Meet Alumna Lilse Rodgers McKenna ’11, Founder of Lilse McKenna Inc

Name: Lilse Rodgers McKenna

Class Year: 2011

Title: Founder

Organization Name: Lilse McKenna Inc

 

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

As the founder of a residential interior design firm my job entails everything from reviewing architectural drawings and overseeing contractors, to drawing furniture plans, designing furniture and scheming rooms, to managing the orders, timelines, and installations for a project. 

 

 

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

 

During my senior year at Holy Cross I had big plans to go to law school.  At the time I thought that it would be the most logical and practical fit for me, and I took the LSAT class offered at Holy Cross to prepare for the exam.  We were encouraged to take study breaks in between practice tests, and I found myself filling that time with interior design magazines like House Beautiful, Veranda, and Architectural Digest, and countless design blogs.  

After taking the LSAT and starting to pull together my applications for law school I realized my heart wasn’t in it.  Since long before the LSAT I’d enjoyed reading about and discussing interior design with my grandmother, and she and my mother both believed I had shown some innate talent in decorating. My Mom had often suggested I pursue it as a career, but I had the impression that most successful designers had degrees in interior design or a lifestyle that enabled them to open a firm “for fun.” 

After graduation I applied for jobs in advertising and marketing, but nothing really felt like the right fit.  In a moment of frustration with the job search process I googled the phone number for the office of my favorite interior designer at the time and asked if they needed an intern.  They asked how soon I could start.  

Within the first week of the internship, I knew I’d found the right career fit for me in interior design.  Suddenly all of the knowledge I’d accumulated about interior design throughout my life, which I’d long thought was useless and just a hobby, had real value.  I also started to see the opportunity to put another interest of mine, business and entrepreneurship, to use.  I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and just as my knowledge of interior design had been somewhat subliminal, so too was my understanding of work and business through the lens of an entrepreneur.   Having an understanding of how entrepreneurs think and operate gave me a leg up as an intern, and later an employee, of small business owners.  I soon found out that neither a degree in design nor a large trust fund were necessary to start a successful interior design business. 

 

 

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

I volunteered at Dismas House, was a club chair for the Comunications, Advertising & Marketing Club, and interned for the Public Affairs office.  

 

 

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I was an English major and I think my creative writing classes gave me some insight into how much I enjoyed creative work.  The time I spent working on the assignments for those classes flew by, even when the assignments were difficult.   

 

 

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

While I was at Holy Cross I learned to be very disciplined about my time because I found that the school work load would sneak up on me if I wasn’t consistently setting aside time at the library.  In my industry it is very easy to be distracted by the creative part of the job and put the paperwork on the backburner.  Unfortunately that is probably the quickest way to go out of business, so in life as in school I try to set aside specific time dedicated to the paperwork.

 

6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Trust your instincts when it comes to your future.  Don’t force a career choice, or any choice for that matter, solely because it appears to be the most pragmatic.  If it doesn’t feel right it isn’t, and you should take the time to find what is right for you.  Also, pay attention to what interests you, even the things you think of as silly hobbies or the curiosities you take for granted.  Today more than ever there is value in being an expert in a specialized field, so why not take advantage of that?

Meet Alum Efrain Lozano ’19, Production Assistant at NFL Network

Name: Efrain Lozano

Class Year: 2019

Title: Production Assistant

Organization Name: NFL Network

 

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

As a production assistant at the NFL Network’s Original Content department, my job is to compile footage and media for all projects from the very beginning of the script. Once footage is compiled, it is shared with producers and editors who put everything together to create the final version of the project, which is what ends up going on air on the NFL Network channel or through our various social media channels.

 

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross?

I had the opportunity to take a class called filmmaking in Spanish with Professor Bridget Franco, this inspired me to get interested in storytelling. From there, I became an intern, through the Academic Internship Program, in the athletic department with the marketing and live production team. Thanks to this and to a Holy Cross alum, I was able to land an internship with the NFL’s Original Content department here in Los Angeles.

 

3. How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you? 

Through the internship with the NFL, I noticed that they treated me as part of the team and not just any other worker on the network. I was given responsibilities and the trust to run projects that helped with my experience. I was brought back as a seasonal production assistant to the same department, and from there I just felt this is what I wanted to do for a very long time.

 

4. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

I was one of the founders of HCF1RST Scholars. I was also part of LASO, SGA, and the athletic department marketing and live broadcast team.

 

5. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I was a Spanish major. Besides the filmmaking class, my major had nothing to do with the Media or Production industry. However, attending a liberal arts institution definitely helped my case.

 

6. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

Effective Communication Skills: Attending a school with small classes, you constantly need to be communicating and sharing with professors and your peers. This is CRUCIAL at the NFL, we’re in constant communication with each other at all levels, so you need to communicate well and effectively.

Organizational Skills: With my specific role, I need to keep track of tons of footage and sometimes we even need to find footage from back when the league started in 1920. In order to use our time wisely with our editors, we need to keep everything as organized as possible for the projects to run smoothly.

 

7. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Even if there’s no specific major for what you want to do in the future, take advantage of attending a liberal arts institution and find things that interest you, don’t just focus on a specific major but on something you really enjoy.

Also, take advantage of your alumni network!! Thanks to a Holy Cross alumni I was able to land my internship at the NFL, and now I am here full-time. So network and build connections with the HC community.

Meet Alumna Midori Marsh ’15, Ecommerce Merchandising Specialist @ Wayfair

Name: Midori Marsh

Class Year: 2015
Title: Ecommerce Merchandising Specialist
Organization Name: Wayfair
1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?
Analyze clickstream metrics and other customer data to identify and create a best-in-class customer experience on the Wayfair-owned luxury site, Perigold.com
2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?
As a junior at HC, I belonged to what was then called the Summer Internship Program (“SIP”). This experience helped me land my first internship in fashion merchandising at Theory in NYC. This role also turned into my first job out of college. Something that helped me understand which career path would be a good fit was a suggestion from my dad to find a job that doesn’t feel like work so that you’ll never get tired of it. Working in merchandising was a great mix of analytics and creativity, which for me was super exciting and didn’t feel like real work. After 5 years in wholesale merchandising, I now work in ecommerce merchandising at a luxury furniture retailer, Perigold.com.
3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?
 I co-led the Black Student Union Fashion Show during my senior year and was the VP of the Holy Cross Fashion Society. Both experiences helped me to manage a budget, coordinate events, and allowed me to grow my network in the industry.
4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions? 
Psychology, with a minor in Asian studies. Psychology pushed me to work hard and allowed me to learn about human behavior from incredible professors, but it didn’t really affect my career decisions. The great part about our liberal arts education is that it allows you to study the field you’re interested in and still pursue a variety of career interests.
5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work? 
The power of relationships and networking. Holy Cross helped me to develop the necessary skills to build and foster relationships. At both the big and small companies I’ve worked at, I’ve learned that productivity thrives when you understand the goals of the teams you work with. It’s tremendously important to build and maintain relationships in order to collaborate effectively.
6. What advice do you have for students on campus today? 
Use your summers as time to test out your interests with internships. You may confirm your interests or realize the industry is not for you. Either way, it will be a great learning experience.

Meet Alum Matthew Schnaars ’00, Vice President, Content Distribution at NBCUniversal

Name: Matthew Schnaars

Class Year: 2000

Title: Senior Vice President, Content Distribution

Organization Name: NBCUniversal

 

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

It’s a bit like being an agent for an athlete, but instead of representing a person, I represent a media company.   I’m part of the team that negotiates the commercial terms for distributing NBCU’s content properties – which includes everything from NBC network to Peacock – with technology, media and telecommunications companies.

 

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?   

My internships in college and my first job out of college all taught me what I DIDN’T want to do for a career, as I worked in roles ranging from finance/accounting at GE to doing legal research at a law firm (thinking I might apply to law school) to working in business development for a technology company.  All were fine opportunities with good firms, but I didn’t think I had the requisite passion to pursue a lifelong career in those fields.   Ultimately I followed my instinct of wanting to work in media in a business capacity, and “started over” in my mid 20s by taking an entry level role with a small media company in Boston, selling advertising.   From there I used the Holy Cross network and other contacts to make connections inside major media companies like Disney/ESPN, NBC, and CBS.   After learning a bit about the media business and a couple years of persistent networking, I was offered an opportunity to join ESPN in their Content Distribution group, and after nine years at Disney/ESPN, I was recruited to join NBCUniversal in a bigger capacity.

 

 

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

It felt like a little bit of everything, though my only media tie-in was hosting a radio show on WCHC.   I think maybe five people listened to me, but it was a blast.  I gave campus tours to prospective students and their parents, which provided me with my earliest training in public speaking.   Eventually I worked in the Admissions department as an interviewer who met with prospective HC students, which further developed my critical listening and writing skills.    On top of this I had a steady string of on-campus jobs over my time at HC, which forced me to learn how to prioritize and manage my time effectively, balancing classes, extra curriculars, work, and some form of a social life.

 

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

 I majored in Economics, mainly because it was the closest thing to a “business” major at the time.  (I subsequently went on to earn my MBA from NYU-Stern.)   Our economics courses were fairly rigorous then, as I’m sure they still are today, and combined a healthy dose of quantitative analysis with qualitative work, e.g. written analysis and presentations.   My job requires a blend of quantitative and qualitative skill, and I attribute some of my comfort in such a role to my coursework.

  

 

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?   

Writing and public speaking, which I know sounds cliché.   My job success centers on my ability to influence my clients, and equally so my internal clients and stakeholders.   My ability to communicate succinctly and effectively is critical to that, and the high volume of writing and presentation work that I did in class and in my extra-curricular pursuits at HC trained me well.

 

 

6.  What advice do you have for students on campus today?   

The media ecosystem is rapidly changing, and unlike other industries, there is no one standard path into media.   You have to be scrappy and spend a lot of time learning about the different companies in the industry, understanding where there are opportunities, networking, and then learning and leveraging a particular skill to get your foot in the door (this could be everything from data analysis to financial modeling to video editing).   People who are trained in data analytics will have countless opportunities on the business side of media, and in many other industries for that matter.   More generally, I think it’s important to understand that in any industry, your career will likely be non-linear, so it’s important to develop a varied set of skills, to try new jobs, to change companies on occasion, and to push yourself to continually learn and grow.   Do not stress if your first job out of college does not align perfectly with your career aspiration; your early career years are entirely about learning and development.  Find a good company, align yourself with good mentors there, and be a sponge.

Meet Alumna Erin Kenning ’17, Global Senior PR Manager

Name: Erin Kenning

Class Year: 2017

Title: Global Senior PR Manager

Organization Name: Galvan London

 

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

I am responsible for achieving the overall positioning and image goals of the brand on a global level through editorial placements, celebrity dressings, influencer activations, digital PR, and branded events.

 

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

I always imagined myself working in the fashion industry since I was a young girl, but I didn’t know exactly what field I wanted to be in. When I was a freshman, I attended a Holy Cross fashion networking event at alumni Carolyn Risoli’s home in NYC. At this event, I met Erika Bearman who was the SVP of Global Communications and PR at Oscar de la Renta. After hearing Erika speak about her career at the event, I reconnected with her through email to speak more about her career path. We met at Oscar de la Renta’s HQ in New York, and soon after she offered me a summer internship in the PR department. From the moment I entered the PR closet and became immersed in the PR world of fashion, I knew then and there that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I continued to intern at Oscar de la Renta for almost two years every winter and summer break. After I graduated, a woman from the Oscar de la Renta PR team offered me a position at a new company she was moving to called Solid & Striped. It was a unique role where I would help build and establish the first in-house global communications and PR team, which jump started my career.

 

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

I was involved in HC Fashion Society and volunteered at Blaire House (Alzheimer’s home) and Girls Inc. in Worcester.

 

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I was an English major with a concentration in creative writing. I don’t think that my major necessarily affected my career decisions, however it certainly helped me in my career as it is very important to be able to speak and write articulately in PR.

 

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

The key skill that I developed at Holy Cross was to be a divergent, unconventional thinker which I attribute to my liberal arts education.

 

6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Never stop learning. If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong place.

Meet Alum Sean Pacheco ’17, Creative Director at VIO Collective Inc.

Name: Sean Pacheco

Class Year: 2017

Title: Creative Director

Organization Name: VIO Collective Inc.

 

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

My job entails developing a voice for brands as well as producing results for small and large businesses through digital marketing methods, such as sales funnels, digital ad campaigns, innovative content creation, and more!

 

 

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

When I was a first-year, I started to practice using my camera to make videos and take photos. My first collaboration was with the Admissions Office, where my friend was a social media intern. We created videos for the Admissions Office, Kimball Dining Hall, and more organizations on campus. It snowballed from there where as the more I did work, the more people started to recognize me and ask me to do work for them. So, my networking and just putting myself out there, trying to see how to use my talents across campus eventually connected me to a content creator job for a phone app startup right out of college.

 

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

I was very involved in the Campus Activities Board. CAB introduced me to marketing in a very fun and experimental way, and taught me how to start analyzing how audiences react to certain initiatives. I eventually started a digital marketing/content creation sub-section of CAB in which I was able to practice my craft and eventually put that on my resume as a pre-professional experience that aligns with my industry.

 

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

My major was Psychology with a Film minor, and the one thing about psychology that still helps me to this day is analyzing data, statistics, and understanding research methods. In the digital marketing world, you need to understand data and how to read it and also how to visualize it appropriately. Psychology has also helped me understand the psychology of the online user and has helped me deepen my understanding when working in digital marketing.

 

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

A skill that I have developed at Holy Cross is presentation of information. Many times in the corporate world, you will be asked to present info and data, and Holy Cross prepared me in summarizing info, getting to the point, and figuring out what is the appropriate way of showing that info.

 

 

6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

The advice I have is do things! Collaborate! You have a talent of some kind, whether if it’s artistic or not. Identify that and just try practicing it with clubs on campus, organizations, offices, and more. This is great for building your resume as well as developing your skills.

Meet Alumna Lauren Spurr ’13, Brand Marketing Manager

Name: Lauren Spurr

 Class Year: 2013

 Title: Brand Marketing Manager

 Organization Name: The Trade Desk

 

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

Build and amplify The Trade Desk’s brand to solidify our position as the leading DSP shaping the future of digital advertising.

 

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

 Immediately after graduation, I went to work for NBCUniversal as a Page in the East Coast Page program. I was an intern at msnbc’s Morning Joe the summer before my Senior year at HC which helped me build relationships and experience to secure my position at the company the following year. After three years working in TV and following my interest in politics to a position at Bloomberg on the campaign trail during the 2016 election cycle, I was let go in a company reorganization (unplanned!). This led to me to reflect on what I most enjoyed about my jobs leading to this point and tap into the network I had built to find a new challenge in Marketing. A former Bloomberg teammate had joined The Trade Desk, and encouraged me to apply since the open position had a vast opportunity for growth, was in a setting she knew I’d find gratifying, and involved challenging, intellectually stimulating work. During these critical first few years in the workforce, I was able to experiment in different industries, build a network of strong professional relationships, and hone my skillset to find positions that offered a challenge, gave me the opportunity to have an impact, and provided workplace cultures where I could succeed.

 

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

 SGA, Gateways Orientation Leaders, SPUD (tutoring at Quinsigamond Elementary and Abby’s House), Manresa retreats, Washington Semester Program, and Spring Break Immersion in Appalachia (Roanoke and Barren Springs)

 

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

 I majored in Political Science, and because of my major, I sought out opportunities that involved a lot of writing, strategic thinking, and complex problem solving. Early on, I sought out opportunities directly connected to what I studied, including an internship at the US Department of State and working in political television. Once I learned that my major could apply to a broader set of industries and roles, I was able to expand how I envisioned the future of my career to include fields like Marketing.

 

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

 I rely on my ability to ask intentional and thoughtful questions, and my writing and communication skills in my day-to-day responsibilities. I sharpened these skills during my time at HC, and they have been critical to all of my roles to date.

6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

When it comes to career planning, think big! It can sometimes feel like there are only a few career paths to choose from upon graduation, but the working world is more expansive than you think. I certainly didn’t expect to work in television or Marketing with my Political Science degree, but both industries were perfect settings for my HC skill set and fulfilling environments to build my career. Talking to alums in diverse and various fields will help expand your view of what’s possible and where you’d like to contribute your energy when you enter the workforce.

On the Hill, soak up every moment you have in the classroom with HC’s brilliant professors and the time you’re spending with your friends and classmates. The opportunity to be a student learning from the most knowledgeable educators is a privilege and something you’ll be immensely grateful for when you look back at your time in college. The relationships you’re building with your friends are going to be what you cling to when faced with life’s biggest challenges, so cherish the memories you’re making now because you are building a foundation for lifelong friendships.

Meet Alumna Kara Cuzzone ’19, Assistant Commerce Editor

Name: Kara Cuzzone

Class Year: 2019

Title: Assistant Commerce Editor

Organization Name: PureWow

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

I write shoppable articles for PureWow’s beauty, wellness, fashion and home verticals.

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

Late into my sophomore year, I decided to change my plan to go abroad to Italy and applied to the NYC Semester Program instead. That was the first major step towards my career today, because I got to intern at Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazines and get a feel for whether I’d really like working in women’s media. Spoiler alert: I did. Through the semester program, I met a wonderful HC alumna who connected me with a summer internship at Byrdie (yes, the alumni network is as great as everyone says). That gave me some really valuable experience in writing shopping content which helped me to land my role at PureWow. But first, I had to discover PureWow, which is all thanks to Isabelle Jenkins, associate director of the Donelan Office for Community Based Learning. She was (and continues to be) a great mentor to me, and was able to connect me with a friend of hers who had worked at PureWow a couple of years prior. That connection helped me to get my foot in the door rather than just cold applying to the assistant commerce editor role I’m in today.

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

 During my time at Holy Cross, I was a CBL intern, fall orientation leader, a member of Best Buddies, and a co-chair of Peace of Mind, an organization aimed at promoting mental wellness and self-care practices on campus that I founded during my sophomore year.

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

 I was an Anthropology major. Through my Anthropology courses, I realized that I really enjoy learning a little bit about a lot of different topics. Within the discipline, you can study everything from the cultural impacts of social media in America to how interior design impacts people’s sense of self in Vietnam. As an editor, I get to feed that interest by constantly researching new topics for articles. Anthropological field work also involves interviewing people, which I came to really enjoy. In my job, I’m able to interview experts, so it has a similar feel.

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

 One skill that I developed at Holy Cross is the ability to build strong professional relationships. Through my experiences as a CBL intern, as well as just interacting with professors and attending office hours, I learned the importance of finding mentors and how to collaborate with those in leadership roles. In my work, I’m conscious about reaching out to editors who are more experienced for mentorship and advice, which has been really valuable. I’m better able to advocate for myself at work and interact with folks regardless of their position in the workplace hierarchy because Holy Cross gave me the tools to do so.

6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

My advice for current HC students is don’t be afraid to change paths. Some of the best decisions I made during my time at Holy Cross were last minute pivots, like deciding to do the NYC Semester Program instead of going abroad, or majoring in Anthropology instead of Psychology. I think the key is to follow what truly interests you rather than doing what you feel you “should” do. You don’t have to stick with something just because it’s what you wanted your freshman year. You’ll change throughout your four years, so it’s totally natural that your plans will change too.

Meet Alum Peter McStravick ’13, Director – Global Digital Business

Name: Peter McStravick

Class Year: 2013

Title: Director – Global Digital Business, Partner Development

Organization Name: Sony Music Entertainment

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

In my role, we manage the global business relationship with music streaming companies and identify digital strategies to grow engagement with our labels’ content.

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

I got my first job at a boutique marketing agency through the Liberal Arts Career Network (LACN). I really enjoyed that problem solving nature of marketing strategy but was more interested in music and film.

And it was through another HC alum that I was first connected to the music industry. The career office put us in touch my senior year and over time led to the introduction of several other music and tech folks. Networking really helped me get a grasp of some of the industry levers, key questions, and the necessary skill set to navigate the space. With the music streaming boom, analytics became an increasingly important piece so I focused on developing this during grad school and internships.

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

 WCHC 88.1, Campus Ministry (i.e. retreats, Spring Break Immersion), The Crusader (student paper), Gateways Orientation, Battle of the Bands

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

Music and Economics. Pretty straightforward!

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

It may sound simple but writing. 

A lot of my work today involves communicating analytical insights to people with limited technical knowledge. I really learned to shape my voice writing countless papers at Holy Cross – even in technical courses in economics and music theory. I think this challenged me back then and helped me get my thoughts/points across more effectively.

6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Two things: Make sure you focus on developing macro skills that will make you successful regardless of where you end up – these will carry you through your career. And then separately, build a plan around acquiring specific skills you need for the avenues you’re specifically interested in.

Meet Alum Piero Iberti ’11, Screenwriter/Filmmaker

Name: Piero Iberti

Class Year: 2011

Title: Screenwriter/Filmmaker

Organization Name: Currently between seasons writing for USA Network’s Limited Series “The Sinner”

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

For the past four years, my job has taken the form of Writers’ Assistant. A Writers’ Assistant essentially operate as the keeper of the story for the writers. The day-to-day takes place in the Writers’ Room with intense note-taking, while the writers pitch on story arcs for the season and characters, leading to story for specific episodes. It’s basically my job to internalize and manage the story, as it develops, so I can best support the writers as a resource for information. Sometimes I get to pitch my own ideas in the Room and occasionally I get to help a Writer with their outline, but generally a good Writers’ Assistant is one who listens well and reminds the writers of what they talked about without involving themselves too much.

For all three seasons of “The Sinner” thus far, I’ve also worked as the Assistant to the showrunner/head writer & Executive Producer – Derek Simonds.  As of this past season, I not only worked as Writers’ Assistant and Assistant to Derek, but also achieved my dream of writing my first professional script for television with him in this season’s finale.

 

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?

It was a combination of things. After graduating, I knew I wanted to write, I just didn’t know what specific type of writing road I wanted to go down. I knew I loved movies though, how the visual medium helped communicate and anchor a story or message. I consulted with my friends and parents (my Dad also worked his way up the film ladder starting as a Parking Production Assistant for the Locations Department guarding cones/parking spots around the City in the ‘80s and is now an Executive Producer, most recently for HBO’s “Watchmen”). My Dad didn’t have much awareness at the time of a specific screenwriting path, but offered that a good place to start and learn might be as a Production Assistant on set. This way I could experience all the different departments in unison, get paid to help with, but also learn about what it takes, to make a Film/TV Show.

 With his help, as well as one of my childhood friends, I was able to interview and get my first job as a Production Assistant on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. It was extremely hard work: 14-16 hours, low pay, but it was a start. It was also extremely rewarding right away. It was my on-the-job film school. I was suddenly learning what every person on the crew was doing and how each of them contributed to the greater whole. As I progressed as a Production Assistant, I knew that this was the type of collaborative art I wanted to bring my writing to.

 

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

I always tried to stay involved at Holy Cross. Thankfully the school’s intimate size and support from various programs made it easy. Academically, I was a part of the Summer Study Abroad Program my Junior Year with Professor Judith Chubb in Nairobi, Kenya. I was a Resident Assistant my Junior Year (in Loyola) and Senior Year (in Williams) as well as a part of the Spring Break Immersion Program from my Sophomore Year onward. Sports/Team-wise, I played Club Hockey and vibraphone in the Jazz Ensemble, with the one and only Mike Monaghan, all four years.

 

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I was an English Major with concentrations in Creative Writing and Peace & Conflict Studies. Like I mentioned earlier, I knew I wanted to write – writing was always a passion – I just didn’t know in what form it was going to materialize or make the most sense. A lot of my writing at Holy Cross (under the incredible mentorship of Professors Leila Philip, Patricia Bizzell and Leah Hager Cohen) took the form of prose. A combination of memoir and journalistic writing helped me make sense of areas of history and social justice I was passionate about. My Professors encouraged me to bring a creatively analytical lens to these topics, approach them from various writing angles. Another important piece, was Senior Year I took an elective — a screenwriting course with a visiting professor (Steven Wingate). That’s when it all clicked. All the elements. I asked myself — “Why am I fighting this? This combines all my interests: creative storytelling, economy of language, visual enforcement.”

Without the support from my Professors and classes to experiment with and meld different writing styles, I don’t know if I would’ve had the confidence or skill sets needed to pursue a career in the arts, specifically writing.

 

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

The ability to write analytically across a wide range of topics, proofread thoroughly and edit meticulously. One hundred percent. Also I learned how to take notes efficiently. Each one of these elements has played a significant part of my career growth. I can attribute my comfort and success in these areas, in part, to two other mentors – Professors Steve Vineberg and Judith Chubb. They both saw potential in my writing/creative leanings and helped me focus them analytically, holding me to the highest standard of structure and grammar.

Also, it may seem simple or cliched, but Holy Cross really instilled in me just how much the ability to listen plays into being a man for and with others. Not only in the classroom or with my Professors, but also through the activities I found myself involved with around campus.

 

6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Stay open. Don’t be afraid to say yes to things you’re unsure of – both in the classroom and out – because you never know who you might meet or what you might experience that ignites you. I can tell you confidently that significant friends, mentors, colleagues and success factors in my professional life have often come from the earliest jobs I said yes to, even if it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do. Those are the steps that help you be most in touch with yourself.

Also, don’t feel like you have to have it all figured out at ANY point in the four year span. A lot of my realizations, in regards to a career, came late…even as I was graduating and that first year after school. It’s that openness which facilitates confidence and further self-awareness.

Also, take advantage of the intimate nature of your classes and professors’ open doors. That is what saved me, kept me at HC and allowed me to access the tools to unlock and realize my passions fully. Honestly.