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Sat, Apr

TEC Leimert Spotlight: Gene James III is getting to the next level

Tech

James, a View Park Prep and UCLA grad, used TEC Leimert’s NXT LVL social media incubator program to land a job at XX Artists.

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By Terry Hart

Gene James III is a Social Media Coordinator at XX Artists, working in the talent department.  On a daily basis James works on the social media campaigns and content ideation for various talents such as comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, and artists such as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Linkin Park, J. Balvin, and Meghan Trainor.  It’s a dream job for James, and one he credits TEC Leimert’s innovative social media incubator, NXT LVL, in helping him attain.

“Without this program, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said. 

James was born in South Central Los Angeles.  The youngest of three, he and his siblings were raised by a single mother, whom passed away in 2014.  He also lost his father in the winter of 2018.  Despite the challenges involved growing up in a single-parent household with limited resources, he applied himself while attending View Park Preparatory High School and he was able to get into UCLA, where he started on the path to what would become his professional career.     

“I was working with several groups and organizations on campus that were doing outreach,” Gene said.  “I was the one who prioritized making the flyers, getting social media posts out, commenting on comments and engaging with the community.  All the things we have names and titles for now but even just a few years ago weren’t exactly outlined.” 

James found he had a passion for social media and for connecting people and communities through digital footprints.  He started freelancing, doing social media work for companies like B.O.S.S. Digital Marketing and Blacks in Tech.  Eventually he started to realize he could have a career in social media. 

Upon graduating from UCLA in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, James believed it would be easy to find full time work in the social media field, but that wasn’t the case.  He continued freelancing but full-time work in the industry was eluding him. 

“I was trying to do everything on my own, but couldn’t get into any doors,” he said. 

This was where TEC Leimert’s social media incubator NXL LVL came in.  James had gone to UCLA with one of TEC Leimert’s founders, Lajuan Morris, and a chance encounter with him put the program on James’ radar.

TEC Leimert’s NXT LVL social media incubator is a free program that provides an opportunity for underresourced young professionals to leverage existing affinities for social media and culture to develop professional skills in the creative economy. The program provides all materials needed for learning, including a MAC Book, one-on-one mentorship with an industry professional throughout the program, and a paid internship with a top tier company upon program completion.  For James, NXT LVL was a no-brainer.

“I saw the importance of getting into the TEC Leimert network and committing to a program that would get me current with the speed and formal verbiage of how social media was being done on a corporate and agency level,” he said.

“The entire concept was more than I thought walking in.  I figured I’d be hearing about things I knew about already, but the types of skills, like deck making, or being able to complete a social media audit, were critical skills to learn for what I do now.  I use these on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.”

Though James stepped into the program with some industry knowledge, getting up to speed on industry terminology and standards could have been daunting, but he credits the program director, Phill Jones, with making the information easy and understandable.

“Phill connected the dots on why this stuff matters, while making sure everyone kept up with the information,” James said.  “There were a lot of new terms being used to describe what we were already doing every day.  Phill helped us to understand that this was nothing new, this was just the technical information behind it.” 

James felt that this was a great skill in an instructor, especially with the program being open to all levels. For the NXT LVL program, you don’t have to have a degree, just be over 18 and excited about learning social media.

Besides the technical information, NXT LVL incubator students are provided with an industry mentor for the entirety of the program. 

“It’s a great component of the program,” James said.  “Given the dynamic of people we had, most being from the inner city and South Central LA, we needed guidance not only in the social media and tech aspect of it all, but also getting up to speed in being young professionals.”

Another positive aspect of the program was the community of it.  In James’ cohort he had artists, musicians, fashion designers, and people like him who already had experience in the field, so it was very diverse.  It enabled them to create a community within themselves.

“Seeing we were all Black people from similar communities pursuing tech whether it was for entrepreneurship or actually creating a career or a side hustle” helped them form fast bonds James said.

After completing the program, James found himself with a paid internship at XX Artists, and a few months later as a full-time employee. 

“TEC Leimert and NXT LVL definitely opened up the doors I needed,” he said.  “For me as a young adult who just graduated college, who was not prepared for launching a career, having an incubator program that teaches you the ecosystem and bridges you to something guaranteed is highly beneficial.

“I tell people all the time, we do social media every day, whether it’s on the lower scale or higher scale, whether on the agency side or brand side, at least get paid for it or get something from it.  You can always apply this info to your own brand whether you’re an influencer or an artist and come out it with a skill and knowledge set that will benefit you for the next 20 years plus.”

To learn more about the TEC Leimert’s NXT LVL social media incubator, visit www.tecleimert.org for more information and how to apply. 

TEC Leimert is a non-profit community organization dedicated to bringing urban professionals, business owners, and students together with entertainment industry experts and technology entrepreneurs to bridge the digital divide, close the wealth gap, and create social capital.