Marketing Executive Bozoma Saint John Shares Workplace Wisdom With Viacom Employees: “Assimilation Is Not Necessary to Get Ahead”

Bozoma Saint John, self-described “force of nature in fierce stilettos” and newly minted chief marketing officer for entertainment company Endeavor, came to Viacom’s Times Square headquarters in May to share career wisdom and empowering life advice with Viacom employees at an event organized by the company’s Office of Global Inclusion.

Michele Thornton Ghee, BET Her senior vice president of Ad Sales, moderated the discussion with Endeavor’s chief marketing officer Bozoma Saint John at Viacom Headquarters in May 2018.

Saint John is a woman of color – and a woman in power. She’s an agent of change in the business world, having held executive positions at major tech and media hubs including Spike Lee’s ad agency (Spike DDB), Pepsi, Beats by Dre, Apple and Uber.

At Viacom’s employee event, Saint John strutted in wearing six-inch designer heels, looking every bit the #girlboss: poised, commanding and unapologetically stylish. In an ebullient exchange with long-time friend and moderator Michele Thornton Ghee, BET Her senior vice president of Ad Sales, Saint John traced her non-traditional life and explained how the unique worldview that it formed drove her success in a traditional business world.

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Going Places: Viacom Intern to Full Time Employee Success Stories Features Samantha Kestenbaum

Viacom’s Campus to Career department oversees Viacom internships, post-graduate programs and entry-level opportunities. Going Places is the department’s latest series on intern success stories, featuring interns who have achieved full-time employment opportunities at Viacom and Paramount Pictures. In the first installment of Going Places, Campus to Career interviewed Samantha Kestenbaum, Office of Global Inclusion (OGI) Coordinator, to chat about her experience. Kestenbaum interned at Viacom during the fall and spring of 2017.

Samantha Kestenbaum, Office of Global Inclusion (OGI) Coordinator, started off as a Viacom intern in 2017. Now, she’s a full-time employee.

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Yes, Women Can Have It All: Viacom and The Girls Lounge on Thriving in the Workplace

On a recent Friday, more than 600 Viacom employees, clients, and partners joined Viacom executives, as well as speakers from JP Morgan Chase, ColorComm, Refinery29 and WIE Network for The Girls’ Lounge. Co-hosted by Viacom and The Female Quotient, the event included a full day of panel discussions and professional coaching focused on work-life balance, leadership and diversity. Plus, attendees could schedule professional styling and headshots.

Viacom EVP and Chief People Officer Fukiko Ogisu (L) and Nickelodeon EVP and Chief Creative Officer Kim Rosenblum discuss the keys to leadership at Viacom’s The Girls’ Lounge panel event.

‘Having it all’ on your terms

The first panel, “Career on Fire: Engineering an Integrated, Rewarding Lifestyle,” focused on living mindfully as a professional with responsibilities outside the workplace.

The panelists: Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) Senior Vice President Kate Laverge, Drop the Ball author Tiffany Dufu, Viacom Catalyst Senior Vice President Cheryl Family, and Human Resources Vice President Lisa Sipress. Brooke Ozaydinli, senior manager Viacom Marketing Strategy, moderated.

“How do you define having it all?” asked Ozaydinli to kick off the panel. “Do you think it’s even possible to have it all?”

Viacom hosted The Girls’ Lounge, a pop-up empowerment seminar, at Viacom Headquarters in May.

Laverge offered her opinion: having it all depends on individual objectives, values and ambitions.

“The question of ‘having it all’ usually speaks to the idea of wealth and riches, romance and family, and spiritual fulfillment, all at the same time,” said Laverge. “If that’s what ‘having it all’ means to you, that’s fine – but it should be an individual question versus a generalized notion.”

Sipress shared her views as a working mother.

“I struggle to have it all,” said Sipress. She discussed feeling guilty, and how she combats this guilt. Her resolution is to have a constant internal conversation around balancing work and personal responsibilities. Some days, Sipress said, work must come first. Other days, parenthood is the priority.

Dufu has evolved to believe this is an important question, especially for women. After connecting with women one-on-one, the author (who is passionate about helping women and girls advance into different levels of leadership) realized how much time women spend juggling different, unrelated tasks.

“Women are managing a lot of different things,” said Dufu. “Women are constantly negotiating between their ambition, their desire to get to the highest level of leadership and achieve mastery of their craft…I think it’s important to define ‘having it all.’ For me, it means having a career driven by my passion and purpose, having a healthy relationship with my partner, raising children who are conscious, global citizens, and being joyful and fit.

“I want all of those things at the same time; I feel I am entitled to all these things at the same time. But I can’t do it all in order to have all of that. I think it’s important to us to get really clear on what matters most.”

The takeaway: There are only 24 hours in a day so prioritize what matters most. Learn how to outsource the lower priorities. Avoid self-imposed perfection.

Drop the Ball author Tiffany Dufu speaks at Viacom Headquarters for a lifestyle panel at an employee event co-hosted with The Girls’ Lounge.

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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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217 Years to Women’s Equality? Not on Viacom’s Watch

The World Economic Forum is concerned that, if nothing changes, full global gender parity is likely 217 years away.

Viacom thinks that we should start closing that gap today.

Today, March 8, is a good day for it: it’s International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual celebration of change-makers fighting for gender equality. Viacom, along with other media companies, nonprofit organizations, charities, politicians, entrepreneurs and activists around the globe, will celebrate women in a tradition dating back to the suffrage movements of the early 20th century.

Today, Viacom brands, talent and executives will spread a message of equality and social activism through the company’s global platforms, through a series of fan and employee events, and through support for larger movements lending a megaphone to women’s collective voice.

Here’s the breakdown on how Viacom will promote International Women’s Day:

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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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Viacom and One Africa Music Fest Host Employee Meet and Greet With Afrobeat Stars

Afrobeat exploded out of a combination of West African musical styles in the 1970s. From its original sounds exemplified by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti to the Nigerian, Ghanaian and South African artists blowing up the hottest radio stations and nightclubs across the U.S., Europe and Africa today, the Afrobeat movement is alive, well, and on fire!

The BEAT, Viacom’s black employee resource group, wanted to share the Afrobeat movement with its members and the rest of the Viacom family. On the eve of the second One Africa Music Fest in New York City, the BEAT hosted an Afrobeat listening session and meet and greet with two of Nigeria’s biggest Afrobeat artists.

(L to R) Praiz, Ezinne Kwubiri, Flavour Photo by: Oluwaseye

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My Mic Sounds Nice: Viacom and The BEAT Recognize Hip-Hop’s Innovative Women

My Mic Sounds Nice, a panel organized by the BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African American experience) gave a shout out to the women fundamental to hip-hop’s success. Trell Thomas, VH1 Save the Music Foundation’s director of communication and talent relations, moderated the event at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters.

The panel featured women who contribute to hip-hop in major ways: Jana Fleishman, EVP of Communication at Roc Nation; LaTrice Burnette, SVP of Marketing at Epic Records; Nadeska Alexis, Senior Editorial Producer at Complex; and hip-hop artist Roxanne Shante.

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Viacom Explores August Wilson’s Pittsburgh with Broadway Cast of Jitney

In January 2017, the late August Wilson’s play Jitney made its Broadway debut. A period piece set in the late 1970s, the play is about gypsy cab drivers in an African-American Pittsburgh neighborhood. Despite the city’s economic slump, these drivers are thriving and making an honest living—all because regular cabs at the time did not want to service black neighborhoods.

Like Fences—Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning play that evolved into Paramount’s Oscar-winning smashJitney provides an authentic portrayal of the African-American experience in a particular time and place. The characters are flawed, embroiled in racial tensions and poverty, yet their humanity shines through.

Jitney is part of Wilson’s Century Cycle, a collection of 10 plays set in historically African-American neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and Chicago throughout each decade of the 20th century.

To celebrate Black History Month, The BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group focused on the African-American experience) hosted a panel discussion at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters with five Jitney cast members.

View the slideshow:

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Seven Years of Giving: The History Behind Viacom’s Give Back & Get Down Celebration

In the fall of 2010, Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion started a new tradition—a holiday party that would bring employees together to celebrate the season of giving, by giving back to those in need.

Give Back & Get Down (GBGD) is the brainchild of Nickelodeon Digital Publishing Executive Assistant Tara Shaw and BET News Production Manager Renee Jackson, leaders of the BEAT (our employee resource group focused on the African-American experience).

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The inaugural celebration supported two vital causes.

City Harvest, the only food rescue program in New York City, collects excess food from restaurants and grocery stores—fresh, nutritious food that would otherwise be thrown out. Volunteers deliver this food to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, day cares and senior centers throughout the five boroughs.

Pajama Program, a national nonprofit, helps underprivileged children have a good night’s sleep. Cozy pajamas and bedtime story books are brought to kids in foster care or temporary shelters

Employees brought donations of pajamas and food to the party. While OGI members collected these items, Grammy-winning artist Miguel performed.

Seven years later, GBGD is our annual giving celebration. It embraces the Viacommunity spirit of making a positive social impact in areas where we work and live, and gives employees at premier entertainment brands the chance to let loose and celebrate a year of hard work.

Viacom has collected approximately 60 tons of donations since 2010.

 

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This year, we’ve partnered with Safe Horizons and Sanctuary for Families to support families and individuals impacted by domestic violence. GBGD VII is rapidly approaching, and donation boxes in our New York offices are filling up with toiletries.
Check back for a recap of GBGD VII on Dec. 7.

OGI Assistant Sarah Lee contributed to this article.