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November 9, 2017 @ 4:58 PM

An NYU graduate student gazed at the dazzling digital wallpaper in The White Box event space at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters, sipping a mimosa and munching a croissant. Other students milled about, intrigued by animation-splashed LED panels splashed with famous Viacom characters, such as Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana.

Networking before the panel discussion. Photo by Ryan McGinley.

Viacom’s MBA Media Trek invited 150 grad students from some of the most prestigious business schools in the U.S. – such as Columbia, NYU and Harvard – to sit in on a panel featuring company executives and mingle with them afterward.

Viacom was one of several stops for these students on their tour of media hubs. Our talent acquisition department organized the event, curating an accomplished panel of speakers that included MTV President Chris McCarthy, Viacom Vantage Senior Vice President Gabe Bevilacqua, Paramount Digital Content Senior Vice President Anu Bhatia, and Viacom International COO Jose Tolosa.

The goal: to define Viacom’s eclectic, innovative culture, so the students could understand the workings of a fast-paced modern media company and determine whether it was a potential match for their ambitions.

What is Viacom?

Daisy Auger-Dominguez welcomed MBA grads to Viacom Headquarters. Photo by Ryan McGinley.

Daisy Auger-Dominguez, our senior vice president of talent acquisition, welcomed students by sharing what makes her most proud to work at this company: “Viacom creates entertainment that drives culture and conversation.” She emphasized the massive breadth of this entertainment, with 4 billion subscribers in more than 180 countries.

“We are truly a global company,” said Auger-Dominguez. “This work extends to all areas of our business – from content production to advertising, distribution to data strategy and beyond.”

What does an MBA grad do at Viacom?

There are myriad ways for an MBA grad (or any other ambitious, talented student) to find a career at Viacom. Panel moderator and Director of Data Strategy Tanmay Manohar, a former MBA intern, shared his experience growing into a full-time position within the company. It serves as a case study of how an uncommon mix of skills and experiences can fill a much-needed niche in a complex organization.

Tanmay Manohar moderated the panel discussion. Photo by Ryan McGinley.

After majoring in biomedical engineering at John’s Hopkins, Manohar studied business at Yale School of Management, taking elective courses in drama, film and media. His zest for entertainment led him to Viacom, where he sought an MBA internship.

At a time where MBA students were mostly recruited by finance companies, Viacom recognized the value in hiring business students to work alongside employees in creative and data-driven fields.

Manohar’s background in digital storytelling and business turned out to fill very specific needs at Viacom Velocity, our in-house integrated marketing team.

“I could translate complex data tables into beautiful visualizations,” said Manohar. “This allowed me to create a data-driven creative map, a tool that the creative team could understand and utilize.”

MBA grads bring a sort of X-ray vision into the business

The panelists emphasized the need for versatile interns – students who could adapt easily to a creative task and segue between finance and tech.

For McCarthy, MBA interns can help recognize blind spots. At any major company, employees run the risk of becoming myopic, by focusing too deeply on their own department and its immediate business need.

The panelists spoke to MBA grads about life at Viacom. Photo by Ryan McGinley.

“[MBA interns] spend your days thinking broadly about lots of different industries, lots of different businesses, and you’re bringing that to us,” said McCarthy. “We all have our day-to-day, and we’re into it for all the right reasons, but those fresh eyes and fresh sets of experiences are extremely valuable.”

An MBA intern adds more bandwidth to any division

The first year of business school tends to involves dense coursework. By the time MBAs are ready to intern, digesting hefty volumes of information is something they’ve presumably mastered.

Business students listen to Viacom executives during a panel discussion for Viacom’s MBA Media Trek. Photo by Ryan McGinley.

At Paramount, Bhatia sees an opening for this type of in-depth analysis, and MBA interns are prime candidates to fill it. “I’m always looking at competitive campaigns, to get perspective on how our films are doing in the box office,” said Bhatia. “[MBA interns] are a valuable resource for this.”

Couldn’t make the Yankees roster? Try Viacom

If Viacom were the Yankees circa 1996 (when the team was on the cusp of winning four World Series championships in five Major League Baseball seasons), Bob Bakish would be team manager Joe Torre. At least, according to Tolosa, who worked under Bakish at VIMN for nearly a decade, and has witnessed what the CEO is able to accomplish.

“[Viacom has] a new CEO who’s an amazing operator who rolls up his sleeves and treats everybody in the same way across the company,” said Tolosa.

“He takes ideas from everywhere, and takes the amazing tradition of Viacom brands and tells everyone we’re going to win in this changing landscape. The way the company has rallied, I haven’t seen that in 10 years. It would be wonderful to see all of you join us. Just like Joe Torre won, we’re going to see a lot of wins coming.”

A packed house. Photo by Ryan McGinley.

After the panel discussion, students had the opportunity to network with each other and the Viacom staff (including the executive speakers), to reflect upon these insights.

I spoke to Daniel Robbins, a student at Columbia Business School, and he was enthused by the speakers’ highlights, specifically our use of data, flexible corporate structure and new leadership. Robbins felt these points indicated Viacom’s competitive advantage in the media and business world.

His takeaway? “The speakers all had visible passion for the company,” said Robbins, “And optimism for the future.”

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