ViacomCBS Veterans Network, in partnership with other media companies, held a virtual “Veterans in Entertainment Summit” over a period of two days (October 27th & October 28th, 2020). The summit focused on providing veterans and military families industry guidance on transitioning from the military into entertainment, personal branding, and professional development.
The Art of Reinvention focused on how to build yourself through connecting with your community. Translating Your Service focused on veteran transitions and tips on brand positioning. Creating Diverse & Inclusive Communities focused on veteran hiring initiatives and supporting veterans striving to work in media & entertainment. These were just some of the many workshops held during the first day. On the second day, the summit featured developmental and service workshops such as: LinkedIn 101 For Veterans and Military Spouses, Salvation Army: The Secret to Networking Success, USVAA: Film, Television, Publishing and Fine Arts; Blue Star Families: Telling the Story - Military Spouse Employment and Camp Southern Ground: Find Work You Love by Understanding Your Strengths, to name a few.
“As a Veteran, this summit was a remarkable experience in so many ways. In light of COVID-19 with almost every industry moving to an online format while practicing “safely apart,” hosting online summits have allowed for even closer contact, networking and communication with newer opportunities and platforms being created every day to accomplish these tasks. The industry executives, panelists, and fellow attendees that we heard from, all brought an immense wealth of experience and insight to their industry knowledge.’
For someone just starting out in their career in media or entertainment, such as a recently transitioned veteran, an information summit such as this proved to be an incredibly valuable tool for connecting industry leaders and those seeking more knowledge to enter these professions.”
- Will Kelso, US Army Veteran, KELSOmedia, VME Member
ViacomCBS’ Debbie Benami-Rahm, Manager, Talent Acquisition, Paramount Pictures joined the panel “Choosing Your Career Pathway in Entertainment” and Guy Langman, US Coast Guard Veteran and Manager, Government Affairs, Paramount Pictures joined the panel “Translating Your Service Background.” Guy said:
“The 2020 Veterans in Entertainment Summit was a silver lining in the cloud of 2020’s COVID pandemic. Because COVID forced this to be a “Virtual” summit, we were actually able to reach and engage with veterans and active duty service members worldwide versus just those that could be with us locally.’
It was so great to be able to hear how vets in different regions are approaching the idea of working in the entertainment industry. What works for a vet in Hollywood might be different for one in New York City or Atlanta, so the networking break room interactions were an amazing opportunity for both moderators and veterans to share experiences and ideas.”
The panel discussions were so loaded with great information for veterans and were presented in a way as to not “Candy Coat” any of the remaining hurdles a veteran may still have to get over to succeed in the entertainment industry, but one has to remember, these veterans are real heroes, and they are up for the challenge.”
Richard M. Jones, Chief Veteran Officer, EVP, General Tax Counsel for ViacomCBS gave a heart-warming keynote that touched many veteran attendees’ hearts. Rich shared:
“There is an old saying: “Everyone needs someone in their life to give them the courage to be what they are meant to be.” That was certainly true for me. Without a doubt, I would not be where I am today if it had not been for the help and guidance of so many mentors who saw something in me that I did not see in myself. Because of them, I went from being an enlisted Army Ranger, a career Noncommissioned Officer, who was medically retired after nearly six years of honorable service, who went back to school, who obtained a world class education, became a Certified Public Accountant, became a lawyer went on to clerk for the NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division, later worked at several media companies and now have the great honor to serve as ViacomCBS’ General Tax Counsel and Chief Veteran Officer.’
Not bad for a fellow with an 11B’s ASVAB score! Like many of you, even though I live with constant and sometimes debilitating pain, I continue to drive on and grow each day, applying a Holistic Approach to my health and my life. That is the WHY.”
Rich also shared his Top 10 Standing Orders for Transitioning Veterans:
1. Be Mindful of How You Think: Always be positive. Think success, not failure. Beware of a negative environment. Think Situational Awareness. There is a Native American Saying: “The Eagle doesn’t go into the hole to chase the rat.”
2. Be Decisive About Your Goals & Aspirations: Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them. Think Op Order.
3. Be a Person of Action: Goals are nothing without action. Don’t be afraid to get started. Just do it. Think Movement to Contact. Don’t confuse motion for action though!
4. Be a Lifelong Learner: Go back to school or read books. Get training and acquire skills. Think Tactical & Technical Proficiency. Don’t confuse a degree with an education. Life-long learning and Education is the fire superiority of the 21st century.
5. Be Persistent and Work Very Very Hard: Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up. Think Drive On Mentality. Think Adversity is an Introduction to Yourself. Think last stanza of the Ranger Creed.
6. Be Thoughtful and Learn to Analyze Details: Get all the facts, all the input. Learn from your mistakes. Think Stay Alert, Stay Alive.
7. Be Constantly Focused on Your Resources (Particularly your time! It is your most limited resource, second to your money) Don’t let other people or things distract you. Think Fire Discipline. Interlocking Fields of Fire and Overwhelming Force
8. Be Fearless, Be Yourself, Be Different, Don’t Be Afraid to Innovate: Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity. Think Asymmetrical Warfare.
9. Be a Leader! Always Strive to Effectively Deal & Communicate with People (Always Lead, Never Manage): No person is an island. Learn to understand and motivate others. Think Leadership and the 3 M’s. Think Force Multiplication!
10. Be Honest & Dependable; Take Responsibility: Otherwise the first 9 won’t matter. You can delegate authority but never responsibility. Think Marine LTG Chesty Puller at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir (50th Anniversary on November 27th!)
Rich also said, “I hope when you leave this summit that you will do so with a continued feeling of obligation to make a difference, to be an impact player in the world. You can be a force multiplier to help your fellow veterans and enrich the communities that you live in.”
Afterwards, participants attended Zoom networking sessions where they participated in breakout groups, and commended Rich on his inspiring words.
“I cannot express how grateful I am to have heard from our [closing] Keynote Speaker Rich Jones and the insights he provided. Hearing from his own personal military experiences, transitioning into a successful career leading our fellow veterans, to his current roles within ViacomCBS truly are an inspiration to me and to so many other Veterans who attended. This has been one of the most beneficial and useful conferences I've ever had the honor of assisting on and attending. I am looking forward to staying tuned for next year’s Veterans in Entertainment Summit.”
-Will Kelso, US Army Veteran, KELSOmedia, VME member
“We’re thrilled we have been able to partner with our colleagues at ViacomCBS Veterans Network. There are so many service members and supporters in our ranks at Paramount and it was great to work together to welcome them to the industry as they transition”
-Erin Jordan, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Paramount Pictures