The NAMIC Conference will return to New York’s Marriott Marquis Hotel and in-person status on October 11-12, and with it, the organization’s Annual Awards Luncheon set for October 12. And once again, the spotlight will fall on a new group of Next Generation Leaders and Luminaries.
The Next Generation Leader Awards are NAMIC’s top industry honor, recognizing four individuals who have distinguished themselves as thought leaders, trendsetters and change agents, as well as for their work to advance multiethnic diversity in the industry by educating, advocating and empowering people and organizations.
This year’s Leaders honorees are:
- Kia Painter, Executive VP, Chief People Officer, Cox Communications
- Freddy Rolón, Senior VP, Programming and Scheduling, ESPN;
- Monica Williams, Senior VP, Digital Products & Operations, Content Distribution, NBCUniversal.
- James Hendricks, former Group VP of HR and Administration at Spectrum Reach, who will be honored posthumously.
The Luminary Awards honor up-and-coming leaders with the potential to be tomorrow’s movers and shakers. They demonstrate strong leadership skills and embrace NAMIC’s mission by working to advance multiethnic diversity.
The Luminaries to be honored by NAMIC are:
- Denise Bennett, VP, Brand Strategy & Idea Lab, iHeartMedia;
- Rahman Khan, VP, Community Impact, Charter Communications;
- Noel Manzano, VP, International Programming and Development, AMC Networks;
- Grace Moss, VP, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Programs, Warner Bros. Discovery;
- John Singleton, VP, Operations, Charter Communications;
- Tonya Walley, VP, Field Operations Strategy, Cox Communications;
- Chin Wang, VP, Visual Storytelling, Digital Media, ESPN;
- Sophia Zeinu, VP, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Workforce, Warner Bros. Discovery.
This year, NAMIC is introducing a new honor, the Diversity in Technology Award, which will go to Franklyn Athias, senior VP of emerging technology and services at Comcast Cable (see profile below). Juju Chang, co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline, will receive the Mickey Leland Humanitarian Award.
The 36th annual NAMIC Conference, themed “Resilience: The Courage to Lead,” is part of the cable industry’s Diversity Week, set to feature in-person events for the first time since before the pandemic. For more information or to register, go to namic.com/annual-namic-conference.
Next Generation Leaders
Group VP, HR & Administration, Spectrum Reach
December 8, 1972-September 18, 2022
James Hendricks was group VP, human resources & administration for Spectrum Reach, the advertising sales and production services division of Charter Communications. With more than 25 years of progressive HR leadership experience, James led a team of 85 people, supporting 3,000 employees in 182 locations. Hendricks was responsible for Spectrum Reach’s HR generalists, talent acquisition, Diversity & Inclusion, learning and development, facilities and in-house project-management organization. He previously held key HR leadership roles at ESPN and General Electric (NBC, Telemundo, MSNBC).
Hendricks was a participating member of NAMIC, CTHRA/C2HR, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the National Black MBA Association. He also served on the board of directors for Safe Horizon as well as the board of directors for New Light Baptist Church. James earned his MBA and bachelor’s degrees in business management and psychology from Case Western Reserve Unviersity. He participated in the GE Human Resources Leadership Program and the International Scholar Program at the University of Seville in Spain.
“It’s my honor to receive this prestigious award and to be included with this group of accomplished fellow award recipients in the media industry,” Hendricks said. “I’m proud of the efforts that our Spectrum Reach team has made in advancing D&I since I joined, and I remain focused on continual improvement and accountability.”
Executive VP, Chief People Officer
Kia Painter is Cox’s incoming executive VP and chief people officer, responsible for leading the cable operator’s HR and talent organization. Prior to this role, Painter was senior VP, HR business bartnerships. She has led the company’s key talent practices including compensation, inclusion and diversity, leadership development, organization design, and succession planning, and employee engagement.
Painter joined Cox in 1998, after college, as a part-time HR assistant in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Over more than 24 years, she has risen through the company’s ranks and led HR in Cox regions and markets across the Southeast, notably in Virginia, Florida, and Louisiana. In 2015, she moved to Atlanta to establish the company’s employee experience and organization design practices.
She was named a 2021 Horizon Women to Watch by The WICT Network Southeast and was named a NAMIC Luminary in 2011, to the Multichannel News 40 Under 40 in 2014 and was on CableFax’s Diversity List in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
She earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from James Madison University, a master’s degree in human and organizational development from The George Washington Unversity and an MBA from Tulane University.
“I have had many career-changing experiences because of NAMIC’s impact on my life,” Painter said. “My time in NAMIC’s Mentoring Program, Leadership Seminar, and ELDP prepared me for today. To receive the Next Generation Leadership award from an organization that has enriched me so tremendously is the apex and quite extraordinary. Thank you NAMIC.”
Senior VP, Programming and Scheduling
Freddy Rolón was promoted into the role of senior VP, programming and scheduling at ESPN last September. He is responsible for leading the overall content strategy and schedule for ESPN’s linear networks, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS. He also oversees all aspects of the ESPN Deportes business.
Rolón has played an integral role in the development of the company’s content strategy to reach bilingual Hispanics consuming sports content across all of ESPN’s English-language platforms. He works closely with ESPN’s programming, production, audio, digital and print media teams, to maximize the relevance and appeal of its English-language products to U.S. Hispanic fans.
Rolón serves as a member of The Walt Disney Co.’s CEO Diversity & Inclusion Council and is on the board of NAMIC and Partnership with Children.
“I thank NAMIC humbly for this award and for decades of vital leadership in our industry,” Rolón said. “I am grateful to be recognized by an organization I so deeply respect and for impactful work I feel immensely proud to be a part of at ESPN and The Walt Disney Co.”
Senior VP, Digital Products & Operations, Content Distribution GroupNBCUniversal
Monica Williams’s current role at NBCUniversal encompasses content fulfillment of on-demand and linear channels, as well as developing innovative experiences through product and data solutions. Following consumer attention, Williams and her team apply a human-centered design approach and developed a metadata optimization initiative that drives efficient content discovery to meet business needs.
Williams is a founding member and leader of “Asian Pacific Americans@NBCUniversal,” She is also a founding member of Chief in Los Angeles, serves on the advisory board for StreamTV, the global advisory board for NBCU TechWomen and is on the board of directors for Youth Design Center.
She graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of science in industrial operations engineering and earned an MBA from Claremont Graduate University’s Peter Drucker School of Management. She isa graduate of Harvard Business School’s Cable Executive Management Program.
“I am honored to accept NAMIC’s Next Generation Leaders Award alongside such deserving peers,” Williams said. “Recognition like this inspires me to continue to bring an all-important diversity lens to everything we do and leverage diversity as a business imperative in the industry. Thank you to NAMIC for helping us create cultures of belonging in our industries and workplaces.”
VP, Brand Strategy
As VP of brand strategy at iHeart Media, Denise Bennet specializes in multicultural marketing partnerships. Her 20-year career has included roles at WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, the NBA, TV One and Viacom.
She has held various leadership roles with NAMIC New York, including two terms as chapter president, and in 2019 completed the NAMIC Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP) at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. She also serves as a professor at both the Fordham University Gabelli School of Business and New York University.
Her many accolades include The Network Journal's 2019 40 Under 40 Achievement Award; 2020 Council of Urban Professionals (CUP) Technology Catalyst; 2021 Advertising Club of New York Rock Star Award; and Black Women in Media Trailblazer Honoree.
Bennett has a bachelor of science in music business from Indiana State University and an MBA in marketing and media & communications from Fordham University.
Away from the office, she is a classically trained pianist, an avid world traveler and a proud and active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
“I owe so much of my fundamental career development to NAMIC,” Bennett said. “NAMIC provided me with access to relationships and leadership opportunities that I value and evangelize daily. It’s from NAMIC that I learned my most valuable mantra of ‘build your bridge before you need it.’ ”
VP, Community Impact
Rahman Khan leads strategic philanthropic and employee engagement programs for Charter under the Spectrum brand. As VP, community impact, he develops and executes the company’s mission to improve communities. He led the 2021 launch of Charter’s largest-ever philanthropic program, Spectrum Community Center Assist, a $30 million, five-year effort to revitalize local community centers and invest in job training.
Khan also led the development of Spectrum Digital Education, a grant program that helps seniors and families understand the benefits of broadband and how to use it to improve their lives. To date, this program has committed more than $8 million to local community organizations. The work of his Community Impact team for Charter has been recognized by the state of Connecticut and the Los Angeles City Council, among other distinctions.
Khan received his business and graduate education degrees from Florida A&M University. He is a graduate of NAMIC’s Executive Leadership Development Program.
“It is a great honor to be recognized as a Luminary by NAMIC, an organization I’ve long supported,” he said, “NAMIC’s efforts to advance diversity and inclusion in our industry, paired with the actions we take as individuals, make us all stronger.”
Head, International Programming
Noel Manzano is head of international programming at AMC Networks, working across AMC, AMC Plus, SundanceNow and BBC America. He identifies and develops original content with creative talent around the world, and works within the AMC Networks Entertainment Group to move existing projects forward. Notable projects include epic crime saga Gangs of London, from Gareth Evans, and 61st Street from visionary creator Peter Moffat.
Prior to AMC, Manzano was the director of development for Hoodlum Entertainment, where he ran the company’s U.S. content development slate and strategy and drove internationally produced projects. He started his career at WME in feature films and then moved into television at Sierra/Affinity and Dynamic Television. Manzano is a graduate of New York University.
“It’s an honor to be recognized amongst so many outstanding executives by NAMIC — an organization I’m proud to be a part of,” Manzano said. “An honor like this inspires me to do more of what I can to champion and lift up the voices of my colleagues from all communities. Thank you.”
VP, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Warner Bros. Discovery
As VP of diversity, equity and inclusion, Grace Moss helps oversee Warner Bros. Discovery’s efforts to expand the pool of historically-excluded talent and to break down barriers through a comprehensive suite of pipeline programs and extensive engagements with prestigious film festivals and creative conferences.
Prior to WBD, Moss was the head of talent development and inclusion for NBC Entertainment, where she spearheaded multiple programs that focused on cultivating and showcasing talented writers and directors of diverse backgrounds. Before NBC, she was a development executive at the Style Network, and prior to that a freelance reality producer and director.
Moss’s leadership training includes the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Athlete Training Program, Comcast’s Know Your Value initiative and Harvard Business School’s Leadership Consortium. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor of arts in English, minoring in Asian-American Studies.
“Back in 2011, I was a newly promoted manager and experienced my very first leadership seminar through NAMIC,” Moss recalled. “I was well-equipped with important, foundational knowledge that I have implemented along my professional journey over the past decade. To now be honored with this Luminary Award is truly a full-circle moment.”
John Singleton Jr.
VP, Network Operations
John Singleton is VP of network operations at Charter Communications, responsible for solution acceptance, product improvement, troubleshooting and vendor analysis across the video infrastructure. These primary functions require close coordination with Charter’s Product and Engineering organizations to ensure optimal deployment and operation of all products.
His current focus is on centralizing and consolidating distributed architectures to enhance reliability and availability across Charter’s footprint, while ensuring the landscape remains competitive and up-to-date.
Previously, Singleton served in various capacities across Charter’s Network Operations team at Charter and assisted in post-acquisition activities involving Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
Before joining Charter, he worked at Cox Communications, where he was responsible for video operations, strategy and product development.
With more than 20 years of telecommunications experience, Singleton enjoys mentoring engineers and leaders on their paths to successfully achieve their career goals.
“Being a NAMIC Luminary award recipient serves as not only a personal achievement but an accomplishment on behalf of all diverse talent within our industry,” he said. “This opportunity is only possible due to the individuals who have come before me, dedicating their careers to ensuring professional development is possible for all.
VP, Field Operations Strategy
Tonya Walley leads Cox’s field operations in 21 states, including residential and business customer installations, maintenance of 116,000 miles of network and the company’s continued focus on customer excellence. She began her cable industry career more than 25 years ago as a front-line field technician then progressed to various leadership roles. When she joined Cox in 2018 as VP of field operations in Virginia, Walley immediately focused on delivering a data-based approach to the customer and employee experience, all while paying it forward.
A native of New Jersey, Walley completed her undergraduate degree at Saint Peter’s College, majoring in computer science. She also holds dual master’s degrees from Stevens Institute of Technology in telecommunications management and network engineering. She is passionate about continuous learning and has demonstrated that through her most recent Strategy and Execution certificate from Harvard Business School and completion of NAMIC’s Executive Development Leadership Program.
“I am thrilled and honored to receive this recognition from NAMIC and will continue to live and breathe the values of NAMIC by mentoring, giving back and paying it forward,” Walley said. “I am truly humbled and will continue to inspire, encourage, and engage our future leaders with impact.”
VP, Visual Storytelling
Chin Wang was promoted to VP, visual storytelling in ESPN’s creative studio department in September 2021. Wang, who joined the sports programmer in 2012 as senior art director of ESPN The Magazine, had worked for 11 months as senior director, visual storytelling.
Wang leads a team of visual journalists, photo editors, web developers, designers, concept artists and animators whose work reaches every ESPN platform. She is responsible for editorial design and photography on the ESPN website and app, including custom microsites, special projects, branding, key art, illustration and data visualization. She also manages the team that concepts, designs and directs television graphics packages from studio shows to live events across all networks, as well as ESPN Plus and 30 for 30 Films & Originals. In addition, she defines the visual identity for Andscape (formerly The Undefeated).
“As someone who strives to embody the mission of NAMIC, I am beyond honored to be recognized as a Luminary,” Wang said. “Advocating for diversity in our industry is more imperative now than ever and to play a part in that effort at ESPN truly adds meaning to my work.”
VP, Equity & Inclusion Strategies
Warner Bros. Discovery
Sophia Zeinu, VP of equity & inclusion strategies for Warner Bros. Discovery, uses a data-driven, systems-based approach to develop and operationalize global diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. She focuses on redesigning talent and organizational systems with an equity lens, building leadership and employee DEI capabilities, fostering a more inclusive culture and enabling measurement and accountability at the enterprise and business-unit level.
Prior to WBD, Zeinu worked in Deloitte Consulting’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practice where she helped numerous global organizations navigate DEI transformations and facilitated DEI sessions for thousands of employees at Fortune 500 organizations. She has also authored and contributed to DEI thoughtware, including Support Your Black Workforce, Now; 10 Ways HR Can Support the Black Workforce; and Becoming an Equitable Enterprise.
Zeinu has a bachelor of arts in sociology from Georgetown University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
“I feel deeply honored and grateful to be recognized by NAMIC amongst so many incredible leaders,” she said. “NAMIC has a long history of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion and I am committed to continuing to champion the work to make a lasting impact on our industry and beyond.”
Diversity in Technology Award
Senior VP, Emerging Technology and Services
Franklyn Athias leads the convergence of Comcast’s mobile product with its broadband connectivity services. He drives the roadmap for delivering new converged connectivity services as well as the growth strategy for related platforms and features for both mobile and broadband.
Since joining Comcast in 1995, Athias has been responsible for developing and deploying strategic growth opportunities to launch services for TV, internet, digital voice and wireless, most recently leading the integration of Xfinity Mobile into Comcast’s next-generation product portfolio.
During his 27-year career with Comcast, Athias has spearheaded several IP architecture programs for cable-modem broadband services. Notable accomplishments include serving as lead architect for the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) voice strategy, for Comcast’s first residential and business broadband launches and for the Comcast.net internet service, as well as leading the evaluation of the industry’s first VoIP service using cable modems.
Athias is an executive sponsor of the BENgineers, technologists and engineers who are part of Comcast’s Black Employee Network (BEN). He actively participates in many standards-making and professional advocacy organizations in the technology and engineering industries, including SCTE, NAMIC, NSBE, NSPE, and IEEE, and founded computer-coding programs in his local community to develop STEM/STEAM skills among minority youth.
Athias holds more than two dozen U.S. patents and received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“I’m honored and grateful to be nominated by my peers and to be selected by NAMIC for this inaugural award,” Athias said. “Diversity in technology and a mission for change have always been a passion of mine and I’m inspired by the progress that is being made to strengthen inclusive opportunities in our industry.” ■
Mike Demenchuk has served as content manager of Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News since 2016. After stints as reporter and editor at Adweek, The Bond Buyer and local papers in New Jersey, he joined the staff of Multichannel News in 1999 as assistant managing editor and has served as the cable trade publication's managing editor since 2005. He edits copy and writes headlines for both the print magazine and website, wrangles the occasional e-newsletter and reviews TV shows from time to time. He's also the guy to bother with your guest blog, Fates & Fortunes and Freeze Frame submissions.
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