This year’s annual Alumni Connection event took place last Friday, March 20th, in the Michigan League. Per usual, the event opened with remarks made by Professor and Chair of the Department, Susan J. Douglas, with panelist presentations following. Six Communication Studies alumni were featured on the panel this year. Graduating classes ranging from 2005-2013, and represented companies from Tumblr to Nielsen.
Sherry Almasi, Human Resources and Recruiting Partner at Tumblr in New York, started off the presentations. Sherry communicated that her career aspirations had for a long time been in law, but in interviewing for a position at Google, she realized her interest in recruiting. Speaking more on the attractiveness of HR and recruiting, Sherry noted that she wanted to give back and help people. Further, that working in HR and recruiting enables her to help people navigate their careers and find what they are passionate about, along with shape the company’s vision. Her ending advice was to talk to as many people as possible, network, and if possible, get a company referral when applying for a position.
Up next was Meaghan O’Conner, Editorial Assistant at Food Network Magazine in New York. Meaghan knew she wanted to work in magazines since a young age. Two days after graduation, she moved to New York, sans a job, which she notes was “scary, but totally okay.” Meaghan felt she landed her dream job when she secured the position of Assistant to the Editor-in-Cheif at Seventeen Magazine. In moving to Food Network Magazine, she spoke on her favorite parts of the job being personally editing the Table of Contents, and going through reader e-mails. Advice given was related to self-exploration, in that one should ask questions such as, What does this experience say about me? and Where is it leading me? Further encouraging students to, “be your brand; own it.”
At the short break in panelist presentations, Professor Douglas summed up ideas that had been communicated. Advocating the importance of experience and internships, as they can aid students in learning what they like to do, just as much as what they do not like to do. Additionally, Michigan Association for Communication Studies (MACS) President Alissa Ranger announced the student winners of the raffle for one-on-one 30 minute mentoring sessions with each of the panelists, to take place after the event at Starbucks.
Christine DePietro, Vice President of Fleishman Hillard in Chicago, picked the presentations back up. Working in the communications field, Christine felt the need to distinguish advertising and PR. Advertising focuses on “what you say about yourself” whereas PR on “what others say about you.” Working in PR, Christine noted a major benefit as gaining lots of hands-on experience working with some of the world’s largest brands including ULTA Beauty, Gatorade and Tropicana.
Following was Lucas Piken, Multicultural Communications Supervisor at Mediavest Worldwide in New York. Working at a large agency, Lucas noted that the world is ever-changing, and that advertisers need to keep up. He related this idea to the importance of his work in multicultural marketing, in that the minority consumer market is growing, and therefore needs to be recognized and accounted for. Lasting advice noted that company referrals and networking only get you so far, and that students still need to work hard to get where they want to be.
Victoria Tsay, an Emerging Leaders Associate at Nielsen in Chicago, spoke next. Working at the world’s largest information and measurement company, Victoria communicated that advertisements are getting smarter, and spoke on the factors underlying ads as data, demographics and machine learning. Further, that a portion of her work has been in client services, determining if people are seeing clients’ paid advertising, who those people are, and if viewership is equating to increased sales. Advice given was refreshing, in that, “Everyone is still trying to figure it out, and if they say they are not, they are not learning.”
Wrapping up the panelist presentations was Jennifer Korail, Account Director at Airfoil Group in Southfield, MI. Having been with Airfoil for nine years, Jennifer communicated that the people have largely impacted her residency at the company thus far. Her work consists mainly of storytelling, relationship building and shaping perceptions for clients. Advice given was real and personal, as Jennifer noted that students should follow their passions, but that some, such as herself, work to live. With this, to be honest with yourself and ask questions such as, What type of company do I want to work at? and Who do I want to be?
Following the presentations portion was lunch. Individual panelists were seated at different tables, and students were able to network around, asking questions and seeking insight. A Q&A session succeeded, where students could further ask specific questions to the whole panel, or individuals.
As always, the Department would like to extend a huge thank you to all panelists, as well as to contributing faculty and student attendees. We expect next year to be just as successful and inspiring!