Viacom’s Debbie Douglas shares how she built a career in HR

Debbie Douglas is a senior recruiting manager at Viacom Media Networks, based in New York. Viacom is home to a jaw-dropping portfolio of global, multi-platform entertainment brands. Through television, film, digital content, live events, merchandise, studio production and more, Viacom connects with billions of people in nearly every country in the world. The company’s brands include MTV, VH1, BET, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, to name a few.

In her role, Debbie sources a diverse pool of talent for every brand under the Viacom umbrella, specifically in the Brand Creative groups, in a variety of areas ranging from TV production management to marketing. Her expertise lies in successfully forging relationships, networking and partnering with professional industry and diverse organizations to identify key talent and pipeline candidates.

Debbie began her career as an HR assistant at the Shubert Organization, a theatrical management company in New York. From there, she joined the HR department at Viacom Media Networks, formerly MTV Networks, as an assistant in talent acquisition. She was promoted to the position of recruiter before joining Alloy Media + Marketing in Chelsea as a HR manager.

Debbie inevitably made her way back to Viacom as the senior manager of human resources and talent management at BET Networks. From there she had a short stint at Ketchum, as the lead recruiter overseeing a small team in the NY office. Her passion for media and entertainment proved too much of a draw and she returned once again to Viacom Media Networks in 2013.

She is an active member of several industry organizations including the Council of Urban Professionals and she currently serves as a co-chair of the professional development committee of Viacom’s black employee resource group, BEAT.

Debbie graduated from Stony Brook University in Long Island with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work. She completed graduate school with a concentration in Human Resources Management securing a Master of Science degree from the Milano Graduate School at The New School in New York.

My first job was in college working as an administrative assistant for the Office of the President of Stony Brook University. Here’s a fun fact, one part of my job was signing thousands of official letters on behalf of the president using a machine that replicated her signature.

I got my first big break by raising my hand for what I wanted and not waiting for someone to give me a break. In turn, I was granted the opportunity to fill in for 6 months as the HR generalist for the Viacom international sales team in New York. It was a huge learning curve and that further sparked my interest to learn more and do more.

Shortly after I left for an amazing full-time opportunity as a manager of HR at a youth media and marketing company. I was able to wear many hats from facilitating management training classes, negotiated a deal with our first ever applicant tracking system vendor, to working on the company’s first affirmative action plan.

My work day usually involves meeting with hiring managers across the Viacom brands, such as BET, Comedy Central, MTV and VH1. From there I pull together a recruiting strategy to target our ideal prospects depending on the discipline and level. My day to day activities include sourcing, interviewing face to face, phone interviews, negotiating salaries and ultimately hiring top talent from mid-level to executive levels.

In order to be successful at my job I must continuously network both formally and informally, tapping prospective candidates at conferences, mixers, forums and panels. I volunteer my time within the organization and out of the organization by participating in our mentorship programs, I am also the co-chair of the professional development committee of our black employee affinity resource group. We create and plan events for our employees that allow for them to grow both personally and professionally.

Right now, I’m busy working on continuously building up a pipeline of strong prospective candidates through consistent networking and attending key Industry events. I’m hiring a lot of creatives right now. The landscape is extremely competitive. We must be on the pulse of the industry and get to know who’s who and where and what they are doing.

In addition, I’m strengthening my personal brand in the space of personal and career development, as well as mentorship, via speaking opportunities to entry level and established professionals in and outside of the entertainment industry. Although I enjoy speaking to all audiences, I sincerely enjoy pouring into the youth, especially young men and women of color. I believe the need is still very much present to show young people different avenues to achieve their goals. It doesn’t have to be limited to traditional or aspirational careers such as becoming a lawyer, nurse, rapper or basketball player. The opportunities are limitless, and they have access now to industries such as public relations, TV production, gaming, advertising sales, digital, animation and more.

I enjoy working in media and entertainment because it’s everything I personally love and am passionate about. I rarely have Monday blues! How many people can say that? I’m truly blessed to work in a cutting edge, dynamic, and diverse environment that allows you to bring your whole self to work. If I wasn’t getting this, I don’t know if I would be as fulfilled.

When I’m not working, I love spending time with friends and family. I also love reading all types of literature, working out…I secretly want to become a part-time spin instructor… and most importantly, I love giving back to the youth and mentorship.

I’m always inspired by people who are creative innately and can make something out of nothing. Being around creatives gives you the motivation to create your own lane and do something unique to your interests. I’m also inspired by authentic people who tell the truth and don’t give you lip service. The people who will tell you what you need to hear and not just what you want to hear!

I’m really good at public speaking. I’ve realized this over the years when I’ve continuously been commended for it from past supervisors, colleagues and those I speak in front of. I’d like to continue to do more of this. I also happen to be really good at writing poetry. One of my poems was submitted by my English teacher and featured in the school newspaper.

My old supervisor once told me when dealing with anyone personal or professional, if there is an issue to be solved the main thing to never forget is “you must be able to solve the problem and dually maintain the relationship.” It was a lesson in relationships and communication. I think it has always helped me handle issues with ease whether it be with my clients, boss or family and friends.

My achievements have less to do about title, status, and degrees. More recently, an achievement to me is impact. What impact am I having on those around me? I don’t believe I’ve gotten there fully yet. However, some achievements I think that are worthy to note would be when I give back. I give back to my community by volunteering my time, my alma mater by speaking to the undergraduates, when I donate to worthy causes and foundations such as lupus, sickle cell, and breast cancer awareness.

I’ve sat on the board of a small non-profit focusing on sickle cell awareness and I have participated in numerous mentorship activities and organizations. I hosted a young women’s group at my company, Gyrl Wonder, which is a non-profit focusing on youth empowerment geared to young women of color. I solicited speakers to provide them with an informative day of knowledge around careers in media and branding themselves. I’ve also most recently came back from Atlanta and participated in a full weekend retreat for Save a Girl, Save a World foundation. I now have two mentees, a senior in high school and a sophomore at Clark Atlanta University.

Those to me are major accomplishments, versus a title, and status. It may be small to others, but it feels amazing to me. I’m proud of the work I’ve done as it relates to service and I can’t wait to do more in and out of my community.

Looking ahead I’ll be continuously seeking out ways to challenge myself. I want to insert myself into “larger” rooms and speak to bigger groups and organizations of youngsters and professionals about everything from branding themselves to navigating their career journeys. I’m also working on my personal website and blog to highlight the work I’ve done, services outside of my 9-5 and industry happenings. I’m excited about creating something I can call my own and sharing my knowledge with others.

I’m just as ecstatic as the person that accepted my job offer, because I know that I just made their day. I brought them one step closer to their career trajectory and goals. I’ve provided them with an ability to provide for themselves as well as their families! Now that’s priceless. As a child I always knew that whatever I did in life had to include helping people in some way and now I have that opportunity to do it daily both in my personal and professional life.


Interview by Octavia Goredema 
Octavia Goredema is an award-winning career coach, writer and the founder of Twenty Ten Talent. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or over on Twitter.

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