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"Nothing Short of Spectacular" - A Volunteer's Perspective

Every year for the past eight years, FUTURE NOW’s Founder and CEO, Margaret “Peggy” Kim, has hosted the FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference for aspiring professionals to meet and learn from current leaders in the industry. I had the honor of attending the conference as a volunteer, working directly with Peggy, the board members, and all the amazing guests and panelists. It was nothing short of spectacular. 

Two young conference attendees standing together
Volunteers: Kleeyah Khan and Yasmine Smith

The conference consists of three days: a networking event on day one for everyone to get acquainted; a jam-packed schedule of keynotes, hot topic panels, mentoring sessions, and networking on day two; and, on day three, the opportunity for attendees to go on media tours to visit different companies where they can get a feel for the environment and meet current employees.

Paramount hosted this year’s networking event in their Times Square headquarters, and it was the perfect opportunity for students and volunteers like myself to meet our peers and industry leaders in a warm and inviting atmosphere. 

Welcome and Networking Reception hosted by Paramount; Gerald Yarborough, VP of Brand Creative Marketing at CBS, addresses guests

As a FUTURE NOW alumna and volunteer, Asca Akiyama reflects on overcoming her initial fear of networking, “FUTURE NOW has taught me that networking isn't just about promoting yourself for future job opportunities. Initially, what made networking daunting for me was its transactional nature. But, volunteering for FUTURE NOW has shifted my approach to one centered on service—giving rather than taking—which makes the experience more human and fulfilling.”

Networking can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Asca further explains the benefits of taking a more genuine, human approach, “My standout moment from this year's conference was reconnecting with the attendees and speakers I had the pleasure of meeting last year. Despite only having met them through brief introductions or passing conversations, many of the returning participants remembered me by name, which truly underscores the impact of the conference.” 

Whether you meet briefly in a passing conversation or virtual meetings, a genuine approach to making connections can make them more meaningful and less stressful. Prioritize enjoying their time in the moment instead of what might come from this conversation in the future.

Day two was hosted in the DotDash Meredith Events Center in New York City and was busy from start to finish. The panels included a variety of topics about the content, business, and technology sides of the industry, exposing students to the breadth of opportunities and roles they might consider. 

Left to right: John Vilade (Premion), Dan Callahan (Spectrum Reach), David Muldoon (MediaLink UTA), Eric de Cholnoky (AMC Networks), Lana Li (Roku), Isabel Gaspard (FUTURE NOW '21)

FUTURE NOW volunteers were tapped as panel moderators, trained and mentored by Peggy, and for a few, it was their first time working the stage as public speakers. 

Lawrence Djan (FUTURE NOW'24) with David Tyree (NFL Super Bowl Champ)

Lawrence Djan, a FUTURE NOW marketing volunteer and graduate of the University of Cincinnati, had the opportunity to interview NFL Super Bowl champ David Tyree for a keynote conversation. Lawrence called the experience “surreal," saying “The conference provided me with a glimpse into the exciting future possible in the media and entertainment space. I hope to one day return as a speaker to share my advice and story with the younger generation.” 

Five panelists with moderator
Left to right: Michael Herzenberg (Spectrum News), Talaya Gaines (MSG Networks), Lisa Marie Angelo (AMC Networks), Anna Harrison (FUTURE NOW '21), John Pagano (Paramount), Eric Korsh (Scout Productions)

Some volunteers, like Anna Harrison, have had the honor of putting a few conference experiences under their belts. Anna, a volunteer editor of THE NOW newsletter, highlights the importance of building peer relationships.  She reflects, “While I moderated a (great) panel and had other volunteer duties, most of my time was spent at the check-in desk, where I was able to get to know other FUTURE NOW volunteers. While I was initially disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see other panels, that feeling soon evaporated as I got to know everyone whose faces I had only seen over Google Meet. I realized that, while talking with senior professionals in the media industry is invaluable, getting to know your peers is just as worthwhile, and as I chatted with Asca, Kleeyah, Gio, Ciatta, Lawrence, and the other members of the team, I learned just as much as I would have from the panels.” 

Anna continues, “The people you sat next to and went to lunch with will be future leaders alongside yourself, so get to know each other and lift each other up. I’m eternally grateful for FUTURE NOW, not only for giving me access to such an amazing conference but for introducing me to like-minded students who have since become fast friends and colleagues.”

In the afternoon, we broke for lunch and had our speed mentoring sessions, the biggest opportunity to make personal connections with current industry leaders. 

Round tables of students and industry professionals
Speed mentoring sessions

Round table with students and industry professionals
Speed mentoring table with mentors Anjelica Rosa (Serial Maven Studios) and Sowon Sawyer (Paramount)

Amid my volunteer duties, I was able to sit at the mentoring table of Sowon Sawyer, Vice President of Editorial Programming at Paramount+ and FUTURE NOW board member, and Anjelica Rosa, experienced Program Strategist and Content Acquisitions Specialist with Serial Maven Studios and co-leader of the FUTURE NOW  marketing committee. The insight of these seasoned industry professionals opened my eyes to things like incorporating current social media trends into marketing and programming and the existence and roles of content acquisition teams at TV networks and what they do. 

On the third day, attendees went on media tours at different companies. I was lucky to visit MSG Networks and Warner Bros Discovery at Hudson Yards. One of my peers on the MSG Networks tour was  Renee Thomas, a film major at The City University of New York.

Renee gratefully expresses, “The common sentiment throughout the conference was reiterating how eye-opening the entire experience was and I feel the same. The opportunity to meet with like-minded young people, to speak with industry professionals sometimes feels like a rarity. At the end of the day, the only thing you can ask for is the opportunity to prove yourself and the FUTURE NOW conference provides that chance to all of us.”

Students with industry professionals at MSG Networks' studio
Media tour at MSG Networks

Toward the end of the tour at MSG Networks, our host and Vice President of Content Strategy & Original Programming, Talaya Gaines, offered everyone refreshments and a chance to mingle in a more casual setting.

I met Damiane Gaskin, a student at the University of Connecticut and fellow comic book connoisseur, who shares, “For my first time, it was amazing! I loved meeting so many people; I’m so excited for what the future holds for me and the organization.”

We talked about FUTURE NOW and it was great to share my personal experience with him and other potential volunteers and answer questions about the Mentoring Program, yet another incredible opportunity for alums to connect with industry professionals and get the guidance and support they need. 

The tour at Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) meant a lot to me because WBD is responsible for a lot of my favorite programs and movies, such as the various Looney Tunes programs that I enjoyed as a child, and the animated and live-action adaptations of comic book characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. 

Students posing in front of House of Dragon banners at WBD
Media tour at Warner Bros Discovery, Hudson Yards

It was an amazing full-circle experience to see where all the marketing, editing, and movie magic happens. Each tour guide provided detailed information about their roles and how their jobs directly impact what consumers see.

The 2024 FUTURE NOW Media and Entertainment Conference was an incredible opportunity that I and many others will not soon forget. For me as a volunteer, from learning the delicate balance of networking and creating connections to helping set up the location for the speed mentoring sessions, the knowledge, and experience I gained from these three days will be valuable for the rest of my career. 

Group of FUTURE NOW volunteers posing together on stage
FUTURE NOW volunteers

However, the most gratifying thing was meeting my fellow volunteers, the board members, and our phenomenal CEO in person for the first time. They have believed in and supported my career goals for the past year without having met me in person until then, and they all mean a great deal to me. It was wonderful to work with and get to know them beyond a computer screen for a few days and I’m counting down the hours until we meet again at next year's conference.



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