LEADERSHIP PROFILE – Melissa Ingram, General Manager at AspireTV

Interviewed by WICT Volunteer, Kenya Brock

MIngramName

Melissa Ingram

Where are you currently located?

Atlanta, GA

Where do you currently work and what’s your current role?

General Manager at AspireTV

Describe your role at AspireTV?

I like to explain my role as General Manager in context to one of our core values at aspireTV – servant leadership – my role truly is to serve an amazing group of people primarily made of very dynamic and passionate women. To cast a vision for the future of aspireTV so that they are engaged and empowered on a day to day basis to make strategic and sound decisions for the business; to develop them into the best version of themselves and collectively; continuously revive the vision; demonstrate their worth and value and carry-out the values of aspireTV in my own walk so that we collectively can execute on not just a brand mission, but also on a mission to change the face of television by allowing an audience of color to see themselves through celebrating, sharing and reflecting Black culture and urban lifestyle.

You started your career practicing employment and entertainment law at local firms, then became an attorney at UPtv. Now, you lead a team managing business operations for a cable television network. Tell me about that transition?

It’s funny because I always said that I wanted to be an entertainment attorney; yet, I never imagined myself as a GM of a cable network. God clearly had bigger plans for me than I had for myself. LOL. Yet, when I look back over my trajectory, I clearly see pivots in my journey that prepared me for this position. First, starting my legal career at one of the nation’s top firms, Alston + Bird, provided a solid foundation and training in critical thinking and writing. Serving as Counsel for UPtv, I gained incredible insight into the business serving other business units as well as working closely with the CEO and Vice Chairman on strategic partnerships and negotiations. As Counsel for aspireTV, I reported into a GM that was not only invested in my development as a mentor but also gave me a seat at the table and in the Boardroom (from prep to presentation) providing me access and intense training that all prepared me to step into the position of GM.

What advice would you give our readers who are thinking of a career change?

I don’t want to oversimplify it, but my advice is quite simple — It’s never ever too late to make a career change and to think otherwise is nonsense. If you have a vision for your life, God will always provide provision. Move in the direction of the change you seek realizing that it won’t be easy. Stay committed to the vision for your life and know that while a career change may not come easy, it will be worth it.

What does leadership mean to you?

My definition of leadership is taken from Ken Blanchard + Mark Miller’s The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. Great leaders SERVE and the acronym SERVE is really the guiding light for me as it relates to my leadership style. Great leaders See the future; Engages and develops others; Reinvents continuously, Values results and relationships and Embodies the values of the company.

What has been your greatest achievement and biggest challenge as a leader?

aspireTV has been a purpose-driven company since day 1 and there is no doubt that the aspireTV team members joined the company because they felt connected to the purpose and mission of the network. My greatest achievement by far has been to cast a vision for a re-brand of the network that allows the team members to engage with, relate to and get excited about what aspire has to offer as they can now “see themselves” in the programming. When connecting with aspireTV’s niche audience, having a team of passionate and excited employees makes a difference and it comes through in everything the team touches. I forget who said it but this quote resonates with me “uninspired people rarely do inspiring work” and I’m humbled to know that not only is the aspire team inspired by the vision but they, in turn, are inspiring so many people through their work.

My biggest challenge as a leader is myself and when I say “myself”, I mean the self-doubt in my ability to effectively lead. In a time when the external disruptors are vast and the internal realities are limiting, I often question whether I’m the right person in the seat; am I equipped enough; do I have enough experience as a leader under the age of 40 to lead? So I combat my doubt with a lot of daily meditation/prayer, affirmation, and resources dedicated to helping me achieve a healthy mindset to lead yet with a self-awareness to never stop learning, growing and developing into a stronger leader and the best version of myself.

This year’s WICT theme is “Be a Catalyst”. Do you feel like you’ve had the opportunity to be a catalyst in your career? If so, tell us about it.

When I think about the word “catalyst”, I think about something that triggers a change or an event, and as difficult as it is to recognize myself as catalyst – remember the self-doubt issue I talked about – I often ponder the impact of me being a young woman of color as GM of a national cable television network. At aspireTV we talk about the power of representation; the importance of seeing people that look like you as inspiration; and our ability to change the way in which we see ourselves with authentic narratives and it is my hope that my role at aspireTV serves as a catalyst – a spark for change – to see more people of color, particularly women of color in the same role in years to come; to inspire the next generation of women to change the make-up of this industry; to empower us all to change the way in which we see ourselves and most importantly, each other.

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Kenya Brock is a WICT volunteer and the Director of Marketing for Brown Sugar, the popular new subscription video-on-demand service from Bounce TV featuring the biggest collection of iconic African-American movies available. She is a marketing, partnership, media and e-commerce professional with over 15 years of experience in developing and executing multi-platform marketing campaigns and B2B/B2C partnerships for national and local brands.