Leadership Interview: Jennifer Dorian – Finding Your Career Path (Part 1)
In May of this year, WICT-SE hosted an Executive Round Table on Susan Packard’s New Rules of the Game. Guest panelist Jennifer Dorian of Turner Classic Movies took some extra time this month to sit down with me to share more incites on her career and advice for other women. If you didn’t have the opportunity to meet Jennifer after our event, this series of blog posts will help you get to know this amazing woman. We hope you enjoy the posts, and also, come out to our next WICT-SE event to meet more wonderful women like Jennifer.
What is your name? Jennifer Dorian
Where do you currently work? Turner Classic Movies
What is your current role? General Manager
Where are you currently located (city/state)? Atlanta, GA
What is your favorite quote?
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde
Describe your journey to your current position.
Even in college and graduate school I was really interested in Microeconomics, the study of how people use their time and money to make decisions. I was an economics major and didn’t realize that really was a lot like consumer marketing, it’s consumer psychology really. When I went to graduate school I became very interested in branding and how people make brand preferences and decisions in certain categories. So I always wanted to work in a space where you were helping define what an enterprise’s brand was or help explain it to the world. And it took me a long time to get a job in that area.
I worked first, after grad school, in consumer marketing for Pizza Hut’s world headquarters. That was a lot of fun because I learned, the nuts and bolts of marketing, but then when I went to work at The
Coca-Cola Company it was a lot more about brand affinity and brand image. Then when I came to Turner I got the chance to really shape a brand concept working on TNT when we worked on the “We Know Drama” campaign.
So that was quite a long time after I left graduate school. I think it’s important for people to know that it’s okay to take different jobs along the way that get you closer and closer to the field you want to work in.
After the TNT “We Know Drama” campaign went well I was able to work on other network brands that needed sharpening or honing and after a while all the brands in the portfolio were setup so I looked around and I realized, the brand definition work was over. I thought, “Where should I expand my career into at Turner?” I talked to my boss at the time about running portfolio strategy for the entertainment division which made a lot of sense.
After working in portfolio strategy I started at general strategy. I pivoted from being a brand strategy person to being a general strategist, and I think that’s what helped set me up to be a General Manager and operate a business unit, I understand the importance of brand and audience strategies but also business strategies.
So it’s really a wonderful chapter that I’ve entered with TCM to be a General Manager using all those skills, but the fact that it’s TCM where brand really matters, we’re on a mission to help every generation appreciate the entire spectrum of film history and engage in these great movies. It’s a very brand image driven network. Doesn’t have originals, doesn’t have ad sales. We are the genre that we represent and the mission we represent. It’s a good fit because there are a lot of brand extensions and a lot of new revenue challenges so it’s really fun that it all came together that way. They always say your career looks correct looking backwards, you can always say ‘Oh that’s why that happened’ when you look backwards.
How long was it between grad school and Turner?
When you took on the new role of chief strategy officer and pivoted from brand what was the conversation like? Was that something you had to be convinced to take or is that something you actually asked for?
I advocated. I made the observation, “Wow these brands are really in good long term, strategic shape.” They still had a lot of brand activation and day-to-day marketing to do but we wanted to do that through our shows. So I realized the job was becoming less and less relevant to the network needs.
I think it’s always important to look around the landscape of where you are working and identify what are the needs, what are my skills, and what is my passion. The overlap of those three things helps give you your purpose.
I knew I loved strategy work and I first asked myself, “Is it authentically true that TNT TBS need strategy work? Is there really a portfolio question here?” There was. We were consolidating all of the four networks into one business unit and there was a lot of sorting out about resources and culture and marketing strategies so it was the perfect timing of consolidation and a need with what I could offer.
I think several people I know at Turner have made observations, saw needs, matched their skills, and then pitched jobs that were created. So I think it’s a great environment, it’s very responsive, but also it’s a great thing for everybody to think about being your own best agent, being proactive for the corporation and yourself to match needs and skills and let your career evolve. So that was a fun one.
Part 1 of 3, To be continued….