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Alumni Spotlight: Justin Toliver

21CL Alumnus Justin Toliver works as Account Executive for NBCUniversal Media, Inc. and is a graduate of Woodstock High School (2011) and of Rhodes College (2015).  During his high school years he served as a member of 21CL’s Youth Advisory Board, currently known as the Youth Ambassadors. In this post Justin shares how 21CL assisted him in developing a personal brand and taught him to be accountable for any project or activity that he is associated with.

Paint a brief picture of what you are doing now.

Currently I work in the media industry as Account Executive for NBCUniversal Media, Inc. and my day-to-day work revolves around providing my clients with collaborative ideas, fresh perspectives and out-of-the-box strategies to access untapped demographics within their prospective markets. Forging sound personal relationships for our sales division is paramount in supporting our business model, team goals and creating a new generation of NBCUniversal fan ambassadors.

How did participating in 21CL transform you and lead you to where you are now?

My mother ensured that my flame for success was ignited at an early age and 21st Century Leaders was quintessential in helping realize my potential to be a professional in my current field. I was introduced to the 21CL program in the summer of 2010 as a high school junior and it was a very impactful experience. I was afforded the opportunity to stay on the Georgia Tech campus for one full week and undoubtedly the experience was paramount in solidifying my desire to attend a four-year college and contribute more to society. In addition to this, my interest in the broadcast and media industry was unveiled during that week. I was so engaged and positively impacted that Mr. Robert Watson, 21CL’s Executive Director at the time, approached me about serving on 21st Century Youth Advisory Board; two months later I applied and was nominated.

Participation on this Board put me at another level – my business acumen and decorum was expanded, my personal brand shaped and I garnered some lifelong friendships with peers who, similar to me, were in search of professional direction. From then on I became an asset to my high school and took on many other leadership roles including Jr. Achievement Student Ambassador, Georgia Department of Education – Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council Member, Woodstock Wolverines Varsity Football Captain, People to People International Delegate, Woodstock Mayoral Youth Council member and an H. Hugh Shelton Leadership Academy Peer Counselor. My time with 21CL undoubtedly positioned me to continue my journey with a level of confidence that can only be earned and not given.

How did 21CL prepare you for your next steps? Going into college and taking on leadership roles, heading into a new era of professionalism, etc. What skills/tools/perspectives have helped you along the way?

My participation in the 2010 summer leadership institute and serving on the 21CL Youth Advisory Board was the perfect launchpad to my collegiate career, which indeed gave me an advantage in my community involvement and positioned me for continued success. During my college years, I served in various roles:

  • Senator, Rhodes Student Government
  • Admissions Recruitment Panelist
  • NCAA – National SAAC Representative Committee Appointment: Sportsmanship & Ethical Conduct
  • Athlete, National Football Federation College Hall of Fame Scholar

When I joined NBCUniversal in 2014, my schedule was so full with learning the business that I fulfilled all of my volunteer experience in-house. I was involved in some of NBC’s Corporate Responsibility initiatives like Comcast Cares Day, the Mazda Drive for Good initiative, and Clear the Shelters. The most impactful community leadership role I’ve held at the company is being a facilitator for the Special Olympics. During this event, unconditional love took on a new meaning for me from individuals who were just elated to be recognized, celebrated and supported in their competitions. That’s it! No judgement, favoritism, discrimination existed. Everyone from the athletes, partners, parents, sponsors, NBC employees, etc., was a winner!

Which programs did you participate in, and when? What skills did you gain or improve through those programs?

I participated in Leadership Unplugged: A CNN Experience (now the WarnerMedia Institute for Future Leaders) in 2010. It was a very impactful experience for me as a high school junior. The skill most utilized for me coming out of Leadership Unplugged was the realization that leadership comes down to relationships. Understanding how to be a reliable teammate and listen to the ideas of your peers should always supersede the need to be the “voice of the group.” In my opinion, leadership is 10% what you say and 90% what you do. 21CL taught me this at an early age and it is something that has served me well both within my company as well as externally with our clients.

What was a memorable or ‘aha’ moment in 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peers, speaking in public for the first time, etc.?

I vividly remember the interactive team building exercises, fundamentals of storytelling, meeting influential leaders of Time Warner and our daily “Sharpening the Saw” round tables. At that moment, I was convinced that I wanted to be on a college campus that would sharpen my talents, skills and abilities, so I too one day could also be a role model for younger people as those volunteers were to me at that critical decision-making time in my life.

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? If so how? And have you recently learned something else about leadership? Please share!

21CL assisted me in developing a personal brand that I am proud to stand by. The program taught me to be 100% accountable for any project or activity that my name is associated with. This is particularly important when you may not have been the individual to commit the mistake. At the end of the day, no client or person in general wants to hear about why the objective is not getting accomplished. Instead, 21CL taught me to endeavor through the clutter, to think outside of the box, and provide an end result that both under promised and overdelivered.