After leaving the country for the first time on a Wharton International Program (WIP) to Italy last spring, I wanted to find more amazing opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. Wharton offers a plethora of these experiences and this year, along with 39 other students, I spent my spring break in Los Angeles on a Wharton Industry Exploration Program (WIEP). This trip provided insight into the arts, media, and entertainment industries through panels, presentations, keynotes, and a case competition. We learned about trends and shifts in the industry, with topics ranging from the Disney-Fox merger to the rise of streaming services, from senior managers and alumni at The Walt Disney Company, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, and more.
Here are three pieces of advice echoed across all of the visits:
1. Follow Your Interests
During an alumni panel at The Walt Disney Company, Corporate Decision Support Analyst Katarina Dyakova, W’18, advised us to: “Follow your interests, don’t follow the crowd.”
Every leader we met throughout the week spoke passionately about their jobs. Stefan Litt, W’89, CFO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., gets paid to talk about topics he said he would normally enjoy talking about. At Paramount Pictures, Zoe Lazaro, W’18, talked about working in finance for film and how “it’s much more fun to run numbers on movies than other products.”
It was eye-opening to see so many Wharton graduates working the business behind entertainment. These leaders are proof that unconventional career paths are achievable and that success looks different to different people.
2. Leverage the Alumni Network
Jon Penn, C’97, CEO of National Research Group (NRG), said: “Reach out and don’t be afraid to ask for alumni interviews.”
The alumni explained how building networks have positively impacted their career journeys in the media and entertainment industry. They suggested reaching out to alumni for informational interviews, which are quick and powerful ways to gain insight into potential career options. Like many of my fellow students, I am undecided on where I want to work after college. This resource can help me learn about certain positions and determine if I am interested in a company’s culture.
The importance of strong networks is not limited to media and entertainment. In today’s job market, more and more professionals are changing careers and industries, which makes a diverse and substantial network a key asset. The first step to building your network can be as easy as sending a quick email to ask an alumnus for an informational interview.
3. Understand the Importance of Soft Skills
When asked about how to make the most of your undergraduate experience, Jay Levine, W’02, WG’07, executive vice president of TV business strategy & digital services at Warner Bros., suggested taking as many different classes as possible.
As students, we often put a lot of emphasis on the tangible skills we learn in class. While the ability to perform an NPV analysis and accurately interpret financial statements is necessary for any finance role, soft skills are just as integral to success. During a Walt Disney Company panel, Meghan Maro, WG’09, said the group work and collaboration skills from courses such as Management 101 are long-lasting resources that she draws on daily.
Other professionals referenced group projects and presentations as a way to improve these talents and best prepare for the workforce. A key takeaway from this trip is that the skills you develop while learning class concepts are just as important as the concepts themselves. Whatever job or industry we find ourselves in, whether that be investment banking, retail, or consulting, teams are a daily and integral part of almost all career paths.
I highly recommend that every student take advantage of at least one of the many immersion resources that Wharton offers. After experiencing WIP and WIEP, I plan to look into other opportunities such as Wharton Leadership Ventures or Global Modular Courses. This WIEP trip helped me discover my passion for the media and entertainment industry. The most important lesson wasn’t the diverse metrics that determine the fate of sequels, the monopolistic power of franchises, or even the difference between closed and open networks — it was the realization that there are infinite options after graduation.
Litt’s suggestion to “take a swing at it” if you’re passionate about something has motivated me to look beyond traditional options and pursue a career that is a perfect fit for me. As a result of this WIEP trip, I’ll be taking all I have learned with me as I follow my interests.
— Erin Lomboy, W’21
Posted: April 30, 2019