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

Megan.png

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: Meagan Hooper

Meagan Hooper: Founder & CEO of bSmartGuide.com

New York City

WFU Class of 2004

Major: Theatre

MHpr.jpg

Meagan Hooper graduated from Wake Forest with a Theater major and enormous amounts of ambition. She soon found herself balancing auditions with part-time work at a hedge fund in New York. Meagan speaks to us now as founder and CEO of bSmartGuide.com, an online platform for women to network and mentor one another. Learn how Meagan’s path since Wake led her to founding this incredible online community.

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

Meagan Hooper: When I graduated in 2004, my husband and I moved to Italy for the summer for him to teach English and music. In the Fall we moved to New York - a condition of his proposing. ;) I was an aspiring actress with a film and TV agent and manager. I had worked for a regional theater company, the Williamstown Theater Festival, that won a Tony Award and had a film reel from student projects at UNC School of the Arts. I began auditioning for anything and everything from soap operas, Netflix series, network pilots, and feature films. I auditioned for How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, Gossip Girl, Law and Order, and High School Musical to name a few.

During this time, I had a freelance job working in finance. Through a fellow WFU Theater Major, Melissa Jones, I met a family who needed a part-time babysitter. The gentleman I babysat for ran an emerging markets equities research firm. I asked him if I could be of any help to him and his business as I was looking for extra work. Being a Wake Forest University Theater Major, I felt confident I could help edit the stock reports and create a monthly newsletter featuring emerging market sectors and stocks. I was really grateful for my liberal arts education because I could apply my versatile education to a field like finance. I worked for his firm on a freelance basis while I auditioned. I gained a tremendous education in finance that year learning on the job. I learned how to value a company, how the stock market works, how to read financial statements, and much more - I found it fascinating! Then, in 2006, I was babysitting again. This time for another Wake Forest graduate and Theater Major, Cambra Overend (key tip here - your college friends are your professional network!).

Through this babysitting job, I became acquainted with a WFU Babcock Business School graduate, who managed a hedge fund. I told him I was an actress who worked for an emerging market equities research firm. He shared that his COO could use an assistant and asked if I would be interested in the role. I accepted on the condition that I could go on auditions as they arose and he agreed. This job exposed me to investment management, which proved even more interesting, dramatic, and fabulous than any of the movies I was auditioning for (including Wall Street 2!).

I continued auditioning, but I realized more and more my heart was back at the office. I would put a stock trade in the market, run to an audition, watch the markets while auditioning for MTV or Nickelodeon, then run back to the office. I found myself really loving the office environment and the people. I was scared that if I booked a part - no matter how big, I would lose this place and the feeling it gave me. I was presented with touring theater opportunities but turned them down to stay, but stayed open to film and short-term national commercial bookings.

In 2008, my mentor and COO of the hedge fund decided to retire. I put myself forward to fill the position, and after much consideration and candidate interviews, was chosen for the role. Fortunately, I was still allowed to leave for auditions even with this increased responsibility. The hedge fund was completely supportive of my performing arts dream, which made endeared them even more to me.

During this time I was experiencing a tremendous amount of success, professionally and personally. An increasing number of people were asking me to get coffee to pick my brain about how to get a raise, a promotion, or what I had learned about personal finance. It became clear to me how mentorship and advice was in scarce supply for women in this industry. I was also noticing firsthand how few women there were in senior positions, not just in finance, but in all industries.

I decided to do something about it. I created a post-college guide - a curriculum for women on how to be successful after college. I drafted a nonfiction book proposal, conducted interviews, pitched the sample publishing houses, and got rejected. I then thought ‘Nobody can stop me online’... so I set up a website. My goal was to create a community where people could share content about how to be smart and mentor each other online.

I launched the site in 2010, providing a place for women to share their advice, watch video interviews featuring smart, successful women, participate in masterclasses, and more. The key at the heart of all this was networking online. Women needed easier access to help one another, in order to share information and increase the number of female leaders and decision makers. Men conduct business with their friends. So if women are going to get ahead professionally, we need to do business with each other.

DL: You launched your site eight years ago. It’s almost as if bSmartGuide.com was ahead of its time.

MH: It definitely was. People didn’t understand the concept of a community blog with a variety of writers, let alone know that bSmartGuide.com was a blog itself. At the time Huffington Post was the only recognizable ‘blog of blogs’ and Facebook was the only online platform people felt comfortable creating a personal profile attached to their name.

DL: Networking seems to be the fulcrum of your platform, and your journey in total. How important is networking to you?

MH: Democratized networking with easy access will be the key to increasing the number of women leaders and decision makers globally. Unfortunately, women are socialized to view networking as ‘asking for something’ or ‘being a bother to someone.’ Instead, the successful men I worked for viewed networking as looking at your circle or the people around you and asking yourself, ‘How can I be helpful to them, and how can they be helpful to me?’ That is the foundation of utilizing your network. If your circle is only comprised of people who don’t want to be helpful to you,, then you should build a new community around yourself and your goals. A woman I recently interviewed shared that you can host a meetup group, create a student group, or move to a different city, to give a few examples for creating your network. It’s very important to be proactive about your network. You can have a LinkedIn connection or a bSmart connection, but it’s only useful if those connections are utilized to help each other.

DL: What is your favorite part about being the Founder of bSmartGuide.com?

MH: I love seeing people recognize their potential, then take action towards that potential. It’s amazing to see that light go on in someone’s mind, realizing their capacity is far bigger than they thought it was. That’s the whole mission of bSmart, for us to help users realize and take steps towards their full potential in our online community and through our content.

DL: Have you got a kernel or two of advice for theatre majors?

MH: I cite my Wake Forest Theatre Major as one of the most influential factors of my success. I was able to capitalize on opportunities by applying the myriad skills I obtained in Theater. I learned how speak with a mantra while performing, how to understand and enact the concept of status, to identify my objective and try different tactics to achieve it, leverage a high emotional intelligence, and developed the ability to make choices with my body and my voice based on the professional role I enacted. All of these things were the cornerstone to crafting the person I wanted to be as a professional.

When I entered the world of New York finance there were very few women leaders, so I borrowed the mindset, characteristics, and behaviors of the men that were successful. Through my ability to play with status in real life situation, identifying my objective whilst trying different tactics within the office environment, I was able to navigate the waters quickly and create the reputation I wanted. I essentially cast myself in the role. Now corporations bring me in to train their associates and managers on the same strategy. I call it “Acting for Success.”

As a theatre major, you have every opportunity and option available to create the life you want. You will always have to learn on the job - even if it’s accounting or finance like me - so don’t limit your vision!

At the conclusion of our interview, Meagan imparted a special message to all female students and alumnae, inviting YOU to join the bSmart movement:

bSmart women utilize our platform for mentorship and networking and have told me they view it as ‘LinkedIn for women.’ We’re flattered by that comparison and to make mentorship and networking even more accessible, we’ve just launched our app for Apple and Android. We’d love for the women of Wake Forest to join us as members or apply to be Campus Ambassadors. If you do join, be sure to say hello and connect with me on bSmart here and join my mentorship group here.

Spotlight Interview: Bradley Singleton

Bradley Singleton: Associate Producer, Early Today and MSNBC News

New York City

WFU Class of 2017

Major: Communication and Media Studies

Minor: Journalism

unnamed.jpg

When Bradley Singleton received an offer at NBC, he packed his bags and moved to New York within that month! We interviewed Bradley about this transition and working at NBC.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? How has your career unfolded since graduation?

Bradley Singleton: At Wake, I studied Communication with a concentration in Media Studies and a minor in Journalism. After I graduated in 2017, I stayed in Winston Salem for the summer and worked at the Intercultural Center doing communication and social media work. My next position was at the Wake Forest Office of Diversity and Inclusion as a communication specialist, where I worked the following fall. This was a very creative position, and I focused on social media campaigns, communication strategies, and worked overall to broaden the office’s outreach. I was applying for jobs while working at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and around the end of October I landed two interviews at NBC. I received an offer shortly after these interviews, and within a month I had packed my bags, moved to New York, and begun a job as a production assistant at the Early Today Show at MSNBC!

DL: Can you talk a little about working for the Early Today Show?

BS: I was recruited as a part of the YOH Program at NBC. NBC likes to give new employees who are recent college graduates the chance to explore the company and the news industry by rotating shows and positions until we find our niche. Through this program I happened to be assigned to the Early Today Show on a very small team, which I enjoy because I get a very hands-on experience. For my first three months at the Early Today Show I was a Graphics PA, where I worked as a liaison between the producers and the artists who make the visuals for the show. I knew, however, that I wanted to eventually transition into a writing role, and so I tried to perfect my writing skills by working on scripts on the side. I studied the show to see what I could contribute to make a positive impact and noticed that there was a lack of sports/entertainment. I sent my sample scripts to my producer, and eventually was assigned some small stories! I worked non-stop and those story assignments started multiplying and becoming more serious. Now I work as a sports writer for the show and write breaking news stories.

DL: What is your favorite part about working at the Early Today Show?

BS: At the Early Today Show I am able to give voices to people who wouldn’t necessarily get the attention that they deserve, which is really powerful and rewarding. I also really enjoy writing about sports as well! I feel that I bring a certain trendy vernacular that the show has begun to use and embrace.

DL: How did your studies and general experience at Wake Forest drive your career path and affect your current position?

BS: The most important thing that I learned at Wake was the ability to write – for sure. The Journalism department in particular taught me the fundamentals and drove home the importance of writing. I also learned how to work with hard deadlines and how to juggle multiple projects at once. There are days in my current position where I have to write 6-7 stories in three hours, and I feel calm and confident doing so because of my time at Wake. On top that, I think that Wake gives you a certain confidence and swag that is unmatched. You know that you can handle whatever is coming at you, and you know that you can outwork the next person. The naturally competitive environment and mindset that you develop at Wake sticks with you and encourages you to always do something extra to set yourself apart.

DL: On the other hand, what do you think that Wake could have done better to prepare its students for life after graduation?

BS: Sometimes I felt that there was a certain passiveness to the Communication department. The classes within the department taught rhetoric, science and theory, but I was craving more out of the department. I wanted to learn some more practical skills, like how to work a camera. I ended up having to teach myself a lot of the fine skills and the language of the industry when I was on the job. I would love to see the department grow and serve students who want to do something outside of the norm, but don’t have the same opportunities as their peers.

DL: Can you talk to me about your experiences finding and applying to the various positions you have held?

BS: I held quite a few internships – paid and unpaid – during my time at Wake Forest. I’m from South Carolina, so my first position was at a local station in Columbia, South Carolina. My experience there helped me get a paid position at a local station the next summer, where I got a more hands-on experience and was able to practice my craft. On campus I worked at Wake Radio and Wake TV and was able to then get an internship at a radio station in my hometown the following summer. Networking was really essential in getting my position at NBC. The Director of Talent Recruitment was from my hometown, and I was able to meet him through the girlfriend of a family friend! I built a relationship with him during my early years at Wake and worked hard to continue networking and maintaining that relationship throughout college. When I graduated, he put my resume into a smaller, company pool and definitely played a role in getting my application seen.

DL: What is your favorite part about living in New York?

BS: Living in New York City is like being on a vacation every day! It is such a dope place to live and work. You can travel two train stops away and emerge into a whole new world. There are so many types of people and so many places to explore…. it’s an adventure every time you step outside your door. And in terms of the arts, there are so many opportunities here all condensed into one small area!

DL: What is next for you in your career?

BS: I see myself staying at NBC for a while and exploring some of the other shows. I want to try to do something on air at some point, and I can see myself maybe becoming a producer down the line. I can also see myself moving into the digital sphere, which is an area that is always changing and growing.

DL: What is one piece of advice that you wish you had been told as a student interested in pursuing a career in media?

BS: Learn how to write!! Know the fundamentals of writing and always work to perfect that skill. Also, be independent. Learn how to do stuff on your own and be proactive. Always look to make someone else’s job easier – it will pay off in the long run. If you are a senior heading towards graduation, don’t get stressed out if you don’t have a job quite yet. Positions in media are always opening and closing, and you’ll get there! And lastly, don’t let anyone deter you from your dream career. A lot of times at Wake, I felt that other people were trying to influence and change my career path. Follow your passion, and don’t allow people to try and push you towards a more “traditional” job.

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: Kelly FitzGerald

Kelly FitzGerald: Operations Coordinator, UCLA

Los Angeles

WFU Class of 2017

Major: Communication and Media Studies

Minor: Film Studies

IMG-8084.JPG

Kelly FitzGerald's interest in film was sparked after entering the Team Oscar film competition on a whim.... and winning! We recently had the chance to chat with Kelly about this experience, working on set, and the unique nature of the film industry.  

DeacLink: Can you tell me about your career path from Wake Forest to now?

Kelly FitzGerald: When I first came to Wake Forest, my interests were quite broad. It was not until the end of my sophomore year that I became seriously interested in film. In December 2015, I saw a social media announcement for a film competition called Team Oscar. I entered on a whim, having no prior film experience, and was selected by the Academy as one of six winners. Suddenly, the entertainment world didn’t feel so out of reach. 

I returned to Wake, feeling energized from the experience, and tailored my remaining years around film. I added a film studies minor and during my senior year, began to focus more on production design. I wrote a grant proposal to the Provost Office of Global Affairs and received funding to attend the Sundance Film Festival in 2017. At the end of senior year, I was admitted as a Dean's Scholar to an MFA program for Production Design at SCAD. Once June rolled around, however, I made a gut decision to move to Los Angeles for the summer and apprentice with Production Designer, John Richoux, who I met at a party of a mutual friend. I ended up declining my graduate school offer after making so many connections in LA, and worked with the art department for 9 months on a variety of film, TV, commercial, and music video projects. I recently started working as an Operations Coordinator for UCLA

DL: What was your favorite part about working in Production Design?

KF: The best part about working on set is that every day is an adventure. Nothing is predictable, you’re always working with new people, and you have to learn to think on your feet. It keeps you sharp. The best part about production design, specifically, is seeing the director's vision come to life...and knowing you helped accomplish that.

DL: How did your studies at Wake Forest impact or drive your career path?

KF: The classes I took in the film department provided me with a theoretical lens through which to understand the social impact and responsibility of filmmaking. In real life, once the camera is set, it’s like “quick, find something to hang on the wall in that awkward white space!” In such a moment, I could throw just about anything up on the wall to achieve a better composition, but I always try to take an extra second to consider how the viewer might interpret this new visual in relationship to the narrative. Establishing mental checks and balances between pure composition (what simply looks nice) and critical interpretation (what impact this choice might have) is something my studies trained me to do.

DL: On the other hand, what do you think that Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

KF: I could have benefited from more hands-on experiences and opportunities outside the classroom. I think it should be a requirement for every film studies student to PA before graduating. Theory is important, but technical skills are invaluable in the working world.

DL: What has your job search and application process been like throughout your career? Do you have any tips for students about networking or applying for jobs in the film industry?

KF: Networking is everything! The application process isn’t formal (it’s very referral based) and every film job I’ve gotten has been through networking. Don’t worry about trying to get an official internship with a big, prestigious company. Just get on set in any capacity, and the opportunities will multiply from there.

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

KF: Los Angeles is an amazing, multicultural city with endless things to do. I’m currently learning to surf, dancing tango, and working on writing a screenplay in my free time. I really like the anonymity of being in such a big city. If you are looking for opportunities in the arts or any creative industry, this is absolutely the place to be!

DL: What is next for you in your career?

KF: While I’m currently not working in the film industry, I always want to make the arts a part of my life. Finding the right balance between work, creativity, and travel has been (and still is) an ongoing process. Establishing my creative voice without becoming a cog in the machine is perhaps the biggest challenge. Luckily, my new job comes with a lot more free time, so I am finally able to work on personal projects and get my thoughts on paper. I’m no longer coming home after 12 hour shoots feeling like I got hit by a bus.

DL: Do you have any advice that you would like to give to current students?

KF: Don’t compare yourself to friends who have full time job offers before graduation. The arts are inherently unique, so you’re playing an entirely different ballgame. Don’t expect to be asked for your resume, be prepared to show what you’ve worked on. Be friendly, always willing to help, and don’t forget to check your ego at the door.