Shani Carter is currently the Consumer Marketing Manager for Viacom, specific to a TV network called EPIX, headquartered in New York City. I met her shortly before her move to New York but her optimism, wisdom and drive instantly made us lifelong friends. She is the person I relay all of my career questions to, whether it be my review, considering grad school or other corporate opportunities. I was finishing up undergrad when her and I became friends and she truly planted some gems in me. The one that’s stuck with me most is “kick ass, take names”. Read Shani’s testimony below –
Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma – did you ever imagine living your life in the busiest city in America, working as a boss in the middle of Times Square at a huge entertainment company?
You know what, I really didn’t. It wasn’t until I moved to Houston as a college freshmen when I realized that God was really onto something and that my dreams were unthinkable. I look back now and have no earthly idea why how I was drawn to Houston. I had no family or prior friends there. It’s like God was setting me up and I was just following His lead, unknowingly. To this day I have truly come to terms with the scripture “He who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us”. What that means to me is, you should definitely have goals and prepare yourself to achieve them, but at the end of the day there are things to come in your life that you couldn’t even imagine, like me ending up working on one of the busiest blocks in the world for one of the largest entertainment and media companies in the world. Just enjoy the ride.
You landed your first managerial position at the age of 24 while working in Marketing for NBC Sports – what advice can you give young women on how to climb the corporate ladder?
The cliché saying of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is only half right. It’s WHAT you know and WHO you know. I worked for Comcast as a marketing intern, then as a coordinator for about 4 years. During that time I worked my ass off to learn the culture, learn the business, and turn my textbook learnings into real world experiences. During this time I built an incredible relationship with my boss. When Comcast bought NBC Universal and they decided to launch a Regional Sports Network under the NBC umbrella, they offered my boss the VP of Marketing position, and because she fully trusted me and I had proven myself an asset to her team, she took me with her without hesitation. No matter what position you’re in, whether it be the office assistant all the way to the CEO, networking and meeting the right people is key BUT also creating an outstanding track record is also key. You need both to succeed and move up this competitive ladder.
Did you intern while in college? How did you prepare for your career prior to graduating?
I indeed did an internship through an amazing organization called The T-Howard Foundation, who partnered me with Comcast Cable in Houston. I interned in the marketing department the summer before my senior year. When I was there I tried to soak up as much as I could. I kept a project binder of everything I worked on and when I had down time I asked for work from everyone I was in contact with. I was a quick learner, asked the right questions and when my internship ended, my boss offered me a part-time marketing position with her team while I finished up my last year of undergrad. This was a HUGE moment in my career.
You went on to grad school and obtained your MBA; what did it teach you and would you encourage other young women in business to go after theirs?
I’m so happy I followed the advice to work for a few years before going back to school, mostly because that experience is valuable to apply to your grad school studies. I would work all day in my Marketing position, then go to school and night and see the two come together seamlessly. Plus, when I was ready to move on to the next step in my career, I had the work experience and the MBA, which put me over candidates with just the experience and no higher level degree and those other MBA candidates with no experience.
You made the decision to leave Houston and head to New York before you had found a job or an apartment; but had both just in time for your arrival. Tell us about that leap of faith and God’s perfect timing.
Listen. In this life you have to really rest on your testimonies. I had seen God handle things time and time again, but giving my notice to my job in Houston and having an official end date living there before I had things perfectly planned for New York was tough. It was 10 days until I was getting on the road for NYC when I was offered a position with Showtime Networks. A year before I moved I had a vision of what the perfect situation would be living in NYC and I’m still not 100% there. But I’m here. I’m persevering through the process and learning so much about myself, about others and about life. It’s amazing. Every time it works out. Every time. There’s never been an instance where I haven’t come out on the other side of a situation. So as tough stuff happens, you really have to play a game of “remember when” with yourself.
New York wasn’t your first big move, you also packed up your car and drove from Tulsa to Houston for college without having any family to depend on. How did taking such a risk change your life?
Moving to Houston was a game changer for me. Somehow my little 18 year old self had the guts to make the decision to not only go to college, but to do so in another state where I knew no one, AND drive 8 hours there alone. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking or where that courage came from. I am convinced that God is reimbursing me for the tough childhood I had. I have so much favor in everything I do.
Being a woman who calls the corporate shots, what issue(s) do you find yourself having to overcome the most?
The idea of supporting women’s work-life balance is only breaking the surface in corporate America. There are some companies that are pioneers and support it, but most don’t. It’s not only about have a child and family, but just the flexibility to foster a healthy life outside of work. In most offices, you’re working upwards of 10-12 hours a day, constantly checking email outside of work and on the weekends, given a certain limit of vacation time and even then you fear coming back to an explosive catch up game. It’s a struggle. You want to work hard and “make it” but at what cost? It’s a tough reality and I struggle with it now even more having a kid.
Why is it important for young women to test their limits and try things for themselves?
To me, this is really one of the MOST important things you can do in life. I call it being “selectively stubborn”. I pride myself in always going against the grain and not listening to most of the advice that people try to give me and I can say that majority of the time I am happy with the outcome. People swore up and down that bringing my car to NYC was a terrible idea and now my car is the biggest resource I have here. You have to be stubborn! Not only will you test the waters for yourself and see that it actually works out in your favor, but even when it doesn’t you learn more from bumping your own head and going through those situations for yourself.
You have a baby girl who will be one soon. What do you plan to show her by example?
To be fearless. I want her to experience things on her own, which might be difficult for me as a mother, but I fully understand how important this is for growth. On a separate note, it’s so important to me that she see humility and compassion from us. I have this vision that she “earn” her Christmas and birthday presents. Like, let’s go volunteer during the holidays and every hour equates to one gift. Or in order to get new birthday toys, let’s gather all the old toys you have and find a little girl who needs them. When I think of my success as a parent, I don’t think about what career she has when she’s older or how well put together she is, I think about her character and morals. Is she going to be a genuinely good person who helps others?
What is your B Werd?
Balanced. I feel accomplished in so many areas in life— my relationships are great, my career is in a fantastic place, I rest on my faith, I am facing motherhood head on and feel confident in that as well— now the goal is to balance all of these things seamlessly. Women face this challenge by far more than men but that’s what makes us fascinating and gives us more depth. I am on the path to be the woman who has it all— family, faith, great relationships, career, with a kick-ass social life.