By Paul Feinberg
Amy Powell (’05) president of Paramount Television and Digital Entertainment, was the morning keynote at UCLA Anderson’s second annual Velocity Women’s Leadership Summit, whose 2017 theme was Empower Together. Powell used the specifics of her own life and career to illustrate universal lessons for those gathered.
Powell grew up in “a household of very strong influences, parents who encouraged her to go out and get what she wanted,” and she was inspired by a close relationship with a grandmother who was “the epitome of a strong woman.” Those influences infused Powell with a confidence that enabled a recurring theme in her life: moves that took Powell outside her comfort zones.
One of those moves was leaving a job at CNN in Atlanta that fed her passion for journalism and relocating to Los Angeles without a job or a place to stay. “You land in a foreign place; you pick yourself up and figure out how you are going to make it.” Powell picked herself up and took a position with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as an assistant. Combining a desire to work in marketing and being the only person in the office who knew PowerPoint, she created presentations that wowed executives in the marketing area, mastering the art of marketing along the way.
In an effort to add to her skill set and looking for a greater understanding of digital marketing, Powell enrolled in UCLA Anderson’s executive program. About the same time, she went from Sony to Paramount, where she met a “huge role model” in Sherry Lansing, who years before had become the first woman to run a Hollywood Studio (20th Century Fox in 1980). The life lessons kept coming. “It’s extremely important to get rid of the idea that you can have it all,” Powell said. “I’ve learned from all the strong women around me, you simply have to do the best you can do.” Lansing also taught her the value of expressing gratitude to one’s team.
Powell’s role at Paramount continued to evolve. She produced Justin Bieber’s documentary Never Say Never, which included the singer’s Make A Wish moment with a young fan. “Please remember that as you all evolve in your lives, it’s incredibly important to give back,” Powell said. Among the organizations she supports are Big Sisters, Big Brothers and Habitat for Humanity.
In 2013, Powell was tasked with launching Paramount Television from the ground up, despite having no previous television experience. The division has since grown from a single person to a group of 75, the majority of whom are women. “It has always been important for me, as a female executive in Hollywood, to make sure we are recognizing the important female talent around us,” Powell said. “I make it a point to bring in projects by women who are like the strong, tenacious women that I have been blessed to be surrounded with in my life.”