Nine Quotes From Viacom’s Code B.L.A.C.K. Executive Panel On Building A Successful Career

 

My parents were born in an era where there were no African-American astronauts or African-American women CEOs, but as a millennial, I am blessed to live in era where representation is constantly part of conversations.

When The Beat, Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African-American experience, hosted Code B.L.A.C.K.: A Panel of Black Executives as part of its wide-ranging Black History Month celebration, I was grateful to be able to sit in this room of insightful leaders:

Trudi Patrick, Moderator – Executive Assistant –Advanced Advertising

Kodi Foster Senior Vice President of Data Strategy

Nadja Webb – Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Business & Legal Affairs

Michael Armstrong – General Manager of BET Networks

Ericka Wright Tomlinson Vice President of Human Resources for BET Networks and Viacom’s Finance, Core Services, Marketing & Communications teams

While we discussed the challenges of corporate politics, we also joked about things like reading The Shade Room for news. Representation matters and being in a room with other people who care about seeing and hearing from black executives was just what I needed this Black History Month.

Overall, I learned a lot from these executives. Here are my 10 favorite quotes from the event:

Viacom employees at the Code B.L.A.C.K. executive panel. From L to R: Gerald Yarborough, Essence Dashtaray, Georgette Pierre, Trudi Patrick, Nadja Webb, Destiney Bishop, Michael D. Armstrong, Kodi Foster, Ericka Wright Tomlinson and Ezinne Kwubiri.

“In 2007, I had a boss who was a control freak and was very territorial over her work and typically gave me work to do and she would present it in meetings. An opportunity came to launch a huge project and present it to [former head of MTV] Judy McGrath. At the time of this meeting she was traveling. Despite the fact that I did all the work, she told me to postpone the meeting. I spoke to my mentor who encouraged me to present the project I had been working on. So, after going back and forth, I made the executive decision to present it. After presenting it in front of so many senior people, they complimented me and told me I’d lead the project. I thought I was going to get fired, but that was the pivotal moment that I decided that I would present it and ask for forgiveness later and it ended up working out. I could have been the quiet little black girl in the back or decided to step up and do it and I decided to just do it and after that project, I presented it, and ended up getting promoted, which led me to the position I am in now.” – Wright Tomlinson

“Working on Wall Street, I was working late one day. I happened to answer the phone in the area known as the pit, even though I usually don’t answer calls, but I ended up having to explain to a couple in Iowa why their life savings was gone. It was kind of heavy. I was a kid, looking at numbers on spreadsheets and not putting human beings behind the numbers. That was when it hit me, that I wasn’t doing something constructive to better the world, which I feel like we do here by delighting people with entertainment and I decided to change careers.” – Foster

“It took me a long time to understand that you have to have agency over your career. No one else is going to do it for you. I made a classic mistake of trying to always work hard and expect people to notice and lift me up and give me opportunities but it’s on you. You have to identify what you want. If you’re stuck, you have to first identify what you want or think you might like to do and second is to communicate that to the stakeholders involved.” – Webb

“I think being ‘stuck’ in your career is relative. There’s a difference between you’re stuck versus it’s just not your time. Some of us are ready for the next step almost immediately while others are in the same position for over 20 years. There has to be a level of self-examination. Appreciate where you are, are you achieving your goals, and if you’re ready for the next step and not because you think you deserve it. Determine what your ultimate goals are.” – Wright Tomlinson

“I think managing corporate politics is simple. While it can be difficult and political, the easy part is if you show up as your true and authentic self, you don’t have to remember when you’re faking it and when you’re being real. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to calibrate. Knowing the environment, you’re operating in, if you need to adjust your authentic self, the people around you will let you know.” – Armstrong

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Viacom Welcomes Diversity Consultants for a Stirring Workshop on Transgender Inclusion

“Hey, guys!”

This is a fairly acceptable way to address teammates, regardless of gender. Right?

Well, it’s complicated.

In March, Viacom’s Talent Acquisition team invited employees to an event called Building Empathy and Awareness: Lessons from the Transgender Community. The session, which was held at both Viacom’s Times Square and Los Angeles offices, was a poignant exercise in reflection and understanding helmed by diversity consultants Marnie Florin and Kevin Perry. The event, which was aimed toward recruiters and hiring managers, broke down some of the issues and terms that are vital to understanding the transgender community: intersectionality, gender dysphoria, pronouns and advocacy, among others.

Viacom is a safe space, but how can it improve?

Florin and Perry explained further: Viacom scores 100 on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) index for workplace protections, including having trans-inclusive health benefits and diversity training (such as Lessons from the Transgender Community). However, the company is always seeking to improve its diversity and inclusion efforts.

Viacom is a longtime supporter of LGBT rights in the workplace.

At the New York session, Florin and Perry solicited questions from the audience about Viacom policies and overall TA best practices when it comes to hiring trans employees. Some situations, they explained, can still be difficult, even at progressive companies like Viacom.

As a cisgender woman, the following situations are not difficult: showing my ID at the desk when welcoming a guest; enjoying perks like the Wellness Studio workout classes; taking advantage of on-site massages or hairstyling; flying for business travel; using the restroom.

But for trans employees, these are situations that can cause anxiety, depression or downright terror.

Florin and Perry didn’t take too much time pointing out blind spots like this. Throughout the lecture they offered myriad facts and lists, but let the audience know that they could find more information online. The goal was to re-orient us to see our work lives through the eyes of a trans employee, and help us align ourselves to be an ally.

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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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Viacommunity Hosts a Screening of Selma in Honor of Black History Month

On Feb. 21, 40 high school students from New York City and neighboring public schools made their way to Viacom’s Times Square headquarters to celebrate Black History Month with a screening of Paramount’s critically acclaimed Selma, a crucial film about the African-American experience.

Viacommunity hosted the event, which featured members of The BEAT, Viacom’s employee resource group focused on the African-American experience, on a post-screening panel. To coordinate this celebration in honor of Black History Month, Viacom worked with nonprofit organizations The Opportunity Network and Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation (SASF), which provide academic support to students from underserved communities.

Selma depicts Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight for equal voting rights during the Civil Rights Movement, a momentous part of American history. Paramount’s re-telling of this visceral moment encapsulates the spirit of Black History Month.

Students and Viacom employees at a screening of Paramount Pictures’ Selma in honor of Black History Month – Photo by Esthefania Rodriguez

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2020 Has a Lofty Goal – Viacom Is Already There

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Diversity and inclusion is a top priority at Viacom. We incorporate this into every aspect of our business, whether it’s via culturally resonant programming on MTV or by sweeping the top three spots in the Directors Guild of America’s list of best programs for hiring women and minority directors. But that commitment goes beyond the shows that drive our networks and filters from the very top of our company, as 2020 Women on Boards recently acknowledged, including us on its list of Fortune 1,000 companies whose boards comprise more than 20 percent women.

With four female board members – Shari Redstone, Blythe J. McGarvie, Cristiana Falcone Sorrell and Deborah Norville – Viacom has for years surpassed 2020’s goal to increase the percentage of women on corporate boards to 20 percent by the year 2020.

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Viacom Chief Technology Officer David Kline Named to STEMConnector’s Top 100 CIO/CTO List

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Viacom Chief Technology Officer David Kline.

Viacom Chief Technology Officer David Kline was recently honored as one of the leading executives among his peers in the world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). STEMconnector, a coalition of industry leaders spanning more than 150 entities, unveiled the fourth segment of its leadership series with 100 CIO/CTO Leaders in STEM, and included Kline on their list. The organization defines STEM leaders as those who proactively encourage the implementation of STEM education and development within their companies and industries.

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Look What These Girls Can Do: A Summer of Coding Wraps at Viacom

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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Did you know that coding can help ease your commute to work?

Or that it can help you set goals? Or figure out whom to vote for?

Or that coding can create a world where a girl can dress up a virtual doll in any skin tone or body type she chooses?

And when you’re fed up with the messy and crowded big city streets, coding can create a video game in which you stomp tourists and sweep up trash in a digital urban landscape.

This summer at Viacom’s New York City headquarters, 20 girls learned that coding can do exactly that, creating these experiences with skills learned through Girls Who Code (GWC), an organization built to inspire, educate and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.

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