Leadership Spotlight on Genevieve Michel-Bryan
Each week the NAAHP highlights individuals who are making a difference in their communities as well as the business world. Genevieve Michel-Bryan is the VP/Broadcast Director at BLACK ENTERPRISE. In this role, she has executive oversight of content and the production of the company’s two television programs: Black Enterprise Business Report and Our World with Black Enterprise. Along with overseeing a cadre of correspondents, producers, writers, and editors, Genevieve is committed to ensuring that the BLACK ENTERPRISE brand of excellence is transferred to the screen. You can read her full profile at naahpconference.org/profile/genevieve-michel-bryan.
Genevieve will be attending the 6th Annual NAAHP Conference. She is a panelist for the session: Female Leadership & Breaking the Glass Ceiling. A discussion on the topic of diversity, specifically regarding equality in female leadership roles. Come listen to different perspectives on the barriers and engage in a discussion on necessary steps for more women to get to the top.
10 Questions for Genevieve Michel-Bryan
Dominique Elkind, NAAHP: Tell us a bit about your personal background.
Genevieve Michel-Bryan: I was born in Haiti and came to the US when I was 3 years. I have 4 siblings. I have three sisters and 1 brother – I am the 4th in line – my youngest sister was born here.
We lived on Manhattan’s upper west side until my family moved to Laurelton, Queens. My father – an accountant ‐ worked at Citibank for over 30 years and My Mom worked as a Registered Nurse for over 30 years as well – they are both retired and still in Queens.
The summer before 12th grade, my parents took my younger sister and me to London and Paris for vacation. I fell in love with Paris and decided that I wanted to live there ‐ crazy.
My parents told me that if I found a program that makes sense for them, they would let me go to school there. I was determined. I was on a mission. I took several trips to the French consulate on 5th avenue and started my research. I found certificate-based programs that would accept me.
My parents were skeptical at first, but since I had a cousin who was studying medicine in a town 2 hours from Paris ‐ that lessened the blow of me being so far away (I was not alone). After I graduated from high school, I enrolled in a year-long certificate-based program at the Sorbonne, University of Paris IV.
After the program, I returned home and enrolled at CUNY’s Hunter College. My Initial major was English with a minor in French Literature.
A few months later, a friend mentioned that Channel 5(FOX) ‐ which was located two blocks from Hunter College was looking for Pages. As you may know watching NBC’s 30 Rock, a Page gives the behind-the-scenes tours for all the productions at the network.
I applied for a part-time job and got it. I immediately fell in love with my job…I watched productions, met celebrities, became friendly with the on-camera staff, the producers ‐ it was wonderful.
I decided that this would be my career. I changed my major to Communications with a double minor in Production and French Literature.
Needless to say, this created an interesting conversation with my parents ‐ who wanted me to become an attorney…in fact, my father still wants me to go to law school.
They didn’t understand…as you may know, in our culture, if we are not in Law, Medicine, Banking, Engineering–we are not in legitimate careers. It was a challenge and somewhat hurtful having to constantly explain what I did on a daily basis.
I basically broke the mold as my older siblings all went into those areas. My younger sister followed her heart and went into elementary school education.
After 8 months as a Page, a position opened for a production assistant in the Creative Services and Promotions department ‐ I got the job ‐ 6 months later a similar position opened up in the News Department. I went for that and got it.
Television journalism took root and in an unconventional way, it has taken me from FOX to ABC to CNN to NBC to Black Enterprise.
NAAHP: How did your background and expertise prepare you for your current role?
GMB: Each position I took allowed me to build on my craft. My experience on Network television allowed me to have a unique vantage point on how decisions are made for you at home. We’ve all heard the saying..”If it bleeds, it Leads.” and “Breaking News”…the more sensational the story ‐ the bigger the chance it will make it on the news at 6 pm or 11 pm. Now with cable and the 24/7 news cycle, every news story seems to be Breaking news. Which means, for the most part, the positive, forward-thinking, uplifting stories are rarely seen. Networks, News Departments all want to be #1. It’s strictly a business decision. Being #1 translates to more advertising dollars, it is a simple equation.
The move to Black Enterprise was strategic, scary and exciting all at once. After nearly 20 years in network news, I was now going to create an entire department from scratch. I decided on what stories we would cover and not. I focused on telling our stories they way they should be told. We highlighted African-Americans, Caribbean-Americans, and people of color in ways that no else was doing. That is what I love about my job.
NAAHP: Who or what inspired you to become a journalist?
GMB: While a Production Assistant at Channel 5, I met a producer named Rudy Brown. He became my friend and mentor and taught me techniques on how to produce, write and research for television news –he taught me the craft of becoming a television journalist. After graduating from Hunter College, I took a few journalism and writing courses at NYU. By the way, my father graduated from NYU back in the ’70’s.
There were also a few producers at CNN and NBC who helped me with my career in television journalism.
NAAHP: What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?
GMB: As a leader, you have a huge responsibility. I don’t believe in micromanaging. I believe the only way to grow is to take calculated risks and accept that mistakes will be made as long as each one learns from them. I truly believe in teamwork and common respect among my colleagues. As a leader, I am fair and understanding, but, yet firm and demanding.
NAAHP: How do you prioritize your time and what you focus on?
GMB: Basically, I start with the most important task at hand and work from there. It took time for me to realize and accept that I can’t have it all or can do it all. So, whether its work related or personal — I do what I can to balance my life.
NAAHP: What is the biggest challenge of your work?
GMB: The biggest challenge currently at work is trying to rebuild my department. My company took a huge financial hit during the recession. We lost about 15% in advertising revenue. I had to let people go and still maintain the same quality show. We are still rebuilding and it’s been a challenge, but we are slowly coming back. We’ve learned a great deal – mainly how resourceful and creative we can be.
NAAHP: What are your personal or professional journey highlights thus far?
GMB: Personally, I’ve been married to a wonderful man for 30 years. We have three children. The oldest, my son, is currently an associate producer for “Late Night with Stephen Colbert.”
I have one daughter currently getting her Ph.D. from Drexel University in Philadelphia and my youngest daughter is currently a freshman at Spelman College, she wants to go into Law.
Professionally, I really enjoy what we have created at Black Enterprise. Our shows have won many awards. I Love to tell our stories, whether its a profile of a corporate executive, an entrepreneur or community advocate, all of these profiles are equally important and informative not only for our communities but for those outside our communities.
NAAHP: What kind of advice would you give to a student in your field?
GMB: Stay Woke! if you are serious about journalism, learn the craft! Commit to the truth. Learn how to write and READ, READ, READ ‐ use several sources! Know what is going on in other communities and around the world. Interact with people who are not like you. Be observant and learn from others. Be Fair! Stay intellectually curious!
NAAHP: Do you have specific advice for women interested in building their leadership skills?
GMB: Be fearless…Be very clear with want you want and go after it.
Always be ready for the next opportunity
Do not compromise yourself to anyone.
Stay Intellectually curious..pick your battles.
Stay Humble, empathetic and help others who need guidance, be a bridge for someone!
As Ave Duvernay says, “if you can’t break the glass ceiling, build your own house!”
NAAHP: When you’re not at work, where can we find you?
GMB: We love to travel. We love going out to nice restaurants, listening to good music. But for the most part, I love to be around my family so you will find me at home.