Empowering Young Professionals of Color

Name: Yomi Desalu

Title: VP of Music and Talent Programming Strategy

Company: MTV

What They Do: He oversees five channels under MTV’s umbrella which are: MTV, MTV2, MTVU, MTV Hits and MTV Jams. His role, in addition to programing 3 of those 5 channels, is to oversee all those channels and make sure that the day-to-day decisions are made, that the videos that they are selecting to play are actually working, deal with record labels and managers, do research to try to find out what is working for their audience, go to shows to check who the next big talent is, get the audience the best music and media operation that they can give on a daily basis.

Originally From: Brooklyn, New York.

College: Temple University |

Field of Study: Civil Engineering | CTAM in Executive Management

Recommended Books: 

Listen to the interview:

A Few Notes From the Show:

  • Started as a civil engineer following the footsteps of his father who was a contractor.
  • He became very passionate about music, so he started working on his business major. He knew he wanted to do something within the entertainment field.
  • During college he wrote music reviews for the school paper, helped with events on campus and did things that were linked to music.
  • In his final semester he was able to start an internship with MTV, which led him to his current job position with some time and effort.
  • He has been working in the same department for the last 16 years.
  • He thought he would be working in the construction field or building his own company after college.
  • One of the first things that helped him with his job life curriculum was to understand the space from different majors of communication.  He did a lot of research, before entertaining the idea of doing an internship; reading books about the industry, asking people from the field, building his resume on every single level he could.
  • Since he was coming from a different field and having a different major, he knew he needed to be prepared for the internship.
  • He started as a Department Assistant, mainly his role was to be a utility guy who had to have anything and everything done. From there he moved to the production side, where he worked with a couple of producers and shows. He ended up programming a heavy metal channel and then he had the MTV hits channel assigned to him. He also held the title of head coordinator setting up and conducting meetings, getting videos from the process of submission to finalization, and now, his most recent position, as vice-president.
  • He advises those who are starting in his same field to not get discouraged. Many people who see what he does and don’t have music background feel discouraged, but that doesn’t mean they can’t represent the entertainment space. A lot of the skills and experience required will come from on-the-job training. There is no A&R major or video director major, because what they should be focus on, is to be passionate about music and being a fast learner, be creative in how you present and picture yourself, and change your way of thinking.
  • You are a living and breathing ambassador of the culture they are looking to tap into [15:10]
  • One of the biggest things he wishes he would have been told when he started is that there is a disconnection when it comes to communication between generations. He feels that part of that is because each generation wants to become and learn an experience on their own when they can’t understand it.
  • He was told once “You look for your next job on the first day of your new job” which for him means that you should always be prepared. Little things like constantly checking your network, updating your resume, constantly doing self assessment, are things that are very important and will help you when you are in a corporate environment.
  • “Check yourself before someone else checks you.” 
  • “It is never personal, it is always business”.
  • A company’s purpose, at the end of the day, to generate revenue and to generate business. Some companies are better than others when it comes to creating a personal atmosphere or family atmosphere, but at the end when a change needs to be made, they are going to be made as a business decision. You need to take that into account in the day-to-day so you understand that unless you are your own CEO, you will beholden into somebody else.
  • He suggests to always be prepared with a plan B, and make sure your plan A works so there is no need for plan B.
  • His book coming out: “The Evolution: From Intern to Executive. Volume 1 – Navigating your Internship


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