“Everyone’s concerned with ‘I need a job, Ill take any job.’ Even if you’re transitioning from one job to another. Sit down and write out your wish list.” says Jasmine Victor, senior director of integrated marketing at Viacom.
Victor, a self-proclaimed “lifer” at Viacom, started at the company in 2004 as a coordinator and continues to work her way up.
From speaking up during meetings to bringing your authentic self to work to navigating your career journey, Victor dishes out honest advice to up-and-comers.
Daily Brief caught up with Victor at her office to learn what it takes to succeed in entertainment marketing. An edited transcript follows:
Daily Brief: How did you get this job?
VICTOR: I started at Viacom in 2004 in affiliate marketing. Essentially, it’s business-to-business marketing for our cable, satellite and platform distributors. Anyone that gets content from any Viacom networks, we help to create marketing packages that bundle our programming and the cool things, cool attitudes and demographics and target audiences that we bring to the table. That’s how I started, as an assistant. And I slowly worked my way up, and then left Viacom and went to Oxygen, a network for women before it was owned by NBC Universal.
Once [Oxygen was] bought out by NBC, there was some downsizing and I was out of a job and came back into the Viacom fold in integrated marketing. I’ll be honest, in maybe 2007, I had no clue what integrated marketing was and I think a lot of people were still trying to figure out what it meant. It was a wild, wild west, especially on the digital side, trying to figure out how long the content needed to be considering people’s attention spans. Do they care enough to watch five minutes, ten minutes?
I developed in my role in digital integrated marketing across Spike, and slowly evolved to Comedy Central as well. Now, I work on-air only. I dabble in a little bit of digital but I only focus on integrations within our scripted and non-scripted series. My focus is on the creative side, building products into storylines. [See an example of what Victor does in the Budweiser integration on CMT’s Nashville, above.]
I know it takes a lot of work to go from assistant to senior director, while working in big, competitive markets such as New York and LA. From 2004 to now, what are some of the conversations you had [with mentors] that helped you define your interests, or that sent you in the right direction?
I would say my biggest lesson — looking back as I continue to go slowly up the ranks — is to watch, listen and learn. Especially starting out as an assistant, sometimes you go in wanting to prove yourself. You think, ‘I need to make a name for myself, I need to be vocal in meetings.’ Vocal is great, but you need to have something to say. When you don’t have something to say, it’s actually okay for you to just sit back and watch your managers or senior management, if you happen to be in the meeting with someone two or three ranks higher than you. Sit and watch and be a sponge in those meetings.
I’ve really absorbed how someone responded to a difficult situation, how someone handled a client that might not have necessarily agreed with our process when it comes to amplifying their brand within one of our shows. And how he or she did the same thing on the creative side when a development person or a show producer has not necessarily agreed on how we go about integrating a product into their baby, their show.
A lot of it is watching the people above you, and seeing how they react in those certain situations. I like to say I’m multilingual in the role I have because whether I’m speaking to a client or a salesperson, I’m able to use a very different perspective to reach them than when I’m speaking to a show producer or a development exec. I’d rather learn by watching than make the same mistakes over and over again because I wasn’t paying attention and was more focused on trying to make a name for myself than on growing and developing in my role.
How do you know what you know, and what is the basis of that? Where do these values and beliefs come from?
I’m just a very analytical person. I’m the oldest child, so my siblings would maybe say that I’m bossy. I would disagree! [laughs] But with that said, I was the only child for eight years, and I’m also an introvert, so I liked reading and staying inside the house. I have a very big imagination from all of my reading and creating these fantasy worlds from these books that I read as a child.
One of my skills is relationship-building. I have to work at it because I’m an introvert. I have to push myself to be extroverted especially in big crowds. I’m not the best at networking at all. It makes me very uncomfortable because I very much don’t want to go in with an agenda, like I’m coming to talk to you because I think that you can help me with a deal that I want to make, or put me in contact with someone I need to know in order to get a project I’m working on done, whether professionally or personally. That’s always difficult for me. It’s a struggle to this day.
I’ve always been more of a quiet type, and I take cues through my career through learning and pitfalls and mistakes. I’ve learned when I need to speak up and when I need to fall back a little bit by having to do it. I’ve been told as a woman you need to speak up more so you can be seen and heard, and I’ve had to work on that. Because I never want to just say something to say it, to say something meaningless or to repeat what someone else has said just so someone else in the room can hear my voice. That still irks me to this day, when I see people doing that, only because I don’t want them to have to try so hard, but I get why they’re doing it.
For me, I’m very much an analytical people watcher, and I can size people up. Now that this is being recorded, I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable around me. It’s not all the time, but I can tell based on the way they speak, or how forceful they are in their speaking, or how meek they are — which isn’t bad, I’m meek to a degree — or their body language, of what they’re trying to project.
What does it sound like when someone says something in a meeting and you realize that they’re just saying it to say it?
From time to time, I’ve been in meetings where there’s a difference between recapping what was said in the meeting by some person and just repeating what someone else in the meeting verbatim. Where you maybe change a few words but you say it in a tone or manner where it seems like you’re saying it as your own personal opinion.
I’ve had that happen a few times, not necessarily with me, but I have watched it happen. A co-worker might say, “Yes, so I think the next steps for this would be to build out the social strategy, and then from there we can share it with the client and walk them through all of the steps to get approval.” That’s a very basic line.
A few comments later, someone will say “so, yes, what I think we should do is absolutely figure out what social we’re going to do for this thing, what’s the strategy behind it, we can take it to the client, get their buy in, and then from there we’ll get the green light we’re good to do. Everybody in agreement right?” And in my head, it’s like that person just said that.
The person that spoke last was not listening and not present in the conversation. Instead, they were in their own little world, trying to figure out what they’re going to say. Or, they’re literally just trying to get some words out of their mouths so they’re noticed in the meeting. Either way, it puts you a little bit of a light on you. That you’re not really present in the meeting, and what’s coming out of your mouth isn’t original.
You did an executive leadership program. Sometimes, we get into these programs and we don’t necessarily take full advantage of them. How do you take advantage of any opportunities this program created for you?
I did the executive leadership program with NAMIC, the National Association for Multi Ethnicity in Communications. I was still in New York, so that was more than seven years ago. It was great for me because sometimes being within a company you get in a little bit of that company bubble, that company culture, and you don’t get any other exposure or insight from people that work outside of your walls. It helps you gain a more well-rounded perception of the industry and even of the work you end up doing.
That’s why I love PromaxBDA so much because you’re meeting your peers from all different types of this business. I don’t think that when I did the EDLP, I took full advantage of it, only because I didn’t keep up with the people I was in the program with.
Immerse yourself. You don’t have to apply to every single program, but at least once a year map out in what programs you’d be interested. Talk to your management and put it on their radar, asking if they’d be able to support you in applying and paying for it. It’s great to have those upfront conversations.
I’ve learned that as I continue to develop, we get so caught up in the day to day of our work, and getting the job done that sometimes we may lack on the personal development side. If you have management that is very proactive in encouraging you or not, it’s on you. It’s your career. No one else is going to be as passionate about what you’re doing.
So, whether that’s a podcast you need to listen to, books you need to read, classes you need to take, if you’re really passionate about it, and putting the time into yourself, I think it only makes you a better executive and just a better person overall.
A lot of times we don’t have people that are lifers within companies. I didn’t think I’d be here this long. I’ve been here for like twelve years, but I love what I do, and I love the networks that I work for. So, now I’m focusing on my development, and I’ve been talking to my senior execs about this.
They are helping me to develop more on the strategy side. I want to learn big- picture, 360 thinking and strategy. How do I even go about that? Those are questions I’ve been asking, and giving my bosses a heads up. I tell them ‘when you’re having these meetings, I’d love to be in the room. I’m just going to be a sponge and listen, I just want to see how you’re even approaching these types of conversations, so that I can wrap my head around whether or not this is something I feel I’m already good at, and have the muscle memory for, or is it something I need to dig in a little bit more, so I can build that muscle and skill.’
How much of your authentic self do you bring to your role? How valuable is your personality and your background? Maybe it’s none of anyone’s business, but how does that play a part in how we succeed and how we contribute?
I would hope that whatever company you’re looking to be employed by or whatever company has employed you at this point has hired you in part or almost wholly because of how unique you are. As well as the skillsets, and the unique value that you bring to their team that maybe they didn’t have before hand.
No one wants to build a team of the same person. There’s no way that you’re really going to be successful if you’ve got the same person, personalities, yes-men, across the board. You need people that in a professional way, challenge ideas and have healthy debates. That comes from people bringing their own perspectives to the table.
I’m not saying put on your resume that you listen to Future and DMX and the Freakanomics radio podcast. I know I’m quirky, I know I’m weird. My team at this point has figured out that I’m a geek. I’ve waved my geek flag high, and proudly. With that said, they still get it wrong from time to time because they just assume things. I have to nicely correct them, ‘no, I’m not really into the DC films, I’m more into the Marvel films. Marvel all day for me.’ I say all that to say, you should absolutely bring your own authentic self, and if you’re still trying to figure out what your authentic self is coming out of school, that’s okay. You don’t have to have it all figured out right now.
In closing, what would you title your book?
The title would be Be Yourself: Building a Career You Love. I feel like that’s a little bit of the summation of what we’ve discussed so far. We’re at work more hours than we’re at home or with our families. If you’re building a career, you always want to do something you love.
Someone gave me this idea and I’ve passed it along to people that have talked to me for advice. Everyone’s concerned with ‘I need a job, I’ll take any job.’ Even if you’re transitioning from one job to another, sit down and write out your wish list. What companies and brands do you just love in general? What companies and brands do you buy and feel like you relate to and aspire to? What brands inspire you?
From there, would you want a job there working in whatever field that’s your expertise? If so, start putting out your feelers to your networks. Not everyone in your network is going to know someone at a Nike, for example, but someone that they know or even a few degrees down may know someone at Nike that can help.
It’s important for all of us to realize that we have a say in what we’re doing and how we build our careers. We don’t have to be stuck or operate in fear. It’s hard sometimes. At the end of the day, green is green, and you have to pay rent or mortgage, pay your bills and you’ve got to live and survive. Also, to build that career, you’ve got to take that time to build out your wish list and what you want out of it, and what you bring to the table. Work that list. You may have to work another job in the meantime that’s bringing in a steady paycheck while you’re working your list, but work your list.
Twenty or thirty years down the line [you don’t want to realize that] you’ve just been working but you don’t have any fulfillment or satisfaction out of it. This is the one industry I’ve worked in but I know that I’m a multi-hyphenate. This is not the only thing I’m doing. I have other pans in the fire that I’m just starting to work on. Whether it’s writing books or mentorship or adjunct professorship, I just like giving any information I have to other people. If they’re willing to sit there and listen to it, fine. It’s great, I’ll give whatever I can and they can take what they want from it. I think that will be my book!