Most kids don’t grow up wanting to be media moguls. But with a father who worked in the television business, former Warner Bros executive and current LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner’s future was beginning to take shape as early as the first grade. He used to snag his father’s trade magazines like Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, transfixed by box office reports. He would watch TV at home and think about why some programs worked and others didn’t.
But it wasn’t until he was 24, after being introduced to a pre-browser Internet (that nevertheless excited him more than most people in the early 90s) that the specifics of what he wanted to do in media finally gelled. His father asked him to write a mock cover letter detailing what he wanted to do, in as specific terms as possible. At tonight’s PandoMonthly fireside chat, he recalled what he wrote:
Technology convergence is upon us, and I want to be at the epicenter of that. I think it’s going to create a lot of value, I think there’s going to be a lot of disruption in terms of media, in terms of communications, in terms of work, in terms of play… And I don’t think it’s going to be the technology that’s the ultimate differentiator. I think it’s going to be the content of the programming. And so, I wanted to work with, and learn from, the people who had the ‘golden guts.’ That’s what it was referred to back in the day. They were businesspeople that understood the zeitgeist. They always had their pulse on it, or they could predict where it was going. So ultimately they understood how to program — which movies to bet on, which television shows to bet on.
So that’s nice — 20-something kid writes a cover letter to his father. But with no MBA and a limited number of corporate development gigs in Hollywood, Weiner had little hope of actually achieving this job anytime soon. But then only weeks later, a headhunter called his office mate and said Warner Bros. was looking for an analyst in the strategic planning department — exactly the job Weiner was looking for. His office mate had to turn it down, but he knew it was the perfect fit for Weiner, who had told his coworker about the cover letter.
The emphasis on knowing what content works and what doesn’t, has proven to be as important in the digital age as it was in the golden era of the silver screen. So if there’s anything to take away from this, kids, it’s learn to program — not in the 24-hour Red Bull-fueled coding sense of the word, but in another, more timeless sense of the word.