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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From Props to Production Equipment, Nickelodeon Recycling Efforts Turn Trash into Treasure

The set is a key component of any television show. It’s a sometimes subtle, yet always vital backdrop upon which the characters play out their story. After all, what would Nickelodeon’s School of Rock be without a classroom setting, musical instruments and preppy school uniforms?

“Our sets are works of art,” said Patrick Garney, senior director of production for live-action series production at Nickelodeon, where he has worked since 2002.

Nick, like other Viacom brands, reuses these painstakingly designed sets wherever it can, so the keen-eyed may notice items from sketch-comedy classic All That tucked into the background of the network’s newer shows.

“We have an incredible reputation for making sure things get second, third and fourth lives,” said Garney. “Past that, we try incredibly hard to match items with local charities; lastly, we send them to charity thrift stores.”

If outdated items cannot be re-purposed for one of the aforementioned categories, the last resort  is to send them to the Dumpster. But Nickelodeon employees from various departments have worked to insert another option for old sets: donating the facades, along with any other useful material—props, hardware, etc.—to theater departments at Los Angeles public schools and select charities, an extra step that benefits not only the community and the environment, but, by cutting down on disposal fees, Nickelodeon and Viacom.

Lee Ann Larsen, executive vice president of production and live action for Nickelodeon, was impressed by the concept when a member of Garney’s team first pitched it to her.

“I immediately said yes,” said Larsen. “Our goal in the production department is always to be cognizant of the environment, and to encourage sustainability efforts.”

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Viacom Women On Tech Leadership at Any Level

With hackathons, futuristic workspaces and mentorship programs, Viacom is a veritable technology trailblazer in the media industry. One of the reasons why the company is excelling? Female leadership.

This was evident at Being a Tech Leader at Any Level, a joint webinar hosted by Viacom and PowerToFly, a gender diversity-and-inclusion-focused recruiting agency that connects Fortune 500 companies and startups with women looking to work as engineers.

Watching the webinar, I saw a diverse group of women engineers and developers, some at entry-level positions and others in management, discuss how they work to overcome adversity and close the gender gap in a male-dominated industry.

Watch the full webinar:

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Viacom’s Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program Grad Ceremony Inspires Teen Coders, Employees and Company Executives

Each year since 2015, Viacom Headquarters has opened its doors to a group of teenagers, letting them loose on the floors of our tech department and off-site broadcasting control rooms.

Sound hectic? Well, it’s part of Girls Who Code, a nationally-renowned nonprofit initiative which aims to increase the number of women in computer science. It teaches young girls computer programming skills, which they can use towards a future career in tech, or any number of jobs where this knowledge is essential.

Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation ceremony at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters inspired a new generation of teen techies.

Viacom provides expert mentors from various fields in the company to teach the girls what it takes to become a force in any industry they pursue. We host field trips to off-site locations such as The Daily Show production studio, where the teens can see how many ways tech can be applied in the media industry.

And yes, the result is a bustling summer of adventure and learning, with crowded elevators at company headquarters and wide-eyed teens gazing at the walls of our building as if it were a majestic castle. It’s also a valuable learning experience for current employees.

In many ways, our GWC program reminds me of how lucky I am to work at Viacom—a place where we’re encouraged to learn new skills, connect with colleagues in other departments, and walk through hallways covered with exquisite art.

At the end of August, the company held a graduation ceremony for these students at our Times Square Headquarters.

The 2017 graduating class of Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish spoke at the event, telling the audience how Viacom’s involvement with GWC personally resonated.

“Speaking as an engineering grad – but more importantly, as a dad of two teenage girls, it’s especially gratifying that Viacom is part of this incredibly important work to build a strong community of female leaders in computer science,” said Bakish.

“[Viacom] brands create great content that drives culture and conversation in more than 180 countries. Coding enables us to do what we do – from production to distribution, operations to advertising, broadcasting and beyond.

It is the glue that holds our digital infrastructure together…and it’s the foundation for the new and innovative experiences that allow our fans to connect even more closely with their favorite Viacom brands and content.”

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish speaks about the value of diversifying tech at Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation ceremony at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters.

Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami also spoke, telling the audience of graduates, employees and family members how crucial coding is for women. “There are so many places where females are underrepresented and its inspiring to know there are movements like Girls Who Code who are trying to change that,” said Zarghami.

The Nickelodeon executive followed up with an pertinent example of how the network broke gender tropes with an iconic 90s show, Clarissa Explains It All.

“It was an important show because it broke a lot of rules. We were told that boys wouldn’t watch shows about a girl. And that more girls would watch a show about a boy than about a girl,” said Zarghami. However, the show defied stereotypes: “It was a giant hit.”

There is so much more to be done, Zarghami stressed. “There aren’t enough women directors, or screenwriters, or producers. Or female leads in super-hero movies,” said Zarghami.

“But there is a movement now to change all of that, not just in TV and tech, but in every field. And you, and your generation, and organizations like Girls Who Code, are a big part of this change.”

Hear from the grads

“Thank you Viacom for this amazing opportunity and for helping to combat the stigma that girls can’t do math or STEM because WE CAN and WE WILL!” – Group Body Posi+-

“Viacom helped bring a real-life touch to coding.” – Charlotte, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“It was so cool being here at Viacom. We went to see The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. We got to see the whole studio and all the people working to make the production come alive, which was cool especially since I’m interested in entertainment and the more creative aspect of production. It was interesting to hear from the staff the paths they took to get to their career, which weren’t necessarily conventional [production-oriented] paths. I grew up watching Nickelodeon. We got to see where the magic happens and how [shows] are made. It was great to see how we can take what we learned in seven weeks and use that to actually help people and create things on your own in the future.” I’ve never coded before, so I was a little nervous about that. However, the other students in the program were supportive, amazing and just so friendly, and it was amazing being with such a diverse group of girls. Everyone was different, they had different ideas, came from different backgrounds…it was just so cool. I definitely made some great friends here.” – Alaire, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“We really enjoyed our guest speakers. One of the speakers gave us really good insight about being a woman in tech, life in general and how to maintain a balance between work and play.” – Maitri, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“Going on what Maitri said, this speaker told us that you don’t always have to stick to one thing, you can always go around and you find different things and eventually you will find something that you are the perfect fit for.” – Brianna, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

 

Photos by Amy Pinard Photography 

Viacom’s Third Annual Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program Opens Doors and Unlocks Keys to Diversity

Since 2015, Viacom has welcomed 60 high school girls to its Times Square Headquarters as part of the nationally-renowned Girls Who Code summer immersion program. Girls Who Code is a nonprofit organization driven to close the gender gap in tech by giving young girls a foundation in coding.

“Coding is a skill that can open up many doors for someone,” said Viacom Senior Director of Technology, Aurelie Gaudry. “Viacom is the perfect partner for a Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program because it introduces young women to beginner computer science concepts while also allowing them to see many different paths coding can lead you down.”

💙💕💛💕💙 #Viacom #NYC #gwcviacom

A post shared by Girls Who Code NYC (@girlswhocodenyc) on

At Viacom, these paths include careers in TV production, or creating apps for Nickelodeon and BET. It could be a managerial role, directing a team of engineers to develop new online games, or even one in communications, acting as a liaison between coders and brand representatives.

“One of the wonderful benefits of hosting the GWC program is watching our technology team find inspiration from the passion and caliber of the young women involved,” said Viacom Chief Technology Officer Dave Kline.

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Stress in China, South African Parents, Shared Experiences, & VMA Winners’ Data: Viacom Global Insights Digest

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Welcome to the September issue of the Viacom Global Insights Digest, bringing you Viacom’s latest consumer insights from around the world. This month, we are proud to launch our newly redesigned multilingual blog, which gives a crisp new look to our insights in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. Check it out.

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These Young Coders Are Going to Change the World—Starting With Viacom

Zahraa Lopez vividly remembers the excitement she felt when, as a child, she’d walk past the TRL stage, gleaming behind the windows of Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters. She’d look up at the majestic silver skyscraper with awe. “I always wanted to see inside,” said Lopez, who grew up in the Bronx. “I wanted to be part of what was going on.”

Lopez got her chance to do more than peek inside the building last summer, when Viacom selected her for its first Girls Who Code (GWC) summer immersion program.

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Viacom Inspires the next Generation of Female Coders, One Sequence at a Time

Let’s do this

In 2011, Viacom Chief Information Officer David Kline attended an event for the National Association of Broadcasters, and noticed something disturbing: the awards were mostly going to men. “There wasn’t a single female in the room,” said Kline, “Unless she was somebody’s daughter or significant other.” It was a pivotal moment for Kline. While other areas of Viacom were already gender-diverse, his technology department was not. He returned from the convention inspired to change this.

Our vice president of product management Kimberly Hicks would soon have an idea that could begin to gradually change this. Hicks attended AT&T’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation in 2014 and was beyond impressed.

“I was blown away,” said Hicks. “Not only by their projects, but with their presence and how empowered they were. I didn’t know any of these girls, but I could tell they were transformed.”

It was no coincidence – Girls Who Code (GWC) is a national nonprofit dedicated to closing the gender gap in tech by teaching young girls how to code, principally through partnerships with large corporations, such as AT&T. At the end of the ceremony, Hicks spoke with GWC founder and CEO, Reshma Saujani. “I told her I would make this happen at Viacom.”

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