2 MBAs Leave Finance To Follow Their Passion

‘USC MARSHALL HELPED ME ATTAIN MY ENTERTAINMENT DREAMS’

St. Jules Desir is now a finance manager for Paramount Pictures. Courtesy photo

Both attribute their landing dream jobs to the MBA education they got at USC.

“USC Marshall helped me attain my entertainment dreams by giving me access to alumni with unparalleled industry knowledge,” Desir says. “These alumni were always open to having a meeting with me. Those conversations gave me a foundation for entertainment industry knowledge as well as where I fit within the industry. I have to also say, being able to take courses at the cinematic arts school gave me an extra layer of insider knowledge that helped me in my interviews.” He adds that USC has been helpful in post-MBA through alumni that continue to mentor and guide him as he moves forward in his entertainment career.

Strickling echoes the sentiments of his business partner and podcast co-host. “Coming from finance, I didn’t know about the industry or roles that were interesting to me. Business school really helped in that regard; learning about the industry, different functions, and opportunities to go into.”

In his day job, Strickling now handles all of NBC’s deals to cable distributors. For Bravo, for instance, establishing how much Comcast pays NBC to show Bravo programming. “It’s very strategic based. I spend time testing out different distributors and platforms and seeing how well each distributor is doing. I also work with the law team and sales team in negotiating contracts. I get to utilize my finance background, but it’s very focused on entertainment. The fun part is I get to see things come to fruition, all while watching TV. When I go on my Netflix binge, I always joke with my friends and say, ‘Well, I’m doing industry research.’”

PODCAST RELOADED

Still, the work of the podcast was something the pair said they didn’t want to let go. “After we got jobs, we started talking about it again,” Strickling recalls. “So in September 2017, we came back and relaunched. Now that we’re inside the industry, we understand a little more about the behind the scenes and we’re a little more business focused than before.”

“The podcast is basically two parts. We always open by talking about the business side of it all. Sure, it’s entertainment, but it’s still a business. Decisions are made with business needs in mind.” As an example, Strickling refers back to the Disney’s acquisition of Fox. “From the fan side, they may see Mickey Mouse doing a collaboration with Bart Simpson, but there’s more to it. We discuss what this means from a corporate structure standpoint, how it will uniquely position the companies involved, and what it does to the business landscape.”

From there, the two give their review of a current movie or television show. “We’re not necessarily talking about stylistics of camera work and things of that nature, that’s not our expertise,” Strickling says. “It’s more along the lines of how you feel when you’re watching a program or maybe the impact of a film like “Coco” on the industry.”

Solan Strickling is a finance manager for NBC Universal. Courtesy photo

The two say 30 To Melrose is growing in popularity because it’s filling a need, helping people understand the profit side of entertainment in a way that’s easily digestible.

“As I was trying to get into this industry, there weren’t a lot of resources available,” Strickling says. “It’s so different from anything else. One of our goals is to be one of the looked to thought leaders to understand the context and business side of entertainment.”

APPLYING LESSONS LEARNED IN B-SCHOOL

It also doesn’t hurt that they’ve acquired a variety of skills that are now helping them to grow their venture.

“First and foremost, business school helped from an inspirational standpoint,” Strickling says. “Being able to meet so many great people and classmates from all different walks of life. Plus, the speakers the school brought in who would share their tales of entrepreneurship and just going for it and doing it. This really helped in terms of inspiration. It gave us confidence in sharing our thoughts and opinions with the world.”

He continues: “From a marketing and strategy standpoint it has been huge and interesting. We’ve used a lot of strategy and analytics to monitor what’s working or not working then having honest looks at ourselves of why something was successful or not successful.”

So what’s next for 30 To Melrose? Strickling and Desir acknowledge they’re likely a good ways off from monetization, but they do think they’re on the right path. Having achieved 1,000 downloads, Strickling says, “I think that it’s definitely good in the sense that the first time we launched it, we had maybe 15 or 16 people download it. Since the relaunch, we’ve been seeing huge amounts of growth so far. We’re noticing a gain in more and more downloads. The trend is picking up. If we ever think about monetization, which we’re really far from, the goal to monetize would be 10,000 monthly downloads.

“But we’re on right track to be just a few months old.”

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