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Meet a DEMAN Keynote Speaker:
James Schwab (Trinity ’84) of VICE Media

Published By Alex Sanchez Bressler / published on: October 23, 2018

Schwab will be part of the keynote conversation during Duke’s DEMAN Weekend in the Nasher Museum of Art on Friday, November 2.

says: Who is DEMAN? Meet a keynote speaker for DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend 2018
James Schwab, Trinity '84, is the President of VICE Media

James Schwab is president of VICE Media which means he oversees VICE’s digital media, television, news, creative agency, and studio businesses globally. Schwab also oversees VICE’s multi-platform operation around the world and the expansion of its content and distribution partnerships. Schwab is a co-founder of Autism Speaks, a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Empowering Citizens with Autism, Inc, a member of the U.S. Advisory Board of Reporters Without Borders, and he serves on the Duke University Institute for Brain Science Advisory Board. He is a keynote speaker for Duke’s DEMAN Weekend (Nov 2-3).

Q+A with James Schwab

We asked students to submit questions to our DEMAN keynote speakers. Here are Schwab’s responses.

Q: Can you point out a pivotal moment in your career where you knew you were doing what you wanted to?

James Schwab: I don’t have a single pivotal moment knowing that I was doing what I wanted to do. I was fortunate to find my way to exciting media and entertainment environments early on in my career. I think of pivotal moments in a different way. For example, I remember taking on a lot of responsibility fairly early on. I often found myself in a room of very senior people—people who I felt must be smarter or better trained. Realizing that I was able to do more than hold my own in that room was pivotal. I was in control of the situation through my hard work, preparation, and willingness to put myself out there. A bit of self doubt is healthy because it drives you to be as good as possible.

Every open door and every door that closes is an opportunity. Sometimes you have to find the opportunity in the midst of change or chaos.

Q: What are one or two of the best mistakes or impactful lessons you learned in your career?

JS: I’ve learned that doors open and doors close; every open door and every door that closes is an opportunity. Sometimes you have to find the opportunity in the midst of change or chaos. When you do, try not to mess it up. Remember that those opportunities come because someone gave you a chance. If you don’t let them down, you will have a champion for life.

Q: What are one or two things you wish you would have done or taken advantage of while you were still at Duke?

JS: I really wish I had taken a semester and studied abroad. What a great opportunity.

Q: For all the students interested in working in creative industries, what would you tell them makes the best employee or intern? What do you look for when hiring?

JS: For any job, employers and mentors want that person who will go the extra mile. I want to hire people who put themselves in my shoes and anticipate what I need to do to do my job well. They should be inquisitive, hard working, well prepared, and also willing to challenge me and bring independent thinking to the table.

Q:  What’s your favorite spot on campus? Durham?

JS: I loved the long-gone Parker’s restaurant. Mr. Parker was a former WWII army cook and ran a small restaurant that was all about home cooking for a fair price. He often served those who were less fortunate for whatever they could afford. Mr. Parker and his daughters made the absolute best hush puppies and banana pudding.

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