Interview With BET Executive Kim Lewis

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Gratitude. Mindfulness. Positive thinking. Without any action behind these terms, they’re simply buzzwords or hashtags captioning highly staged social media images. But by practicing them in a tangible way on a daily basis, you can steer your career in whatever direction you choose.

These are the things we learned from talking with BET’s senior vice president of sales, Kim Lewis, a powerful boss with a positive mindset and a unique take on how to integrate life with work — not juggle them separately. Keep reading for some serious life/work inspiration.

POPSUGAR: What was your career trajectory like?

Kim Lewis: I was a communications major at UC Berkeley with an emphasis on broadcast journalism. And initially I wanted to become an on-air newscaster and I actually began seeking internships within that field. I stumbled across KTVU in Oakland, which was hosting an internship open house, and during that open house, I changed my decision on what my career choice was going to be.

But that’s just really due to the fact that the sales manager that was on one side of the room, they told students, “Hey, if you want to make money, then you should be in sales!” For me, that’s all I needed to hear, so I immediately pivoted and my focus went right to sales and then I was later hired as a sales intern for two years there. After I graduated, I got into the workforce immediately and I transitioned into several positions from being an account executive for the magazine division that BET owned . . . to shifting onto the TV side with BET networks, where I went from director to VP to now SVP over both West and Midwest.

Make sure the career you want, you’ve actually seen it in action. You can only dream what you have seen.

PS: Are there any tips you recommend young women keep in mind as they’re embarking on their career paths, things that might set them up for success down the road?

KL: Absolutely. First, they really need to define the roadmap of their career choice. Essentially, what is needed to make this career come to life? Do your research, find mentors, of course internships are amazing. But really, make sure you like what you do, and bring the right positive energy even to difficult times within your journey.

And then, make sure the career you want, you’ve actually seen it in action, because a lot of times people believe they want to do something, but if you haven’t really seen it in action and really kind of got a deep-dive understanding of it, it’s hard for you to really see yourself. You can only dream what you have seen. And really know what motivates you and allows you to get up to work each day with a smile.

And then the other thing — that I stay very close to — is never forget to have gratitude and appreciation. It really helps you stay grounded and centered for success all the way through. Also, I would say having your hands on your career pulse and what that means is, you know, really be honest with your assessment of yourself at each juncture in the path and your career journey. I would say lastly to seek positive movement and growth of your best self in your role because that’s really going to help fuel your expectations for a long-lasting and enjoyable career all the way through.

PS: Would you say that these things you mention — gratitude, positivity, mindfulness — have played a part in your career path as you’ve grown more successful?

KL: I would definitely say that it has. For me, it really starts with the mindset and . . . really having a commitment and a passion, but also having the appreciation every day for what you do — the small things, the large things. And just never forget where you’ve come from.

PS: Do you practice meditation?

KL: I’m working on it . . . But honestly for me, I really kind of live this healthy lifestyle, just in general, and I have this healthy mindset. I’m all about what’s fueling my mind, body, and soul. So, for me, it’s all about being the best me so I can be the best walking billboard of myself . . . I truly say that being healthy is a lifestyle choice. My road to always being amazing, it’s starting with me and my mindset, and me taking control of what I need to do in order to be the best.

PS: You’ve had different jobs at different levels, and now that you’re an SVP and a boss, do you have any philosophy or tips for being a good boss?

KL: I do! I have about six or seven things that I usually stick by, and that’s kind of what we just touched on now — really having the mindset and the belief that you are actually a boss! And once again, the commitment and passion — that is something that I think to be a leader you have to have that, along with actually focusing on motivating and developing people. You have to want to motivate people, and you have to want to lead and develop people.

Silence is wonderful because you really need to listen to your environment — and then react.

And at the same time, you need a sense of control in how you’re actually communicating to others — ultimately having patience, but fueled with a powerful voice. The one thing that I learned a lot — very young, as an intern — is it’s all about preparation and constantly learning, constantly being a student and being OK with knowing that you want to reinvent yourself, you want to redefine yourself, that you want to develop and fine-tune your skills as a leader. So it’s this evolution of yourself that continues to go on, and being OK with that.

And the other thing is, silence is wonderful, because you really need to listen to your environment — and then react. A lot of times we kind of jump into things and you’re not really paying attention to the landscape in front of you, so you really need to pay attention to all things so that you can react properly.

PS: What is your “life/work understanding” method?

KL: Well, I realized that I couldn’t do everything. I think we try to be Wonder Woman, or I should say Superwoman, but I found that if I incorporated both worlds together and if they understood one another, I could actually do more! I couldn’t do everything, but I could do more. So that said, I started integrating life into work and work into life and actually allowed those environments to work together in a positive and cohesive way. That’s everything from family going onto business trips to actually being transparent about my business and what goes on here on a day to day basis to the family life . . . or even finding alignment with clients who might have kids and orchestrating play dates, all of which really fuels a balance that I need to function in both worlds.

I just recently had a trip to DC where we celebrated the Obamas . . . and I brought my daughter! It was an amazing trip for her because not only did it allow us to connect together as mom and daughter, but it was such a blessing to have her with me and for her to really experience this at a young age and it was just a wonderful thing all the way around. She can clearly see what I do and she can clearly see how she can be incorporated into that as well, so I’m truly thankful that that was able to happen.

PS: Is there a talent or a passion that you’ve been able to use in your career in an unexpected way, in a way that might have surprised you?

KL: Well, I talk about this whole chameleon thing where I didn’t realize how adaptable I am. To give you an example, if you have people that say, “Oh, I can’t deal with country music or rock music,” or different types, different tastes in music. I can find something good in everything and learn how to really appreciate the value of what it brings. And just as different tastes in music, different eclectic ways in how to meet people and different areas of focus, it’s just having that open mind, and that willingness to adapt.