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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My First “Job”: A 9-Year-Old’s Experience at Viacom’s Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day

Editor’s note: On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Viacom offices in Miami, Hollywood, Chicago and New York invited a total of 350 children ages 9 to 15 to attend Take Our Daughters & Sons to Viacom Day, where they could see what a career in media and entertainment looks like behind the images flashing by on TVs and smartphones. Viacom has celebrated this occasion as part of the national Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day initiative for more than 25 years, but this was the first year that my daughter, Waverly, was old enough to participate.

Activities rambled over Viacom’s Times Square headquarters, with exactly the sort of creative experimentation and jamming after-party you would expect to find here, but the kids were not here for a carnival – they came to work as young professionals. Waverly’s assignment for the day was to write a guest blog that would take our readers through a day in the life of a Viacom kid. She nailed it (she is used to writing and has a blog of her own, Kids’ News NYC). Here, lightly edited, is Waverly’s day:

Starting my day

My day started with my dad waking me up. I was in Brooklyn, which I don’t usually sleep there on school nights. I brushed my teeth and went upstairs because my little brother was calling me. My dad and I ate a quick breakfast and I packed my stuff up. We went to the subway to get to our destination. I usually walk to my school since I live in Manhattan. But today I wasn’t going to school. I was going to my dad’s job at Viacom for Take Your Daughters & Sons to Viacom day!

I am always tired in the morning, but today I woke right up. When we got to 1515 Broadway, which is what my dad says the people who work here call this building, we checked in. The check-in room had a big blue table filled with badges and boxes. There was also was a setup that looked like it belonged to a band of some kind… it had a microphone and many other items. I wonder what that could be for?

After that, we went to get breakfast in the cafeteria. We put it in cartons and we went to the elevators. I was at first confused by how my dad knows what the elevator numbers were. Then he showed me four halls of elevators and that each hall went to different places. When we got to floor 50, my dad unlocked his office and we went inside. He showed me the websites he runs and we ate our delicious breakfast.

The Viacom lobby in Times Square is so cool – it has these giant screens that welcomed all of us kids to Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day!

Activity 1: Share your inspiration on social media

When we finished breakfast, we took the elevator to floor 30. We went to the art room for mood art. The room was empty at first, but then it slowly filled up with excited kids ready for a fun activity. When the Catalyst workers came (Catalyst is a group within Viacom that designs things, even the logo for Take Our Daughters & Sons to Viacom Day!) they said it was time for us to gather around the table.

They showed us a mini slideshow of examples of mood art and what we’ll need to do this project. We all took a piece of construction paper. There was all different colors, but I chose yellow. The category was what you are excited for this summer. I put space-decorated washy tape diagonally across the page. On the bottom side, I cut bands so they were one straight line and stuck them on with colorful summer stickers. On each side of the washy tape I put stickers of cake, ice cream, drinks, and other summer treats. On the same side as the bands, I put a picture of Switzerland because I am going there after my school lets out. On the other side, I put a different-colored washy tape and cut it up as confetti because my birthday is during summer. After I finished the project, we took a picture with it and went to the next activity.

Holding the mood art that the Catalyst team helped me create in their cool art room.

Activity 2: Create your own animation for Nickelodeon’s Do Not Touch app

After I finished my mood art, my dad came and got me and we went to the 31st floor and room 7 for an animation activity. When we got there, I sat down at a table filled with stickers, pens, sticky notes, and white paper. My dad left, and a worker showed us the steps to making an animation for Nickelodeon’s Do Not Touch app.  

The Do Not Touch app is where you point your phone or tablet toward a flat surface and a button appears there (ed: through augmented reality) and you push it. Every time you push it, a surprise comes. It is very good to do when you’re bored or even when you aren’t.

Each table got a helper. Our helper helped us when we needed ideas. We all brainstormed ideas for what could happen when someone touched the “do not touch” button and then jotted them down on a sticky note. Then we put them on our board.

The ideas I came up with were a lion getting a Brazilian blowout, a tiger getting eaten by a mouse, snakes coming out of holes and tangling themselves together, and one that I didn’t even have time to write: a tiger and a shark wrestling, but they combine and turn into a tiger shark! Our table gathered around the board and picked our four favorites, including an armadillo on a zipline, a lizard that turns into a disco ball, and my lion getting a Brazilian blowout. We presented them to the others. The helpers told us that some of them might even actually appear in the Do Not Touch app one day!

Two of my ideas for Nickelodeon’s Do Not Touch app!

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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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Glassdoor Celebrates Viacom as “Company We Wished We Worked For”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom has recently snagged mentions as a company with jaw-dropping workspaces, as one of the top job destinations for working moms, and as one of the top large companies to work for. With such a multidimensional environment that continually cultivates young talent and encourages next-generation development programs such as Girls Who Code, it is fitting that Glassdoor recently named Viacom as one of “11 Companies We Wish We Worked For.”

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“It’s easy to be envious of other companies’ benefits, perks, offices, bonuses and culture,” Glassdoor writes of the companies that made their list. “After all, reading employees’ rave reviews on Glassdoor can give anyone company envy. If you’re already thinking about jumping ship from your current gig, check out these 11 companies with offerings and missions that are sure to make job seekers giddy.”

They point to Viacom’s suite of iconic brands and culture of growth and learning as factors that make the company an attractive job destination.

Reviewers on Glassdoor underscore this point. “Great work / life balance, great benefits, fair compensation, laid-back atmosphere, fun employee events, corporate management encourages and supports volunteerism. Last but not least – great people,” wrote one anonymous reviewer identified as a current employee.

“Great progressive place to work,” wrote another (the company’s focus on giving back and emphasis on diversity are consistent favorites among employees). Another praised the “Good benefits, time off and work/life balance” (the benefits include such perks as adoption assistance and back-up daycare, which are enormously important to those who have or are looking to start families). A third wrote, “Amazing people to surround yourself with” (there are really so many good people who work here).

If you’re interested in joining the team, you can find up-to-date job listings on viacom.com or Glassdoor.

Drink, Dance, Donate: How Viacom Gave Back and Got Down for the 8th Year in a Row

“Everyone on the left side of the room say, ‘Give back,’” shouted Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, addressing a constellation of nearly 200 Viacom employees and nonprofit partners, all gathered in the White Box at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters one evening in early December.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish rallies the crowd at Give Back & Get Down VIII during his opening statements. Photo by Emil Cohen.

“Give back,” the crowd roared.

“Now everybody on the right side of the room say, “Get down!’”

“Get down!’”

After this rhapsodic rallying cry, Bakish began his opening remarks for our eighth annual gala of goodwill: Give Back & Get Down.

“Every year, Give Back and Get Down reminds us to celebrate the qualities that embody the Viacom spirit: empathy and engagement for the communities in which we serve,” said Bakish, applauding our Office of Global Inclusion (OGI), Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Corporate Social Responsibility (Viacommunity) department for their concerted efforts in organizing such a festive and fruitful event.

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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.

Jaw Dropped: Viacom Makes Glassdoor’s List of Spectacular Offices

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Leaving the chaos of Times Square and pushing through the revolving doors into the award-winning lobby of Viacom’s headquarters at 1515 Broadway, it’s obvious you’re entering a place where entertainment is made. Batteries of televisions line the walls. A pair of supersized monitors pounds through highlights and previews of major television and movie properties. At the end of the elevator banks, supersized, vertically oriented glass shutter doors blink through updates of what’s happening all around the company. Through those doors is a cavernous event space. To the right is a humming, bright cafe.

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It’s design-first environments such as this lobby that helped Viacom make Glassdoor’s list of 16 companies with “jaw-dropping offices.” It’s a workspace, Glassdoor says, that is, “truly fit for the stars.” And these spaces reflect a company ethos that prizes environments tailored to accommodate the sort of high-octane creative work that is our lifeblood.

“The editors at Glassdoor are experts on workplace culture so it’s an honor to be included on this list,” says Vice President of Planning & Design Yetta Banks. “Beyond creating a pretty place to work, the goal for this project has always been to create spaces that encourage creativity, collaboration and play. Viacom is all about driving culture and conversation and it’s important that this mission is reflected in the way that we work.”

The gradual upgrades to Viacom’s offices have been ongoing for some time, and reach well beyond our New York City headquarters. In recent years, the company opened an 88,000-square-foot Viacom International production studio in Miami:

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… massively expanded its Nick animation studio in Burbank:

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony To Celebrate Grand Opening…
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attends the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to celebrate the Grand Opening of Nickelodeon's State-of-the-Art… Read More

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Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

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Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

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Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

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Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

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Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

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Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

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Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

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Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

… and opened a new eight-brand West Coast headquarters in the bustle of Hollywood:

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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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Here, Right Here: An Art at Viacom Painting Workshop With Jim Houser

On a Friday afternoon at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters, I took a break from work to join 20 of my coworkers for a drawing workshop with Jim Houser, a mixed-media artist from Philadelphia. Houser is Art at Viacom’s latest artist-in-residence, a title which grants him free reign to transform our lobby walls with his bespoke creative design.

repost from @artatviacom , here’s the first wall

A post shared by jim houser (@misterhouser) on

Each artist-in-residence typically hosts an hour-long workshop for employees looking to learn their technique. Houser set up his exhibit HERE, RIGHT HERE in the days leading up to his workshop, so I was able to catch a preview of what I’d learn from the session. He had hung canvas collages, quilted with bright squares and rectangles, bringing to mind Dabs Myla’s whimsical world of graphic pop-art from a previous Art at Viacom installation.

Houser’s website describes his work as “visual poetry,” which is an apt description for the canvas he brought to the workshop as an example. It consisted of geometric patterns, typography, doodles and lyrical musings like this one: “the number we see, or the number there actually are.” Combined, these non sequiturs became one fluid verse; a capsule of Houser’s psyche.

And then, we had to replicate this.

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