Spotlight: NBCUniversals Pat Langer
A “North Star,” “Beacon
of Light,” “mentor,” “confidant”
and “friend.” These are just
some of the terms we’ve heard to describe
Pat Langer, NBCUniversal’s
Executive Vice President of Human Resources,
who will retire this summer after 39
years of service in our industry. Pat’s
career, most recently with NBCUniversal,
has been tremendously impactful as she innovated
and developed within the HR field around
her. We had the opportunity to sit
down with Pat and ask her about her history
Q. With a law degree, you could
have pursued any number of fields. How did
you make the transition to human resources?
I spent years as a litigator and
labor and employment lawyer, both at law
firms and in-house. In 2000, I was given
the opportunity to serve as the Executive
Vice President of Legal, Business Affairs
and Human Resources at Lifetime Entertainment
Services, and I jumped at the chance to
pivot and become an HR leader, as well as
Lifetime’s General Counsel.
I was part of the senior management team
which led Lifetime to become the #1 rated
basic cable network in 2001. Ten years
later I returned to my home, NBCUniversal,
to serve as Executive Vice President of
Human Resources. NBCUniversal was
essentially a massive startup on the HR
side as it de-coupled from GE, and I had
the privilege of building HR from the ground
Q. Your LinkedIn profile states
that your journey with NBC began in 1988.
What position did you hold and what attracted
you to the industry?
My first job as in-house counsel
at NBC was a junior employment attorney
position. You could say I “grew
up” at NBC, working for 11 years in
a series of legal roles before becoming
head of the Employment Law Practice Group
and the company ombudsperson. I was
attracted to the media industry for many
reasons. Of course, it can be glamorous
to ride the elevator with your favorite
celebrities, but the constant challenges
of dealing with such a diverse workforce
and group of businesses – creative,
technical, sports, news, stations, etc.,
is what kept me excited to head to 30 Rock
every morning. Each day, for better or worse,
is never the same.
Q. What factors compelled you to
return to NBCUniversal in 2011?
Leaving NBC in 2000 was a huge
risk but pivotal in my career trajectory.
I learned how to lead an HR organization
and how to best utilize my employment law
background in a practical way. Returning
as the CHRO to a company I loved, with an
understanding of the legacy NBC culture
and a fresh perspective as Comcast recently
acquired the company, was a challenge I
couldn’t pass up.
Q. There have been a lot of
changes within the HR discipline since you
began your career. In your eyes, what was
the most significant change in terms of
its impact on the business?
I feel the most significant change
in HR across my career has been the change
from a perceived “personnel”
and administrative focus to being a strategic
partner. HR now has a seat at the
table to advise business leaders and create
customized guidance and support for each
business unit to best utilize and plan for
their people needs going forward.
Q. While at Lifetime Networks you
created the Lifetime Volunteer Corps which
enabled employees to partner with women’s
shelters on a variety of activities. In
2016, you launched HR for Good, a program
that merged pro bono work with professional
development within NBCUniversal’s
resources department. What prompted you
to integrate social responsibility into
As an attorney, I was very familiar
with pro bono work, but I hadn’t thought
about applying the concept as an HR professional
until I volunteered for The Taproot Foundation
a few years ago. The Taproot Foundation
is dedicated to driving social change by
connecting nonprofits with skilled professionals
who provide their services pro bono.
After participating in one of Taproot’s
pro bono “speed consulting”
events, I was inspired to bring skills-based
volunteering to NBC. It was a win-win
for both the nonprofits (who got “state
of the art” advice) and our employees,
who were able to leverage their HR skills
to give back to deserving nonprofits while
also receiving professional development
and the opportunity to network with fellow
colleagues. On a personal note, I
now serve as a Taproot Board member. Click
here to read the HR Pulse article about
NBCUniveral’s HR for Good.
Q. In 2013, the NBCUniversal
Talent Lab was opened in Los Angeles as
an in-house resource for innovative employee
development. Five years later, can you share
insight into the success of the Lab? Lessons
The Talent Lab first opened in
2013 as NBCUniversal’s corporate university
focused on maintaining the NBCU culture,
and equipping employees to lead and innovate
in a challenging media and entertainment
industry. By rallying the support and involvement
of executive sponsors, business leaders
and engaged employees, the Talent Lab has
designed and delivered a growing number
of learning experiences across the globe.
Now just five years later, NBCUniversal
has invested in building four physical Talent
Lab locations, with a fifth Lab scheduled
to open this fall at the Telemundo Center
in Miami. Development at all levels of the
organization is taking place as a result
of strong HR leadership and business partnership.
Q. With innovation being a
key component of the business, how have
you worked to ensure that NBCUniversal has
the talent pool to drive the business forward?
Innovation should start with every
company’s most critical asset, its
people. Over the last 6+ years, NBCUniversal’s
internal Executive Search team has utilized
a consultative and proactive approach to
be a driving force in identifying and attracting
internal and external high-caliber, diverse,
innovative leadership talent. With
deep market expertise and knowledge, the
team acts as trusted business advisors to
corporate and business line leaders by delivering
full service executive search execution,
proactive market mapping and intelligence
projects and executive talent pipelining
services. In addition, NBCUniversal
has an unparalleled reach through the storytelling,
reporting and experiences we offer on all
platforms. We recently launched our employee
value proposition, “Here You Can.”
“Here You Can” speaks to the
diversity of the businesses, growth and
opportunities that exist across all areas
at NBCUniversal. We hope through the
various internal and external activations
around our EVP, that NBCU is viewed as a
pioneering champion of excellence where
you are empowered to own your career.
Q. What career accomplishment
was the most rewarding for you?
The most rewarding accomplishment
has been coming back to NBCUniversal in
2011 and creating a world-class HR organization.
It was a daunting challenge in the midst
of changing ownership, leadership and strategic
direction. While the company was experiencing
the most significant and far-reaching evolution
in its history, I knew HR would face the
doubly difficult challenge of providing
seamless service to the business while simultaneously
pursuing every opportunity to change and
improve the systems, processes and policies
of the existing HR infrastructure.
There were plenty of obstacles along the
way but when I take a look back on everything
our HR team has accomplished, I’m
Q. What was the biggest challenge
you faced in your career? How did you handle
it? If you could return to that challenge,
what would you do differently based on what
you know today?
On a personal level, trying to
find a work/life balance was a constant
challenge that I faced throughout my career.
I have two sons who are now adults, Alex
and Matt, and I commuted into the city for
work from the suburbs, which took a lot
of time away from them as they were growing
up. When I got home, family was my
priority and I spent very little time on
myself. Today, technology makes it
easier to work remotely and check in from
wherever you are, but it’s a constant
challenge for anyone to juggle the demands
of a job with family. Looking back,
I think I would have felt less guilty as
I muddled through the early years of raising
children now knowing my sons would be well
adjusted adults and respect my commitment
to helping people through my work.
Q. What is your most memorable
cable industry moment?
Bringing “Project Runway”
to Lifetime, which took place after a lengthy
litigation with NBC! It’s ironic
that “Project Runway” is returning
to Bravo – I suppose the show and
I have come full circle together.
Q. In her book,
“Leading So People Will Follow,”
Erika Andersen cites you as a Trustworthy
Exemplar. How has trust played a role in
your career success?
In her book, Erika describes me
rejoining NBC in 2011 as a “wild time”
and she was right! It was a time of
massive change and uncertainty and called
for someone to lead with honesty, thoughtfulness
and fairness - strong traits I pride myself
on. I needed to be a trustworthy,
reliable and steadfast guidepost in order
for people to stand behind and execute the
long-term HR mission and vision and turn
it into a reality.
Q. Rapid, ongoing change is a staple
of our innovative industry, yet change is
difficult for most people. What has been
your approach to embracing change and what
strategies have you employed to help employees
with change in the workplace?
An author who has really resonated
with me is William Bridges. His book,
Transitions, is a model I’ve
turned to at various points throughout my
career in regards to embracing change.
Bridges uses the word “transitions”
to mean the mental and emotional shifts
people go through during times of change.
He describes this process as having three
stages – “Endings”, where
people think about what the change means
for them and mourn the loss of the old,
“Neutral Zone,” where people
stop to catch their breath and re-gather
their energy to move on, and “New
Beginnings,” where you’re ready
to re-engage and commit to the new reality.
Bridges’ point of view is that if
you understand these stages, you’ll
be able to move through them as quickly
and painlessly as possible. I found
his model extremely useful during my first
year as head of HR for NBC when I was tasked
with guiding many through uncertain changes.
On a personal level, I look forward to the
“New Beginnings” I’ll
be facing when I enter the next phase of
my life upon my retirement.
Q. What is the best piece
of advice you ever received and who gave
it to you?
A former General Counsel Executive at NBC
told me to “deliver your message in
10 words or less.” Of course,
this was meant not literally, but to urge
me to be articulate and succinct in my delivery
when counseling clients. I find myself
remembering this piece of advice while I’m
mentoring employees, and especially when
I have to relay a difficult message.
Q. When you were growing up,
what was your dream job?
Believe it or not, I always wanted
to be an attorney!
Q. What advice do you have for someone
who is just starting a career in HR?
The best advice is the most obvious
– to learn as much as you can about
the business. Be proactive about raising
your hand to take on any assignment because
the possibilities are endless in this industry.
Our HR team put this advice to good use
by launching tHRive University. With
the tagline “Your Career. Produced
Here.” the program directly aligns
with our core competencies and empowers
employees in the HR community to succeed
at every stage of their career with a selection
of courses designed to develop their skills
and provide networking opportunities.
In addition, we recently launched a Cooperative
Education Program, which is a 3 to 12-month
immersive independent study where employees
receive career training in different areas
of HR within the company. Click
here to read the HR Pulse article on tHRive
Q. What does the next chapter
hold for you?
I plan to continue my passion for
pro bono work by volunteering for nonprofits.
It will be great to be able to give my undivided
attention to help them achieve their goals.
Traveling the world as much as I can is
at the top of my bucket list. But
most of all I’m looking forward to
spending a lot of time with family and friends.
I consider myself so fortunate to have four
generations of my family surrounding me.
Both my parents are still with me and we
now have a granddaughter, Leah, who is nearly
three years old. I made the difficult
decision to retire soon after Leah was born,
because as much as I have loved the past
seven years at NBCUniversal, I know that
those years to enjoy four generations will
not last forever. In a year’s
time, I hope you find me with Leah at the
beach – my parents, husband and children
nearby – all dipping our toes into
the water and enjoying life’s simple
Pat will be passing the torch to Vicki
Williams, the current Senior Vice President
Compensation, Benefits and HRIS. Pat has
been a long-time mentor to Vicki, and Vicki
is quick to remark how much Pat has impacted
her both professionally and personally.
“Over the past seven years, Pat has
taken the time to guide and coach me in
both an honest and patient manner, and I
owe much of my professional development
to her. She always gives freely of
her time and generously shares her knowledge
and expertise. She has created a culture
at NBCUniversal of integrity, fairness and
compassion, and we will carry it honorably