Q & A with Lori Conkling, Global Head of Partnerships for YouTube TV and Google Fiber
Conkling reflects on her journey from Duke's Fuqua School of Business to her current role at NBCUniversal based in NYC. She discusses her work in business strategy and development for NBCU’s new and existing digital businesses and offers advice to students interested in media-related career paths.
Lori Conkling (MBA ’99) is the Global Head of Partnerships for YouTube TV and Google Fiber.
Conkling recently chatted with Duke students on campus at DEMAN & Donuts about her career path and time at Duke, as well as how her responsibilities in innovation, business development and cross-platform content management have shaped her work and leadership in media. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Q: Could you describe your current role and how you operate in NBCU’s business process?
A: I have been at NBCU for six years and it is amazing what has happened in the digital space in that time. It is a much broader set of responsibilities now. There are also a lot more resources, because we have seen how audiences are leaving television and going to other platforms. That is how digital has evolved. With my group in particular, there are three things that we focus on: commercial partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, and digital marketing.
Q: How have your work experiences in LA and New York differed? Which industries are continuing to grow in either city?
A: Pre-business school, I worked at Disney in LA and then went to business school assuming I would go back to Disney, but during that time, the career options were largely management consulting, brand management, or investment banking. I did management consulting and three years into it I decided to return to Disney, but in New York. LA—without question—is where film is centered and there are a lot of companies doing television in both LA and New York. A lot of digital is happening in San Francisco, too, and New York also has a really big market for that. Wherever you want to be based, you can make it all work.
Q: What previous mentors helped advise you in your career path and how do you develop a mentor relationship?
A: My number one mentor is the former CEO of Lifetime. She just innately wanted to speak to women; she “walked the walk” in the sense that, the day she started, she said: “You tell me the resources you need. I need you to be successful because if you’re successful, I’m successful as the CEO.” The best mentorships happen when the other person is learning from you. They know that you are taking the mentorship seriously, and you can be yourself with them and they can be themselves with you. Also, when you find your mentors, make sure that you always ask about their experience and internalize their lessons.
Q: What are the character qualities you look for when recruiting new members of your team?
A: Passion. You can tell right away. I would say find that thing that you are passionate about and convey that passion to the person that you are interviewing with. Whatever that is, it will come across. Integrity is also important; while that might be harder to tell in an interview process, you should have that feeling that you can trust that the interviewee has the best interest of the company at heart. I also look for someone who has a realistic and honest perception of self. No one knows everything, so being open and honest about your strengths and your areas of development matters, especially since areas of development help keep work interesting.
Q: What is your advice for building a network and gaining experience in the entertainment and media industries?
A: Internships are the best way to build a particular skillset. So, find what is related to your interests, what is available to you, and choose to work in that space in order to build up your resume and skillset. Also, connect the dots to what you have done that would be relevant for the job that you want or the thing that you are interested in. Think through how you can craft and shape your story and always talk about results. You should also get creative; you would be surprised how people connect dots in ways that people would have never thought were relevant or similar. The most important thing at this stage, in terms of getting jobs in the media and entertainment industry, is a network. So, call alumni and use the DEMAN network, data, friends and family—use all channels that are available to you.