Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Jason T. Williams, (MBA’05), Senior Vice President of Global Inclusion Strategy at ViacomCBS

Jason T. Williams, Georgetown MBA Class of 2005, is the Senior Vice President of Global Inclusion Strategy for ViacomCBS. Based in New York City, Jason partners with the ViacomCBS senior leadership team (SLT), under the guidance of ViacomCBS’ Global Head of Inclusion Strategy and ViacomCBS’ CEO, to set the vision and strategy for the company’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives, to communicate D&I plans to the Board, SLT, and global organization, and to advise executives from its core brands (CBS, Showtime, Nickelodeon, BET, MTV Entertainment Group, Paramount, and more) on diversity issues in their businesses.

He has also been responsible for leading key strategic initiatives on the creative side of the business, such as the ViewFinder Emerging TV Directors Program and the Content Creation Council, and on the business side of ViacomCBS, such as the Supplier Diversity Program.

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

My first big break was getting an internship in the office of the SVP of Unscripted Development and Production at Fox TV Studios in LA between my 1st and 2nd year of the MBA program at Georgetown. The way that I got the internship was the result of a meeting during the GEMA externship trek to Los Angeles during my spring break my first year – that meeting eventually evolved into an internship opportunity. Even though I had some previous experience as an independent producer of industrial and commercial TV documentaries, that summer’s experience was my first formal exposure to the entertainment industry. And except for a short detour into strategy management consulting right after graduation, I’ve been in the media industry ever since. I really have to thank GEMA and Rich Battista for giving me my first big break.

What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part?

The most challenging part of my job is managing the complexity of the relationships that I have to navigate on a daily basis. On one day I could be managing communications and strategic deliverables that are going to our CEO, Senior Leadership Team, and Board of Directors, and another day I could be working with diverse, emerging first time directors who are looking to break into the entertainment business. The biggest reward is seeing the work that I do amplified on the screens that reach people’s homes or in the initiatives that our ViacomCBS Office of Global Inclusion orchestrates quarter over quarter and year over year. When my sons watch a Nickelodeon show featuring a first time director that I helped to break or I see an employee get promoted to a senior position who I’ve helped to develop since their early years at the ViacomCBS organization, the reward and payoff is tangible.

What is something current you are working on that you are excited about?

Something current that I’m working on that I’m really excited about is an overall strategic plan to infuse diversity in every aspect of our content both in front of and behind the camera. We have some exciting initiatives that are coming up that will not only impact the workforce at Viacom CBS but also will be collaborative with our other peer industry partners across the entertainment and media landscape. With the racial economic and civil unrest that we have all faced as a collective global community over the last year plus, it’s exciting to be able to work on initiatives that move the needle on diversity equity inclusion in a way that reaches millions of viewers in their homes and communities where they live and work.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?

My Georgetown MBA was pivotal in preparing me for my future career. From providing me the foundations of strategy, marketing, finance and corporate responsibility through the curriculum during my two years at McDonough School of Business, to the experiences I had as a result of participating and leading the GEMA chapter at Georgetown, to the lifelong personal relationships that I developed with my classmates, I became prepared personally and professionally to succeed as I entered the working world.

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?

My best advice to those who are starting out in the field of media and entertainment is to do more listening, reading, and networking than talking and self-promotion. In an industry that is best known for big egos, humility is the trait that I have found that goes the furthest. Never compromising your core values for that next promotion or opportunity is the only way that you can find long term sustainable success in this industry where you can maintain a degree of self-respect and garner respect from your peers. Never underestimate the value of listening to those who have made their way through this industry, regardless if they are the front desk assistant or if they are the CEO of a global media empire.

How is the ever-changing media landscape affecting your industry?

What’s changing in the media landscape is that finally after years of effort, promises, and declarations, we are finally making progress towards ensuring the people who are making our content and the content itself that is reaching everyone’s homes, theaters, and screams is reflective of the wider audience populations who consume the content. It’s unfortunate that it took the racial reckoning as a result of George Floyd’s death just over a year ago to raise awareness of the inequities that many face – not only within our wider global community, but also within our media and entertainment industry.

We now have seen many media and entertainment companies take a firm stance on committing to ethnic and gender equity, not only in words and statements but also in terms of moving the needle to meet the targets and commitments they have publicly proclaimed. As the media industry continues to consolidate and streaming increasingly provides us the opportunity to reach homes in every corner of our globe, it will become even more important that people see themselves reflected in the creators that make the content and in the content itself that shows up on their screens.

The beautiful part of all of these changes is that in the last year I have had more open, honest, and authentic conversations about this “elephant in the room” of race and gender inequality that many have avoided for years but has been a painful reminder of the ills of our global societies’ past. I applaud those that are open and honest with themselves, have committed to unraveling their biases, and have become dedicated to leaving behind the old practices in our industry to move towards a new diverse and multicultural media landscape where a wide range images and voices can be authentically seen and heard.

Best Business Advice Received:

I have two business credos that I have learned over the years: First, what gets measured gets done, what gets done gets rewarded, and what gets rewarded gets repeated.And second – life, and the world of business, are not easily conquered, yet we have this consolation with us – the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph… that which we attain too easily we esteem too lightly – so never give up, and truth to yourself must be your foundation.

Trait You Most Admire in People:

There are three – honesty, kindness, and authenticity.

Favorite App, Website, Podcast or Social Platform (other than related to your own company):

The ESPN Go App – I can’t live without college basketball. I’m both a Duke undergrad and a Georgetown grad alum – so I have two storied basketball programs to follow and cheer on every college basketball season.

Favorite Georgetown Professor:

My Strategy professor (and now Dean of Georgetown MBA) Paul Almeida, hands down – he stretched me to think in ways I never thought my brain was capable of for my entire MBA career.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:

We used to try to sneak into the Tombs when I was in high school – I’m a DC native and went to prep school at St. Albans right up the street from the university on Wisconsin Avenue. At the time there were many great Georgetown bars – Garrets, Clyde’s, Third Edition, the Charing Cross, and many more – most are now long gone and replaced by Apple stores, clothing stores, or restaurants. But because I grew up in DC in the eighties and nineties, we all wanted to emulate the Brat Pack “St. Elmo’s Fire” movie experience. So when I went to Georgetown for my MBA in the early 2000’s, like everyone else I spent many nights at the Tombs drinking beers and listening to the greatest 80s music of all time till that closing bell rang at 1AM and they played Billy Joel’s “The Piano Man.” So for me, the greatest bar in Georgetown, as long as the University is still there, has been, and will always be – the Tombs. Anyone who says differently is not a true Hoya!

Favorite Georgetown Memory:

Seeing my parents’ proud faces in the audience at McDonough Gymnasium in 2005 when I walked across the stage during my Georgetown MBA graduation ceremony.