Director, Digital Development • Essence Communications Inc. • New York City • Age: 36
As director of digital development at Essence Communications Inc., Lesley N. Pinckney is responsible for strategic partnerships and multiplatform development. Pinckney manages production, technology deployment and business development for all of the company’s digital businesses, and she plays a key role in the production of Essence’s video initiatives on television and on broadband.
As a child, Pinckney was interested in the entertainment business but wasn’t really sure how to break into that field. Instead, she used the Internet to open doors, as someone without connections, to approach the entertainment business from another angle. She found a job pursuing online content in the interactive agency world, but the terrorist attacks of Sept.11 and the disappearance of hundreds of Web-based companies during the Internet bust at the beginning of the decade were a painful reality check. Her sister, Karen Pinckney-Sanchez, persuaded her to take a freelance production assistant’s position working on the Oscars, the Grammys and other live shows, which eventually landed her a permanent position at MTV Networks’ Spike TV. She rose quickly through the ranks to vice president at MTV Networks’ Tempo. “A true measure of success is what you do when things are bad,” remarks Pinckney.
The transition from a successful Internet executive whose opinion was valued to a production assistant who was never expected to have an opinion was extremely humbling but enlightening, Pinckney says. The experience helped her to realize that good ideas exist at all levels. That knowledge influences her managerial style today.
Pinckney resides in New York City and volunteers as an instructor and speaker at the Reciprocity Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports homeless young adults with interests in the arts and media. She holds a bachelor’s degree in religion, with a minor in philosophy, from New York City’s Hunter College, and she is currently developing a project aimed at increasing digital literacy among African-Americans.