Spotlight Interview: Megan O’Sullivan

Megan O’Sullivan: Engagement Editor, Lonny Magazine

San Francisco, CA

WFU Class of 2015

Major: Business Administration with Arts Marketing Concentration

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Megan O’Sullivan shares the experiences beyond Wake Forest that led to her current position as the Engagement Editor at Lonny Magazine. The 2015 arts marketing alumni shares the importance of understanding personal strengths and pursuing goals with persistence.

DeacLink: What did you study while at Wake?

Megan O’Sullivan: I studied business, specifically arts marketing. I took this incredible class at Wake that combined business and studio art. As part of the course, we went on a trip to New York over spring break to make gallery and show visits. That class really sparked everything for me.

DL: Since you’ve graduated, how has your career unfolded? Can you walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job?

MO: I started the Executive Development Program at Neiman Marcus after graduating. I always thought I wanted to be working in the retail industry, and the program was awesome because it exposed me to so many different corners of the business. At Neimans I learned what an amazing leader is like — a few are still my mentors today. After a year there, I wanted to learn more about how retail was evolving and changing, so I took a job at Everlane and moved to San Francisco.

Everlane was also an awesome experience, and moving to S.F. is one of the best choices I ever made. At Everlane, I was working in operations and supply chain analytics. It was great to learn about the production side of retail and understand how it touches every part of the business; however, I knew that I would need to flex both my creative and business muscles in my career, and as a supply chain analyst, there is little room for creativity. As a side project, I was interviewing artists in San Francisco and publishing these interviews on a website I created called The Context. While doing this, I couldn’t help but ask myself, why am I not doing this thing that feels much more natural to me?

That led to my career transition into the editorial world. I took a job at Lonny as an Associate Editor, and knew I was in the right place immediately. I really loved (and still love) the team, I love the job every day, and really enjoy getting to cover design and art. Now, as an Engagement Editor at Lonny, I’m managing audience development and social media. I’ve learned so much about the design world, the editorial world, how to manage a brand, and more.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held (online, inside reference/rec, networking in person, WFU resources, other)?

MO: Networking is so underrated, and strong persistence in following up is even more underrated. Every job I’ve ever had came from finding people on LinkedIn, finding their emails through weird email search engines, cold emailing, following up with people when they don’t answer. Fun fact: I applied to Everlane 3 times before landing a job there. I wrote very persistent emails and tracked people down before I was hired. It works!

DL: What made you want to go into the magazine industry, and what advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the industry?

MO: I love storytelling, creating content, and great writing. I get joy out of reading great articles that capture a concept or thought or feeling so accurately, so I really enjoy being part of that world. I guess my advice would be: ask yourself why you want to be in the industry, and what exactly you love writing or reading about. Then, find the editors who work in those spaces, and ask if you can freelance (you can do this while you’re a student!). Editorial internships are great too.

I ultimately decided to move away from writing and into social strategy on the marketing team, because there is a part of my brain that really loves being analytical and strategic. So I think it’s important to think about what your natural skills and tendencies are, and what position makes the most sense for you!

DL: What is your favorite part about your job?

MO: Learning about the design world is my most favorite part of my job. To be completely frank, I didn’t know a lot about design before working at Lonny. I love the subject matter and meeting new people within the space, too.

DL: What do you think Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

MO: I wish Wake pushed me to think more about my natural skills and tendencies when planning my career. I knew that business school was right for me, but I felt bad about myself when finance and accounting didn’t feel natural to me. What I’ve since learned is — that’s okay! We all have things we are good at, and things we are not so good at. When thinking about your career, lean into the things you are good at.

DL: What attracted you to San Francisco, and how’s it compared to your time in Dallas?

MO: San Francisco is incredibly progressive, in every sense of the word. I feel very stimulated in San Francisco and surrounded by forward-thinking people, both in terms of business and culture. That is all really important to me! Dallas is where I grew up, but personally, I feel much more connected to the mindset here in California.

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

MO:

  1. Never run from a job, run TO a job.

  2. Think about what job excites you and stimulates you to your core. Some might say that is a very privileged way of thinking, but I truly believe that if we are aligning our careers with our personal values and skills, we are much more likely to be successful (and happy and mentally well!).

Spotlight Interview: Devon Gilbert

Devon Gilbert: Associate, David Zwirner

New York City

WFU Class of 2017

Double Major: Art History & Business and Enterprise Management with a Concentration in Arts Markets

Minor: Studio Art

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Devon Gilbert took part in WFU programs such as Management in the Arts and the SUAAC ‘Art Buying Trip’ before graduating in 2017. He also took advantage of internships at SECCA, Cristin Tierney Gallery and Christie’s during undergrad. The Winston-Salem native walked us through his path to NYC, including some great networking tips.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? Did your areas of study inform or drive your career path?

Devon Gilbert: I was an Art History and BEM double major with with a concentration in Art Markets and a minor in Studio Art. In my sophomore year, I took the Management in the Visual Arts, a class that was co-taught by faculty in the School of business and the Art Department. Part of the course was a study tour to New York and it was there that I met the director of Finance at David Zwirner, James Morrill, a Wake alum and a co-owner of a gallery in the Lower East Side. When I was looking for job senior year, Leigh Ann Hallberg helped me reconnect with James. The timing worked out perfectly as the finance team at Zwirner was expanding and they were looking for a new member at a junior level. They needed someone with some accounting and finance knowledge who was interested in the business side of art, so that ended up being a perfect fit for me.

One thing that was particularly important, in terms of learning about career paths in the art work and making connections, was networking. The Management in the Visual Arts class was more focused on the breadth of the art market, including all the facets of art industry in NY and I was able to learn about careers I’d never even been aware of. The art buying trip also allowed for good opportunities to connect and build rapport with people in the gallery industry that were not necessarily connected to Wake Forest.

DL: Those sound like amazing opportunities. So, how did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held that led up to your position at David Zwirner? Do you have any tips or suggestions for Wake students on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs especially in the art world?

DG: The Summer before I came to Wake, I was an intern with the Registrar & Exhibitions Manager at SECCA. I grew up in Winston-Salem and had met the Registrar previously, so this connection helped, but this internship gave me my first taste of working in the arts.

The next Summer I interned at the Mint Museum in Charlotte with the Advancement department, working with clients and donors. And I had an internship at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art. Since I wanted to work my way up to an internship at the Smithsonian, the Met, or MoMA before graduation, I was looking for internships that would help prepare me. I worked 2 days a week at the Mint, dealing with affiliate groups, members programs, and working to analyze data about memberships. I was at Reynolda House the other 3 days a week, with the education department. There I was learning about the house and the art, as well as giving tours. I also completed a research project and presentation on work selected from collection and analyzing it in context of piece of literature and music from same year.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years, I interned with Cristin Tierney at her gallery in NY. I met Cristin during the Arts Management trip, but I was initially introduced to her through Allison Perkins, the Director of Reynolda House. When I was applying for that internship, she knew me and knew that I was interested in working in the arts, so my previous interactions with her definitely helped me.

My last internship was at Christie’s in the 20-21st Century Decorative Art and Design group and the sale and photographs department. When I applied, I didn’t really know any alumni at Christie’s, but Cristin did help me by making a few introductions with her contacts from her time at Christie’s.

In terms of tips for interviewing, I would say recommend that you always try to be authentic and let your genuine interest show. I think when we are preparing for an interview or deciding how to talk about ourselves, it’s easy for things to feel too rehearsed. As for networking, just go for it. In my experience, Wake alums are always interested in helping out students and fellow alums and I’ve always had great conversations with them. LinkedIn is really useful as well, for seeing what people are up to and for making that first connection.

DL: Thank you for walking us through all those amazing internships! While looking back on these internships, is there anything you think Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

DG: The Business School requires an internship between Junior and Senior year which I think is a great thing. It would be great for the university to encourage that for everyone because it really does help you figure out what you want to do and it makes you more marketable for other internships or jobs down the road. There’s really no downside to having additional internships. Career services at Wake does the best they can with art/art history students and is still improving in this arena. Right now, art students have to make things happen for themselves which isn’t easy, but it is beneficial for the people who come out of it. But that’s part of the reason DeacLink exists, so arts alumni can help current students or recent grads.

DL: In New York, what is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

DG: Working at Zwirner and being so plugged into the art world has given me access to an immense amount of art. New York really is the centerpiece of the global art world, so there are dozens of great shows happening at any given time. Especially if you like post-war and contemporary art, I think there really is no better place. There was a show at Pace a couple of months ago of Louise Nevelson sculptures. I am a huge fan of her work and Wake has one of her pieces in it’s collection. The Met Breuer had a phenomenal show of Edvard Munch paintings, which really displayed the breadth in his work. I also got to see Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at Christie’s before the auction. Overall, I feel like I’ve been able to take advantage of all these amazing opportunities and I’ve gotten to see some really incredible works of art.

DL: Wow, that sounds incredible! Do you have a favorite part about working for Zwirner?

DG: There was a Richard Serra show opening earlier this year, and he (Serra) took the entire staff on a walk-through of the show. We got to talk about all the work including the sculptures and prints. Overall, it was such a rare opportunity where I was able to hear the artist talk about his work in person. I also really loved seeing the 25th anniversary show for Zwirner. I really got to see the history of the gallery and a lot of great work from all of our artists. It was amazing to see the arc of the gallery and our artists since its creation.

DL: What’s next for you?

DG: I was recently promoted to a new role within department, so I’m working on that transition. Right now I’m focused on my work at Zwirner.

DL: Do you have any advice you would like to give to the readers?

DG: Aside from internships and general networking, I would recommend getting to know your fellow students at Wake. I am still in contact with some of the Seniors from when I was a Freshman. I followed their example and they have helped me make a lot of connections. Other than that, just take advantage of all the opportunities you can at Wake!