One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

Guest blogger David Levine, GM of Disney XD, explains why taking a job at a lower level than what you may be entitled to - but in an area that you love - will actually propel you forward in the long run.
July 19, 2011

Guest blogger David Levine

A key piece of advice I usually give people when they are trying to figure out what to do with their careers is the same piece I was given myself when I graduated from law school.  I’ve taken it to heart twice in my career, each time with great consequences.

Graduating from GWU Law School in 1994 into a terrible economy, I couldn’t land the assistant district attorney job I had dreamed of for years.  My good friend gave me the following piece of advice – be willing to take a job at a lower level than what you may be entitled to, but in an area you love, and your passion will propel you forward.  I thought about what I loved – television and comic books.

I started reading and collecting comic books at the age of eight.  My mother was happy I was reading, and would supply me with books or, soon enough, the allowance to buy them myself.  The first one I remember was Invaders #31 – I think I probably liked it because I knew Frankenstein from the Laurel & Hardy movie reruns on Sundays on WPIX.

The first two comic books I ever owned

I collected comic books for many years – I was most into super-hero teams, mostly a Marvel fan, loving The Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men but also having a very soft spot for the Legion of Super Heroes and the Justice League.  I petered off through law school, but managed to amass thousands of comic books in those years.  And one was easy enough to find when it came time to figure out what I would do next with my career.

A typical comic book indicia, usually found in the first few pages of the comic

Getting the address of Marvel Comics from the indicia inside one of the many “joke books” (as my father would call them) in my old room, I called their legal department to see if they had any openings.  They had none, but told me to send my resume in for future consideration, which I did.  A few weeks later I got a call to interview for an open position – they were looking for either an experienced paralegal or an inexperienced attorney – I fit the latter perfectly.  I took the job in the Marvel legal department and learned all about licensing, trademarks, movie deals and more.  It was a junior role, but soon enough my passion for the characters and company led me on to bigger and better roles – eventually head legal and leadership positions at itsy bitsy Entertainment and Ragdoll USA.

After years at Ragdoll as VP of business affairs and development, the time came to look for new challenges, and I reached out to the folks I had met at Disney Channel.  I interviewed for an executive director role in programming – again a step back in title, but I had faith my passion would help propel me forward.

Kick Buttowski and Disney XD logo

Flash forward seven years later to now, newly serving as the GM of Disney XD, our channel targeting boys six to 14 with shows like Kickin It, Pair of Kings, Kick Buttowski and Phineas and Ferb.  Our point of difference when creating content for this audience is all in the word “Disney” – we focus on positive, optimistic stories that take kids on a journey where they learn something about themselves, and have a lot of laughs and fun along the way.  We also are now the home of the newest Marvel kids’ animated shows, with the next one, Ultimate Spider-Man, to roll out in 2012.  It’s been a real thrill to be able to help share the incredible Marvel characters and stories with a whole new audience.

Being able to touch kids all over the world with our content is incredibly rewarding.  So after all of these years, marrying two of the things that I have always loved – television and comics – and doing it on a global scale with an incredible group of talented passionate execs at Disney, has been a true blessing.  Here’s to taking a step back to move forward.


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