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NBCU Academy Hosts Fifth Next Level Summit: Unlocking Your Leadership Potential

The free virtual summit brought together top executives and talent across NBCUniversal and Comcast's portfolio, as well as various external industry leaders, to participate in panels designed to expose students and professionals to a range of topics surrounding subjects of leadership.


April 23, 2024

On April 11, NBCU Academy, a free, award-winning education program for developing new skills and advancing careers in journalism, media and tech, hosted its fifth Next Level Summit, Unlocking Your Leadership Potential.

The event kicked off with an introduction by CNBC Correspondent Contessa Brewer live from CNBC's global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, followed by a special message from NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde

"No matter what career you ultimately embark on, learning how to lead will empower you no matter where you are on your career path or what you hope to do," said Cesar Conde. 

From discussions on mentorship, A.I., and developing communication styles to a conversation with the leadership team behind NBCUniversal's 2024 Paris Olympics coverage, NBCU Academy provided an enriching program for more than 4200 attendees.  

NBCU Academy: Leading From Where You Are

The first panel of the summit, titled “Leading From Where You Are”’ was moderated by CNBC “Fast Money” Host, Melissa Lee, featuring panelists KC Sullivan, CNBC President, Rashida Jones, MSNBC President, José Cancela, Telemundo Station Group President, and Frances Berwick, NBCUniversal Entertainment Chairman. Questions directed towards the panel focused on building up confidence and what, as a leader, the NBCU executives do to maintain authenticity and transparency.  

“Part of being a leader is bringing your unique perspective to the table,” said Jones. “As a leader, I value hearing from employees who might have a different take, or a different understanding, or look at things through a different lens.” 

“In a world today where we’re so surrounded by so many different challenges, all I would say is, be yourself, be true to yourself, be responsible,” said Sullivan. “I tell my kids all the time, if you’re responsible that goes a long way because it brings with it a lot of different aspects. Being responsible in any organization will allow you to grow no matter where you are in the process.” 

Following the main session, NBCU Academy's Next Level Summit broke off into three breakout rooms focusing on topics including A.I., mentorship and sponsorship, and developing communication styles as a leader.  


Leading in an A.I. World - NBCU Academy

NBCU Academy - Breakout 1: Leading in the A.I. World

Brian Cheung, NBC News Business & Data Correspondent, brought the topic of artificial intelligence and its rapid growth to the forefront in his moderated panel “Leading in the A.I. World”. Panelists included Al Ming, NBCUniversal News Group Digital Product & Design SVP, Emily Wilkins, CNBC DC Correspondent, Richard Robinson, Robin AI CEO & Co-Founder, and Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker Staff Writer.  

“You should keep awareness out in the field. Like we were saying, these [A.I. tools] are coming out constantly. There are so many tools out there that are driven by A.I. and new ones are popping up every moment,” said Ming. “Be aware, keep reading, follow the technology news from us and other platforms that are looking specifically at how A.I. is affecting journalism.” 

Regarding the impact and possible uses of A.I. in journalism, Kolhatkar said, “Nothing beats human to human reporting. Think of these [A.I.] tools as a way to reduce drudgery so you have more time for the real reporting.” 


The Power of Mentorship & Sponsorship - Next Level Summit

NBCU Academy - Breakout 2: The Power of Mentorship & Sponsorship

NBC News “Stay Tuned” Correspondent Marquise Francis led “The Power of Mentorship & Sponsorship” panel designed to teach about building connections, finding mentors and sponsors and overcoming imposter syndrome. Francis was joined by panelists Roxanne Vargas, NBC6 News Miami Anchor, B. Monet, Filmmaker & Director of “Black Girls,” Justin Peach, NBCU Entertainment Cable Creative & Marketing Senior Producer & Editor, and Deondre Marshall, URGENT Inc. Media Arts Apprentice. 

In addition to his role with NBCU Entertainment Cable Creative & Marketing, Peach also serves as Marshall’s mentor. The two met in NBCUniversal’s Creative Impact Lab, an initiative that is empowering the next generation of storytellers. The Lab provides grants to non-profit creative agencies that employ apprentices to create marketing assets for the company’s nonprofit partners. NBCU employees advise and mentor the apprentices as they produce the assets that ultimately run on Comcast and NBCU platforms.   

“But after getting advice and just seeing the work that I’ve done in the past and just seeing the growth that I had – from when I first started, I didn’t even know how to use a camera, didn’t know how to frame anything to now doing stuff for NBC and becoming a mentor in this space,” said Marshall. “I think about that a lot and I’ve really come so far. Honestly, this is the beginning.” 


Developing Your Leadership & Communications Style - Next Level Summit

NBCU Academy - Breakout 3: Developing Your Leadership & Communications Style

Moderated by Alicia Menendez, Co-Host of MSNBC’s “The Weekend,” the third panel of the summit focused on how to develop your own communication style and using that to inspire others to take action. Panelists included Craig Robinson, NBCUniversal EVP and Chief Diversity Officer, Ashaki Rucker, Telemundo Enterprises and Latin America Human Resources SVP, and Sohee Jun, Author, “The Inner Game: Secrets of High-Achieving Women for Navigating Work, Life and Mindset,” followed by a discussion with Suze Orman, Best Selling Author, Financial Icon & SecureSave Co-Founder. 

 “We have some of the, not just by my opinion, by their success, some of the most successful leaders in media across a number of our platforms, and when I look at some of the things that they have in common, it is, in addition to the other qualities that we’ve spoken about, an openness to bringing in people onto their team who may have a different perspective,” said Craig Robinson regarding the attributes he sees in successful leaders in media.   


Meet the Leadership Team Behind NBCUniversal's 2024 Paris Olympics Coverage - Next Level Summit

Meet the Leadership Team Behind NBCUniversal's 2024 Paris Olympics Coverage

From the rich storytelling behind our Olympians to overcoming the challenges that arise when producing this historic event from the heart of Paris, the discussion led by TODAY News Anchor & 3rd Hour of TODAY Co-Host, Craig Melvin, gave attendees a behind-the-scenes look into the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics.    

Melvin sat down with Molly Solomon, NBC Olympics Production Executive Producer and President, Darryl Jefferson, NBC Sports Engineering, Technology & Olympics, Senior VP, and Lindsay Schanzer, NBC Sports & Olympics Senior Producer in Studio 1A to talk about all of the work they have put into this year’s upcoming Olympics.  

“It’s great to say you’re an NBCU lifer because it is a wonderful place. They have provided me with so many opportunities,” said Solomon who has been with NBC for 34 years. “But the leadership journey is different when you grow up somewhere, because as you want to grow, you’re seen as the person who did the last job and sometimes you leapfrog colleagues. But you know, its a really simple recipe. You got to work hard and you’ve got to enjoy the journey.” 

“I’ve been really lucky at NBC through my career. I’ve always been really encouraged. I’ve never felt very much held back by being a woman,” said Schanzer who also runs NBC’s coverage of the Kentucky Derby. “I know that’s not always been the case in this industry, so I feel very lucky and grateful for the people I have around me. I’ve always had Molly out there as a leader to look up to in her position, and I’m very lucky that she’s running the Olympics now so I’m going to continue to have as a mentor.” 

“So the biggest challenge, but I think the biggest opportunity is to take prime time and we’re going to treat it like a sports entertainment show. It’s going to be called Primetime in Paris and we’re going to give you the best of the best in those three hours. So you may have seen it in the afternoon but do you know what really happened?” – Molly Solomon in response to the question ‘what are you doing differently this year to prepare for the coverage of the 2024 Olympics versus 2020? 


Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders with The Edit - Next Level Summit

NBCU Academy: Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders with The Edit

CNBC Senior Health Care Reporter Bertha Coombs was joined by Brian Johnsrud, Adobe’s Global Director of Education, Learning and Advocacy, to introduce “The Edit”, a brand-new collaboration between NBCU Academy and Adobe, aimed at fostering digital and media literacy across all middle schools and high schools in the United States.  

“The Edit” aims to inspire young people to take part in a digital story telling challenge focused on well-being in every area of their life – mental, physical and financial – and in the spaces where you spend your time – at school, at work, with friends, and on social media. Students will be able to use Adobe Express video editing software to tell their story and will gain exclusive access to NBC News Group footage as well as expert advice from NBC media professionals.  

Interested participants can register HERE.  


NBCU Academy: Next Level Summit - Career Expo Sessions 

 The Next Level Summit was concluded by three Career Expo sessions designed to take the skills that attendees learned throughout the day and apply them to take their careers to the next level.  

The first expo session , titled “Acing Your Leadership Interview”, included panelists Tammy Fine, NBCUniversal News Group Executive Search and Talent Strategy Lead, Jewel Neal, MSNBC Human Resources VP, and Ozzie Martinez, Telemundo Station Group, NBCUniversal Local EVP of Multiplatform News, Original Programming & Standards, moderated by Noticias Telemundo Anchor Johana Suárez. Panelists discussed best practices to leave a lasting impression in an interview and put those skills to practice with mock interviews with attendees. 

The second expo session was titled “Leading From the Classroom to the Newsroom” with panelists Raelyn Johnson, MSNBC Weekend News Programming Director, Mike Gaytán, Telemundo 52/KVEA VP of News, and Christina Noval, NBCUniversal Talent, Early Careers VP, moderated by Jessica Aguirre, Anchor, NBC Bay Area.   

The third and final expo session of the summit was titled “The Edit: Unleashing Your Digital Storytelling Leadership Skills with Adobe". Jesse Lubinsky, an Education Evangelist at Adobe, gave a demonstration on how to use Adobe’s new editing tool, Adobe Express, to develop digital storytelling skills and aid students in their submissions for The Edit. The program is available for free for all K-12 students. 

 “It’s never too early to start to build your network and start to put yourselves out there. And one of the ways you can do that is by all of these creative artifacts that you’re building, that you’re creating, create a space for that dialogue to start putting your work out there” said Lubinsky. “A lot of people do that already, but that’s how you start to get known and meet connections, and ultimately that will help provide so many opportunities for you in the future.”  

Nishy Lall, Sky Group Head of Youth & Social Impact, who joined Jesse in his demonstration, concluded the meeting with, “It’s been a pleasure to see how digital storytelling skills can be brought to life through The Edit. These skills are essential, as we know, for going forward in a more digital world.” 


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