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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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.

Helping Dreamers Dream Bigger at Viacom HQ

Viacommunity and the “I Have a Dream” Foundation joined forces recently at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters for a speed mentoring event, an invigorating and inspirational experience for a group of under-served students seeking career guidance.

Focusing on goals, Viacom employees from across the Sales, Production, Marketing and Graphic Design departments, among others, delivered career advice to college students affiliated with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, who are otherwise known as Dreamers.

Both the students and Viacom employees came equipped with positive spirit and energy. During several timed sessions, students rotated among tables organized by Viacom’s departments. Two employees were stationed at each table facing one Dreamer, providing an intimate setting that provoked thoughtful questions about job-search processes and career tracks. Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour event, the room buzzed with motivational chatter, as conversations trickled on long after each timer expired. Viacom’s employees were eager to share personal anecdotes to show Dreamers that they too can pursue careers in the entertainment field and the students, in turn, left our offices energized and inspired.

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From Children’s Wellness to Aircraft Carrier Maintenance, Chryssi Mikus Is Here to Help

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Chryssi Mikus has a long and ongoing relationship with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, working to secure donations and auction items for large fundraisers. In 2015, she traveled to the center’s flagship institution in Memphis, Tennessee. She sits on the Friends of St. Jude committee, a group that brainstorms new fundraising opportunities and identifies potential new community or corporate partners.

While such dedication to the St. Jude’s cause might suggest some sort of full-time commitment to the organization, Mikus is actually a senior manager in Viacom’s Marketing & Partner Insights group, working across all of the company’s networks. Her expansive contributions to St. Jude are entirely voluntary.

“I think it’s important to give back, especially to causes you’re passionate about, whether it’s children or animals or the elderly,” Mikus says.

Chryssi Mikus has had a long relationship with St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Here she stands in front of the center’s flagship in Memphis, Tennessee.

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Encoding a Viacom Mentor into Her Life

This past summer, 20 high school girls immersed themselves in the expansive, limitless world of coding, many of them for the first time, via an intensive program run by Girls Who Code at Viacom’s global headquarters in New York City. The girls learned and honed their coding skills in the classroom, took workshops, attended speaking sessions and took field trips to some of Viacom’s core facilities. Each participant was assigned a mentor, who continued to support the girls’ efforts to break into the male-dominated computer sciences fields even after the program wrapped. We asked Nikita Uppal, a student participant this past summer, to write about this transformational experience. She jotted down some thoughts about the relationship she established with her mentor, Teresa:

Girls Who Code taught us the soft skills of the business world. One way they did that was by introducing us to inspiring female role models by assigning us with individual mentors based on personality. I met my mentor, Teresa Hsu, a technology project and portfolio management leader for Nickelodeon, at a big event introducing all the mentors to their mentees. They had introductions, lunches and activities, including bingo. Each space had a fact, such as “Has been on a TV show.” You would then have to find a mentor or mentee that had accomplished this. This icebreaker revealed a lot of interesting facts about the people around us.

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What’s Better than Walking the Red Carpet? Creating It

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Earlier this year, CMT helped put on quite an awards show in Nashville. Attendees walked a pre-event red carpet. Hosts guided the audience from one award presentation to the next. Winners delivered gushing acceptance speeches.

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