One of the first things that I did at Olin, because I am so passionate about the entertainment and media realm, is that I revived a club called OSMEC (Olin Sports, Media and Entertainment Club). I was able to mobilize a lot of support from the university. I secured funding and was able to take this club to Los Angeles for a case competition for the first time. That was my first leadership role during my first semester at Olin. In year two, the club has gained so much momentum. We have over 45 students who are part of the club. We’re educating students about the opportunities that are out there in the sports and entertainment field. These are a-typical fields that typically don’t recruit especially from schools in the Midwest. You either have to be based out of LA or New York to even seek out any kind of career opportunities. At Olin, we’ve been really successful in getting together teams that have helped students learn about opportunities in these fields and getting them to think a little out of the box and helping them understand that there are roles out there besides the cookie cutter consulting and finance roles and that they should push themselves outside their comfort zones.
As far as being a so-called celebrity on campus, initially, there were a few students who’d actually seen my films who were star-struck. They got used to me once the novelty wore off. Overall, my experience as an actress, especially in one of the biggest film industries in the world, has been pretty relevant to my fellow peers. I’ve used my stories in shared case studies. I think that’s given them a different perspective because in film you’re managing people as a brand instead of products and services.
For me personally, acting taught me a lot of transferrable skills like critical thinking, negotiating new contracts, investigating distribution deals, and just mobilizing people for a cause. I was really able to gain a lot of real world insight into marketing and brand development. I think my peers also appreciate what I have to bring because the entertainment industry is just so dynamic and you can really let your creative juices flow. It’s a place that welcomes divergent thinkers like myself who ask those what if and why not questions.
LOOKING AT BUSINESS FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF AN OUTSIDER
I interned at a marketing technology consulting firm called Aventi Group. It’s a small firm located in San Francisco. I had the luxury of doing my internship remotely from St. Louis. I reported directly to the two CEOs. They gave me a lot of ownership over the marketing projects, including their marketing strategy and their business plan. Over the three months, they really appreciated my help with their internal marketing.
Right now, in year two, I am finishing up my degree and I know for sure that I’d like to be associated in the entertainment, media, or sports fields. Right now, we’re in the midst of interview season and I’m on the lookout for the right opportunity to use my entrepreneurial skills in a creative environment. At Olin, two-thirds of the degree is elective, so you really get a chance to align the MBA with your personal and professional goals and interests. I chose Olin’s marketing platform, as I mentioned, and have just completed my requirements so that has helped me prepare for that particular business area.
This year I’ve really been able to practice risk-taking and asking those “what if” and “why not” questions. That’s allowed me to have an outsider’s perspective on business and be an active player in the world of innovation. I’m actually in a class called “Defining Moments in Leadership,” where we have CEOs from big companies come in and tell us about the various lessons that they’ve had that have molded their leadership philosophies. Many of their philosophies really resonated with mine, including ‘Don’t get de-motivated by challenges’ and ‘Celebrate your mistakes and every small accomplishment. I’ve always been known for my tenacity. It’s really important to try to step outside your comfort zone and not be afraid to try new things. During this year, especially, I’ve been taking every chance to meet new people. I really think that you never know what is right around the corner waiting for you.
DON’T CHANGE YOURSELF FOR ANYONE OR ANYTHING
After being in front of the camera, I’m very, very sure that this experience has triggered a deeper interest in getting behind the scenes and behind the camera now. My case is really unique in that I have this focused experience. I think my MBA degree is going to help me augment my business leadership and collaboration skills. In the long run, I want a career in the entertainment, media or sports sector. At the same time, I want to have the opportunity to be in a role where I can do public speaking; I want to continue telling my story and inspiring more people to think outside the box and talk about not being afraid to take risks and trying out something completely new. I’m still interviewing like the rest of us. When the right opportunity comes along, it’ll be the right fit. I’ve also been writing my book on my life-changing experiences to the film industry and back.
Besides speaking and writing, one of my passions is education. As I mentioned, back in high school, I co-founded a youth tutoring program with children in an urban school district. I’ve always had an interest in helping non-profits, especially for underprivileged kids, through education. Just last semester, I was working on a CEL (Center for Experiential Learning) practicum, where I got to be the team lead for a project with the Boys and Girls Club of St. Louis. It was incredibly gratifying for me to be able to lead that team and help with their alumni engagement strategy. This semester, I’m working with a team to develop a strategic plan for the Modern American Dance Company (MADCO). I just want to continue that effort and make a meaningful difference even if I have a career in corporate.
One thing that I’ve learned is that it is really important to encourage your peers instead of being in constant competition with them — and Olin has really provided that kind of environment. Everyone is incredibly collaborative and the networking here is just insane. For me, my biggest lesson is that you should never try to change yourself for anyone or anything. You should always do something that you are passionate about. I found my inner calling when I was 26 and I started my MBA journey pretty late in the game. But no matter how much time it takes to discover your true passion, it is important to find it and work in a job that is so fulfilling that it doesn’t feel like work.