Alumnus John Dokes Is a Renaissance Man by Cary Osborne, CSUN Today
CSUN alumnus John Dokes ’92 (Marketing) was the kid who was interested in everything. He became the adult who has done almost everything.
There was a point in his youth when he wanted to become a TV weatherman, and a funny thing happened. Though he’s not reporting the weather on air, he’s now the Chief Content Officer and President of the AccuWeather Network.
He also loved comic books as a kid and became an executive at Marvel. He was passionate about singing and dancing in his youth. He worked for VH1. Add to that that he is an accomplished jazz vocalist who just released his third album.
“Being around that is very inspiring,” said his best friend and fellow CSUN alumnus Kenneth Wynn. “Sometimes it grabs and inspires you (to think), ‘OK, what are you doing?’ But it doesn’t come off with any arrogance or any sort of a pompous attitude. He’s looking at you like, ‘This is what I did, and you can do it too.’”
Dokes grew up in Oakland where he found two things he was especially good at — performing and marketing.
Dokes and Wynn were linked together by their fathers who were in an R&B group called The Realisitcs.
In high school, Dokes, Wynn and other friends created a dance group that earned some regional notoriety. Wynn recalled how talent was one reason, but Dokes’ eye for marketing took the group to the next level.
“We chose a logo, a style, what everybody would call branding today. Well, he was the driver of that process,” Wynn said. “He literally managed us.”
It was a forerunner of what was to come.
Dokes said he decided to attend CSUN to follow friends who had already come south for college. He originally chose accounting as a major but was inspired to change direction after taking a marketing class. He also got active in campus life and leadership by joining the Black Student Union. In addition, he became chapter president of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Dokes said that although leadership roles preceded his days at CSUN, his time at the university gave him more opportunities to take charge.
“I think it sets an expectation in my own mind that just sort of doing a job or just being a part of a team wasn’t enough,” Dokes said. “So, when you get to that position where you’re leading people and you’re creating a vision for what’s coming next and creating space for your team to move things forward, you get used to that process. You want to advance your own vision, and in order to do that you have to strive for that leadership role.”
Leadership roles would follow at two pillars of pop culture in Marvel and VH1.
But to get to Marvel took some maneuvering.
When Dokes graduated from CSUN, he took a chance. He put together a list of companies he wanted to work for in New York City. Marvel fit in with one of his passions.
“I was certainly spending way too much money on comic books at the time,” was how Dokes described his passion for comics.
He sent a letter to the comic book giant asking for a job interview. On Feb. 1, 1993, the company’s marketing division responded and asked him to come to its office for an interview that would take place exactly one week later. In between that period, Dokes moved to New York City without securing the job. While waiting on Marvel’s decision, Dokes pounded the pavement for temporary work. Six months after the interview Marvel hired him.
It would become one of two stints with the company. He became known as the “Golden Voice of Marvel” for his enthusiastic public speaking promoting the brand at Comic-Con. In his second life with the company, he ascended to Senior Vice President of integrated sales and marketing, publishing and digital media. One of his proudest accomplishments was boosting the company’s digital division, particularly by launching an online subscription service. He was also involved with the marketing of Marvel movies, TV shows, video games, and publishing and overseeing advertising sales.
In between his time at Marvel he was a marketing manager at VH1, where his primary role was to help the sales team retain and expand distribution for the channel. He also contributed on VH1’s Save the Music campaign, helping to launch some of its music education programs across the country. It gave him an opportunity to be in a place where he was comfortable — in front of an audience by public speaking at campaign press conferences.
Throughout his professional career, he has found comfort in front of audiences. He took classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to improve his presentation skills and also sought work as an actor at one point. But music has continued to be his most prominent performance outlet. His singing career started in a simple way. While dancing with a friend, he sang along to the music of the George Gee Swing Orchestra. She noticed his warm baritone voice and suggested he sing with the band. At a later date, he surprised her at her birthday party and sang with the band. He’s been in it ever since as a vocalist. Dokes recorded and released an album with the orchestra in 2010. He released, his third album “True Love” earlier this month, which features a jazz version of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”
In 2013, Dokes’ dynamic life and career took him to AccuWeather. He began working for the multiplatform media company as its global chief marketing officer and later added the title GM of the AccuWeather Network
According to AccuWeather, under Dokes’ leadership, the network has experienced 340 percent growth and now reaches more than 1.5 billion people worldwide.
“Our mantra is putting ourselves in a position to save lives, protect property and help people prosper,” Dokes said. “And so, we try to do that on as many platforms as possible and give people the context and the stories that they need to get a deeper understanding of the weather and make sure that they know how to take care of their family. I think it’s an exciting time because we have so many places to get our message out. Whether it’s traditional linear television digital video, apps, or social media, there are a lot of ways to communicate with customers and create distinction for the AccuWeather brand that will allow people to understand our passion about the science of weather and the goal of making sure people are safe and protected.”
Dokes, who in 2016 was honored by CSUN as one of the Nazarian College’s “Fabulous 50” alumni, is still interested in everything. There’s never been a time, his friend said, when he hasn’t been doing three or four things at a time … and doing them well. Dokes said there are still a few boxes he needs to check off.
“What I’m excited about right now, may not be what I’m excited about 12 months from now,” he said. “When you are constantly thinking about evolving, you can certainly create new passions and new ways of thinking about things and which could lead to other opportunities for you.”