By Cole Friedman, FN alum '21
Are you looking for mentorship? Someone to help you get a better understanding of the media industry, provide guidance, and help you navigate your career journey? A few weeks ago, I participated in a FUTURE NOW Speed Mentoring Event, one of many events that FUTURE NOW puts on throughout the year, and it exceeded my expectations. If you missed it, don’t worry. There’s still time to apply to attend the 2022 FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference, where you will have the chance to participate in mentoring sessions with industry professionals and make valuable connections.
Here’s how the speed mentoring worked: the mentees were broken out into small groups for twenty-minute sessions with mentors from the industry; you could ask any questions or seek advice about specific career issues or challenges you are facing. There were thirteen (13) mentors, hailing from companies like AMC Networks, Disney, Paramount, Sesame Workshop, MediaLink, and others, who fielded questions from over sixty-five (65) mentees, creating intimate groups of five people for each session.
In the first round of mentoring, I was paired with Zuri Rice, SVP, Head of Video Development and Content Strategy for Hearst Magazines. After everyone briefly introduced themselves, Rice told us how she started her career in unscripted television before taking on roles in children’s television and digital media content, emphasizing how she followed her interests every step of the way. “What do you want out of your career,” Rice asked us to consider, which kicked off a round of great discussion amongst the group, as several members were fascinated by her continual career shifts. I personally really appreciated hearing her story, especially as someone with multiple interests across the media and entertainment industry.
After our session with Rice ended, the entire group reconvened to share what we learned from our respective mentors. Hearing the advice of “retaining the spirit of a child” from those who spoke with Louis Henry Mitchell, Creative Director of Character Design at Sesame Workshop, and the importance of “making sure that people believe what you’re saying” from attendees who spent time with Giovanna Noguera, Account Executive at Discovery US Hispanic, was wonderful, especially since I didn’t have the chance to interact with those mentors during my sessions that day.
In the second session, I was in the group with Lauren Morrissey, SVP of Platform Distribution at The Walt Disney Company. Morrissey, like Rice, highlighted her winding career path. She graduated from college with a degree in religious studies, and landed roles in book publishing and ad sales by networking and following her interests. I especially enjoyed hearing Morrissey talk about her current role in Distribution, where she oversees third-party media sales for all Disney properties, as it was an area of media, I knew little about previously.
To close things out, we regathered with the larger group, where this time, some of the mentors shared about common themes they heard in both sessions. Lisa Bull, VP of Marketing at Paramount recapped discussions about how to showcase leadership skills as an entry-level professional and how to be proactive and additive. Louis Henry Mitchell’s groups talked about how not to get jaded and to have fun. Mitchell shared, “Play is serious business with children. We got to remember how to keep playing."
More than one person noted the varied backgrounds of the mentors, finding it freeing to know that many of them didn’t know what they wanted to do upon graduation, but eventually found their way into the careers they now enjoy. Such valuable (and comforting) lessons can only be learned when professionals can share what they know with students at events like these…something that FUTURE NOW specializes in.
Getting involved with FUTURE NOW as a volunteer after my experience at the annual conference last year has helped me become more knowledgeable about the industry and be a part of the media community. So, why not do the same for yourself? Apply to the upcoming Conference; attend the Leadership Talks, workshops, and events; and sign up to Volunteer. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.