Integral to the turnaround strategy of Viacom’s Music Group portfolio, including the MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo brands, Gay tirelessly develops relationships with key producers, talent and managers to drive new revenue streams and ad sales innovation. Oversight of the Music Group’s consumer direct business, such as downloads, products and radio, now falls under his purview as well. Known as a savvy strategist and bridge-builder, Gay also plays a role in Viacom’s M&A activities. “Diversity has often been about acknowledging and celebrating the differences in different ethnicities, sexes or orientations,” he says. “Inclusion is about making sure that everyone feels like they can be part of an organization without having to fundamentally change who or what they are.” His mentor of more than two decades? Viacom music chief Van Toffler.
What’s the definition of diversity in 2014, and how can the cable industry do better in the area of inclusiveness?
My definition of diversity in 2014 IS “inclusiveness.” Diversity has often been about acknowledging and celebrating the differences in different ethnicities, sexes or orientations. Inclusion is about making sure that EVERYONE feels like they can be part of an organization and its processes without having to fundamentally change who or what they are. I feel privileged to work at a place like Viacom where you can truly bring your “whole self” to work. You would be surprised how much more productive you can be when you can just focus on being your best!
Who has been your strongest mentor, and why?
My strongest mentor has been a man who I have been learning from for almost 20 years — Van Toffler, the president of the Music Division at Viacom. I got to know Van when he was a client of mine and now have the opportunity to learn from him every day. He has an uncanny ability to prove equally insightful whether discussing the creative on a big show or the details of a complicated business transaction. More important, however, is how he leads with his personal values — having fun, taking risks, and yes, diversity. If you put Van’s leadership team in the room, you would be hard pressed to find a common thread across all of us; he has put a team together that truly exemplifies character and cognitive diversity.
What qualities do you look for when making a new hire?
The main thing that I look for is something that you can’ teach — I look for a person who “gets it.” If there is drama, they do everything in their power to get it resolved, regardless of their job description. If they see an opportunity, they figure out a way to capitalize on it that is in line with our company goals, policies and objectives. Those things are often something that you can’t teach — people either get it or they don’t.