Student Trek Insights

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(Los Angeles, CA) Media and Entertainment Career Trek - Day 1

March 11, 2018

Amanda here, senior Notre Dame student and LA media and entertainment trekker. It is now 11:02 pm on Sunday night, and we are all just now retreating back to our rooms. I think I speak for everyone when I say it has been a long day but a fun one, filled with LA sunshine, new connections and giant pizzas. Two giant pizzas, to be precise.

We kicked off the week with a networking event hosted by ND alum Kai Gayoso at his place of work, Scale Management. It is called Scale, I can only assume, because the scale of everything in there was quite grand: the ceilings, the furniture, the view from his office, the 36” pizzas. I think being there gave us all delusions of grandeur just by association. It was lovely. 

Even lovelier, however, was the company. We had the chance to talk to alumni, some we knew from being in class just last year, and some who we wanted to get to know because they were kind and charming and had the kind of jobs we dream about. But their success did not make them intimidating. They all seemed happy to offer us guidance, which largely consisted of assuaging fears about taking the leap of faith to go out and try to make it in LA. It always helps to have conversations like that and see that there are real people behind impressive titles, and those real people more often than not want to help you, especially if they’re Notre Dame alums. They’ve been in our shoes, as Rose reminded us all when she called out Eugene, an alum who is now the cautionary tale about getting enough rest so you don’t fall asleep during meetings.

It was a fun, more relaxed way to start off what I know will be an exhausting but rewarding week. My only regret is that I did not steal one of the giant pizzas.

-- Amanda Pilarski, Class of 2018


(Los Angeles, CA) Media and Entertainment Career Trek - Day 2

March 12, 2018

For our first full day of the trek, we started the day at Walt Disney Studios, where we received a tour of the studio lot, followed by a panel of Notre Dame alumni that work for the company. Our next stop was the Nickelodeon lot. Here, we toured the facilities and met with Amy Wu, the company’s Intern Program Manager. After our visit at Nickelodeon, we had lunch at Centanni Trattoria with Blake Avery, a story editor at Legendary Entertainment. The last part of our day was spent at NBC Universal, which included a Q&A session with alumni about the NBC Page Program and the company in general. We concluded our evening with dinner at the Universal City Walk restaurant, Karl Strauss, with a number of alumni that work at Dreamworks. Overall, our day was filled with amazing experiences and insight that will help all of us break in to the exciting world of the entertainment industry.

The most important piece of advice we received today was that we should all pursue what we are passionate about. While we may not always be able to start in our dream job at the company of our choice, there are a number of ways in which we can achieve our goals. By showing that we are passionate about what we want to go into through hard work and dedication, we are more likely to get noticed and eventually get to where we want to be. Even if we start by working in the mail room, with a great attitude and a strong desire to learn on the job, our hard work will not go unnoticed.

The alumni we met with today also emphasized the power of the Notre Dame alumni network. We received tips on how to find alumni in Los Angeles through sources such as LinkedIn and learned about the best way to begin networking with those with jobs in our various fields of interest. As Notre Dame students, this is the most powerful tool we have at our disposal to get ahead in the entertainment industry. Notre Dame alumni are always open to and willing to help students so that we can find success. While the media industry has a reputation for being filled with big-headed people, all of the alumni we met were incredibly kind and showed an interest in helping us begin our journey in the world of entertainment. At the end of the day, reaching out to alumni is one of the best things we can do to get a head start on our careers for after we graduate.

-- Meghan Kelly, Class of 2019


(Los Angeles, CA) Media and Entertainment Career Trek - Day 3

March 13, 2018

We focused on Fox Studios on our second day in order to learn more about the structure of their company and how each employee can create a large impact. We began by listening to several different speakers from the different branches of Fox Studios.

The first speaker was Jim Sharp, the executive vice president of programming and development. He often reiterated his admiration of Notre Dame and compared its work ethic to his own team. Throughout his talk, he reminded us that our paths to our dream jobs were long journeys and that we should take each steps as its own learning experience.

Then, we spoke with Kristen Major, the manager of talent acquisition operations. She gave an overview on Fox Studios’ internships and how to further perfect our resumes and cover letters.

Afterwards, we got to hear the differences between drama and comedy development from Erin May and Stephanie Rosenthal Gruber. They both walked us through a typical pilot season and shared their experiences with grad school and internships.

Mike Dunn, the president of production strategy and business development, then shared his past 30 years of experience with Fox Studios. He emphasized how we should develop relationships between our consumers and our products while also maintaining a clear, yet flexible vision.

After lunch, we then visited a live taping of Speak for Yourself with Fox Sports. During this taping, we had the opportunity to speak to the hosts and learn more about the realities of sports television. Our tour was guided by Rob Shelley, a Notre Dame alumni and director of marketing operations. He led us into a conference room where he then shared how Notre Dame had impacted his career.

Then, Rick Hubert, vice president of post production, brought us to a foley stage where we saw three demos on how to produce sound for movies. By far, this experience was the favorite of the majority of our group. As they used unconventional tools, we  saw how easily they were able to produce audio illusions and truly create an immersive cinematic experience.

From there, we spoke with Justin Adler, the show runner for Life in Pieces. He inspired many of us to pursue both our creative passions while utilizing our pragmatism to create an incredible project. His insight into the realities of show running and writing

Finally, we summed our time with Fox Studios by visiting the Modern Family set. Walking around each of the iconic family’s homes was an eye-opening experience as we got to witness film magic firsthand. We had the chance to fully inhabit these spaces as if we were part of the crew and learn what a professional TV set feels like.

We ended the day with an alumni get-together at the Parlor. During this event, we spoke about our dreams and ambitions to a group of about twenty alumnae. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to then speak to them individually to learn more about their backgrounds. These interactions provided amazing networking opportunities.

Overall, we were inspired by the many different accounts we heard. Seeing so many confident, successful people has really given our group the desire to continue to follow our dreams and pursue our passions.

-- Meghan Kelly, Class of 2018


(Los Angeles, CA) Media and Entertainment Career Trek - Day 4

March 14, 2018

After getting up at the crack of dawn, we headed to a coffee shop in Hollywood to talk with a panel of television writers, including ND grads Joey Falco and Jenn Yale. As an aspiring writer, I found this part of the trek to be among my favorite parts of the trip. Everyone on the panel was exceptionally friendly and down-to-earth. They gave us great advice on how to get started as a TV writer in LA. Getting the opportunity to hear their success stories and to ask questions was an invaluable experience.

After the brief chat, we drove to the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study to talk to employees of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Academy was very welcoming, and seemed to be interested in helping us get started in the entertainment industry. It was great to be given the opportunity to meet with them in person. The main takeaway I got from the Academy was to be persistent, friendly, and make as many connections in the industry as possible.

We donned our best business formal attire at our next destination, William Morris Endeavor, a top talent agency in LA. WME gave us a ton of insight into the world of talent agencies, which is an area I knew little about prior to the career trek. We also learned more about the process of working for WME, and how talent agencies in general can serve as a great way to get started in the entertainment industry if you don’t necessarily know which specific career path you’re interested in.

We visited Netflix next, a company everyone on the trek was very excited to meet with. We met with Melissa Rauch, a ND grad who now works in the FP&A branch of Netflix. Netflix is a very relevant company in the entertainment sector these days, so it was amazing to be able to get some of our burning questions about the company’s goals and plans for the future answered. The main thing I took away from Netflix was actually something that a lot of companies had told us on the trek: don’t be a jerk. It seems like something that goes without saying, but I cannot tell you how many times people have told us on the trek that if you’re not a team player and not willing to cooperate with others, you’re not going to make it in the industry.

The last company we met with was Jax Media and this was an interesting experience. We came to Jax with no indication of what we’d be doing. In fact, all that the students were told was that “it’s a surprise.” When we got there, we were put in to pairs, given a random word out of a hat, told that we had two hours to come up with an idea for a TV show based on that word and then pitch it to a group of about 12 people. Being a textbook introvert, my initial thought was that I had somehow fallen asleep and was experiencing the worst anxiety nightmare of my entire life. That being said, it was an amazing exercise in creative problem solving and on-the-fly thinking, as well as a great opportunity to get hands-on experience in pitching.

All in all, today was a whirlwind in the best sense of the word, and getting the opportunity to talk to writers, agents, film archivists, and producers was an invaluable experience for me.

-- Zach Lawson, Class of 2019


(Los Angeles, CA) Media and Entertainment Career Trek - Day 5

March 15, 2018

Our final day in LA started out at Lionsgate, where we had the opportunity to speak to a panel of young employees, including ND alums Sara McLay ('11) and Marshall Turner ('09). We asked them about their experiences moving to LA, what they enjoy about working at Lionsgate, and what advice they have for students trying to enter the industry. 

After that, we visited Hulu. Many of us are avid users of the service, so we really appreciated the chance to ask questions about the business side of the operations. Alums Kristen Jacobsen ('15) and Ankur Chawla ('13) spoke with us and gave us a tour around the office. Our group especially liked looking through the employee portraits, which showed off the diverse, quirky energy of the employees at Hulu. We were surprised to see that their kitchen/lounge area bore striking resemblance to the bleacher/TV area in our new Duncan Student Center! 

In a fitting finish to our whirlwind journey through LA, we ended our day at a beach-side cafe in Santa Monica. Here, we basked in the sun and the wisdom of Sheila Taylor, Producer at Practical Pictures and St. Mary's alumna ('91). All of the students on the trek had the opportunity to pitch show and movie ideas to her and get feedback. From there, we all went our separate ways in LA, many of us had set up further networking opportunities over the weekend.

-- Jordan Schilling, Class of 2019



(Boston, MA) Biotech and Pharmaceutical Career Trek - Day 2

October 16th, 2017

The first company we visited today was DePuy Synthes. This particular company’s site is quite large, which allowed us to tour a lot of different aspects within the company including the manufacturing area and the cadaver labs. In the lab area we were actually able to do a small hands on activity. This activity was fun and also helped us to better understand the products made there and why the company takes time to train its staff and customers on how to use the equipment. The company also had a small panel discussion for us that included some younger employees. It was nice to see the different directions they went within the biotech field while having a technical background. Throughout the visit, multiple people in the company also explained a lot of the perks for working for a large company like Johnson & Johnson, like how they are able to create top of the line implants because they have the capital. One of the major points that stood out to me about DePuy Synthes, and because they are a Johnson & Johnson company, is that their top priority is the consumer. [Our] main guide, actually explained that putting customers first comes into play in almost every major decision that is made within the company. I thought this was a unique attribute of a company, especially one as large as Johnson & Johnson.


The second company we met with was Olympus Medical. They were very excited that Notre Dame students were interested enough in the company to come all the way to Boston to visit. The company gave us a presentation on the corporate social responsibility section of the company which focuses on giving back to employees and the local community. I think this presentation really interested us because Notre Dame has a lot of service opportunities, so it is nice to see that it is still easy to be apart of that once in industry. We toured the research labs and interacted with some of their products, which helped us better understand the main functions of each product. The last part of this visit was a panel discussion with two women who are fairly high up in the company. Both started as engineers after college and have moved over to the business side. It was very beneficial to receive advice as to how to be successful in this industry and what skills companies are looking for in new hires.


Both companies also touched on the biotech industry as a whole. Two major trends they see in the industry are that constant change and collaboration between functions. Constant change refers to both one’s individual career path and a market sector as a whole. Therefore, one needs to be adaptable and embrace the unknown in order to be successful in this industry.  In terms of collaboration, both companies expressed that in order to have a product be successful, it needs to benefit a large range of consumers. This means that there needs to be some sort of dialogue between the consumer and the design and manufacturing teams. This new concept has created a lot of new upstream marketing and training positions which engineering and science people can go into.

We concluded the day by having dinner with some of the young local alumni. It was nice to learn why young adults are drawn to Boston and what it would be like to live here. It also gave some insight into the large Notre Dame presence in Boston and how that can be beneficial for networking.

-- Heather Flynn, Class of 2019



(Chicago, IL) Sports Trek - Day 2

October 20th, 2017

The second day of the Sports Industry Trek consisted of visits to the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, and Wilson Sporting Goods. Although tired from our late (but exciting) night at the Blackhawks game the night before, we were easily energized by the amazing experiences this day provided us. We spent the morning at the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks. Each organization provided an opportunity to hear about their business strategies as a whole, the different interrelated departments, and to see their facilities. We had a chance to tour the arena, seeing not only their office space, but also the different team locker rooms, learning about the different processes that go into preparing for a game day. This part truly gave us a sense for how rewarding it can be working in sports.


The most valuable part of our visit, however, was getting to sit down in small groups with individuals within each organization. From the Bulls, we got to rotate through small discussion groups with Human Resources, Analytics, Marketing and Entertainment. From the Blackhawks, we had an opportunity to talk to Corporate Partnerships, Analytics, Human Resources, and Marketing. One of the major takeaways from this experience was being able to see how different sports organizations may be similar and how they differ. For example, in talking to representatives from both the Bulls and the Blackhawks marketing departments, we discovered how each team was trying to incorporate the local culture and spirit of Chicago into their brand. On the other hand, they acted differently based on the performance of their individual teams. This was another major point of learning for us on the trip. We were able to discover the interaction between the business and the team aspects of the organization. The business strategy when the team is doing well is very different from when the team is struggling. Lastly, human resources, and other Notre Dame grads provided us with helpful insight into how to transform a Notre Dame education into a successful career. The emphasized how important it was to get involved in sports on campus and participate in treks such as this. Overall our time with the Bulls and the Blackhawks gave us insight into the inner workings of the sports world.


We concluded our day at Wilson Sporting Goods, which gave us a new perspective on the sports industry. Again, we got to sit down with various members of the different business units within Wilson to discuss their jobs and how they got to where they are today.  From this experience, we gained a better understanding of the scope of the sports industry, and how a variety of different interests and skills could be applied to it. For example, we discussed the role of law in player representation, and how different sports leagues vary greatly. Wilson has a unique position in that they get to work with athletes and coaches directly across many age levels and sports. Ultimately our time at Wilson allowed us to explore new areas of the sports industry that many of us had not previously considered.


The Sports Industry Trek not only provided all of the participants a chance to explore the sports industry as a whole but also to dive deeper into a particular area of interest within the industry. Seeing how different teams and organizations function across the industry was extremely valuable to each and every one of us. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone in the future!

-- Allison Perez, Class of 2019


(Washington, DC) Government Related Career Trek - Day 1

Monday, March 13, 2017

This morning, we straightened our ties, slipped on our heels, and headed out into the city. Since we are not an eighth grade class on field trip to the nation’s capital, we are expected to figure out how to navigate ourselves so we can get to our meetings on time. Unfortunately, due to some kerfuffles with the Metro, we showed up at Hamilton Place Strategies fifteen minutes late. While our hosts were very gracious and understanding, we learned our first lesson of the day: always plan for delays and hiccups when commuting.

However, that lesson was certainly not our last of the morning; at Hamilton, we learned about how policy consulting firms like Hamilton use quantitative analytics to disseminate information. I had never realized how valuable numbers and data could be to developing policy. In an era where “alternative facts” have become notorious, I personally appreciated seeing a non-partisan firm root itself in knowing what the facts are and work so that regular folk can understand those facts, too. The company’s culture is fairly relaxed -- our hosts wore jeans -- but the process of getting a job or (paid) internship is extremely competitive. Then again, it isn’t easy finding any work in DC at all, though we’ve met many Notre Dame alumni who prove that it isn’t impossible.

After a quick detour to get a picture in front of the White House, we headed to a beautiful building where one of DC’s oldest and most well-known think tanks, American Enterprise Institute, is housed. Their model is such that a young research assistant works under a scholar, who is an expert in a certain topic to write reports and disseminate information on particular projects. Thus, the research assistants have to “manage up,” meaning they have to develop the confidence to guide their bosses, all of them brilliant minds with illustrious degrees, in their research. In this way, we learned that interpersonal skills and the art of diplomatic persuasion are invaluable in DC.

In fact, our final stop of the day runs on the power of diplomacy -- it was, of course, the State Department. We really enjoyed speaking with five ND alums, including Joe Macmanus, the acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.  He not only shared his experiences from working as a Foreign Service Officer, but also some wonderful life advice, which I believe impacted everyone in the room.  After he ran to a meeting, we spoke with the other alums, who worked in both the Foreign and Civil Services.  It was really interesting to hear their perspectives from working in a government agency, as opposed to a think tank or other private organization. While the private organizations seem to have turnover every two to three years, it seems that the government agencies have the possibility of a long-term career. We all really enjoyed not only gaining career advice, but general life advice at the State Department.

We wrapped up our day by dining at Catch 15, a lovely Italian restaurant. It was a great way to decompress from the adventures of our day, and discuss all of the things we had learned at each company. It was also a great bonding experience, and I think it really helped me appreciate everyone’s different interests. It made me realize that Washington, DC is truly a melting pot of different ideas, beliefs, and people.

-- Madeleine O’Mara (ND '18) and Julie Mardini (ND '19)


(Atlanta, GA) Data Science and Analytics - Day 2

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Our group kicked off our Pi Day celebration with a trip to SAP, a software company whose product is essentially data analytics. We started out the day with demonstrations of the way that SAP uses data to model technology for the future, like self-driving trucks and a version of the AI Alexa that can be used to get necessary information about airplanes in real-time. Then, we got to hear from several different representatives, who gave us more information about the different ways that SAP uses software to support other businesses. For example, we heard about Concur, a mobile app that lets people virtually submit their receipts for business expenses and then creates the expense report automatically, saving a significant amount of time compared to people doing that themselves.

Over lunch, we then got to hear from three recent grads of SAP’s Sales Academy, which is a six-month training program for new employees, before they take the plunge into their heavy-duty work. Many of us are interested in the software end of data analytics, so we got some information about how to break into the industry and what skills are valued. Even though I personally am not as interested in the ultra-technological aspect of data analytics, I still found the conversation rewarding, because I got to learn about how each employee made the transition from college to the working world, and the different ways they deal with the challenges in their work, which will be valuable information in no matter what field I end up.

We spent the second half of our day at GE Power, which was definitely a little confusing for all of us at first: We all have friends who are engineers, so we were familiar with GE Transport, and other more industrial facets of the company, but we weren’t sure what we were going to hear from a data analytics perspective. Lucky for us, our expectations were exceeded. A highlight of the experience for everyone was learning about how GE uses drones to take pictures of power plants, and how they use data from thermal cameras to spot anomalies that could become problems in the future. We got to see two drones, and take pictures of ourselves with a thermal camera. We even got to try on the virtual imaging headsets that GE employees scan those power plant images into, so that they can search for problems without having to ever send humans into the plant. We ended the day with a panel discussion with four recent Notre Dame grads, and got to learn about all of their different paths to working at GE. This was a really informative part of the day for me, because I don’t have a traditional engineering background, so it was exciting to hear about how each graduate’s different skillset took them to a place like GE.

After the “softer side” of data analytics we heard about yesterday, it was really interesting to learn about a much more technical side of the field today. We ended the day with another highlight of the trek—a group dinner at Waffle House!

-- Jenna Galuska, Class of 2018


(San Francisco, CA) Renewable Energy Career Trek - Day 2

Monday, March 13, 2017

I arrived in sunny San Francisco yesterday in the afternoon. The weather was perfect for Spring Break. We stayed at a beautiful location, next to Fisherman’s Wharf and the bay. Before gathering for our first dinner as a group, I had some free time to explore the area. So I decided to check out some of the piers and locals (including the sea lions). Unfortunately, I couldn’t get good picture of the sea lions [...] San Fran wouldn’t be a bad place to live (understatement). People were warm and friendly too, at least those whom I met on the Uber ride to the hotel.

The first company we visited on Monday was Recurrent Energy, a young company, that focuses on solar project development. They have done solar installation projects ranging from small residential to enormous utility scale. The ND alum at Recurrent gave us a great overview and a tutorial of the everyday work that they do, even though what they do everyday changes all the time. In addition, we also had a panel discussion with three other employees at Recurrent. Despite 3 of the 4 employees we met have engineering backgrounds, essentially all of them had delved heavily into the economics/business either through an MBA and/or the interdisciplinary nature of their work. I got a good sense of the different teams at Recurrent and their young innovative work culture. Throughout the meeting, we were able to ask questions about new solar and battery technologies, opportunities available at Recurrent, their relationship to the community, etc.

The following company we visited was a small tech startup, called Mercatus. Probably one of the coolest meetings we had. The entire meeting was with the CEO! And he was a really cool ND grad. Oh, and we were fed for free! At the beginning of the meeting the CEO and his customer success team asked us what questions we wanted answered during the meeting, and they used those questions to guide the conversation. They were extremely attentive to what we wanted to learn. They had a very insightful presentation on their mission as well as the market they are trying to service. Their product essentially boosts the decision-making efficiency of other companies and financial institutions which work on a plethora of projects. Their software allows for increased visibility of trends and project vitals that drive the decision-making processes. In other words, they found a process that could be improved and they made it more efficient. We also (casually) got a free copy of a cool book about the clean energy revolution. Definitely one of the coolest meetings of the trip.

The final meeting of the day was with THE Tesla. The meeting with the HR team was so quick I don’t really remember much from those 10 minutes. Expect for this useful statistic: Tesla is more difficult to get into than Harvard—so that’s nice to know. Coolest part was the tour. Their manufacturing plant is so huge they have their own custom trolley car and tour guide for the tour. Basically, Disney Land for Engineers and Car nerds. Not going to lie, it was pretty exhilarating to get to see these huge Japanese robots handle all the cars-to-be and flip them around like pancakes.

For dinner, we went to this Oyster place at Fisherman’s Wharf and had some scrumptious seafood. I got some fish tacos. Highly recommend. 10/10. Life without fish tacos is no life at all.

-- Juan Velazquez, Class of 2017