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COM Alumni Share Their Industry Journeys

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(L-R) Elizabeth Sweeney (Class of 2016), Matt Cesca (Class of 2016), Mehak Khullar (Class of 2017), COM instructor John Scott and Devin London (Class of 2013). Photo by Bob Toy.

John Scott made sure COM Careers was short and sweet. The School of Communications & Media Technologies (COM) instructor at Academy of Art University acted as the mediator between the four alums he invited to share their stories and career tidbits to current students. 

Graduates Devin London (2013), Mehak Khullar (2017), Elizabeth Sweeney and Matt Cesca (both 2016) sat on the stage at 79 New Montgomery theater and spoke candidly about their experiences going from Academy students to industry professionals.

Scott asked about the COM classes that helped them in their jobs: Sweeney, an Airbnb video editor, attributes her comfort level on an Airbnb live production to her experiences with Academy Idol. “Just knowing that type of atmosphere and what to do in a high-stress situation really paid off,” she said. Cesca, a technical producer for Pixel Corps, was actually hired by one of his former Academy instructors after he called him at 10 p.m. one night to work a 6 a.m. job. 

Cesca’s advice to students: “Always answer your phone because you never know who is calling.” 

The discussion focused less on the alumni panel’s respective positions and more on how they got there. Sweeney found her job through the traditional means of a tech recruiter whereas London—who works as a technical support team manager at Wix.com—was encouraged by her sister to apply for the position. London said she initially wanted to work in radio, but she fell in love with the people and culture. 

Translating the interview process and its language was another topic of discussion. Scott said that the first question interviewers ask—“What do you want to do?”—is critical in figuring out not only if a candidate is qualified for the job, but if they even just want to work with that individual. 

“It’s some version of ‘Tell me about yourself,’” he explained. “If you don’t have that answer ready, the interview is over.”

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Photo by Bob Toy.

As a team manager who deals with hiring, London agreed: “Recruitment is more of getting to know you, do I want to work with you. And then looking at your history and everything after that.”

Tips were shared on how to beef up a résumé or LinkedIn account, from organizing the content to knowing how to aptly describe yourself (“There’s a fine line—you don’t want to sound braggy but you also want to seem like you know your stuff,” Sweeney said). Jongheon Lee, a first-year COM student, said prior to the talk, he didn’t know how to use LinkedIn. 

“I had no idea how useful it could be,” he said. “I came [to the Academy] to learn how to be a professional, and talks like these are very helpful so I know what I should do once I’m done with school.”

Across the board, however, the only way to strengthen a resume or portfolio is by simply doing things, such as internships and contract jobs. Though every panelist had their own unique journey in the workforce, each attributed their success to the Academy and the high level of opportunities and resources that were at their fingertips while in school. 

“The point is that the best thing about this school is that we give you virtually unlimited opportunities to do stuff,” Scott said, encouraging audience members to volunteer for opportunities such as shooting video and working production for events such as Art U Athletics. “If you want to get better at your art, this is the perfect place to make mistakes. These things are going to prove that you can work with a camera, a switcher or something like that.”

Scott said events such as COM Careers are a way to demonstrate to students that Academy faculty does more than dish out homework assignments and grades. Instructors are more than ready to help, he says, the resources are abundant and it’s never too late to think about what’s coming up next after graduation. 

“Your degree is not your education, your education is the things that you did while you were here,” he said. “The more stuff you do, the better your odds are.”