Some executives make a career working for a single employer. Not Brian Blake. He prides himself on his diversity not only in where he worked but in what industry he worked in. His resume includes stints with the National Hockey League, Turner Broadcasting, JP Morgan Chase, and of late, IGT.
It’s not that Blake is anxious to move on.
“I’m a lifelong learner,” he says. “If you stop learning, you stop growing, and if you stop growing, you’ll wither away.” Blake takes such advice to heart. “If I feel too comfortable, I worry about complacency setting in.”
The one constant in this approach: DEI—diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I wanted to be part of an organization where DEI is supported up and down the spine of the company. At each place, I came in a time of flux,” he says.
IGT’s commitment sold Blake on the company, as did every company executive he met. They told him in their own words why DEI was important on a personal level.
“That is one of my ‘tests,’ and it was the game changer.” IGT had already begun to revamp its culture, but remained in a development stage when Blake joined last March.
Prior to IGT, Blake joined the NHL in 2019, when the inclusion journey took root. At the NHL, the driving force was understanding that current and future growth comes from being inclusive of all kinds of fans and participants in the game, Blake says.
“DEI is a business imperative for each respective organization,” he says. “A combination of our customers expecting us to be inclusive across the board, and our own understanding that being a best-in-class organization means being an inclusive organization.”
That approach means a better bottom line. “Inclusive, diverse organizations financially outperform those that are more homogenous,” Blake says. “They innovate at higher rates, and the overall employee experience has higher productivity.”
As the vice president and global head of diversity, equity and inclusion at IGT, Blake bears responsibility for embedding DEI.
“Our philosophy is inclusion first. A strong inclusive culture and equitable people systems allow for long-term growth in diverse populations,” he says.
Born and raised in Queens, New York to immigrant parents, Blake had the benefit of growing up with all kinds of friends from a wide range of cultures. He learned to see things from another’s perspective. “It was invaluable to me as I made my way in the world,” says Blake, who relaxes with a good movie, a game and most importantly, his daughters.
JP Morgan Chase was one of the best experiences of Blake’s life, 10 years in which he absorbed how complex organizations work, how to manage and leverage constant change. After a decade, he moved on to Turner Broadcasting in 2015, chalking up another experience.
“It allowed me the opportunity to learn about a whole new industry with a wide range of personalities and perspectives,” he says. “I had the chance to influence and collaborate with executives and others across different networks and platforms.”
Blake tries his best to see obstacles not as stumbling blocks, but as stepping stones. “It is not always easy to maintain that mentality, but I feel like it keeps me grounded, steers me away from panicking, and allows me to see things with a rational mind, so I end up making better decisions.”