Harvard in Tech
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Harvard in Tech

Harvard in Tech Spotlight: Samita Mannapperuma, SVP of Strategy and Business Development for Television and Streaming at NBCUniversal

I spoke with Samita Mannapperuma, SVP of Strategy and Business Development for Television and Streaming at NBCUniversal.

Samita has always been a big sports and entertainment fan. After graduating from Harvard, she went into investment banking at Goldman Sachs working in the technology, media, and telecommunications group focused mostly on sports and media deals. She then joined the NFL in a business development role working on major television and digital deals for the League. Afterward, she worked at a boutique consulting firm started by former NFL executives. While there, she worked on projects for clients across multiple sports entities.

She then joined NBCUniversal in a business development role at NBC Sports, where she focused initially on the creation of new business ventures. During her decade-long tenure at NBCU, the company has evolved, and with it, her role and responsibilities. Over time, she was elevated into a broader role overseeing business development and strategy for NBC Sports, and more recently, in the fall of 2020, she added responsibilities for the NBCUniversal Entertainment division as well.

Samita shared her perspective on career growth, impact, strategic work, leadership, and advice for her younger self.

Join a company that values mobility. Samita was excited to join NBCU because she felt the company focused a lot on career growth. She wanted to join a team where she could continue to be challenged for many years. During the interview process, she really aimed to understand whether there were platforms and structures in place for her to try and engage in new business areas and initiatives. After meeting the NBCU team, Samita chose to join the company in part for their strong culture of internal mobility, empowering people to continuously learn and capitalize on new opportunities.

Get involved with the company outside of your day to day work. Samita served on the board of the Women’s Network at NBC Sports and more recently was selected to serve as the Co-Chair for NBC Sports’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. She enjoys the opportunity to work with colleagues on these important and impactful areas.

Focus on the day to day. Leadership often feels like it’s just about the big ticket items, but over time, Samita has found that leadership is actually much more about day-to-day decisions and interactions. As a leader, you are only as good as your team. Leadership is not just about closing big deals or executing on big projects. Rather, it’s about driving a culture and ensuring your team feels happy, engaged, and supported. Samita focuses on making sure her team has opportunities to grow their own careers and helps them take on new challenges and gain visibility and recognition in the company at large.

Show resilience during challenging times. Leaders are truly put to the test during tough periods. For example, the obstacles of the past year, both for society and for the media industry, have presented opportunities for Samita to grow her own leadership skills. Leaders are defined by how they handle these challenges and how they help their team navigate headwinds and unexpected changes.

Study abroad. When asked what she would have done differently looking back on her time at Harvard, Samita wished she would have studied abroad. While she enjoys traveling and can still do so now, studying abroad would have been an incredibly unique opportunity to truly be immersed in a new culture, language, and location for a more extended period of time. You have your whole life to work — take the time in college to have fun, unique experiences!

Do what you love with people you love. When asked for advice for her younger self, Samita underscores the importance of passion. You’ll often feel pressure — from parents, peers, or society — to pursue certain paths, but ultimately, it’s crucial to find something you genuinely enjoy working on every day. Work takes up a lot of your waking hours, so find what you love and find a team and a boss you love working with.

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Harvard in Tech is Harvard University’s official alumni organization for technology

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Jess Li

Jess Li

Chief of Staff at Beacons | Harvard alum | https://beacons.ai/jessicali

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