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The Path: “You’re destined for greatness—but you have to stay focused.”

January 29, 2020
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The Path profiles people working in what we think of as "dream jobs," living their best professional life, and looks at the people and practices that helped get them there. We talk to these amazing folks about how goal setting, great managers, tough conversations, and key moments of praise helped set them straight or lift them up at instrumental moments and take them where they are now running the show. 

It’s hard to talk about music television without thinking about VH1. The network, which has been around since the mid-80s, first rose to fame through music videos, eventually foraying into popular reality television programming, like Behind The Music and Love & Hip Hop. Like many TV networks, a changing media landscape has meant a need for diversification, including a strong social media presence — something VH1’s Senior Social Media Manager Bianca Kea knows all about.

The Harlem-based social media expert has a long professional path prior to arriving at her current role. She’s worked at advertising agencies in New York and Los Angeles, on accounts including Dannon and Toyota. After deciding to leave the advertising world, Bianca got involved with social media, working with brands like CurlFest and HelloBeautiful, a beauty brand for Black-millennial women, where she further honed her skills. In the summer of 2019, Bianca joined the VH1 team where she currently runs their social media accounts.

Here, we chat with Bianca to learn more about her journey, the power of affirmations and mentorship, and why she believes service is crucial to leadership.

What did you go to school for and what did you think you wanted to do at that time in your life?

I got my BA in Psychology and Political Science from the University of Michigan. For the longest time I wanted to be a psychologist, but halfway through my college career, I had a change of heart after landing a gig in advertising. I stuck with my majors because I still had an interest in the work but I ultimately knew I didn’t want to go in that direction. 

How did you end up getting hired for the position you’re currently in?

I had been applying for new jobs for six months prior to applying for the current role I was in. I had interviews with top entertainment, media, and tech companies. But either they weren’t trying to pay me enough or the vibe was off. So when I had applied for this role I was feeling discouraged. I saw Viacom was looking for a Sr. Social Media Manager and truthfully I was skeptical to apply because I had applied to jobs at Viacom in the past but never heard anything back. I applied and a day later HR reached out asking to schedule an interview. The whole interview process took a couple months with multiple rounds of interviews but eventually, I got an offer. It was completely worth it. 

Tell me about someone who’s made a significant impact on your career trajectory—whether that’s a mentor, a manager, or someone else crucial to your success.

My director at my previous job, Interactive One, had a significant impact on my career trajectory. She was the first Black Women in a leadership role that I had direct access to. I was able to observe how she moved, how she spoke, and she also put me on “game” on how to be successful in a tough industry like entertainment and media. While she was my director, I also saw her as my mentor. She led our team with compassion and that’s something that I’ll always remember and take with me now that I’m in a leadership position myself.

What are some daily habits you absolutely make sure to schedule into your day?

I try to start my morning with meditation and journaling in my Alex Elle ‘Today I Affirm’ journal. I started this new routine back in September so I’m still new to journaling and meditation, but I have noticed how much it helps center my thoughts and ease my anxiety. 

What do you love most about your job?

That I get paid to be creative and strategic while also connecting with people online via social media. Because social media is such a fast-paced industry, it allows me to never get too comfortable, which I think is important if you’re looking to be excellent in your field.

Has there been a time when someone took a chance on you? 

Of course! My director at the Ad Agency took a chance on me when I was just a young woman fresh out of college. I was eager to learn but had very little professional advertising or marketing experience. But they took a chance on me anyway and I’m so grateful they did. Same goes for my director at Interactive One. At that point in my career, I had experience but my challenge was translating my freelance and advertising skills in a way that would make me successful in my new role.

While I think it’s important to acquire some knowledge and skills, I also think it’s extremely important to take chances on people. Some of the greatest leaders of today are where they are because someone took a chance on them. We wouldn’t have Ava Duvernay, Oprah, or Issa Rae if someone didn’t offer them an opportunity.

What’s been the biggest learning lesson in your career so far?

My biggest learning lesson in my career thus far is to always be kind, stay focused, and remember your work will speak for itself. Also, learning not to be afraid to speak up! Because closed mouths don’t get fed. 

Tell us about your first experience as a manager. What have you learned since then?

My first experience as a manager was when I was working at the ad agency. I got promoted and had an assistant under me. Truthfully, because the assistant was so great at his job and our team was so collaborative, it didn’t feel like I had to manage him. It was a great experience. 

While some of my experiences have been great, others have not. I’ve learned that being a manager is a difficult role. It forces you to step up and mature because you’re no longer responsible for just yourself. You have a team and other people’s careers that you have to take into account, which is a big deal. But I’ve learned that transparency, authenticity, and kindness will be your greatest tools when managing others.

What do you think makes a good leader?

Serving. If serving is below you, then leadership is beyond you. 

How do you approach difficult conversations with your team and other colleagues?

I aim to approach difficult conversations with compassion. Before I have any conversation I truly try to put myself in the other person’s shoes and remember what it felt like to be a coordinator or assistant. Although the conversation may be difficult, I never want my team members to feel uncomfortable so I try my best to be clear with my language and expectations while also empowering them to do better. 

Has goal-setting played into your career? If not, what practices have helped you get to where you are today?

Goal setting has absolutely played a significant role in my career. think it’s important to speak over your goals and dreams. I personally enjoy writing them down in my journal or creating vision boards. I love being able to look back at my vision board throughout the year as a way of checking in with myself to reflect on my progress or to remind myself to get to work. 

What do you think managers and leaders need to be doing to create better workplaces?

I think everyone should take some sort of manager or leadership class because honey, there are a lot of managers out here that don’t know a lick about leading a team. Having a bad manager can truly make or break your career and I wish companies understood the importance of equipping managers with tools to help them be successful, such as communication, professional writing, and leadership development classes. 

I think healthy and happy workplaces are created when everyone is able to be their authentic selves while also having the opportunity to learn and grow. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Stay focused and remember that your path may not resemble the path of your friends or colleagues, and that’s okay. You’re destined for greatness—but you have to stay focused.