why she thought people connected with Cardi B, whose Bodak Yellow video has been viewed nearly a half billion times on YouTube. “People are used to everything being cookie-cutter,” she said, “but with an artist like Cardi, who doesn’t filter herself, people connect with her because she says out loud the things that people are thinking.”

Sparking a love of music

Coriano grew up in The Bronx hearing hip-hop on the streets, forming the foundation of her love for music across genres. “Living in the Bronx, hip-hop was my music and it was the music of that time.”

Maliibu Miitch and members of her Atlantic Records management team at the Hype & Influence panel, held at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters in honor of Black History Month. Photo by Pound & Grain.

Should children listen to hip-hop?

During the event’s question-and-answer portion, I sparked an extended debate when I asked about the relationship between kids and hip-hop. Miitch argued that parents do a lot of things in front of their kids that could be deemed worse than what artists rap about. “People rap about their truth and it’s not something to hide from children,” she said.

Coriano made the point that kids don’t always understand what is being said, and sometimes just like a song because they can dance to it or it has a nice beat. You can keep kids away from that sort of music, or give them a censored version, since many elements of hip-hop can be educational – she pointed to Logic’s 1-800-273-8255 or Kendrick Lamar’s songs about Injustice.

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A Viacom Employee Panel: Staying Healthy and Positive in the Social Media Age

With the emergence of social media as a source for news, it is little surprise that it has also become a social activism platform. But how do you know which movements are credible? Do you fact check news before believing it? Where exactly is social media taking us?

These were only a few of the many questions discussed at the Activism in Media Panel in honor of Black History Month, organized by The BEAT – Viacom’s employee resource group dedicated to the African-American experience – at the company’s Times Square headquarters.

Kimberly Renee Selden, content producer, educator, and founder of The Global Media Project, moderated this conversation among four influential media voices, each of whom shared a background in media and a common drive to pave the way for others.

The panelists:

Charles Coleman Jr. is a civil rights attorney who established E.D.G.E, a movement focused on inspiring the next generation of leaders and creating more positive examples of manhood for young men.

 

 

 

Eunique Gibson Jones is a content creator, director, and speaker who develops campaigns that ignite conversations and introspection. She also founded Because of Them We Can, a movement that empowers the next generation to honor the legacy of their ancestors.

 

 

Nantasha Williams is a well-respected political strategist, social architect and community engager, who successfully played a role in organizing the enormous 2017 Women’s March.

 

 

 

Steven Roberts is a director of video for MTV News, who helped re-establish the brand’s voice with a new generation of engaged young people.

 

 

 

 


Social Media Activism: The Pros and Cons

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat have obvious upsides – giving voice to the voiceless, quickly disseminating information, providing optimal platforms for engagement – but the panel also uncovered some of the downsides, including the spread of disinformation, the cultivation of short attention spans, and a lack of true depth from so-called “engagements.”

Gibson Jones elaborated on a real-life consequence of short attention spans: “Last February, I ran a campaign for Because of Them We Can. On February 1 we like to kick it off for Black History Month, but at the same time our video went up, Beyonce announced that she was having twins!”

The lesson: do not underestimate the importance of strategic timing to the success of social media activism.

Viacom employees with the panelists after the Activism in Media panel at 1515 Broadway in New York City in honor of Black History Month. Photo by Natasha Nieves.

The Power of Positive Storytelling on Media

When creating a movement, it is important to stay positive and consistent, to maintain the mission, values, purpose, and story of that movement and keep people engaged and motivated.

“The stories that we tell and how we tell them have a direct impact in terms of our own self- image as well as our images around others,” said Coleman Jr. “Those in the creative process have a tremendous power to shape narratives. My personal goal and what I am currently working on is creating a platform to reconstruct the narrative of young men of color, so that they can see themselves in higher power, and know that their goals are attainable. Positive stories are visualization, and visualizations become reality.”

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Viacom Takes a “Day On” in Recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, often referred to as “a day on, not a day off,” is a call for Americans from all backgrounds to unite in the spirit of Dr. King.

In the spirit of embracing the variety of backgrounds and ways of thinking that make Viacom strong, Viacommunity – the company’s social responsibility umbrella – hosted three MLK Day of Service volunteer projects in partnership with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation. The events, focused on motivating and empowering students to reach their educational and career potential, took place during the week leading up to MLK Day.

Viacom employees and “I Have a Dream” Foundation Dreamers talk educational and career goals at an MLK Day of Service event at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters.

At Viacom’s Times Square headquarters, Viacommunity and the foundation’s New York chapter hosted their annual workshop for dozens of “Dreamers,” college students who had gained access to higher education with the organization’s assistance.

A panel discussion followed, featuring inspirational advice from two Viacom employees: Essence Dashtaray, manager of Human Resources and Jason Williams, vice president of Global Inclusion Strategy. A speed mentoring event then combined employee volunteers with rotating groups of students to discuss their career paths and the Dreamers’ educational goals. In a testament to Viacom’s ongoing support of the foundation and genuine connection to its students, some of the Dreamers, now soon-to-be college grads, were reconnecting with Viacom employees that they had known since their freshman year.

The Viacommunity team moderates a panel between Viacom’s Essence Dashtaray, seated right, and Jason Williams and “I Have a Dream” Foundation Dreamers at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters.

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Viacom’s Season of Giving Kicks off Its All Good, All Year Initiative

Packing 10,151 meals may sound like a hefty feat, but Viacom volunteers took the challenge head on and held two Rise Against Hunger meal-packing events during Viacommunity’s 2017 “Season of Giving.”

Enormous as this effort was, these two events represented just a portion of the many volunteer opportunities offered during Viacom’s annual Season of Giving, which engages employees nationwide with holiday-themed volunteer opportunities throughout November and December.

Viacom employees prepping some of the thousands of meals they assembled in conjunction with Rise Against Hunger during Viacommunity’s 2017 Season of Giving.

Winter Wishes fulfilled

The corporate social responsibility team kicked off its most recent holiday-themed efforts by distributing nearly 300 New York Cares Winter Wishes letters to employees at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters and 345 Hudson office. Each hand-written letter outlined a list of recent achievements and desired holiday gifts from an underrepresented New York City elementary school student. Viacom employees selected one or more letters, then purchased and wrapped the gifts, which New York Cares distributed to the children.

Winter Wishes gifts wrapped and ready for distribution by New York Cares.

Stuffing more than turkeys Thanksgiving week

During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, a group of nearly 15 Viacom volunteers delivered nutritious holiday meals to homebound elderly in Midtown Manhattan through Citymeals on Wheels. Similarly, more than 100 volunteers united to package about 20,000 meals for the world’s most vulnerable communities with Rise Against Hunger at Viacom’s Times Square and Hollywood offices.

Viacom volunteers delivered meals to Manhattan residents in need via Citymeals on Wheels during Thanksgiving week 2017.

On the day before the holiday, as part of Viacom’s annual Kids Day – where employees bring their children to work for a day of fun and activities – the young ones gave back to their local communities, just like their parents. With help from Viacommunity and Employee Events, our young visitors helped stuff more than 200 cuddly giraffes, bears and elephants, which were then donated to children affected by Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey via The GOOD+ Foundation, SAFE (Stuffed Animals for Emergencies), and Spirit Airlines.

Critters ready to be stuffed for those in need by the child guests of Viacom employees at the company’s annual Kids’ Day.

In celebration of the social media-powered global #GivingTuesday that follows Thanksgiving weekend, employees across the U.S. contributed to Viacom’s foundation partners: VH1 Save The Music, Get Schooled and MTV Staying Alive. At Viacom’s New York, Hollywood, Paramount Pictures, and Miami offices, youth carolers from local VH1 Save the Music partner schools amplified this holiday cheer with festive songs.

Children liven up Viacom’s Times Square headquarters with holiday carols during Viacommunity’s 2017 Season of Giving.

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“It’s Almost Like Meditation” – the Wonderful Visual Language of Jim Houser

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

There is a lot to process in a Jim Houser installation.

First, there is the painted landscape sweeping across the walls, geometric blocks of bold pastels interspersed with bulbous oversized characters, oblivious and indifferent, like some deep-sea creatures captured unknowingly in a diver’s spotlight. Interspersed about this, like small towns tucked into the vast countryside and observed from above, are pockets of framed art, bespoke artifacts, found objects and curiosities.

Jim Houser’s installations cleverly blend large background elements with smaller, intermingled clusters of objects and paintings. Photo by Studio Brooke.

In HERE, RIGHT HERE, which Houser recently created at Viacom’s global headquarters in Times Square as part of the company’s Art at Viacom series, this eclectic visual language stamps its story across the lobby walls. An amalgam of original artworks, pieces repurposed from past shows, and a collage sourced from an employee workshop, the installation is a varied and fecund articulation of Houser’s inner world, a vast and carefully considered mash-up of sketches, painted characters, poems and three-dimensional objects.

Houser took a break from his installation to sit with me in Viacom’s humming seventh floor cafeteria, where we discussed his process, his creative choices, and why the company is a great artistic partner. Remarks have been and edited for length and clarity.

Stuart Winchester: How did you connect with Viacom?

Jim Houser: I have a commercial agent, who works with other artists in my vein, and one of them was Dabs Myla for their project here at Viacom, and they were like, “Viacom’s awesome.” So I sent a bunch of images and I guess they were into it.

SW: Take me through the process of planning and seeing the space and executing the design once you connected with Viacom.

JH: I had done a show in the early spring in Philadelphia, which is my home base. I sent the Art at Viacom people images, and said, “This is what I just did, I can easily make more work and then combine it with the installation elements that I used for this last thing that I’d done, and I can easily transform it to fit the space.” So I just mocked up images and they sent me images of the space they had, and I explained what I would do and it went from there.

A collage anchors an arrangement of paintings and objects in Jim Houser’s HERE, RIGHT HERE installation for Art at Viacom. Photo by Studio Brooke.

SW: Did you actually visit the space live?

JH: I didn’t, but that’s kind of a common thing for me. I travel around doing this kind of stuff in different cities, and I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years, so I’m kind of used to saying, “send me a floorplan, and photos from the four corners of the room, and I’ll figure it out.”

SW: So once you get onsite, at what point does the piece start to take shape?

JH: The one thing that’s different about this install than maybe some other ones in the past is that even though this area is a room, it’s really just the two walls, and I’m not able to work on the full room at once. So it’s almost like I have to do two installations. I think there’s 60 or 70 paintings total, so in my head I’m splitting my paintings up, because I don’t want to hang 60 on one wall and be like, “Oh, I only have 10 for the other.”

A shot of several paintings and other elements arrayed together in HERE, RIGHT HERE, Jim Houser’s Art at Viacom installation in New York City. Photo by Studio Brooke.

SW: So of those 60 or 70 paintings, were there any created specifically for this installation, or did you have these already?

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For One Tech Intern, Viacom’s Experience Room Stands Out

The psychedelic animated VR world of “Chocolate,” an experience created for the song of the same name by San Francisco based musician Giraffage. Created by 3D animator Tyler Hurd and executive produced by Viacom NEXT.

Viacom’s global headquarters at 1515 Broadway shoots 53 floors out of the endless hustle of Times Square. Even amid all this frenetic energy, though, one part of the building really stood out to me as a Media and Technology Services (MTS) Finance intern: the Experience Room.

Situated amid the MTS teams on the 11th floor, the room hosts an ever-updated showcase of the new and emerging technologies that Viacom is exploring, developing, and strategizing to promote MTV, Nickelodeon and other brands. The room doubles as an incubator for Viacom engineers developing products and a fun, engaging place for other employees to experience them.

The room feels futuristic – it is outfitted with integrated smart assistance and voice-activated lighting. One of the gadgets I found particularly fascinating was a voice-activated smart wall mirror, which provides weather information, displays the time, takes notes, and even compliments you.

A section of the room is a mini-museum, outfitted with a chronologically arranged line of devices ranging from a flip phone to Microsoft’s “Hololens” – a headpiece that projects holographic images.

Viacom engineers rotate into the room to work on new technologies, join an existing project, or develop new ideas using the room’s resources. One rotating engineer is at work on a SpongeBob SquarePants robot. The prototype can move around and interact with kids. The engineer would like to equip it with enough information that it can be used as a source of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education for children.

The engineering team is also working on a smart photo booth that can transform its background, factoring in different color combinations and even the type of clothes people are wearing.

The highlight of my time in this space was playing a pair of Viacom NEXT’s Virtual Reality (VR) games: one where I smashed things to collect points in a ring within a simulated Experience Room; a second where I immersed myself within the first ever VR music album with The Melody of Dust, which had such an incredible level of optimization and features embedded within it that I felt as if I were physically in a different world altogether.

The Experience Room now has open hours where employees experience what the team is working on: Wednesdays from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. I hope you’ll visit the 11th floor to enjoy this amazing space and draw inspiration from the way that Viacom is developing its present and shaping its future.