Spotlight Interview: Heather Sullivan

Heather Sullivan, TV Production Associate

Atlanta

WFU Class of 2016

Major: Communications (Media Studies Concentration)

Minor: Film, Theater & Psychology

image.png

Heather Sullivan walks us through the opportunities, experiences, and decisions that led her to work as a TV production associate in Atlanta! The 2016 Wake grad shares her insights on networking and finding the path to your passion.

DeacLink: What did you study while at Wake?

Heather Sullivan: I majored in Communications, with a concentration in media studies, and I minored in film, theater, and psychology. I’m a 2016 Grad.

DL: How did you pick that trio of minors?

HS: I always knew I was interested in film and theater. Those were kind of the obvious. And then I took a psych elective and was obsessed with everything about it. I was like, I want to take as many of these classes as possible, so I'm just going to minor.

DL: How have you been applying for these fields? Do you mind walking me through how your career has unfolded since you graduated?

HS: So I knew I was interested in working in the creative producing side of things, so a lot of my focus and theater was more directing. I acted, but I was more focused on directing and creative world building. And film at Wake - it's a lot of criticism. So you're looking at things from the content side and less about like anything specifically technical. I didn't know how to get a job in TV without any contacts, but I knew there was work in Atlanta, so I basically moved here, took a restaurant job and just applied to any job that I could find online until I got hired.

This is how I ended up doing what I'm doing right now, which is for this company that produces two TV shows: Couples Court with the Cutlers and Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court, so it’s conflict TV. This is not what I fully expected, but it's a 10 month contract every year, which is so rare in TV and that kind of industry. It’s steady work, and I'm learning a ton. It's kind of amazing.

But when I first graduated, I worked at Wake for a year, and I worked for IPLACe, which is an interdisciplinary performing arts center. I did that for a year before I moved to Atlanta.

DL: Is that within Wake Forest?

HS: Yes, it sits within Wake. A theater director is the Director of it, and Christina Soriano is actually on the board. It was like a fellow position, but it is not as intense as a fellow position. There was a lot more freedom there.

DL: So what exactly are you doing for your TV shows?

HS: So I'm a production associate, so I'm part of a team that is booking the guests and producing them for the show. So a lot of my day to day role involves a lot of coordinating skills. So like booking travel, budgeting, talking to guests, prepping them for the show. I learned a lot of these coordinating skills when I worked at iplace for that year. And then on top of that I am talking to people, screening their stories, collecting their stories and getting them together as a possibility to be produced on the show. And then once they get here I am following them around and getting them ready to be on TV. I’m walking them through anything they need to do, including all the tests. I’m taking them to the lie detector tests and scheduling their DNA tests and different studies, stuff like that. It’s all of the prep work that goes in before the show and then day of show coordination. It's really cool as far as TV goes, because I'm doing both pre-coordinating and day-of show planning, which aren't two things that you get to typically do in the same role.

Conflict TV and talk show TV are very similar because those are things that are being produced - you're producing a lot of content. Pre-show coordination is a lot more technical and it's a lot of physical coordinating versus creative producing. So on top of doing that and learning a lot of the pre-production type stuff, I'm also learning day-of producing, which has more of the creative producing of preparing people for the actual show. That means being there, leading them along, and getting them ready for what to expect. So a lot of times like you'll have two different people in those jobs.

DL: What do you see yourself doing next?

HS: It’s interesting talking about working in reality TV because I think a lot of people see it as kind of shallow. I don't think that people will recognize a lot of the creativity that goes into it. I think this comes a little bit from my psychology minor, but I love working with real people, getting them to trust me and making them feel comfortable enough to share their personal life basically to a national audience. And so that is a lot of what a creative producer does in reality TV is it's basically befriending somebody and making them trust you enough to be their authentic selves. So that what I love about it. I'm a people person. I've always loved doing that and I get to create these relationships with people in order to create interesting TV out of real stuff and real stories. It's both challenging and super fulfilling because it's all based on your ability to connect with somebody else.

So goals for me include... I'm a Bachelor superfan and my executive producer actually used to work on The Bachelor. I would love to work in that kind of environment. With competitive or dating shows, you get several months with the same cast.  I would love to creatively produce on that. I want to be the person behind the camera talking to the person on camera. It’s pretty different than the kind of show I'm on right now where the relationship I'm building is going to last for two weeks, and they're only physically here for two days. With a show like The Bachelor for two months you're the only person these people are talking to. They don't have cell phones, but that is amazing. I love that kind of environment. It's a little bit messed up. I feel a little manipulative when I talk about it, but I just really enjoy it.

DL: How did you land your current role?

HS: Essentially a lot of online applications. I literally got my friend a job like a month after doing this job. The easiest way to get into TV in particular is networking and having a connection and basically talking to anybody looking for available PA work. But I kind of skipped that step. A lot of people start out as day players, where you're getting hired for a day or a week on a shoot that just needs people to carry equipment around or do a craft table or stuff like that. I just was really uninterested in that. I knew that was the first step that most people were doing, but I also heard from a lot of people that it's not necessarily a clear path forward. There's no ladder in TV. It’s not like “first you're a PA, and then they'll hire you as an associate producer and then they’ll hire you as this.” Instead you get a job, you hope people like you, and then you hope that you get the opportunity to improve. You can do whatever you want to do.

So I was trying to apply to stuff above my level a lot of the time. This job is a production associate, so it's still a lower level like a PA, but it's more of that creative intensity that I was looking for. I ended up applying online. I got to the interview and a lot of what I was doing for IPLACe as an Administrative Coordinator was similar to this kind of work. I focused on that in the interview and I got hired.

DL: Tell me a bit more too about your time with IPLACe.

HS: IPLACe is a center that I worked with a lot as an undergrad. I would act as a mock client for the graduate counseling students, which was really fun cause I was involving my psych and theater degree at the same time. IPLACe paid us to do this for these students, and the students got to work with life-like clients. It was great for both of us, and we were getting paid acting experience. So that was a project I was really involved with on top of a couple of my own projects. Then when I was close to graduating, the Director approached me about working as a coordinator. As the coordinator, I was pretty much the sole employee of the center other than a student assistant. So I was responsible for doing the budget. I was doing guests travel and accommodations, event planning, event coordinating, all that kind of stuff. But it was basically whatever the center needed, I had to do. And that's a lot of what working in TV is like, especially like lower level positions. It’s a lot of doing whatever your boss asks, and if you don’t know how, figure it out.

DL: How have you liked working and living in Atlanta?

HS: I love Atlanta. For years in college I was thinking “I’m going to live in New York, live that life. I'm going to try to act or maybe I'll work in PR. It’ll be great.”  And then I went on some career treks through the OPCD and I realized it might not be that feasible for me to live in New York. I didn’t have money my parents weren’t backing in any way. I had very few connections, and it's expensive. So I did some regrouping, and that's why I ended up in Winston for another year. I kind of didn't know what I wanted to do. Then I really got interested in working specifically in production, and trying to get similar level jobs there, which I couldn't do in North Carolina. But Atlanta had a ton of film and TV stuff going on. The industry was booming and it was a five hour drive from home. It was still warm, and in the south.

I had a friend who was moving at the same time, and she asked me to come to Atlanta with her. I thought it sounded great, and it’s been the best of both worlds. You get all of the big city aspects of diversity and accessibility, and there's tons of things to do, there's different sorts of people here, but then you also have southern weather and southern hospitality. I walk around New York and everyone’s frowning, whereas in Atlanta everyone's smiling, and it just feels like a happier place to live. There's more green and access to nature, and it's drivable. I mean people say that traffic is bad, but you just learn how to deal with it.  Location, as far as an apartment goes, is the number one thing in Atlanta.

From a film perspective, there may be slightly less work than LA, but there's more of a need here because not as many people are based here. You're coming to a slightly smaller market, but it's not an oversaturated market at this point. They are still building crew. That's one of the reasons I actually got hired at my job. They were sick of bringing people in from LA and New York. They were looking for local talent.

DL: So what advice do you have for students thinking about coming to Atlanta?

HS: I think my biggest advice would be to connect with people. Alums are great, but reach out to anybody. Even if they're not in the industry you're interested in, if they're living in Atlanta, they likely know somebody they can introduce you to. I think many people see someone working in marketing, and don’t want to reach out, but half the time the people in marketing are also working with TV and film people. There are those connections in places you don't expect.

The other thing is that if you have a passion for a field, just keep applying to it. There comes this kind of burnout from rejection, and especially in a field like like film and television, but really any kind of artistic field. But you never know when somebody is going to give you a chance, but they can’t give it to you unless you are constantly putting yourself out there.

DL: So what do you think Wake and/or Wake Arts could have done to better prepare you and other students for life after graduation?

HS: I think an awareness of what jobs are available to you with a liberal arts degree would have been helpful. There's not a lot of technical training at Wake, so this is just my specific field, but you're coming out with a very applicable set of skills, but a set of skills that people are not directly asking for in their job postings. So learning how to present those skills in a way, and finding your niche in a market, that would be really important.
For instance, I don't know everything there is to know about editing or post work, which is a lot of the technical stuff that goes into film. I don't know a lot of the terms I'm supposed to know when I'm on set because we didn't have those classes. It was a liberal arts film education. So when I came  here, I didn’t know those things, but what I do know is that I can problem solve anything, and it's because of my education. The question is how do you translate that? And just just because I don't know this now, doesn’t mean I won’t learn it by the end of the week. So it's really emphasizing that just because you don't have the skills posted doesn't mean that you don't have the ability to do the job.

You also need to realize that it's not going to be a set path. There’s no one entry level job that you can do to start your career.

DL: So what would you say is the best bit of advice on any topic you could give to readers?

HS: The biggest thing is to say “yes” to as many situations as possible. So if there is a random networking event, go do it. If someone from Wake hits you up about getting coffee, once again, they're not in your field, go and talk to them because you never know how these connections are going to play out in the long run.






Spotlight Interview: Maggie Niehaus

Maggie Niehaus: MBA Candidate, Emory University

Atlanta

WFU Class of 2012

Major: English

Minor: Journalism

Maggie Niehaus left Wake Forest in 2012 and began a career with PR giant Edelman in her native city of Atlanta. Taking advantage of the onset of media’s digital era, Niehaus became a key player in the movement for the Atlanta practice. Currently pursuing an MBA from Emory University, Maggie caught us up on everything since graduation.

Maggie Niehaus left Wake Forest in 2012 and began a career with PR giant Edelman in her native city of Atlanta. Taking advantage of the onset of media’s digital era, Niehaus became a key player in the movement for the Atlanta practice. Currently pursuing an MBA from Emory University, Maggie caught us up on everything since graduation.

DeacLink: What did you study while you were at Wake?

Maggie Niehaus: I was an English major and a Journalism minor. After I decided to be an English major, my Dad, who’s an investment banker and very logical, said “that’s a subject, but that’s not a job.” So Journalism was the job-version of my English major. As an English major, I knew I’d be well-read, but unless you want to be an academic or go into creative writing, that isn’t a job. I was taking literature courses and things that were a little bit fluffy, and it was very hard to translate that to a career, and that’s where Journalism came in. It was taking what I was reading and how I was learning to write, and turning them into practice skills. My original post-grad game plan was to work at a magazine. I wanted to do something with my degree, but more on the editorial side rather than something like investigative or hard journalism.

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

MN: Magazines, as great as they are and as good for the soul as they are, are not necessarily the industry that you want to be in right now. Print isn’t what it used to be. Quite frankly they weren’t hiring when I graduated, and not interested in making their staffs bigger. Instead, magazines were looking for content from freelance writers, and without a lot of people on the payroll. I also didn't really want to live in New York, which was limiting. That kind of got me into the PR world.

I remember sitting in a journalism class, and the professor was joking that PR was the field for journalists that don't want to do journalism. To real, hard-core journalists, PR has a negative connotation. That’s not the case for me, because I never tried it as a real journalist, and the skills really do translate.


After graduation, I ended up at Edelman. I had a PR internship in consumer branding, where I was pitching media and writing press releases. From there my career went rogue. I really built my career at Edelman by following the firm’s growth and seeing where the company was going. I saw the company was moving in a more digitally-focused direction, so I began to make my pivot. While Edelman is a PR company through and through, I wanted to be one of the first people to get their foot in the door into the newly-emerging digital practice. I thought that this could potentially help me accelerate my career, and that is exactly what happened.

I went from interning on the PR side to working full time in the digital practice. It wasn’t a direct translation of my skills, but my career was very much more about the people I knew and getting people in my corner. I was doing good work, whatever that may have been, so when I went up for jobs on other teams, those people could vouch for me. That’s how I built my career at Edelman. A big part of it was getting in earlier in the digital practice, which then evolved into me building out a paid media team in the Atlanta office. When I joined, a lot of what I was doing was digital advertising, which was globally run, and wasn’t specific to an office. We were a pod of resources any global office could use. That led to me having great experience off the bat working with our office in the Middle East and Europe, which I would have never worked with otherwise. However, later they decided to build out a media team in each of their offices, and because I was located in Atlanta, I helped to start that team here. I was that team’s first hire in Atlanta, and I was just a year into my job. I took it and ran with it. In early days of media team in Atlanta, there were 3-4 of us, and this past May when I left, there were 12-14 members. Our unit quadrupled because the company saw value in bringing digital into everything they did. This allowed us to scale the team to the size of the clients we had.

My first clients were so small you never heard of them, but by the time I left, it was companies like Olive Garden and SeaWorld. My path was less about any formal training, and consisted of me identifying opportunities and knowing that I can learn quickly.  My theory was that I could figure it out last time, so I could figure it out this time, too.

DL: What led you to pursue an MBA? And how did you pick Emory?

MN: What prompted the search is that I had worked at the agency for five years. I was in this place where I was on track to be a lifer at Edelman, which is fine, but if I was going to leave and go client-side, it should be now. I had lots of friends go get their MBAs, and I never thought it was for me until I was thinking about what kind of jobs I would want if I were to leave Edelman and go client-side. Getting an MBA started to make sense. I was thinking about pivoting from the skills I had in terms of PR, communications, advertising, and analytics. I have done bits and pieces here and there, but if I wanted to do real big brand marketing, it required me to get an MBA. Also, part of that was I had never taken a business class. I did English and Journalism, which are great, but I couldn't go run someone’s P&L statement without being taught how to. You can get your MBA at any time, but it can be a seamless way to jumpstart a career pivot. My MBA is a way for me to explore other options that I don't know existed, but also to build my playbook of things I can bring to the table. In terms of picking Emory... I started by taking the GMAT.  I wanted to see if I could even do this. Before I started looking at schools and doing applications, I wanted to get a sense of what schools were feasible. And then, I knew I wanted to be in a city. I didn’t want to go to a business school in a college town, because I am from Atlanta and have spent my adult life here, and I wasn’t looking to suddenly be back in a college town. I also wanted to be somewhere business school is only one aspect of my life. I wanted to be able to have stuff outside of school. So with that in mind, I only looked at business schools that I could get into in major cities. Truthfully there weren’t a ton which fit for me. A lot of schools in my range were in places I didn’t want to live, so I applied to NYU and Emory, and got into both. I was thinking about finances and the kind of places I would want to live post-MBA and places I would live during school, and from there I picked Emory.

DL: PR is such an interesting career path. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the industry?

MN: Read the news. That sounds silly, but learn about the stuff that people are interested in reading and thus writing about. That will help you tailor your communication skills. To translate the soft skills I learned at Wake, reading the newspaper is the endgame for PR. What kinds of stories are companies and brands telling, and how are they telling them? Also follow companies on Instagram and see who’s doing something interesting. I listen to trade advertising podcasts, like Yeah, That’s Probably an Ad by AdWeek, which dissects the most interesting commercials. In the end, it is about the stories brands tell. I think an English major translates well to PR because it's about reading, writing and telling stories, just different kinds of stories.

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

MN: I think Wake could just help students realize that there are more careers out there than they seem to indicate. Business school is the same way. They talk about consulting and finance, but it doesn’t have to just be those two. At a place like Wake, lots of smart people go into consulting, finance, law, or medicine, but those are the paths the school talks about the most. There isn’t as much of a focus on the other things you could do. So maybe it’s finding people who have interesting stories and paths, and having those people share them. It’s making sure there is a broader representation of companies that come to school or panelists that speak on campus. I think it's a bit of vicious cycle; I didn’t engage closely with career services while at Wake which was on me… but there’s also no dedicated program keeping up with us after graduation so the connection can be hard to make after the fact.

DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in Atlanta?

MN: I think what I like the most is that Atlanta has the third-most Fortune 1000 companies in the country. It is a major hub and economic target, but you don't have to have the big city chaos that is New York. It is the best of both worlds. You can have big city feel or go to a suburb. I am from here, so I am really biased. I am a city person, and even Winston-Salem was too small for me… but if I am going to live in a big city, why not live in the big city I already am from? I felt like Atlanta has everything any other city could offer me, plus the bonus of being home. And the cost of living also really helps!

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


MN: Think outside the box. There are a lot of jobs that exist that you don't know about. Don't just follow your friends or family. Think about all of the possibilities out there, because something will be a perfect fit, so just be creative in your search process.

Spotlight Interview: Tayllor Battle

Tayllor Battle: Designer, Mighty 8th Media

Atlanta

WFU Class of 2010

Major: Studio Art

Double Minor: Art History & Communications

aboutme.jpg

Tayllor Battle arrived at Wake Forest hoping to work in museums one day. Now based in Atlanta, Tayllor discusses her career in graphic design and what’s led her to this point since leaving Winston.

DeacLink: What did you study while you were at Wake?

Tayllor Battle: I majored in Studio Art with a concentration in oil painting. I also minored in Art History and Communications because I thought I might want to work in a museum some day.

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

TB: After graduation I got an account management internship at an Zimmerman Advertising agency in south Florida. Out of the program I was offered a job, but decided to move to Atlanta because that’s where I really wanted to live. I took another internship at BBDO Atlanta, which lead me to my first real job in media planning and buying at Ames Scullin O’Haire Advertising. I worked there for two and a half years and loved it most of the time, but eventually needed a change. So I took a job at Zenith Media to work on the Sonic fast food account. After about 6 months or so, I realized the job change wasn’t what I was looking for. What I really needed was a career change. I missed my creative roots. I got swept up in some fun jobs, but my heart wasn’t in it. I knew if I was going to work for 40 more years, it needed to be doing something fulfilling. So I quit my job and joined the circus. Okay not the literal circus, but a little portfolio school called the Creative Circus. I had never heard of portfolio school before, but I just so happened to live in the city on one of the top programs in the country. I like to think of it as a Masters in Design without the thesis-writing and test-taking. I spent two years there working harder than I’d ever worked in my life, to put together a portfolio that helped me land a design job. Which is where I am now. Working as a Brand and Marketing Designer at a small agency called Mighty 8th Media.

DL: How much did your studies and general experience at Wake inform or drive your career path?

TB: They helped me realize I definitely wanted to stay in the arts. Also, the Wake Forest name carries a lot of weight. I definitely think it helped me get interviews and be seen as a serious candidate.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held (online, inside reference/rec, networking in person, WFU resources, other)? Do you have any tips or suggestions for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs.

TB: Some online, some by inside references, some by networking. When you’re looking for a job, I think it’s really important to just put yourself out there in every way you can. When I was looking for the role I’m currently in, I really inserted myself into the Atlanta design community. I went to straight networking events, but I also went to designer talks, museum exhibitions, Creative Mornings, and anything else that might put me in a situation to meet the right people. I also worked my network. I reached out to alumni from both of my schools to gain perspective on the industry and what employers were looking for. It can be really difficult to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, but it will help you find the right job in the end.

DL: The design route seems to be a popular career option for art alums despite the fact we don’t have a formal design program. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the field?

TB: Definitely take advantage of the resources and classes that Wake has. When I was there, I focused way more on the Fine Arts than Design. Unfortunately there just isn’t much of a market for a full time artist. I wish I would have taken more of the Graphic Design classes at Wake and engaged with that community more. But I am endlessly grateful that I got an authentic art experience at Wake and it informed my Graphic Design eye moving forward. Coming from the Wake art program though, I definitely recommend a Portfolio school or other Graduate program if you want to be a Designer. It will help you take what you learned in the Wake Arts and really focus it on the practical aspects of Design.

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

TB: In the arts specifically, I think there could have been more of an effort to push fine artists into the Graphic Design field since it’s a more practical skill in today’s job market. More practical projects to work on would have helped too. Designing for yourself and designing for a client are so very different and it’s important to learn that skill.

DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in Atlanta? What is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

TB: Atlanta has so much to offer. It’s a big city with a small town feel. It’s got skyscrapers and trees. It has culture, community and great music. It has great design that comes from some big name brands, local brands, big agencies and small agencies. For me, the best part of the art scene are the programs being organized by the local AIGA (American Institute of the Graphic Arts) and Creative Mornings chapters. They’re really working to bring a global and local perspective to the art community here with speakers, workshops, networking and more.

DL: What is your favorite part about working for Mighty 8th Media? (Can include perks, specific experiences or anecdotes from the job)

TB: I love the wide variety of projects I get to work on at Mighty 8th. I love that every day is different. I love helping real businesses solve real business problems. I’ve worked at a couple of massive agencies and brands over the years and I really love that Mighty 8th is the opposite of that. I have autonomy, but also a great team to collaborate with. I have creative freedom and clients that value our creative expertise.

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

TB: Be engaged. If there’s one thing I regret from my time at Wake Forest is that I wasn’t as engaged in the educational process as I should’ve been. Being truly engaged goes a long way with your peers, teachers, coworkers, and employers. You really can’t fake genuine engagement and people know it when they see it.

Spotlight Interview: Corvaya Jeffries

Corvaya Jeffries: Associate Producer, CNN

Atlanta

WFU Class of 2013

Major: Communication 

Minor: WGS

CJ 1.PNG

Corvaya Jeffries works in Atlanta as an Associate Producer for CNN. We recently talked with Corvaya about her career path, the impact of her Wake Forest education, and working at CNN.

DeacLink: Can you walk me through your career path from graduation to your current job?

Corvaya Jeffries: When I was a student at Wake, I served as an intern at several companies including a small radio station in Greensboro. One of my goals while interning (and eventually working) at this station was to be on air and I was surprised at how quickly I achieved that. I decided I needed a new goal. My extracurricular and intern experiences along with my dedication and persistence led to an opportunity in Los Angeles at a TV production company owned and run by a fellow Demon Deacon. Two weeks after graduation, with $600 and a suitcase, I made the move.

During my work in production, I never ignored my desire to write and create. I found opportunities to freelance and created digital spaces for blogging when I wasn’t working.  Eventually, I landed in the newsroom. In 2016, a position at a small but mighty newspaper in South Florida was created for me through a top media company. There, I reported, created and produced videos, improved workflows and helped build digital strategies executed by several teams. Two years later, I realized I have a deep interest in technology, innovation and how it relates to media and journalism. So, I got involved with the Online News Association, an organization that caters to innovation in newsrooms and supports creative thinkers and change-agents like myself.

Since, everything has changed. I now serve at CNN as an Associate Producer on a mobile programming team. My role is incredibly digitally focused. On a day-to-day basis, I make decisions that change the way users consume news. I am excited and proud to be moving ahead of what’s next.

DL: How much would you say that your studies and experiences at Wake have informed or driven your career path?

CJ: I have always been creative but without my Wake Forest experience, I would not be the professional I am today. Wake Forest helped me focus in on excellence; what it is and how to tap into it. Also, Wake Forest’s emphasis on service and Pro Humanitate emboldened my love for helping others and giving back. It prompted me to approach every new opportunity asking, “how can I be of service to this company or person?” and that has done wonders for my career thus far. Additionally, I’ve learned ‘change is constant.’ Everything about my Wake experience taught me that ‘Grit’ is the most important characteristic needed to be successful and keep up with that change.

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

CJ: I’d say the university could have done a better job at implementing financial literacy programs for students. During my time as an undergraduate, there was a need for more transparent dialogue about finances and what a lot of us are hit with post-graduation.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions that you have held?

CJ: I applied for jobs in many ways: by walking into an establishment and inquiring about a position, showing up to an event with my resume or reel, applying online and submitting documents into what felt like cyberspace...the list goes on.  But it is through honest and authentic networking that I’ve been able to serve in life-changing positions.

You must recognize the people, spaces and opportunities around you. Start from there. Know humility and be transparent. Share your goals and visions with selected people in your life – your professors and mentors. Listen when they speak. Stay true to yourself and be kind. Doors will open naturally.

DL: What is your favorite part about living and working in Atlanta?

CJ: Atlanta is an established yet growing mecca for media and technology. It is also diverse.  Atlanta is the first place I’ve worked where I see and meet several men and women of color from many different backgrounds in prestigious positions. I’m surrounded by some really important perspectives and I’m soaking it all up.

DL: What is your favorite part about working for CNN?

CJ: The challenges. I have been challenged in ways I’ve never been before and am learning so many new hard and soft skills because if it. I am also in a global team environment. I may be pitching stories to folks in Australia today and creating a product with someone in London tomorrow. It is fantastic.

DL: What is next for you?

CJ: I plan to create my next opportunity as opposed to looking for it. I am interested in technology, entrepreneurship and becoming an author. The future is bright, change is constant and limits do not exist. I am so excited.

DL: Do you have any advice that you would like to pass onto current students and future alumni?

CJ: Strive for excellence and do not lose who you are in the midst of doing so. If an opportunity in front of you does not align with your core values or your moral, say ‘No.’ That is okay. Also, what do you believe in? Know the answer to that question before saying goodbye to undergrad.

SPOTLIGHT: Jim Babcock

Jim Babcock: Adult Swim, VP Consumer Marketing

Atlanta, Georgia

WFU Class of 1991

Major: Politics

Minor: English

j babcock.jpg

Jim Babcock is the VP of Consumer Marketing at Adult Swim in Atlanta. You may have heard of shows like 'Rick and Morty' and 'Robot Chicken' - Jim oversees the marketing and branding surrounding these hits and more. We recently got his thoughts on the Wake undergrad experience and finding your way after leaving the Forest.

 

DeacLink: Tell us about what you do.

Jim Babcock: I am the VP of Consumer Marketing for Adult Swim, which is a TV network and part of Turner Broadcasting. I lead a team that handles all marketing and shows for our brand including social media, ads, promotions, and partnerships. We also do a lot smaller side projects, such as our direct consumer shop, web streaming shows, and podcast series. Anything that we can dream up that’ll stand out and get us attention, we do.

Additionally, I work on the ELEAGUE team, the eSports property that Turner helped start. We put on live eSports competitions, televise it, sell ads and do social media around these events to monetize them. As we move into a post-television world it’s something we want to experiment with; it’s sort of a startup within Turner.

 

DL: Very cool. Are you from Atlanta? How did you learn about Wake Forest?

JB: I grew up in Atlanta, so being here in the South you’re always familiar with Wake  Forest. I had a family friend who went there so that was my personal connection to the school. I went up to visit and fell in love.

 

DL: How much did your time at Wake influence or drive your career path?

JB: While the schoolwork was great, the most impactful experiences for me came from working on Wake Radio and the Old Gold and Black. I was always interested in media, conveying information and giving my opinion. These outlets were great for learning about that.

My chosen fields of study [Politics and English] were huge in terms of teaching me how to write and communicate. Having the ability to form, frame and articulate an argument was the most important thing I learned at Wake. Having a liberal arts education made me well rounded, and my extracurricular activities kept me curious and interested.

Saying that, I did have a rough patch at the very beginning in freshman year. I hadn’t been truly challenged in high school, so I arrived at Wake expecting to do the same sort of thing. I quickly realized you have to really do the work- show up to class, take notes, do the reading. After freshman year I developed discipline and learned that if you do what’s required of you, most likely you’ll be fine.

 

DL: Too true. What was your journey like coming out of graduation?

JB: When I graduated from Wake, the job market wasn’t great. I came home with little motivation despite my shiny degree. Eventually I got a free internship on a political campaign that combined my background in politics, PR and communication. It was my interests in media and politics rolled into one. Volunteering for nine months allowed me to get my foot in the door… which tends to happen when you work for free. I met a future mentor at this point who took me into another job in Atlanta as he transitioned to a new role after the campaign’s conclusion. I worked in the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce doing PR and communications helping to boost the city’s profile as it prepared to host the 1996 Olympics. I took journalists on tours of the city, wrote press releases and came up with marketing campaigns for Atlanta. I was able to meet a lot of people in the Atlanta community between volunteers, the Olympic organizers and corporate sponsors.

After this I worked for a couple PR firms in Atlanta for a few years, then happened upon a job with Cartoon Network doing PR. I joined Turner in ‘99 and have been here ever since- eighteen years now. Within Turner I’ve had jobs in public relations, trade marketing and, now, consumer marketing at Adult Swim. I’ve had some great mentors here who gave me the chance to try something new and find things I’m good at.

 

DL: Was there a particular thing you did to help you stand out across all these positions?

JB: You have to be scrappy and do the job you’re not getting paid for. If  you come in ready to impress people, to have good ideas and work hard, they’re more likely to take a chance on you. That’s what I tried to do and so far, so good, I guess!

 

DL: What project have you been most proud of thus far at Adult Swim?

JB: Launching the TV series ‘Rick and Morty’ was very fulfilling. We knew we had a great show, but we came up with a bunch of really fun and interesting ideas to get it in front of as many people as possible. We created a life-size UFO crash in the middle of NYC that turned into a viral phenomenon. We did some really innovative stuff on social media as well which got more people to try the show. It went from ‘here’s another dumb cartoon from Adult Swim’ to something being discussed in the New York Times, on Reddit, everywhere.

 

DL: The crash idea sounds epic. Whose idea was it?

JB: Like most things at AS, it was really collaborative. We had the marketing people, our creative team, all asking 'what will get MY attention?' The first scene of the first episode, Rick literally crashes the ship into the garage and Morty doesn’t know what’s going on. So we said, we gotta make a crash! In addition to the NYC crash, we also crashed into a billboard in LA.

The most interesting thing about things like this for me, are the nuts and bolts of executing the idea. Hiring the sculptor for it, working with an agency to get the right permits in each city, figuring out when and how you do it. We put up flyers around which read ‘Missing Spaceship’- aspects that added another layer. We try to avoid plastering our Adult Swim logo everywhere; the key is to have people walk past and not realize it’s an overt ad so they lean in and pay more attention. Resisting the temptation to over commercialize the experience keeps it curious and interesting. If you take a picture and send it to your friend, we have doubled or tripled the exposure in an instant.

 

DL: What show doesn’t get enough shine, or perhaps didn’t quite take off like you’d hoped?

JB: We get super weird with some shows.. There was one called ‘The Heart, She Holler’- a live action, gothic body-horror soap opera. It was created by the people behind 'Wonder Showzen' and starred Patton Oswalt. It was as bizarre as it was funny; like an art piece with bad puns.  I wanted that thing to become the new ‘Dynasty’... but it just didn’t. Somehow I sort of knew it wouldn’t fly, but it then remains your own special thing anyways.

There was another kids’ show called ‘Chowder’ which was super sweet and funny. It got lost amid a few transitions, which is too bad because it’s a really good show.

 

DL: Attention spans certainly are getting shorter-- is it hard to keep up with children and adult attention spans?

JB: Well, today’s five-year-old is 7 in two years and that’s a huge difference. Then they’re 9 in another couple years, and that’s a big difference. On top of that, today’s child has access to beyond what’s on TV at that exact moment. They can choose to watch ‘Hey Arnold’, Japanese anime or ‘Scooby Doo’-  at any time, anywhere and on any device. There’s even interactive shows whose story changes whenver you want. It’s hard to get kids’ attention. With adults we compete against video games, reruns of ‘Friends’ and Netflix. It’s tough to stand out and make people want to pay attention.

 

DL: What’s your trick to delivering constantly under the pressure of such a fast-paced environment?

JB: I always ask, ‘What’s the thing that’s going to get my attention? What’s weird, different, outrageous enough that when I’m driving down the street I’m going to stop and take a picture?’ If I haven’t seen it before, or nobody’s been courageous enough to try it, I go that direction.

 

DL: In that vein, what’s the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to our readers?

JB: I see many young interns come and go in the office. You’d think some of them were being forced to dig ditches when actually they’re in one of the coolest offices around! I’m always hoping to see someone give that extra bit of effort to make me take notice. My advice is to show up early, work hard and always ask if there’s anything else you can do. Try working a little bit harder than anyone else and be genuine- it makes a big difference.

Co-Founder Q&A: Katie Winokur

Get to know Katie Winokur, Co-Founder of Deaclink.

IMG_1162.JPG

KATIE WINOKUR

Search and Assessment, Russell Reynolds Associates

     WFU Class of 2014  

           Double Major: Art History & Communications

            Minor: Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise

 

Q: Why did you start DeacLink?

A: DeacLink is an extension of Kelsey Zalimeni and my love for the Wake Forest Art Department and our desire to help students succeed following graduation. The two of us were incredibly lucky in that we were able to take advantage of all of the opportunities that the university presented us in the arts, and yet both felt that we didn't have the support we needed to succeed in the art world after graduation. As a result, we had to hustle our senior year of college to make things work. During the year, we made many fantastic connections with Wake Alums across the the country and truly began to realize how robust the alumni network was. Two years following graduation, we couldn't stop thinking about how there needed to be a resource to connect those fantastic alums with curious students, and thus DeacLink was born. 

 

Q: What has been your coolest art world experience?

A: This is a hard question, but I have to say visiting the Venice Biennale in 2013 as part of the Lynn Johnson Travel Award was pretty fantastic. Never have I experienced so much contemporary art in such a condensed timeframe.  

 

Q: Can you name your favorite off the radar museum?

A: Hands down this is the Baltimore Museum of Art - it's an absolute jewel of a collection. It has one of the finest Impressionist collections in the country which was a gift of the Cone Sisters. The works they have by Matisse are stunning. The admission is free, and the building is located right next to the Johns Hopkins campus. 

 

Q: Most awesome exhibit or show you've seen?

A: I think the coolest of all was spending spending several hours watching The Visitors by Ragnar Kjartansson at Luhring Augustine in 2013 while on the Art Buying trip. It was one of the most mesmerizing experiences. A close second was the James Turrell retrospective at the Guggenheim. 

 

Q: How did you and Kelsey become friends?

A: Kelsey and I initially bonded over an immense love of food (and food trucks to be exact). From there, we quickly discovered a mutual interest in everything from soccer to art, and from there it was hard to keep us apart. 

 

Q: What's your favorite city for art?

A: I would have to say London (and I am quite jealous Kelsey gets to call this home). London has an amazing mix of contemporary and traditional arts. Their museums and galleries are best in class, and many of them are free (which in my opinion gives the city a leg up over New York). 

 

Q: Why do Wake Arts matter to you?

A: Wake Arts matter to me for many reasons. First, I feel like the faculty and staff in the art department could not have been more supportive of me as a student and a person, and I didn't experience that kind of connection anywhere else on campus. Also, I think that the arts are so instrumental in terms of having a holistic worldview. Studying art challenges you to think about things in a broad and multifaceted way, and when writing about the subject, it forces you to engage in a respectful yet antagonistic discourse in order to defend your opinion. Those kinds of communication skills often prevent people from being narrow-minded, and given today's political and social climate, I think our country could use a bit more of this style of thinking. 

 

 

 

Spotlight Interview: Molly Griffith

Molly Griffith: Development

Atlanta

Senior Director of Development, College of Arts & Sciences, Emory University
WFU Class of 2002
Major: Studio Art

Molly Griffith graduated from Wake with a Studio Art major, and a desire to work with non profits. Now as Senior Director of Development at Emory University's College of Arts and Sciences, Molly gives us insight to her path since undergrad and what has motivated her along the way.

 

DeacLink: I know you were a studio art major at Wake. Tell me a bit more about that. How has your career unfolded since? 
Molly Griffith: When I was a student, the concept of development was not as professionalized as it is today. Now, there more academic programs in place for professionals interested in the development track. I remember being a student and thinking that I was not cut out for a corporate job. Wake was great at helping people get jobs at banks, but I felt a bit lost. I was offered a teacher assistantship in France following graduation, but I felt that I wanted to be working with nonprofits in some way. It wasn’t that I was intimidated by the private sector, but instead nonprofits felt more in line with my ethos and personality. Also, it tied back into the culture at Wake of pro humanitate. Nonprofits felt like the right place for me to be. 

I knew I wanted to be in Atlanta after graduation, and I started blanketing nonprofits with low-level job requests. I eventually landed a role as a receptionist for The Nature Conservancy. I was able to get the job because of a personal connection with the state director, going to show that who you know can pay off. Like it is for many development professionals, my personality allowed me to gravitate to a role in this field. I didn’t pick it, but it picked me. I worked closed with the Director of the Nature Conservancy and the Director of Development, and enjoyed it immensely. However, I wanted to get back into the museum world. Next I went on to be the Assistant to the Director of Museum Development at the High Museum of Art. This role really allowed me to touch a lot of things and learn more broadly about Development. Over the years, I have held every position you can in development, from behind the scenes work to face to face time. I changed roles a few more times, and ended up in higher education, where I feel the most connected.  

DL: Would you mind telling me about what you're doing at Emory?
MG: At Emory, I am the Senior Director of Development for College of Arts and Sciences. This means that I have a portfolio of donors, and I manage a group of development officers. My portfolio is mostly Atlanta based, and I am getting to work with the best candidates for support for the institution. 

DL: What surprised you the most about going back to work for the school? 
MG: It was a fantastic experience, and I loved working for my alma mater. One of the best things about switching from arts to high ed is that I found it to be an easier sell. I truly believed in the mission. But then to be able to represent your own school, that was really special. I did make a conscious effort to try and be sure that I could keep my alumni and student experiences separate from my professional one. It wasn’t always going to be the perfect job every day, so I wanted to keep those things separate. My career was wonderful there. Also, making the case to donors couldn’t be easier when you are representing your alma mater. Because you have years of memories to draw on, you never feel unprepared. That kind of authenticity doesn’t come with every position.  

DL: Do you think networking plays a key role for development roles? 
MG: I will say though that at the lower level, entry positions in Atlanta, you have to move around to advance. That is pretty pretty common though. Normally, people last eighteen months in a role before moving on. That leads to high levels of turnover among development staff, and that’s expensive for a nonprofit to deal with. The high turnover also opens up a lot more opportunities - there are lots of open development positions across various nonprofits at any given time. Instead of networking, people get in a position, realize they’ve hit a ceiling, and then start looking around. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of growth opportunities in most departments. Also, I would say the application process is much more common for getting a role than networking. I got my position at Emory through the HR website. 


DL: The development track seems to very popular with art alums. What do you think is the hardest part about breaking into the development field? 
MG: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s challenging to break into the development field, but you do need to start at the bottom. Also, nonprofit work is not known for producing highly compensated individuals. You have to start pretty low on the totem pole, and that’s expensive. My first salary was $22K a year, and that was in 2002. I tutored and babysat on top of it so I could get by. Once you are in at a lower level, the next challenge is getting face to face fundraising experience, which can be really hard to do. One of the coolest programs is what Wake does with their advancement fellows. The recent graduates are able to start having those conversations early. If you are interested in development, consider a fellowship as a first step. There are very few nonprofit roles where people with little to no experience are able to represent the institution. The liberal arts background prepares the fellows really well. Most students are terrific communicators that can adapt in any situation. They also have a broad basis of education that can hold up to whomever they are speaking with. 

There has to be a willingness to bite the bullet early on from a salary standpoint, but then scrap to get the face to face experience. At my entry level role at at The Nature Conservancy, I was a liaison with the Board of Directors. If you are being trusted to communicate with biggest supporters of the institution, but can spin that to showing you can be trusted with important relationships. 

DL: What surprises you the most about the arts/cultural institution scene here in Atlanta? 
MG: I have been outside of the arts and culture arena for some time. However, I did spend five years on the board of Atlanta Celebrates Photography. I rolled off two years ago when couldn’t commit the time. I think there are two different art scenes in Atlanta. The first is the dominant Woodruff Arts Center/High Museum of Art scene. This is the traditional museum base that has a higher capacity donor base. It is the old guard scene for arts. Then there is this entirely fun, burgeoning, underground art scene at places like The Goat Farm Art Center and Art Papers. However, these groups are not supported in the same way. They have to be more creative about how they make their case for funding, and I like that part of it. Not to be negative about the High and other long standing institutions, but they don’t have the same dynamism at smaller nonprofits. 

I think many people are quick to dismiss the art scene here because it’s just the High Museum. The High also doesn’t have a well known permanent collection. If people don't know about Atlanta Celebrates Photography, smaller theaters and galleries, the Museum of Contemporary Art, people think there’s just one cultural behemoth, and Atlanta is much more dynamic than that. Think about Art on the BeltLine which speak to the growth of Atlanta. Like a lot of places, where artists go, growth happens. When you get creative young minds, you will see activity artistically and economically.  

DL: What advice do you have for students considering moving beyond the arts arena? 
MG: I have worked in places where I haven’t felt a connection to the emission, and it does make it harder to be successful from a fundraising standpoint. It is much easier to do when you truly believe what you are doing. One of the things I have really enjoyed is keeping a toe in the art world from an avocational instead of vocational standpoint. I have been able to engage the arts outside of my career, while still advancing my career. 

DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?
MG: I love the art department at Wake. I think one of the things that needs to happen is the introduction of graphic and digital programs, and a general design pace. I was a painting and photography student, but it was analog photos and oil painting. And let’s be honest, it is incredibly difficult to make a career out of those two things. Thankfully my family told me to study what I loved. It worked out in the end, but it is not the most responsible way to think about an education. The school should be thinking about ways to connect artistic people to careers like design or architecture. 

Also, I think it would be good for the school to bring the arts out of scales. Things are very sequestered, and should be further integrated into the broader curriculum. There is the one Management in the Visual Arts class in the business school, but that’s not enough. 

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?
MG: Find someone that can serve in a mentor capacity. I think that a lot of students graduate and think they have done the hard part by figuring out what they want to study and then getting a job. But there might be a point down the road where you question the path you are on. As a result, it is important to find those mentors from a career building standpoint who can help guide you along the way.