Jeanine Liburd, a 2019 Matrix Award winner, has an impressive resume. After graduating from Vassar, she began a career in public policy, working for Mayor David Dinkins in New York City and eventually as a policy analyst in the Clinton administration. But eventually she realized she loved communications more than politics, so she left the White House behind and pivoted to roles in media and entertainment. She has since spent two decades at Viacom, where she is currently the chief social impact and communications officer at BET Networks.

On Episode 35 of the Coffee Break w/ NYWICI podcast, Jeanine shares what she’s learned throughout her career, focusing in particular on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the industry. She also spills the tea on the behind-the-scenes workings of the BET Awards. Here are some key insights from her conversation with host Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich.

Use your alma mater to network

When she was still in Washington, DC, Jeanine would take advantage of her flexible work schedule and come to New York City on Fridays to have informational meetings with Vassar alums who worked in media and communications. This eventually led to a junior producer role at CBS, where she got her foot in the door of her chosen field. “That third party validator helps,” she says. “I always tell people don’t be afraid to use your alma mater. That’s part of the reason why you went to that school.” Vassar came into play again later too, when Jeanine worked with alum Geraldine Laybourne on the launch of the Oxygen network.

When seeking another role, try your own company first

After seven years in corporate communications at Viacom, Jeanine was considering her next move. Her bosses encouraged her to look around the company and meet with other cable TV brands. After meeting with BET Networks’ CEO Debra Lee, Jeanine ended up becoming the chief marketing and communications officer for the brand. “It was Debra’s vision and the opportunity to lead a department and take on that added responsibility that really appealed to me,” Jeanine says.

Work with brands you’re enthusiastic about
Jeanine has always connected personally with all the brands she has worked for—and that has made all the difference. “You have to have some level of connection to feel passionate,” she says. “My focus is women and children, and with Oxygen we allowed women to tell their stories.” And in her current role at BET, she hopes to improve the lives of African American women. “I’ve been able to work on so many important issues and partner with Planned Parenthood and other organizations I worked with in DC”

Carve time out for yourself on your calendar

It’s important to communicate to your colleagues what your non-negotiables are. Health and fitness is important to Jeanine, so she always carves out time on her calendar to exercise or eat lunch. “Water, food, and exercise are basic rights,” she says. Taking care of our mental health, she adds, is always important.

Thanks to Jeanine Liburd for being part of the podcast! You can listen to all the episodes of Coffee Break w/ NYWICI here.

—Andrea Goldstein


Learn from the pros.

learn more


Tips to help you figure out how to have it all.

learn more


Join today and get inspired by the NYWICI community.