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Hosted & Produced by Grace Ibrahim & SOC's Communications & Outreach Office.

American University School of Communication

Media in the Mix

Welcome to "Media in the Mix," the only podcast produced and hosted by the School of Communication at American University. Join us as we create a safe space to explore topics and communication at the intersection of social justice, tech, innovation & pop culture. Stream on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Anchor, and Amazon Music. Watch on Spotify and YouTube

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  1. American University School of Communication

    MEDIA IN THE MIX | SOC Student-Athlete Life; With Deidre & Aidan

  2. American University School of Communication

    Self & Professional Growth with Irina Gilbertson

  3. American University School of Communication

    The Creative Connoisseur with Trace Dominguez

  4. American University School of Communication

    R.A. Sinn; A Powerful Sibling Duo

  5. American University School of Communication

    SOC3 Back in the House!

  6. American University School of Communication

    David Ruck & Grace Eggleston; "The Erie Situation"

  7. American University School of Communication

    SOC Alumni Mentorship Program; Information Session

  8. American University School of Communication

    *Flashback Episode* The Art of Directing with Claudia Myers

  9. American University School of Communication

    *Flashback Episode* Our Time to Give Back with Derek McGinty

  10. American University School of Communication

    *Flashback Episode* Matchmakers in the Music Business with Jen Tanner

  11. American University School of Communication

    *Flashback Episode* Art Imitating Life with H Spencer Young

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    Capturing Reality; The Art of Documentary Film

  13. American University School of Communication

    Meet the Founder of Anacostia Youth Media Festival

  14. American University School of Communication

    *BONUS EPISODE* Democracy with Dean Sam Fulwood III!

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    American University Girl Doll; Plastic to Power

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    What's Your Call to Action?

  17. American University School of Communication

    SOC3 In the House

  18. American University School of Communication

    Adventures with Rorschach Theatre!

  19. American University School of Communication

    A Look into Student Life!

  20. American University School of Communication

    The 3 P's of Public Speaking

  21. American University School of Communication

    Matchmakers in the Music Business

  22. American University School of Communication

    Photography: Painting with Light

  23. American University School of Communication

    Art Imitating Life

  24. American University School of Communication

    The Path to Post-Production

  25. American University School of Communication

    Sports Events Are the Memories Business

  26. American University School of Communication

    Our Time to Give Back

  27. American University School of Communication

    I made the L.A move... Should you?

  28. American University School of Communication

    Pandemic or Endemic? The fate of the entertainment industry.

  29. American University School of Communication

    The Evolution of the Film Industry & Award Shows

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    The New Workforce Wave

  31. American University School of Communication

    The State of Far-Right Extremism In America

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    The Evolution of Superhero Narratives and the Human Experience

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  34. American University School of Communication

    What's In An Identity?


SOC Alumni Mentorship Program; Information Session


Join Media in the Mix this week as host and SOC mentor Grace Ibrahim speaks to Advacement Coordinator Lindsay Zimnoch and SOC alumna and former mentee Jessical Newell, SOC/MA '22. Listen to this episode to learn what it's like to be a part of the SOC Mentorship Program. Want to know how to make the most out of your mentorship and how to set expectations? Stream now! 




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Creative Connoisseur ft. Trace Dominguez

Trace Dominguez Media in the Mix

On this episode of Media in the Mix, meet Trace Dominguez, SOC/MA'10. Dominguez is an award-winning science communicator, video producer, content creator, podcaster and researcher. He has written over 1,000 videos for award winning and top ranked Facebook and YouTube channels. He primarily focuses on quantum mechanics, astronomy, psychology, engineering and agriculture. Dominguez produces content for clients including CuriosityStream, Nebula, SMART and PBS Digital Studios. He has collaborated with the Obama White House, The US Air Force, Toyota, Boeing, Skillshare and more. Listen to this episode to hear about how he has also hosted, written and produced for PBS Television, Discovery Channel, Science Channel, TBD Network, Seeker, Amazon Prime, YouTube originals, and other networks across the globe. After checking out this episode, make sure to check out his podcast, That's Absurd Please Elaborate.


[0:00:00] Grace Ibrahim: Welcome to Media in the Mix, the only podcast produced and hosted by the School of Communication at American University. Join us as we create a safe space to explore topics and communication at the intersection of social justice, tech, innovation, and pop culture. Welcome back to Media in the Mix. I'm your host, Grace Ibrahim and today, we have a very special guest, Trace Dominguez, who graduated from American University in 2010 with his master’s in public communication. We're going to get into a little bit of your capstone project that you did there. But Trace, is there anything else you wanted to add?


[0:00:41] Trace Dominguez: Gosh, I think if I hadn't gone to American, I wouldn't be where I am now. I mean, that's a little cliche, or trite or whatever. But I literally got the internship at Discovery that kind of launched my career because they did an info session on campus. So, it was cool.


[0:00:57] Grace Ibrahim: That's so cool. I didn't know that. Okay. Wow. So, I'm learning a few new things. That's awesome. So actually, I'm just gonna dive right into your time at AU SOC. What made you kind of want to go into the public comms sphere?


[0:01:10] Trace Dominguez: So, I graduated my undergrad with a degree in behavioral psychology. And I thought, okay, a lot of people who get that degree, they end up working with children with autism or doing some kind of organized behavioral therapy. And that wasn't for me. I had looked at it as an option, but it wasn't what I wanted to do. So, I took a few years off between my undergrad and grad program. And when I went to look for grad programs, I was looking for something that was practical, something that wasn't like a two or three, or you know, so on year program. So, I could just get working. I wanted to like go and get a career in media in some capacity. And so, to do that, I looked around at different programs, and I ended up applying to several, and American, I really liked the program. I liked that it was a one-year program, that it was really intense. And I could just like devote my time to it and ended up going and obviously worked out for me. So, I think it was awesome.


[0:02:06] Grace Ibrahim: I do have a little follow up question there. I know a lot of our students, a lot of them do take the two likes for example, I did the two-year master's program. I saw my, you know, cohort and the people, my peers take the three year, the MFA. So, they had even that extra additional time. Is there anything that you can provide just for like what to expect if you do end up taking the one-year program? Because I know a lot of people will say it's intense, but you know, just elaborate on that a little bit.


[0:02:32] Trace Dominguez: I mean, yeah, intense is the word for sure. And it's not so much that it's difficult intense. It's just you have to dedicate your time to it. I found an apartment right near campus that I could walk to the classes that I needed to take, and you were in classes all day and then doing, you know, either at the library or doing your work at night, and there wasn't as much time to just casually take a master's program, not that any master's program is casual, per se, but it's just, it felt like okay, I'm gonna do this all day, every day. And I remember the day after graduation, I like popped up in bed. And I was like, Okay, well, what do I have to do today? Because I had this like routine where I had this list of things that I constantly was getting done every single day. And I was like, Oh, well, I graduated. So, nothing right now. Like, I could just take some time. And I remember not knowing what the popular music was, not knowing what was cool on YouTube or whatever. I just didn't, because I wasn't paying attention. You know, we had a TV, I didn't use it. I didn't have time; I was doing something else. And so, it was just like, I could have probably carved out time to do those things, but I filled my free time with social time, usually with my other cohort, which is cool.


[0:03:51] Grace Ibrahim: That's very cool. Yeah, I feel like a one year really gives you time to bond even though you may not think you do because it's like so intense. You're always together, always doing things together. That's awesome. Do you remember any of the classes that really stood out to you or like a professor that stood out to you. Favorite memory?


[0:04:09] Trace Dominguez: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, the main, the first class that I took, really stood out only because I got to meet with Rick Stax class, and I really just got to meet all of the students and the other people and see where they were from. I really liked Dottie Lynch's class about polling, I thought it was really interesting and learning about, you know, kind of the practical application of these things that we were learning. Lauren Feldman's class was really interesting. I took a class about international PR, which was cool. Wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be. But it was really interesting because we each got to pick a country and then learn about that country and how their PR might work, which I thought was very cool. And then we did like a presentation at the end. So, it was there were several classes that obviously stood out. But I think generally speaking, it was the thing that really stuck out to me aside from, you know, the practical application of stuff, which is my jam, that's what I really enjoy is just seeing how everybody approached it differently and where they all wanted to go. Because my goal was to get into a media sphere in some way. And not everybody wanted to do that. A lot of people wanted to go into PR, you know, more traditional aspects, some people didn't want to do PR at all, they were just learning to have that like, thought process of kind of strategic communicating. So, everybody sort of had a different goal. And that was, I think that was the thing that I liked even more than just any individual class.


[0:05:36] Grace Ibrahim: Did your expectation of your career. So, I know you said you always knew you want to go into media. But did the expectation of your career change from the start of that program? To the end? It? Was it what you know, you kind of changed your mind a little bit there? Did you surprise yourself with anything?


[0:05:49] Trace Dominguez: No, I think I just focused a little bit, I didn't really change my mind on where I wanted to go. I just focused on what I was interested in. Seeing what other people wanted to do and where they wanted to go and how focused they were on it sort of helped me distill what it was that I was looking for. And how I always think of it now like looking back, I don't know almost how I felt at the time, you know, because it was all in flux. But now when I look back, I think I wanted to work in media. And I didn't care how I was going to get there almost when I started. And by the end, I was like, oh, I want to work in these specific places and media, you know, something where I can feel good about what it is that we're making?


[0:06:33] Grace Ibrahim: That's great. I like that. And then how would you just overall, because I have like a million notes here of what you did what you do now, and the different areas you're in. But I have a sentence here, which I pulled from your bio. Basically, he primarily focuses on quantum mechanics, astronomy, Psychology, Engineering, and agriculture when it comes to your media work. Why? What kind of drew you to getting into that, and I know, this is actually a nice segue from an episode that's going to be released a little bit before you we talked to David Ruck. And he talks all about how he translates kind of the science in the field into video form. And so, you guys both kind of reminded me of each other, because that is very interesting. And that's not a lot that we think about, you know. A lot of people consider kind of the field of like stem to be numbers and analytics and this but being able to kind of translate it translate it into a visual form. Basically, what got you into that? And can you just elaborate on that anymore?


[0:07:29] Trace Dominguez: Yeah, absolutely. So, if you don't know what I do, I guess aside from the bio that we're putting in the episode, I basically make science videos is when you know, if you're in a lift and somebody's like, what do you do, I'm like, I make videos. And if they push, I'll say I make science videos. Because people love, either love learning about this, or they are like, completely turned off by the science part of it. And I don't say stem too often only because then people are like, well, what's that? I don't even know what that is. So basically, I'm a science communicator. I didn't know what that was. When I started my career, I was told that that's what I was. I said, okay, sure. But translating science and technology, engineering, math, you know, into visual can be complicated. It can, but it's also really fun. It's a puzzle every time. So, when I make videos, when I sat down to like, kind of start my career, I got an internship with the Discovery Communications company in Silver Spring. And I was the Discovery News intern. So, it was my job to kind of do journalistic science coverage. And that's where I sort of cut my teeth and learned what it is that that even meant. And what it really means is not just like, hey, there's a new paper out, let's read it. It's more like what's happening in the world, just like any journalist, and what is it that we can look at it from a science lens? Oh, there are, you know, whales swimming into the bay area during the pandemic into the San Francisco Bay. What does that mean? And did they always come in there? And were they going there before? And why weren't they? Why were they? And it turns out, you know, boat engines, even though we don't hear them because they're vibrating the water, whales can hear them for hundreds of miles. And so, they avoid them because they're quite loud. If you think of it as sound as moving through the water, as opposed to air. And so, like boat motors and boat channels, whales avoid them, because it'd be like, going into a construction site for us. It's just very loud. And so even just how we describe what that means, and how we're translating how whales are hearing things, you know, it's just taking a regular story, and putting it through a lens of science. And so, when I say things like quantum mechanics and psychology and engineering, you know, we're doing videos about airplanes, you know, we're doing videos about computers. We're doing videos about what things that people use on a day-to-day basis and trying to make it relevant. And sometimes that involves I was getting into weird, esoteric science things. And so, I'm a generalist, I'm not an expert in any specific science. So, I'm always trying to learn something about all these different facets of it.


[0:10:14] Grace Ibrahim: That's very fascinating. I love that. I feel like I'm like your target audience for that stuff. I'm like, I don't know anything about it. Yeah, but I'm a very visual learner. So, I could see how that's so beneficial to anyone, even in the science field, who is a visual learner like that really could help you more so than words on a page. So that's awesome.


[0:10:33] Trace Dominguez: Actually, I think that's a really good point. Because I think people think when they think of science communication, like, oh, it's science nerds that watch that that's just for science. But science, people don't all know the same thing. Just like, you know, you go to SOC, you don't necessarily know how somebody in a crisis comm PR agency works versus an advertising branding agency, they don't know how each other work. And sciences are exactly the same. Where I was making a video about antimatter, which if you think of a hydrogen atom is a proton and electron, and they spin, you know, electrons, like orbiting like a planet, swap it. So, the proton would become a negative, and the electron would become a positive. Everything else about it is the same. And but describing that, even now is tough, right? And so, I went to this MIT engineer, and I was like, does this video make sense? And she was like, I don't know what is happening in this video. Because even though she is, you know, MIT engineering, right? And she does science communication. And she was still like, I don't get this. And she's, like, immersed in science video every day. And it's just not her thing. So, it's just there's so much room in all of these jobs. Because there's specialization and everywhere.


[0:11:49] Grace Ibrahim: Right. I was just talking about that the other day, actually, with this podcast, even just the video aspect, the audio aspect, the hosting aspect, they're all different jobs. So, it's like, you can't expect someone to know all of them. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That's awesome. And then can you go into just a little bit about kind of what it was like? Maybe after your master’s or I know you had the internship, but kind of moving into being an independent creator? And kind of starting that. How did that go about for you? Was there challenges, was there you know, a part of it that you love so much that surprised you? Just anything there?


[0:12:23] Trace Dominguez: Yeah, yeah. So, after AU, I had this info session and at the job fair on campus, and ended up at Discovery. They had me with this Discovery News team, I was there for a long time. I worked with a different team for a while but came back to Discovery News. And we launched a YouTube channel, which is now called seeker, it's owned by Vox, it's very big. And it's more or less dormant at this point. They don't have a staff supporting it. But we made like 3500 videos over the course of the run of that channel. And then at some point, it was sold to another company and sold to another company and then Vox bought it. And in that time, I was like, okay, I've really, I know how this works, I should be able to do this myself. And then I'm not beholden to all of these different changes, because it's this industry, this digital media industry is very dynamic, is a nice way to put it. But it's also lightweight. And so, all of these things were changing. And I was like, I'm out of here, I would like to have some stability. And it's sad when the stability is work for yourself and have no understanding of if you're going to make money at all, or what you're going to do. And so, I went independent, and I took a month off, because I was totally burned out. And I watched all the Marvel movies and television shows in order. And after that month was over, I was like, okay, let's sit down and figure this out. And so, I made a video every week, for about three months, just about whatever, just to kind of get back into the groove of making things. And the thing that surprised me was how much I liked editing videos. I didn't know I liked it. But there's a level of control there that you get that you can do whatever you want. And you can really play with stuff in a way that I'd never done before, which was really cool. I mean, I had done it, but not in years. And then as I became like this business, I would start to pitch ideas to other companies. And I would get contracts from them. And I'd have people reach out and say, hey, we really like your work. Can you do this and that? That was so validating, and really exciting. And some of those people I still work with. And so, I think the surprising thing was twofold. One, how long it takes. It took a while from when I left and became independent until I was sort of comfortable being independent, maybe like a year or two. Which seems like a long time. It is, but looking back, it didn't feel that long. And then the other thing was just like how much I enjoy being able to pitch ideas and have these like long term connections with people, because then they want to make more stuff. You know, I work with PBS in South Florida, to make a show called stargazers. They came to me, and they said, hey, we need a new host, we have these astronomers who are hosting now. They're very good. But we want something a little younger and fresher and different. We don't want to just like have a professional astronomer, we want somebody who's a science communicator. So that sounds great. So, I did a test, they liked it. And I've been doing it since then. That was like 2019, I think. And now I'm pitching other things to them. They're like, hey, do you have an idea for this? You know, 360 dome, we want to put up and I'm like, yeah, I can come up with an idea for that. And so now I'm pitching those ideas. And if you just become, I don't know, things that I could not have done when I worked for a company because those were siloed, sort of the opposite of what we were just talking about, where those are siloed into different places within the company. When you work for yourself, you can do all of them. And in some cases, you have to, you know, like accounting, yeah, whatever. I think the fun part is seeing what I can do, which I couldn't have done before. Yeah, you know, when working at Discovery in general was great in a variety of different ways. It was also terrible, in a variety of different ways, just like working anywhere. Part of it, it's a big company. You're one of many, many 1000s of people working on parallel missions, which is both interesting, it gives you a lot of room to specialize. But you're also subject to the whims of whatever that company decides to do the next day, you know, and that can be tough. When we were sold the first time, we were sold to a company called Group Nine Media. And Group Nine was a collection of digital brands Thrillist, the dodo source fed, which was spun out pretty quickly. Seeker was one and then I'm missing one. Anyway, doesn't matter. They don't exist anymore. But the idea was, that it was these brands from all over the digital sphere. And they did all of these different things. And we were like, the premium science brand, but they also had, you know, animals, like the dodos, animals, and Thrillist was like, I don't actually know bros and food, I guess. But it you know; it was like they had these different brands. And that was neat, but it was a big change. And I remember the conversation in the office was, it's really hard to get people on the phone, and not literally on the phone, but just like, get them to email us back. Because when you're emailing from Discovery, and you got a email address, and you're trying to talk to a scientist, they want to talk to you. But when you're emailing from Group Nine Media, that doesn't really mean anything to them. And so, then when I left under the Group Nine, and so now that channel that I built, though, is owned by Vox. And so now I changed my bio, to say I built a channel that is Vox now. There's no reason for me to put Discovery or Group Nine, necessarily. I put Discovery because it's a big name. And I put Vox because it's a big name. But I never worked for Vox. But the thing that I made is now owned by Vox. And so, I'm able to kind of borrow a little bit of that prestige, in order to say like, hey, they thought it was good. So, if you want to work with me, maybe you should consider that, too. And so, it's sort of like you're getting on LinkedIn, when people are like you should work with Brett, with Jennifer. She's great, you know, and it's just like, that's awesome. This is sort of like that, but you're doing it in a personal marketing way. I'm terrible at personal marketing, like I'm really bad at building my brand. I just kind of do my thing and hope that people like it, and that's not what you're supposed to do. And it worked fine when I had a big company behind me. But now that I'm independent, I have to find other ways to push myself out there. Yeah, it kind of lights a fire under you. Because you're like, okay, now it's up to me, I kind of got to make it happen. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. And then just a little follow up there. So, obviously, you mentioned Seeker and Vox buying Seeker. How did you go about? Because Vox is very notable. So how did you go about kind of self-branding, and, you know, I have put here kind of like, your experience with bigger companies, finding your brands. So, if there's any advice there because I know a lot of people are freelancing, but you know, to get to that point where now you're, it's transactional. And you're actually, you know, moving up in that sense. Just any advice you could offer there.


[0:19:55] Grace Ibrahim: That's awesome. And I feel like there's so much value there too. But it basically is like an unspoken testimonial or like an unspoken reference when these things you know, because it's like, well, if you thought it was great, like you might.


[0:20:08] Trace Dominguez: Yeah. And so, keeping an eye on that, and being able to put it out there as like, hey, yeah, make notes for yourself and say, you know, there's a reason that websites have that thing where it's like, press, here's the things that people have posted about our company or people that you know. Collect those things, ask for testimonials. I do that anytime I work now. I didn't at first, but now I'm like, hey, if you can give me a testimonial for my website, or if they text me, and they're like, oh, my god, that was so awesome. I'm like, Cool. Can I put that on my website that you thought it was awesome? Do you want to add anything to that? Those little things go a long way because word of mouth is the most powerful thing that you can have. And if they're not going to tell their friend about it, you can tell other people about it.


[0:20:49] Grace Ibrahim: And I actually want to transition to portfolios and kind of like your website, like you mentioned. There must be 1000s and 1000s of videos at this point that you've worked on. I know that a lot of students sometimes are looking for that. Those answers about portfolios, which I'm sure you can find. However, when it comes to somebody who has so many different projects under their belt, how did you go about choosing? I mean, the simple way is choosing which ones go on the website or the portfolio. But did you break it down? More than that, was it the things that reach the most people, or the ones that did the best numbers? Like how did you choose kind of what you showcased for yourself, especially when you have so much work?


[0:21:29] Trace Dominguez: Yeah, and you know, people say great question to buy for time. But that's a great question. Because it's all of those things. It's a little bit like, okay, when I sat down to build my portfolio, the first things I thought of were the videos that I really liked. The videos that really spoke to me as a creative person, the videos that I enjoyed making. There's a video that I have in my portfolio that's me and my friend, Amy eating ice cream, and like, lamenting about dating, for like, that was the cold open for the video, you know, it's 12 seconds or something. And it's about why men have trouble getting over breakups based on a couple of these studies that we read. And obviously, I remember that video, and I liked it. And I thought it was really funny. So, I picked it up. Is it liking the best example? No, but it's a good general example. So, some of the portfolio was just like, here's like, generic videos, that maybe they did, well, maybe they didn't, it kind of didn't matter. It was just like, here's just baseline what I can do, then you of course, yes, want to pick the videos that do very well, the videos that are really prestigious, you get to go somewhere, you get to talk to someone, you know, I went to the White House Science Fair a couple of times, I picked one of those videos, and went to the Arctic Circle, I picked one of those videos, I flew in an F 18 obviously I'm gonna pick that one, you know, so it's just stuff like that, where you get to do these crazy things, or you get a video that you know, and not everybody gets to do that. So, like, if you're making Tik Toks, you might make them all in your living room or around your house or in your car. So pick the ones that do well, pick the ones that you feel good about, pick the ones that you're proud of your performance, you know, the ones that maybe you tried something new and you felt like it worked, you know, you green screened yourself for the first time, or the third time or whatever, and you're like this time I nailed it. Get that one because it's like a resume, you're picking bullet points. And nobody's gonna watch all of them. I think that's something to point out, people are gonna look just like anything, they're gonna look at the thumbnails, they're gonna look at the titles, and they're gonna go, I'm gonna watch this one. So, if you're proud of everything in your portfolio, assume they're gonna watch one and maybe a half, you know, because they're not going to watch it all.


[0:23:43] Grace Ibrahim: That makes sense. And I liked that you said the things that you like, because I found that there are projects that while I'm very proud of, I don't have the same passion speaking on them as I do other ones. And I feel like that when you're able to speak on them with such like pride and passion that it makes such a difference in how people view it.


[0:24:01] Trace Dominguez: Yeah, definitely. When I was the producer of our show. I started as a host, and a writer, and eventually, like, worked my way up to being the producer of several of the shows when we were at Discovery and Seeker. And what I used to say is your excitement, the audience can see that. So, if you're excited, they're excited. And it's the same with anything else. You know, if you're just putting stuff on your resume or in your portfolio, that's like, I need to put this year because I need to, and it's like, you're not excited about it. And that's your whole resume. That sucks. That sucks for you. It sucks for the people who were trying to hire you, you know, you want to put stuff in there that you're like when they ask you about it, you're like, Oh, I'm so excited to talk to you about this. This was so neat. What a cool project.


[0:24:46] Grace Ibrahim: That's great. It's speaking of, I just have to ask, So how was it flying in the FAA team?


[0:24:52] Trace Dominguez: Oh, I threw up all over.


[0:24:55] Grace Ibrahim: What was that for?


[0:24:57] Trace Dominguez: So, we made a video so it's funny how things actually work. You ready for it? I'm gonna pull the curtain back. It was our vice president's wife's college roommate worked for Boeing. And they were testing out a new system within an old airframe. So, it's an F 18, which isn't a new plane. But they were trying out, essentially, when an F 18 flies into an area, they have, you're like, Oh, well, in the movies, they have missiles and guns. And it's like, yeah, that is something that they can have. But they can also have ways to block cell phones and Wi-Fi. And so that was what they were testing. And we're like, that's interesting. Never seen that before. And then still, I've never really seen people talk about it, but it's called an F 18 Electronic attack aircraft. And so, you'd have like a couple with missiles and guns, and like cameras, and then you have a couple that are like one that just blocks wireless signals to make sure that they're not like, texting pictures to their other people about where these planes are, whatever. So, it was really neat. And so, we wanted to do the story. And they're like, do you want to fly in it? And I was, and it's an F 18. So, I was like, I don't like roller coasters. So yes, obviously, I have to fly in it. And they let me keep the flight suit. So that's cool and I wear it on Halloween now.


[0:26:18] Grace Ibrahim: That's crazy. Just, you know, all the Top Gun fans out there. But right now, you are Trace Elements. Media, correct? And everything you do comes from under that umbrella?


[0:26:33] Trace Dominguez: Yes. structure wise. Yeah. So, I'm an LLC, single member LLC. I renew that every year, pay my LLC fees in California, we have to pay a fee to the Franchise Tax Board every year. And that LLC runs all the business more runs is really just an entity that exists. Yeah.


[0:26:55] Grace Ibrahim: I remember I did my LLC in 2019, I believe, but I don't think we've ever talked about LLC on this podcast. Can you just give a little intro into kind of what that is? If anyone has no idea what an LLC means?


[0:27:08] Trace Dominguez: Yeah. So, when I first went independent, I was just myself, right? Like, you go on a wherever you have a friend who wants you to do some work for them, whatever that is, and you do the work. And they Venmo you or they, you know, pay you somehow whatever that is. And you're like, cool, that's totally a fine way to do business, it works totally well, for freelancers. And you just report that income to the IRS and your state. And whatever. Long term, it's helpful to have an LLC and sometimes required. So why I did it is I was talking to a friend of mine, who also does YouTube videos and other things. And she said, you should be an LLC, eventually. Because what ends up happening is it's essentially a separate entity from yourself. And so, you go and you just file paperwork, you can go Legal Zoom, you can go online, and file paperwork takes no time at all, and apply for a tax number. And then what ends up happening is the business, which is a sort of separate person, can apply for things like insurance. I needed production insurance in case somebody fell on set, when we were doing something, I needed insurance for that. And a person cannot get production insurance, but a company can. And so, I could apply through my LLC. And there are different levels of an LLC. So, an LLC is literally just a piece of paper that says that this business exists, it has an address, it has a tax number, and this is the person who runs that business. And you can be a single member LLC, which is what I am. So, I'm taxed the same as a regular person. My business doesn't have to file corporate taxes or anything. But that's my LLC. And then there are different levels above that you can go all the way up to like a C-Corp, which is like a big multinational corporation. And there are all these rules about paper and filings, and you have to pay separate taxes and all sorts of things. And there are levels, so many levels in between that like a handful.


[0:29:02] Grace Ibrahim: Awesome. Thank you for diving into that. Just realized that some people may not know what it means.


[0:29:09] Trace Dominguez: If you get together with a bunch of independent people, eventually the talk comes around to like, so how did you start? Like I was at a wedding a couple weekends ago, and my cousin owns a bike shop. And I was just like, so how do you structure your business? Like what is? And he's like, Well, we're an LLC, and it's like, no, like, oh, okay, cool. And so, you end up talking about it, because there is no rulebook for how to do this. And once you've been independent for a while, once you make over a certain amount a year, it actually makes more sense to be an LLC. And at some point, it makes more sense to be a certain type of LLC. Because then you can pay yourself just like you would get a paycheck from a regular company. And when that happens, it makes your taxes much easier. So, it sort of depends. Let's say you're doing 100 jobs a year. Even as a freelancer, you might be making so much money that it would make more sense for the business to be paying you rather than mowing over and over again.


[0:30:02] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah, no, that makes sense. And I feel like sometimes big companies will ask for your employer identification number. Then you're like, oh, wait, I need to make an LLC. So, you might even end up having to just make one for a specific job you're doing?


[0:30:18] Trace Dominguez: Definitely. Yeah, I got the insurance for a contract I did during like high COVID, we had a pitch that I sent to PBS Digital Studios for a show called Animal IQ still out there. And it's about animal intelligence. And I originally had pitched it was like, let's go to the zoo and talk to the zookeepers and like, learn about these animals and how smart they are. But obviously, it's pandemic. So instead, we did it mostly digitally, you know, zoomed with the other guests. And, you know, it was early on, and we weren't really sure how to do it. So, it didn't come out as good as I wanted. But it was very neat, because it was cool to go through this whole process of hiring freelancers as an LLC. Because PBS Digital Studios doesn't work with people. They work with LLC. So, you have to be one in order to get the contract. And so, I would have had to make one anywhere. Anyway, but luckily, I hadn't made one like six months before. And so like, Oh, are you an LLC? And I'm like, Yeah, production company, Trace Elements Media, like, great. And it's been very helpful for exactly stuff like that.


[0:31:19] Grace Ibrahim: Just a sidebar with COVID. How did that slow you down, if at all, especially as a content creator? How did that impact those few years?


[0:31:32] Trace Dominguez: I mean, it impacted me similarly to everyone else, right? Obviously, I was already working from home. So early on, people were like, how do you work from home and I'm like, oh, here, I'll tell you how to work from home. You know, put pants on, that was my main advice was put pants on, don't work from your bed. Which we’re all pretty aware that you don't do those things. But at the time, it was amazing to think of. It was like, people were like, oh, I'll just wear my pajamas and work in my bed all day. And it's like, you can't do that for years, it doesn't work. But in terms of video making, I was already doing most of my work in my studio at home. Occasionally, I would go out and I would you know, do an interview with somebody in the field. But that's expensive. And when you work by yourself, you have to pick and choose when that makes sense. And so, a lot of my stuff was remote anyway, or I was just calling or emailing with people and getting them to answer my questions. Then restating it, if anything, it became easier to reach out to people, because people understood video online, where it's, again, very difficult to imagine. But in 2019, if I needed a scientist to get onto a video call, it was almost impossible. They didn't know how to do it; they'd never done it before. They didn't have the apps on their computer, they didn't know how to use those apps, they didn't have a good camera, they didn't have good audio. But now people are so much more aware of that, which has been a real boost to my work, because now I can just video chat a scientist. And in some cases, if it's at a big organization, you know, NASA was already good at this. But they have like a media cart that they could roll into wherever the scientist is with a good camera and good audio and help that scientist do that interview. And now they don't need to. Now they can just the scientist gets it, they can just go on Zoom and, or wherever. And they know what to do.


[0:33:19] Grace Ibrahim: Just as a follow up to all our LLC talk and you being you know, an independent creator, how do you go about making money? I know sometimes that question comes up and people wonder if it's, you know, I'm sure there are times when it's not as consistent as you may think. And just can you give any insight into that?


[0:33:38] Trace Dominguez: Yeah, for sure. I mean, digital creators make money in a variety of different ways. The big creators, it's a lot of brand deals. So, you might sell a product to your audience, whether you're selling it directly, like oh, you should buy this or if you're just presenting it, like, oh, I just got this brand-new X, you know, new camera, new whatever. You know, I'm using this new product. If you look at the influencer market, especially in things like beauty, it's very clear when they're trying to tell you, hey, I'm trying this new product. In sciences, it's a little more nebulous, no pun intended. You know, it's like you're doing things that are kind of alignments. So, I've sold ads on my YouTube channel where that will air alongside, I'll read a thing like on NPR when they're like, hey, and do this thing. And I'll have an offer code and they'll go sign up. And hopefully, they'll go sign up for things like, which is a mathematical website where you can like learn math and physics and stuff, or curiosity stream or Nebula, which is a VOD service that I have now invested in because I think they're really cool. You know, or whatever. And so, you end up getting money from them and to put into your YouTube channel, in front of your audience or into your Tik Toks in front of your audience. That's one way. Another way to make money is books. We get a lot of people writing books. I haven't done that, but with really big audiences. And the reason they do that is because I have a big audience, say I have a million subscribers, if 10% of those people buy a book, that's great, that's good sales. If 1% buy a book, it's still pretty good. Like, it's not great, but it's not bad. So, there's a lot of different ways to do that. And merch is another example. Books and merch are very similar, where it's just like you're selling things to your audience. And then another way to make money is you leverage, and this is how I make money. You leverage your digital products for more traditional products. So, things like I make YouTube videos, but I don't make them necessarily so that I get to be YouTube famous. Yeah, I'm never going to be Mr. Beast, I don't want to be. I have no interest. I would like, however, a casting director or somebody who wants to do something for somewhere, that I agree with some science program or something that aligns with my interests in my brand, they'll find my YouTube channel, they'll find my digital, my digital fingerprints, and they will hopefully then reach out. And I will be able to make money that way. So, the way I pay my bills is mostly through hosting this show for PBS television, for pitching concepts that get picked up and doing other things that are not even really about my digital media presence. It's just the digital media presence is sort of the billboard that points you to me, so that I can go get workout. And so, everybody makes money a little differently when it comes to digital creation. And that's how I do it. When it comes to the LLC, having that means that then they pay the LLC. And so, then the LLC, it's literally a separate bank account, and I just transfer money into my own bank account. Because I don't pay myself with a W-2 or anything like that yet. However, having that LLC is really nice, because then I can just say as silly as it is, it just feels more professional to say please send a check to Trace Elements Media, as opposed to sending one to me. And then you can also get an agent who will help you. And it's not what I think I thought it was originally. My agent doesn't like, go and sell me places, I bring work to my agent. And they're like, they're the lawyer, typically, who does the interaction with the brand for you, as my agent likes to say he shakes the money tree to try and get more money out of the brand. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. But then you don't have to be the bad guy as the creator. You can show up, create, be creative, and somebody else was the bad guy. And you knew the whole time that that was their job. That's all. So that's helpful. But again, not the interaction that I thought it was.


[0:37:54] Grace Ibrahim: I feel like there's a lot of misconceptions around that, too. We had talked about that previously on another podcast as well, with someone, who was publishing a book. So, it was just like a different type of, you know, like, it's just different environment.


[0:38:08] Trace Dominguez: It's a whole different thing. Like I don't even have a book agent, so. And that's if you can have a commercial agent, you can have a book agent, you can have an acting agent you can have a tax agent, just for like conferences and talk. Like you can have a lot of people working for you. And it becomes quite interesting and complicated.


[0:38:29] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah, they help though. They do help.


[0:38:33] Trace Dominguez: They do. You know, if you'd told me 10 years ago, you know, if you told me when I was at AU that like, okay, you're gonna get a career, you're gonna do this, you're gonna do that. Eventually, you're gonna have a lawyer and an accountant and an agent and an editor and an assistant and it's just like, I'm gonna Well, yeah, yeah, you know, and that's just how it must be a good feeling, though. Sometimes, it's like, just step back. And you're like, this is me. This isn't.


[0:39:00] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah. And I liked that you said like, things like YouTube channels can be the billboard or the building blocks, because I think we get so caught up in, like, I went into stand-up comedy recently. But I don't think I want to be a stand-up comedian. It was just like, what is another building block that I can do that's going to help me you know, and producer role or, you know, whatever it may be putting on my own comedy shows, like things like that. That just reminded me of that. I love that because, admittedly, personally, I'm thinking about that, but it's nice to have it you know, restated, just because sometimes you think it's going to be like, Oh, this is the end, but it's not really. It could just be another building block to something you never thought you'd be doing.


[0:39:42] Trace Dominguez: Awesome point. There is no end. When I first got a "job job". I was a personal assistant. And I was helping people out when I was like 19. And the thing that bugged me was that the inbox of stuff not like email don't but like, Do this, do this, do this, do this inbox never ended. And the outbox never disappeared. It was just like you're constantly doing, you're on an assembly line. I like to make packages of, you know, products. I like to make one YouTube video, I've shipped to the YouTube video, I feel really good about it. And I make another one. And everybody works differently. Some people like one some people like the other. But yeah, thinking of all the different skills that are involved, is so important. So, you're totally right to think of it as like building blocks. If you can write, put that out there, make sure that people know, because if you can write but you don't have any examples of it, then no one knows that you can do it. And you can edit yourself, you can video you can do, you know? It's all those skills are important to the modern workplace, in a lot of ways.


[0:40:57] Grace Ibrahim: Someone asked me the other day about personal scripts. And if those count as writing. I was like, of course it counts as writing 100% counts. Because you know whether it's something someone used or not, you wrote and that's the skill they're looking for. And that's that, you know, it's pretty simple sometimes. Yeah.


[0:41:18] Trace Dominguez: So, the grad department has a mentee mentor program. I'm in the mentor program. And one of my mentees now lives in LA and we meet up occasionally. It's been really cool. And something I told her once was, and, you know, take it with the spirit, it's given resumes are not legal documents. They're marketing documents, and so make sure you put the stuff that's going to show you in the best light. And she was like, well, I never thought about it that way. And so we talked about that. We talked about this idea a lot. And it's the exact same with that my first resume before I'd had like a lot of professional work, I literally put volunteer job on there. And people were like, put us on a job. And it's like, I didn't get paid. You're right. But I ran that cotton candy stand at that at that festival for a week. And I ran the whole thing and took the money and did all you know, and that's an important thing to put on there. And so just because you didn't get paid doesn't mean it's not a job. You know, you volunteered to help out your theater company with set design. You did set design.


[0:42:23] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah, if you're on that set, and you are touching those, it counts.


[0:42:27] Trace Dominguez: You're involved, you know. Just set yourself up for success. Don't be like, oh, well, that doesn't count even though I did it. Don't knock yourself.


[0:42:38] Grace Ibrahim: Sometimes people look at the word sugarcoat as, like a negative, but I'm always like, sugarcoat that resume, it's like, show the best version of yourself. It's like, you know, it's not lies. But you know just write it the best as you can make it. Yeah.


[0:42:56] Trace Dominguez: Don't misrepresent. But best represent for sure.


[0:42:59] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah, I agree. Would love to dive into the podcast now. So, you're in the podcasting world? Can you tell us about your new podcast? Well, actually, about the time when we had talked it was dropping that next week, correct?


[0:43:13] Trace Dominguez: Yeah, it was brand new a few months ago. And now I would say it's still new. We're at episode 11. Episode 12 is coming out next week. So, we upload every other week. And I've done podcasting before. But this is the first time I've like I wholly owned the podcast; we made up the format, we did the whole thing by ourselves. And it's been really, really fun. So, the podcast is called That's Absurd, Please Elaborate. And the show is essentially people send in questions, and we answer them. And we want the questions to be silly or strange, or like, weird. We don't want it to be like, why is the sky blue? We want it to be like, how do you build a Lego replica of the sun? And how long would that take? And it's like, it's awesome. We did the math. And we figured it out. And it was really fun to do that episode. And there are episodes like that up and down the slate. And we're getting new questions every day from the audience, which is so awesome. And it's myself and somebody I met while working for discovery and seeker named Julian. He's also a science communicator, and we have really nice rapport. And so, it just goes really well and we bring on guests. When we have something like, recently the most recent episode, as of this recording, so early September, late August, was about let's see. Julian answered a question about what would happen if we were born with adult size hands and feet? I answered. Can you smell something until it no longer exists? Like can something disintegrate from being smelly? And then we had a guest from a company called D Script. She used to work for Her name is Ashley Hamer, and she's got a master's degree in music and one of the audience members had asked why are not all music written in the same key? Like, why isn't everything just written in the same key because then you wouldn't have to worry about where on the piano you were playing, everything would work the same. And I play some music, but I'm not an expert. So it was so cool to have this like person with a master's degree in music, come on, and explain it to us. It's a science podcast, but you don't have to be sciency to listen to it. Because we're not like, well, according to the paper that is published, and you know, we're just, oh, well, let's think about it and try and make it accessible and fun and silly.


[0:45:37] Grace Ibrahim: And of course I'm sure there's obviously planning that goes into every episode as every podcast. But do you kind of leave that, that space open for conversation like to bounce off of each other? Or do you do like heavy, you know, research beforehand? Like, how does that process go for such absurd questions rather?


[0:45:57] Trace Dominguez: Yeah, I mean, that's the fun part, Grace, because we get to, like, do both of those things. So, Julian and I have been science communicators for a decade, at least each. And so, like we'll do a few hours of research. We'll write up bullet points about our question. And we don't share the question answer. Like we don't share any of our research with each other until the mics are on. Because we’ve done this in the past, where like, oh, my gosh, and we'll end up talking about it on the phone. And we're like, we weren't recording any of that we probably should have been. So, we keep it fresh for the podcast itself to get the best reactions. But then also, we wrote into I love a template. I templatize everything. So, I don't have to look at a blank sheet of paper ever. I open up a template, and it's like, fill in these boxes here, answer these questions, fill out this stuff. And then you're on your way to writing a script. And one of the things I have in my template is leave room for guests, leave room for the other people. You know, ask them questions, talk to them about what you've learned. So, when it came to like, the things that were smelly, we always ask how this question comes up. And so, either the audience or one of the other hosts come up with the questions and we ask them how so they can tell a personal story, we make sure that there's like, a back and forth. So, when we do questions, where it's relevant, like about pets or something I'll ask, you know, okay, so you're a cat person, right? And then Julian will have a conversation. And all of that is scripted. The idea is we know that it's going to happen. Even if Julian doesn't, I do. Because I've written the answer in such a way where I've left space, like you say.


[0:47:39] Grace Ibrahim: Has there been an episode that's really stood out to you?


[0:47:42] Trace Dominguez: I mean, every time people talk about the podcast, I'm like, what was the latest episode? Because when you've made as many things as I've made, I already have trouble remembering them all. The Lego sun one really stands out. And the reason is, this gal I used to know, years and years ago, messaged me on Instagram and was like, hey, I was listening to your podcast with my kid. And he loves it, and wanted to know, a question. And she DM'd me, how long would it take to build a Lego replica of the sun? And I said, that's a great question. I'm going to do it on the podcast. And her son was five. And I said, can you get audio from him? So that we can put it in the podcast, and he can ask the question. And she was like, yeah, and she sent it to me. And we did the episode. And it was so fun. It's episode number 39, Universally Bricked. And it's about that. So, it stuck out to me because it was so ridiculous. As a question, the sun is just so big, that it's impossible to fathom. And then it was just a fun thing to get to interact with the audience in that way. Making YouTube videos and doing television, you get to interact with the audience, but not as directly. You see YouTube comments, which are a garbage fire and you you get like people coming up to you on the street and being like, I love your show. And it's the best feeling. But having someone submit a question, and send you an audio clip that you then just get to answer right there. And even though they're not in the room, it's just, it feels awesome. It feels really awesome.


[0:49:24] Grace Ibrahim: I feel like it's like that back in the day, radio show feel of like caller, what's your question? I feel like we've kind of lost a little bit of that art. Also, when your audiences, five-year-olds, like when you had stated that question earlier. I was like, that's a pretty interesting question. That's so awesome.


[0:49:52] Trace Dominguez: Yeah, it was really great. He did a great job. Asking the question on audio. It's funny. This isn't a new podcast. And it's funny, I didn't think about it until this minute. But my capstone was about something very similar to this, that idea of like interaction. So, my capstone was about YouTube comments in the State of the Union. So, under the Obama era, they did a YouTube kind of town hall when YouTube had a politics section, like a team. And they submitted questions from users and played them for the President in the White House somewhere, you know, and then filmed it all after the State of the Union. It's like the State of the Union airs, the rebuttal airs, and then this aired. And the idea was, to kind of have this dialogue. And so, my capstone was more qualitative. And I wanted to know, do those people feel like they talked to the President? Like, their question was played for him? They weren't there. But they asked it and it was answered, or at least they played it and maybe he made a, you know, spin around it, or didn't really answer it. But like was essentially talking about the question they had. And that's kind of like what I'm doing now, in that now, I'm taking these questions from people and whether they feel like they're talking to me or not based on my capstone, they likely do and based on talking to this kid's mom, he felt like he was in the podcast, and that we had a nice conversation. It was really funny. But that was basically what my capstone was about. Was do people who just submit questions into the ether, feel like they're in a dialogue, like? And they said, I went and found them, which took a while. It was like master's program and internet stalking. But I found these people, and I was able to email them and be like, Hi, I'm a researcher, I'm researching this for my project. And of the 12 questions, I think I found nine of the people and like seven of them responded. So, I felt pretty good about it. It would have been nice if there were more people, so I could have a little more quantitative information, or if they did it a bunch of times, but it only was, I think, done twice. Once or twice over a couple of years


[0:52:13] Grace Ibrahim: Was the general consensus that it was yes, that they did feel like they were interacting?


[0:52:18] Trace Dominguez: Yeah, generally speaking, all of them were more or less positive on the interaction, they felt like they were heard, they felt like they were seeing, they felt like the president either didn't necessarily respond to their question, but at least heard their question and then formed an answer of some type, you know, they're a politician. Presidents aren't always beholden to answer the question to the letter, you know, they're going to say what they need to say. But it was really interesting to hear their responses. And that's really, I mean, we sort of know this from radio shows and things. People feel like they're in this conversation. It's really powerful.


[0:52:55] Grace Ibrahim: That's kind of cool how you've come full circle there.


[0:52:58] Trace Dominguez: Yeah, I didn't realize it until right now.


[0:53:01] Grace Ibrahim: Cool. Awesome. And then on that, AU, kind of podcasting, science communication, everything that you've done thus far. And then looking back on graduating from AU, we always love to ask this question. Do you have any advice for our students who are either graduating undergrad or their masters are just going into this crazy world of communications that is today. But any advice there, we always like to just kind of end on that.


[0:53:28] Trace Dominguez: I think the best advice that that I can give is just to have. Well, I mean, like, the cliche advice is have an open mind and, you know, be good. Like, the thing I like to tell students is all work is group work. All of it, there is no individual project, none. In the business, even as an individual person who works by myself, I have to hire people who know more than me about stuff. No one knows everything about everything. And so, because of that, that's what I tell students when I go to like classrooms and stuff is all work is group work. And then the other thing is because all work is group work, to just be be nice. You know, I have this thing. Can we swear on your podcast and my mom? Okay, my mom, I have this sticky note on my desktop that says, be friendly and enthusiastic. Be humble. Don't be an asshole. No one wants to work with an asshole. And I was like, thanks, mom. And so, I keep it on my desktop. Not because I have like asshole tendencies, but because everybody has a bad day, you know? So, you want to make sure you don't take that out on your coworkers because you have to hang out with them. And communication is a small community, even though there are lots and lots of people. You know, you go to a conference and you're like, oh, wow, you've been in the industry a while and now everywhere you go, you see someone you know or used to work with. So, if you burn those bridges, there's only so many places to work and they're going to be like, oh, I worked with that person. They were awesome. You know.


[0:53:35] Grace Ibrahim: Word travels the fastest in this industry.


[0:53:55] Trace Dominguez: I mean, that is what we do.


[0:55:10] Grace Ibrahim: But then we're also like, Oh, God, that was quick. Alright, Trace, I think that brings us to the end. Thank you so much for coming on Media in the Mix. I feel like there's a lot of great stuff today that we've never talked about on the podcast. So, thank you for that. I hope you could take some notes on this episode, because there's a lot of gems in here. And I'll leave you to close out if there's anything you want to say.


[0:55:36] Trace Dominguez: Sure, you can find any of my YouTube videos on my social media. It's just my name Trace Dominguez for the most part. I mentioned Tik Toks. But I actually don't do Tik Toks. I just watch them and help other people make videos. Not that I don't want to if you have advice, I'd love some advice on how to make Tik Toks. I need to get better at it. If you want to listen to my podcast, it's everywhere podcasts are That's Absurd, Please Elaborate. Again, you can probably just search for Trace Dominguez. And then I've also sent a little clip here to Media in the Mix of our Unbricking the Universe episode where we talk about the sun and answer Matthew’s question from when he was five. So pretty cool.


[0:56:20] Grace Ibrahim: All right. And you're about to hear a little sneak peek that episode. So, enjoy.


[0:56:26] Trace Dominguez: [Snip bit from Trace Dominquez's podcast "That's Absurd, Please Elaborate."]

Self & Professional Growth with Irina Gilbertson


On the 20th episode of Media in the Mix, host Grace Ibrahim is joined by none other than AU superstar, Irina Gilbertson, SOC & SPA/BA'06. Irina is a passionate, strategic marketing executive with over 17 years of experience. Her career has spanned a wide range of industries including consumer and B2B technology, media & entertainment, CPG, alcohol/spirits, financial services, healthcare and pro bono social/political issues she is dedicated to supporting.

This hour-long episode deep dives into the realities of carving your profesional and personal path. From changing majors to interning at places that she never imagined, Irina reflects on her undergrad years, communicating to students how important it is to be okay with not having everything figured out just yet. Grab a notepad, sharpen your pencils and tune into this episode to hone your networking skills and learn some tricks of the trade for resume building.


[0:00:00] Grace Ibrahim: Welcome back to Media in the Mix. I'm your host Grace Ibrahim, and today I'm joined by Irina Gilbertson, an SOC alum. And you did public communication and political science, correct?  


[0:00:09] Irina Gilbertson: Yes, I graduated from American both SOC and SPA with dual degrees in public communication and political science. And I also participated in the Leadership Certificate Program at the university, which was another really excellent program, and I did it all in three years.  


[0:00:26] Grace Ibrahim: Can you just give us a little bit of an intro to, you know, where you're at now in your career and your life? You know, where you're situated? All of that jazz. 


[0:00:34] Irina Gilbertson: Yeah, absolutely. So I am currently at Amazon overseeing strategic campaign development for brand and promotional initiatives for Ring, the home security brand, in addition to creative marketing operations. And it's been a bit of a journey. I started my career in the advertising realm as an account manager and spent quite a bit of time in that space about 12, 13 years or so. And made a transition to media and entertainment for about four years at formerly Warner Media, now Warner Brothers Discovery, specifically leading cross platform branded content campaign strategy and program implementation on CNN, including editorial sponsorships and experiential events. And now at Amazon, working in tech on a consumer tech brand. So, I feel like I've had the really wonderful opportunity of having sort of three distinctly different careers, which has been really great.  


[0:01:31] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah, and we're gonna get back into that later. Because I know there's a lot of tips and tricks there that we can learn from. And then just a little summary about your time at AU. Was there anything that you felt you took at SOC, specifically, that prepared you for where you're at or things that you learned that, you know, favorite memory on a project or favorite professor, really just any fun tidbits you can give us there? 


[0:01:54] Irina Gilbertson: Yeah, absolutely. I think I should start by saying that having a public comm bachelor's degree was actually not my intent. When I came into AU, I had a plan to go into the legal field, be a lawyer, hence the poli sci double major. And as I was starting to take more classes, and really begin to identify who I was, and what I really enjoyed, I made that kind of pivot and decided to go with a public comm major alongside poli sci. And what I was finding was that I really enjoyed it so much more, because marketing as a whole, whether you're doing PR, whether you're doing experiential events, whether you're a generalist, is much more creatively minded in many ways than the legal field and some others and I just found myself really gravitating toward that. So, something for any prospective or current students particularly in their first or second years to keep in mind, it's okay to change your mind. You don't need to know, even if you've declared a major coming in. What you want to do and what you want to focus on, you can totally change that along the way. And that's fine. This is your opportunity to really explore and figure out and define who you are. And that's going to change throughout your life. So that was something for me, that was interesting learning while I was there. I thought I had a very clear path and then it changed. And it required more flexibility for me than I really thought I had going in. And some of the classes that I enjoyed the most even though I didn't end up going down that path specifically within marketing were the PR classes specifically. And BJ Altshawl, who was a professor at the time is probably the one that comes to mind most. She was so passionate about marketing in general and was very hands on in the way that she taught and made it a point to have us as students go out into the world and find small companies, organizations, nonprofits that needed help and to volunteer to execute press releases and create marketing materials and that real world experience is what really got my juices flowing and showed me everything that was possible within the marketing sphere. And I still remember her classes so clearly because of that, and it was a really great experience because it wasn't just learning from a book or learning from someone else’s experience. We were really encouraged to go out and do it for ourselves and do a trial-and-error sort of test. It was really invaluable to do that. 


[0:04:45] Grace Ibrahim: That's wonderful. And I love that you say that because I feel like a lot of the times, we focus on what do we want to do? What do we want to do that maybe it's okay to just eliminate the things that we don't want to do. And through that, it takes a lot of exploration, a lot of trial and error. And sometimes checking those off the list will get you closer to figuring out maybe this is what I want to do or, or something. So, I always encourage people, I can totally relate. I was like a math major coming in. And then I was a psychology major. So, a lot of different majors. I ended up with a psychology minor, though. And while at first, I was like, what am I going to do with this? A lot of the times it does come up in interviews, because it's like, yes, I know, people I know how they work. I know communication. So, it's so cool to find ways to tie it all in together. You know, I think that's up to you. And that's up to you, how you want to tie it in together, you know, there's no like rhyme or reason. It's just it's whatever works for you, you know. 


[0:05:33] Irina Gilbertson: Exactly. Your path in school and in life is not going to be linear. That was something that I struggled with at the very beginning. I mentioned, I had a plan coming in. And as that plan started to change, I did freak out a little bit and begin to question myself and wonder if I was making the right decision or not. And that can be really hard. Especially if you're a type A person, if you have all your lists ready to go. And you're the one who's finishing things early. And that can be really, really challenging. But you know, the best advice I can give is to take a step back and really evaluate what it is that you want. You know, and again, be flexible. Know that could change. But what do you want right now? And what are your goals right now? And then if that requires a shift change, do it and see if it works or not. Don't be afraid to test and learn in your own career, in your own life. That has been the hardest thing for me. But the most valuable thing for me to do throughout my career. And it allowed me to, like I said, have those three different paths. And each one has had its own place in my career growth. And I don't feel like I missed out on anything or made any wrong moves really along the way because it was all a learning experience.  


[0:06:53] Grace Ibrahim: That's great. And I feel like this is a good segue into kind of that guidance. I know we talked about this a little bit offline. But can you just dive a little bit deeper into you know, finding guidance, no matter what your field? And maybe I know, a lot of people get overwhelmed with like, what organization can I join? And do I have to go to all these events? Because we do have some introverts. And that's totally okay. Actually, because you've had those three paths, how did you find those little ways to network and just find guidance and build off of the people around you? 


[0:07:27] Irina Gilbertson: Yeah, absolutely. And you just said it, it's building off of the people around you. That's exactly it. Not everyone is going to have the capacity or the ability to function as a mentor for you throughout your career or even while you're still in school. But there will be people who have the time and who want to act as that for you. And so, figure out who those people are that you are really going to gain the most knowledge from and getting the most out of. It can be difficult to identify those people sometimes, and it is legwork. I will tell you that it's genuine work to do that. But once you find them, you will find that they will be with you along the whole way. That has been the case actually for the person who hired me at my very first internship, my second semester at AU. We are still in touch to this day, we're friends on Facebook. I've bounced ideas off of him throughout my career. And so those people can be found. But it's also up to you once you identify those people. And once you begin to build those relationships to continue to maintain them. And that doesn't mean that you need to be in touch with these people constantly. That's not what I'm saying. But reach out to them every six months or so. Let them know how you're doing. Ask about how they're doing. You never know where someone else's career might take them where it might be of help or use to you either from an advice standpoint or from getting a job. And it's important to keep those connections warm. And for those introverts out there, you don't need to reach out to everyone. Be judicious about who you are selecting to reach out to. Be judicious about the groups that you're joining and make sure they're the ones that you really feel match that path that you want to follow. It's not about having to have your fingers in everything, and I know how scary and how ultimately time consuming that can be and you can actually lose your way by doing that. So, you really want to be careful and craft that communication on that path for yourself and develop and define those relationships that will be most beneficial to you. 


[0:09:38] Grace Ibrahim: Yes, that's such a good point too. It's almost kind of like job hunting. I mean, you're not going to force yourself to apply to every single job. So, you know, find those qualities that maybe match yours or things that you align with, values that you align with. And I guarantee that organically a relationship will probably, you know, begin anyway, because I feel like that's just as human nature, we kind of gravitate to the things that we're familiar with. So that's a really, really good point. And on the topic of internships, actually, I know you mentioned that. Can you just give us an idea of some of the internships you did around DC always like for our students to kind of get ideas of what they can be looking for?  


[0:10:12] Irina Gilbertson: Yeah, absolutely. So, my first internship, it was formerly known as the National Association of Addictions Professionals Political Action Committee. And I went down that path still when I was thinking I was going to really primarily major in poli sci and go down a legal path. And I found that internship actually through the Student Alumni Association at AU that I had joined first semester and then became President of second semester. If you have those organizations within the community now, I highly encourage any students to join them. Meeting alumni while you're still in school is incredibly invaluable. Jonathan Weston was my mentor and my boss at that internship. And he had participated in one of our Student Alumni dinners, and he and I just connected, and he had an opportunity for an intern to come in. And I interviewed and got the role. And it was a really great learning ground for me, but also an opportunity to learn that maybe that's what I didn't want to do. As I mentioned before, it was great. And I learned a lot, but it turned out to be a different path than I thought I wanted. And then my second internship that I had was actually at the Embassy of Romania. I'm Romanian. And they were looking for someone to come in from the marketing sphere. So that was a nice change up for me. And I got the opportunity to develop a lot of educational programs and pamphlets for students in the DC area, particularly younger students in elementary school and high school to learn about Romanian culture, Romanian history. I worked with the Director of Communications there on a number of press releases, so a lot of the education that I got in those PR classes was put to use at the internship. But I also got to get my hands into a lot of other marketing aspects of that role. And that's really what piqued my interest in that field and what made me want to pursue it professionally. 


[0:12:12] Grace Ibrahim: That's great. And that's such a good note for foreigners living in the US, actually, because my advice when I was a college student and a master's student was to reach out to the Embassy of Jordan. And actually, I did a little bit of communications work with them, it was very brief, but it was just, you know, it's sometimes like I said, it's just good to look to the places you're familiar with. But you'd be surprised at how many internship opportunities they have even just contracts you can hop on just to help out with whatever skills you have. And at the same time, it is actually a great speaking of networking, it's good networking, because sometimes you get to go to these events, because of where you're from, you know. I go to a lot of Jordan related events and end up meeting so many people that I would never normally just run into on a day-to-day basis. So that is actually another great point.  


[0:12:54] Irina Gilbertson: Absolutely. There are so many embassies, nonprofits, political action committees in DC. I mean, you really have the whole world at your fingertips, and you don't have to be focused in the political realm or the legal realm to gain knowledge and experience in your specific field. So, look to those places, as well, because you'd be surprised what you could find there and the connections that you can make there. And a lot of the embassies, too, I mean, the folks who work there are dual language. They speak English, they speak, you know, whatever other language of their home country. But if you were raised here, you're a little more familiar with the colloquial nature of things. So, when they're looking to put those pamphlets and materials together, you'll be surprised how much they might lean on you as more of a quote on quote, native of the United States to make sure that things are making sense. And that was a lot of what I did there as well. 


[0:13:49] Grace Ibrahim: That's awesome. Yeah, that's such a good point. And I just wanted to let you know, have you heard of our SOC three program? 


[0:13:55] Irina Gilbertson: I have not. 


[0:13:56] Grace Ibrahim: Oh my gosh, I feel like you would love this. So basically, going off of what you just said about the programs at AU and the things that you are involved in. So, Professor Pallavi Kumar, who is heavy on public relations and all that, she created this in-class agency. And we don't even call it a PR agency because there's so many different positions, but our students actually get to number one, hold a position meaning they could be creative director or they could be something PR related or you know, write copyright. I mean, it could be literally anything, and Pallavi created this agency where students get to take it as a class but also get to get paid and then work with DC clients. So, they are literally taking, you know, real clients out in the field creating and curating marketing plans for them and just campaigns or whatever they're asking for that semester. And it actually just launched last year, last semester was the first time. And it's been so successful because of that value that you mentioned, of feeling like it's not just in the classroom, it's not just, well, this is potentially what could happen. It's really our students out there giving presentations to clients and understanding what market research means and how do you gather that. I mean, it's so valuable. And I just wanted to let you know that is something that we've actually created. And I'm sure it's based off of things that you said. It’s that drive to want to get our students out there. So, I just wanted to let you know that that's something we launched last year. And it's been really, really cool. 


[0:15:26] Irina Gilbertson: That's phenomenal. I hope it continues year over year, and I hope the students are seeing a lot of value in it. I would encourage those who are interested to absolutely join. You would be surprised at sometimes the difference and feedback that you will get from folks in the real world in your professional field that you have chosen, versus the feedback that you get in class. There are so many nuances in any professional field that you will choose. And you're dealing with a lot of different characters in the professional field as well, particularly in marketing across strategy, account management, creative production. There's a lot to learn and a lot to do and a lot of personalities and a lot of different points of view. And you don't always get the benefit of experiencing all of that in a classroom. So, participating in a program like that would be so invaluable where you really get to feel like you were part of an agency in a marketing group and get that feedback from folks who have been in the field who live it, breathe it, day in day out. You will learn so much from that. 


[0:16:35] Grace Ibrahim: Offline I know you told me a funny story about your email address. Can you share that story again with our audience?  


[0:16:40] Irina Gilbertson: Yes, absolutely. So, this kind of goes part and parcel with some advice just about resume building for current students and recent alumni. So, I'll dive into some of those details. But I found my first internship and I did work with a counselor at AU to pull my resume together based on experience that I had gained in high school classes that I was taking, activities that were relevant to secure that first internship. And I got it I mentioned at the National Association of Addictions Professionals. I was super excited going into my first day and ready to go. And my boss calls me into his office and I have my notepad. This was pre bringing your laptop everywhere. I had my notepad on my plan, I'm ready to be given my first assignment. And before he says anything else, he goes, Irina, I have one very important thing for you to do before I give you your first project at this internship. I go okay, great. What is it? And he goes, please, please go to your desk right now and change your email address. And in that moment, I swear my face like melted because the email address that I had put on my resume as an 18-year-old brand new college student sending it for internships was 


[0:18:12] Grace Ibrahim: I know.  


[0:18:16] Irina Gilbertson: No one had thought to tell me to change it to something more professional. I highly doubt that that is an issue in this day and age. 


[0:18:25] Grace Ibrahim: You'd be surprised, actually, there's a few creative emails still out there. 


[0:18:29] Irina Gilbertson: I'm sure there are. 


[0:18:32] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah, it's a good point. It's like how do you brand yourself and that comes down to every single detail. You know, it's in all seriousness, it really is an important thing also, because you know, your email tends to be one of the first things you see on your resume when you go top to bottom. So, it's like those first few details are very, very important. So, I do definitely agree with that. That's a great story to segue into kind of the world of resume building. And I know you said you were a hiring manager at one point. Are you still doing that or is that something that you did in the past?  


[0:19:05] Irina Gilbertson: So, I was very fortunate in my career. I became a hiring manager and oversaw my first team when I was just 25. And I've kind of been on that trajectory ever since this has been really great, but I was sort of thrown into it very young, right. I was still very early in my own career and having to manage others, build plans for them for how to learn and grow in their roles, in their careers, make sure that they were on path and that they felt comfortable with everything that they were working on and had the opportunity to touch different things. And it has been really great being in that position and in that role. And you know, you say hiring manager, but I really do see it as being a mentor for others in their careers. And I take that to heart. And over the years, those that reported into me on my team still come back. It just happened a couple of weeks ago, to ask me to look at the resumes again. They asked me to reach out to someone that I know for a job that they're interested in. So that kind of goes back to what you're talking about maintaining those relationships and keeping those connections warm. But specifically related to resume building, and job hunting, the biggest piece of advice that I could give to anyone is pay particular attention to your resume. And if you are also building a portfolio, those are the documents and the elements that follow you around for your entire career. They need to be perfect, and they need to tell a story. If your resume for example, as a hiring manager, or someone who's reviewing them and deciding who I'm going to bring in for interviews, ultimately to hire for a position on my team. If I see that there are major formatting errors on your resume, lots of spelling errors, I don't really care what you've done in your career, or in your internships or at school. That to me shows a severe lack of attention to detail and lack of care in presenting yourself in telling your story. And defining who you are, it doesn't look good. And you might have the best experience out there. But I'm going to put your resume in the bottom of the pile before I come back. If I do, those little details really, really, really matter. And so, make sure that you have that attention to detail, the formatting is perfect, there are no spelling errors, that your sentence structure is accurate. In the past tense or present tense, they need to be and tell a really clear, concise story with results to back up your achievements. That is really important. Data is becoming more and more important. And it doesn't matter what your field is, what your specialty is, you can support your achievements with data points. And you need to be doing that because the worst thing that you can do on top of having spelling errors or formatting issues in your resume is to have your resume read like a job description. No one wants to read that. It doesn't tell me who you are, it doesn't tell me what you've done. It doesn't tell me what you've achieved in your role. It just tells me kind of what your day to day is. And you want to avoid that at all costs. Really think about the projects that you've worked on, really think about what your goals against that project were or what you specifically have achieved against those projects. And keep those notes as you kind of are in the midst of building those projects and once you're done with them so that when it comes time to update your resume, it's not a mad dash scramble to do it, because you found another job in that moment that you have to apply to right now because you don't want to miss the window or because you've reached a point of frustration at your current job and you just feel like you really have to leave now. Your resume is a document that is going to frustrate you. Every time I've had to update my resume it has been a days if not weeks long process to update it, to finesse it, to tweak it. I hate doing it and I have changed jobs quite a lot in my career, particularly when I was on the advertising agency side of the business. I was sort of shifting agencies every two to three years to gain new industry experience and learn and grow in my career was sort of just the nature of the business. But I learned very fast that I could not just wait to update my resume when the time came to leave. It's an iterative process and you're gonna want to throw your computer out the window. 


[0:23:55] Grace Ibrahim: It's like yeah, when you convert it to PDF, and then all of a sudden, things aren't the way they were when they were. Yes, I know. It's so frustrating, but I will say that it's very important. I've actually tried to get into the habit of just kind of updating it whenever something happens because I feel like maybe that's like a little well at least for me, personally, it's a little easier to keep track of everything because there will come a point like a year or two years in where I'm like, oh my God, I've done so much, and I have not updated my resume. And that's when it's an overwhelming moment. 


[0:24:23] Irina Gilbertson: And it's so easy to forget those things. And as you start writing it out, you go, oh my gosh, well, I also worked on this other project. And guess what, now you're forgetting the details, you have no way of getting the metrics. And it just becomes really hard. And then you feel like you can't add it to your resume as a talking point, because you don't fully remember what you can say about it. Don't fall into that trap. Keep notes, be at the ready with that information. You never know when it's going to come up. And not just for your resume, either. When you are making those new connections in the professional world, whether you're attending an alumni event, or some other networking event, and someone asks you about what you do, or what you're really proud of, it's going to help you be at the ready in those moments to explain those scenarios and to do so knowledgeably. And that's really, really important. Another thing to keep in mind, it's not just your resume, bios have become much more important, particularly with LinkedIn, and everyone using that as a major platform for job searching and for sourcing candidates. Really think about who are you? What are you passionate about? What are your goals, really take the time to properly reflect on that? Because having that down pat will better prepare you if you end up particularly with an interviewer who asks you the dreaded open-ended question. Tell me about yourself? I hate that question. I personally never ask it in interviews because it's a tough one to answer. And it's not impossible to answer. But you need to have those bullets ready. And it needs to be a mix of who you are professionally and who you are personally and give them a tidbit that will remind them of who you are. And so really think about your bio as well. It's not just about your resume in your portfolio, your bio says a lot about you. And when folks are scanning, that's going to be the one thing that they might actually read fully, those few sentences, and then they're gonna skim through everything else. 


[0:26:31] Grace Ibrahim: Yeah, I think there's like this misconception that elevator pitches are only for the film industry. But your bio was almost your personal elevator pitch. I mean, how can you summarize yourself in like, one to two minutes, because that's all the time you're really going to have. So, it's the same thing. It's like, you know, you're going to pitch a movie project, well, what are the most important aspects of this movie project that I need to let them know, in the probably 30 seconds you have. So, it's, yeah, I completely agree with that. And then another follow up to that. I actually really liked is when you said it needs to tell a story, because I think we're so and to be quite honest, there's a lot of jobs like the one you're in, maybe the one I'm in which changes here and there, of course, because I'm doing like a lot of production stuff. However, a lot of the office type work, at the end of the year, you will have to bring up these goals anyway, you know, you'll have to bring all of these up. So, it is such a good habit, whether it's resume building, whether it's just keeping track of the work you're doing. It's so important to be taking notes and metrics, like what happened. So, I took out this camera and I went out into the field, but what did you shoot with that camera? I mean, what was the outcome? Because anyone can grab a camera and walk out the door. Right? So, it's like, there's certain things I've learned a lot of that through this podcast, you know, the, the downloads, the traffic, the people we’re reaching, and you know that makes the bullet points so much more valuable, because what can I do with this podcast? I can show you, here they are, you know, here are the measurements, here is this. But that's such a good point. Because I think a lot of the time, we get into the habit of it reading like a job description, even though we don't mean to. It's just like, okay, well, I did this. Right. But how was that successful? Because as a hiring manager, exactly. I'm sure that's what you're looking for. Right? 


[0:28:18] Irina Gilbertson: Exactly. Storytelling, it's important to show growth. Take the bullet points that you've started to build out that sound like a job description. And look at them from a storytelling perspective. And this is for any career path. This is for any role. It doesn't matter. You do not need to be in a creative field. If you have the opportunity in the role that you've been in for 2, 3, 4 however many years, how do you show that growth trajectory from where you started to where you are today? And that doesn't mean that you have to show every single example and maybe you can leave some of that earlier stuff off if it's irrelevant for the role that you are interviewing for or applying for now. You don't have to put everything in there. But what is that story that you want to tell? How do you want to position yourself in terms of growth and success? That's really, really, really the most important thing. And the candidates whose resumes I've reviewed over the years who are able to tell that story very clearly and very concisely are the first ones I'm going to call in for an interview. 


[0:29:27] Grace Ibrahim: Wow. Okay. Yeah, that's good to know. That's awesome. And I hope anybody listening, whether you're a prospective student, whether you're a current student about to graduate, those are all really, really good notes to follow. And then I have one more question. And this wasn't something we discussed side note, but it really it just struck a chord with me, because at 25 years old, you said, you're managing a team. Can you give some advice for anybody who maybe finds themselves in a leadership type role? What are certain qualities that you think are super important? Because I know leadership can happen at any age. So, it doesn't, you know, that doesn't matter? There's so much that goes into it, I'm sure personal qualities and you know, so anything you can kind of shed light on there. 


[0:30:11] Irina Gilbertson: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the most important facets of being a leader, being a mentor or managing a team is listening first and foremost. Yes, you are there to be a leader in the sense of teaching as well and helping your team to grow. But you need to listen to them, as well. And I have a great example here. Early on in my career, I was working with someone who was on my team, and she was having a tough time in an account management role. It was more stressful for her than I think she had envisioned dealing with clients on a regular basis was a challenge. But she really loved and had a very deep passion for advertising. I ended up having to put her on a performance improvement plan. I think I was 26 at the time, so still very new. And it was really difficult to do because I was still learning in own my career and growing as a manager and a mentor. But her performance levels just weren't where they needed to be, despite my attempts to help, despite another person's attempts to help. And what it really came down to was the fact that she had this love and this passion for advertising, but she was in the wrong role. And again, that's okay, it's okay to fail if you learn from that experience. And she made a change in her career, she stayed in advertising still for some time after that, but she changed to a strategic role. And she is doing so phenomenally well because that just suited her personality and her way of working and the things that she actually wanted to focus on much more than being in an account management role. So, know that even if you are in a position like that, where maybe you are underperforming, especially if you're one of those people who's not used to being in a position like that, I certainly wasn't, you know, very much type, he very much wanted to do everything right and get everything done on time. And that's all well and good. But it's okay to learn through those processes and to have those failures in your career. And I think the important thing is to be open and honest with your boss and your mentor about how you're feeling about the role in the position that you're in and what you want to do, what you feel you're getting out of it, what you feel you're not getting out of it, what you want more of. And that was something for me that was really important very early on to be that listener because I wanted to make sure that I was setting up my team for success, because I'm only going to be as successful as they are. And if they're not feeling comfortable and confident in their roles and if they're not feeling like they're getting where they want to go and learning the things that they want to learn, that's a huge problem and a big misstep on my part, not on theirs. And I know it can be really harrowing to raise your hand and have that conversation, but it is so important to do. Don't get to a point where you are so frustrated that you just want to leave, especially if your boss is genuinely trying to help. You'll see that you know, you will be able to tell that and if that's the case, take that moment, take that breath, have that meeting, have that conversation, and know that that person will be there to help you. No one wants you to fail. Trust me, no one wants to put anyone on a performance improvement plan. No one wants to have someone on their team who's unhappy. It doesn't work to anyone's benefits. So be honest with yourself. Be honest with your boss. And if you find that that person isn't the type that's going to listen, then maybe you need to at that point, look for something else. But in large part, people do want to help you. They do want to make sure that you find your way. So don't be scared. 


[0:34:16] Grace Ibrahim: Yes. I always say transparency is so huge. In work, in personal life, in everything. Because as long as that open communication is there, I think you could talk about anything and everything you know, and like, I feel that in my current role, actually, I'm very lucky, very blessed. Shout out Tia. She listens to this. My supervisor, she's great. I mean, there's nothing we feel we can't talk to her about. So that's allowed for a lot more flexibility in my role of just being like, you know, what this is burning me out, or this is actually something I'd like to try more of, or, you know, I think, yeah, having someone that's willing to listen to that, first and foremost, so that we can work together to come to, you know, a better conclusion is really, really important. But yes, on the other hand, you probably will be able to tell if someone's not willing to help you out or not willing to listen. And I will say that a bad, you know, leadership individual actually can make or break a job. So, I definitely agree with that.  


[0:35:07] Irina Gilbertson: I've certainly been there in my career as well. And I will tell you what I feel like I and I'm sure this is true for a lot of people, I learned more from the superiors and peers that I had, who I didn't get along with the best or who gave me the hardest time because I learned about the things that I didn't want to be myself, and the things that I wanted to stay away from doing. And that was incredibly invaluable as a people manager as well because you don't want to be the person that is the reason that someone leaves a job. I don't ever want to be that person. I, as far as I know, have never been that person. And that's not the case for everyone. But you can learn so much from the folks who are those people, they are out there, unfortunately, few and far between. But take note of those things are negative. And make it a point to not be that. 


[0:36:15] Grace Ibrahim: Because it's funny actually being the person on the outside. Sometimes when you're not in that leadership role, but you're able to observe, you can actually see the cause and effect that it has, because you're more privy to your coworkers feelings and emotions and all that versus like in a leadership role. Sometimes you're not unless you're approached by it, you know. So, it's actually funny, because I think that is the most important time to take note, because there's a lot of notes that you're going to take because you really do get to see how it affects the workplace, the work environment, every people's morale. So yeah, that's super important. And then I just want to ask you really quick, how is LA? I know you went to the LA intensive this year? 


[0:36:53] Irina Gilbertson: Yes, I did. LA is great. I bounced around back and forth between New York and LA a few times since graduating from AU so very much been bicoastal, which has been great. 


[0:37:04] Grace Ibrahim: Do you have a coastal preference, or? 


[0:37:07] Irina Gilbertson: I don't really. I love LA and New York for different reasons, and they're wildly different cities. You know, I think in an ideal world, I would love to be in both places at once. But we know that's not possible. But the LA intensive for the Entertainment and Media Alumni Alliance was great. And shame on me, it was the first alumni event that I participated in since graduating all the way back in 2006. And it was really wonderful to see not just the turnout from alumni’s because there were quite a few that were there to support the students that were there for the LA intensive, but also just the desire to be involved and to be present. And from the students and their awareness of the importance of participating in programs like that, and creating those connections with alumni, it was really great to see the students that I was speaking with, say, I'm gonna connect with you on LinkedIn right now. And they would do it while we were standing there. So, you know, no one's giving out business cards anymore these days. Kind of where it's all happening. But it was wonderful to see that, and it was not just them sending me a connection request. But just a very quick note as well, like, hey, it was so great to chat with you about x topic, so that I could then recall later what exactly it was that we talked about. So that if and when we connect again, I know where to reinvigorate that conversation from and so that was really great unlike the, you know, lack of awareness I had with my email address. But that is really, really great to see and I highly encourage any students that are participating at those events, don't let that moment pass you by and make sure you're paying attention to people's name tags. If you can't see them, ask them to flip it over or whatever it is, move their hair out of the way. If that's the case, ask them their name again if you missed it the first time. That shouldn't be a point of embarrassment for anyone. When you're in a big group event like that, it's very easy for someone to tell you their name and for you to forget two seconds later, but as you have those conversations, and you realize like, oh my goodness, this is someone that I really want to keep in touch with. This is someone that could be a value to me in my career as I learn and grow. Ask them again, connect with them on LinkedIn right then and there. They're not going to say no, especially if they're at that event, they are there to support you as an alumnus. 


[0:39:42] Grace Ibrahim: That's the thing. Them showing up is already them kind of letting you know, like we're here for you. We're here to help you.  


[0:39:48] Irina Gilbertson: Yeah, exactly, exactly. So, make sure that you do that. Take advantage of that. But the reception was really wonderful. I'm looking forward now I mentioned it was the first event that I participated in, and shame on me for that. But I'm looking forward to getting more involved in helping to plan events like that for alumni in the Los Angeles area, and really galvanize those of us who are here for a variety of events and just being more present and participatory in events like that so yeah. It was really wonderful to see. And I'm glad that more seems to be happening now. Obviously, things took a bit of a dive with the pandemic the last couple years, but it's really nice to see everything getting reenergized. And people, they want that. They want that connection. And so, I think it's really important, and I want to do more, I want to see more. 


[0:40:40] Grace Ibrahim: That's awesome, we hope to see you at more events. But to your note with the students, I feel like every year, we send out a cohort where like this is the most amazing cohort, this is the most amazing part. But I feel like it's really with this new generation of students who are so digitally involved. We’ve got Tik Tok and social media that they actually really do know how to connect and quickly use, this is going to be an immediate interaction, and I'm gonna get that connection right away. And it's like, they know how to brand themselves automatically because of how they are with all of this changing technology. For example, my student workers that I work with my production assistant, my podcast system, I learned so much from them, because there's clearly a gap there. Like, I am not going to deny it. In fact, I love to learn from it. So yeah, that's so cool. I love to hear that. I'm so proud of them. It was a great cohort that, um, that went out this year.  


[0:41:30] Irina Gilbertson: In terms of mentorship, even if you are not participating in certain clubs or organizations on campus, maybe you are that introvert who isn't keen on those things, for one thing or another, again, that's fine. But there are still going to be people even the AU professors for example, and other leaders at the school who are going to resonate with you and who, again, I say want to help you. So if there is someone that you have found, via an event or a professor whose classes you're taking you really enjoy learning from them, go to their office hours, or ask them after classes, if they would be willing to just spend some extra time with you chatting through your career goals, the things that you want to learn in class, other experiences that you want to have, what recommendations they have for maybe literature outside of the class that you should be reading, just to better prepare yourself. Again, those folks want to help you. It's going to be rare that someone is going to say no. And honestly, the worst thing they can do is say no. Or if you're sending someone a cold message on LinkedIn one day because they're in a field that you're interested in or they work at a company that you're interested in. And aside from saying no, the worst thing they could do is just completely ignore your request. No harm done. Move on to the next and find that person who is not just willing but also able to give you their time. They're also one of the folks who want to and are eager to be that mentor and play that role in people's lives. But time is limited. But you can and you will find those people but leverage the resources on campus as a whole. They're already there. And those professors and those leaders at the school also have connections outside the schools. So don't forget that. They can absolutely help point you in the right direction, put you in contact with a connection of theirs so don't leave them off the table either. I knew one of the professors who led the Leadership program at AU while I was there. She was the very first professor along with BJ Altshwal at SOC, who wrote a letter of recommendation for me and that I took to my first job interviews. And on LinkedIn, I have my very first recommendation from Sarah Stiles, a former professor at AU. And I'm really proud of that, because she was able to see me in that environment, knowing that I was ready to jump into the professional world and to be able to speak to that from a professorial point of view. And so that's really important, too. 


[0:44:26] Grace Ibrahim: I was a very introverted student, so I had a lot of trouble with that. But funnily enough, life has really come full circle because here I am hosting a podcast. But I also try to your note, it's funny that you say that, I try to bring on as many professors and like faculty as I can, because I'm like, the more the students can just see them being like, just like us, like just like, you know, having these conversations and they're really open to talking about things that maybe aren't related to class and your degree, and like, they're really cool people. So, I've loved that. Because number one, a lot of them are my old professors. So kind of having that like full circle moment of like, here we are, you know, but also, I really hope the students are getting to see another side of them, because that's kind of what I had in mind when I started this is I want them to be able to approach their professors, but I really have had a lot of students tell me, well, I'm scared. I don't know what to say, what if they don't know me? What if they don't know who I am? A lot of classes are big. And I totally get that too. Like, I know back in our day, there's a lot of classes I took that were like in, you know, our old like Ward halls that were like 150 people. And I don't see that a lot nowadays. But I know they're still there. So, you know, it's so valuable. But it's like you said, its resources that are literally in your backyard as we say they're right there.  


[0:45:40] Irina Gilbertson: And you're only holding yourself back if you talk yourself out of doing something before you do it.  


[0:46:58] Grace Ibrahim: 100%.  


[0:45:46] Irina Gilbertson: So, don't assume that you're just a number in a class or that maybe if you're not getting an A, it's not the right professor to go to. It has nothing to do with that. If that professor is teaching,you things that are going to be invaluable for you while you're in school and potentially in your career and that's the person. Who cares if you're getting a B in their class, or you got a C on an exam or whatever it is. Go ask them. It's a missed opportunity if you don't. You do not need to be the straight A student to go up your professor and ask for advice, help, mentorship. Whatever it is completely unrelated to the coursework. 


[0:46:30] Grace Ibrahim: Yes, I actually have personal experiences of classes that I haven't really done very well in, but I still have relationships with those professors. I just, it wasn't like writing was not my strong suit. And that's okay. And I knew that, and I was okay with that. And they were okay with that, as long as I tried my best. But sometimes, I found that the energy I'd give them is the energy they give me back. So sometimes when they see that you're really interested in getting to know them and stuff they'll be really interested in getting to know you too. And sometimes it stays very surface level if you let it and so like you said, it's kind of like, the only person stopping you is you. 


[0:47:02] Irina Gilbertson: You don't need to be perfect at everything. That's not a reality of life. It's just not. And if you don't realize that while you're in school, you will be slapped in the face with it. Rest assured, you will come to that realization soon enough. It's not about perfection. It never is. It's about continuing to want to learn, continuing to want to grow and yes, realizing where you might fall short, particularly if where you're falling short is imperative and important to your career. But with that in mind, then what can you do to get better at that? Who can you talk to learn from? What additional classes might you want to take, certification programs, books to read? Things like that. Don't look at those things that you're not perfect at as reasons to see yourself as a failure. Reasons to tell yourself no, or to not do something or to not pursue something and use it as an opportunity. Everything is an opportunity. I know we all say that, but it really is true. It's really, really true. Those who get stuck on that idea of perfection, which I did for a very long time, I still do at times it is a constant struggle, it will never go away. If you're that person, I will tell you that right now. But be aware of it and do everything that you can to break yourself out of those bad habits, because you will only be helping yourself by doing that. It's not easy, it can be really hard, and you're gonna hit those really low moments, and that sucks. But you will be able to pull yourself out of it and find that path forward and kind of see that light at the end of the tunnel. But it's work and it can be tough. But that's also a fact of life in general. Careers are not meant to be easy. Life isn't meant to be easy. You get out of it what you give. 


[0:49:04] Grace Ibrahim: Yes. And they say the best things take time too like, that's your career. You know, it takes time sometimes. And that's okay, too. That's something I've really had to come to terms with. 


[0:49:12] Irina Gilbertson: And testing and learning. Like I said, I've had three different career paths, all within marketing. And I was very strategic and the choices that I made, and when I made them to do that, but you don't have to stick with the one thing that you chose right out of college. That's not the point of this life. If you go into something and you realize it's not for you, for one reason or another, that's okay. Stick it out for long enough to know with certainty that that's something that you don't want to continue pursuing. Don't just jump from one to the next immediately, because you won't have the foundational knowledge or skill set to know for sure and you don't want to be in a position where you're looking back and wondering if you made a mistake and made a switch too soon. So, make sure that you're giving yourself that time and that breath to really decide for yourself if it is or is not the right thing before you make that jump. But it's okay to do that. It's okay to make that change. You should not be scared of those things. No one is going to ding you for job hopping these days. It happens a lot. I did in my career. Yeah, it's not a detrimental factor to getting a job. But you do again, going back to the resume, building points, want to prove that you have learned something during the time that you have been wherever you're at right now? 


[0:52:29] Grace Ibrahim: In terms of resume pages. So, I know, when you don't have that much experience, they say it's best to keep it to one page, because make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager, manager to read now. And this actually is a little bit of a personal question for me, too, when you then start building so much experience, and arguably some of them are as valuable as the other. So, it's hard to like, you know, be like, I'm not gonna include this, but I want to include this. What's your advice there, like, once you're really experienced really starts to build and you really can't get it on one page? Do you have any advice for that? 


[0:51:16] Irina Gilbertson: I do. Because I struggled with that myself, particularly job hopping quite a bit when I was out in the advertising agency side of the business. You want to pack everything in, and you want to shorten your where you've worked and all the clients that you've worked with in the different industries that you've touched. It goes back to my point of being judicious. Make sure you choose the right projects and the ones where you have very clear-cut performance metrics that you can attach to them. That doesn't mean that everything needs to have a metric attached to it. That's not what I'm saying. But you know, make sure that a few of the points for each role that you've had, do have metrics to prove success. My resume I will tell you is two pages. It could be five. What I have done on mine. I'm 17 years into my career. My resume was not two pages before I hit probably 10 to 12 years.  


[0:52:11] Grace Ibrahim: I'm about to hit a decade.  


[0:52:17] Irina Gilbertson: It's okay to go to two pages. And then if you are in a position like myself, where because you have changed jobs quite a bit because you've wanted to learn and grow and do all kinds of different things, I limit myself to basically a period of time where maybe what I've done isn't so relevant, because it's so far in the past. So, it's not going to be crucial for me to include it on my resume on this piece of paper that someone's going to read for me to get this particular job, but maybe they're curious. So, resumes are sent digitally these days. I include a link to LinkedIn. At the end of my resume before I include the bottom section about education and interests. So, once you're kind of done describing the roles that you've had and the specific achievements and projects and things that you've worked on in those roles. At the bottom, you can say for work experience from x year to y year, please reference LinkedIn and drive them there. Links are very valuable. And that's actually another thing too. So, I being a marketer, I don't have a portfolio specifically for what I do. Certainly, someone who might be a designer or creative director or a copywriter will have a portfolio. Make sure you're linking to that portfolio from your resume. However, even though I don't have a portfolio myself, I have a lot of different projects and campaigns that I've worked on throughout my career that I do link to, on my resume. So, if someone is curious, if I'm talking about a specific campaign around the Olympics, for example, that I worked on for Gillette, years ago, I'm linking to that campaign spot on YouTube. I'm linking an article that discusses all the details of that campaign that was profiled on Ad Age or whatever trade media platform covered it. That's important too, because it visualizes for folks, what you've done. So, you're not just explaining it in that bullet point, you know, I worked on an Olympics campaign for Gillette. They can actually see it, even if you don't have a portfolio. So, include those hyperlinks on your resume. Well, that's something that I have found to be. No one told me to do that at one point, I figured it was probably something useful to do, because you can also include links under specific job descriptions on LinkedIn. So, I started doing that there. And I thought, you know what, I should probably be doing this on my resume just in case someone doesn't think to go to my LinkedIn page. Let me put everything here. And so, I started hyperlinking to the same articles, the same, like I said, YouTube links, if it's a video, I want someone to watch of a campaign that was executed on my resume itself. So, you don't have to go multiple places to see those things. So, if you have a means to do that, particularly in a creative field, of course, do it. Because you're also adding value to the person who's reading your resume without making them search for those things. If they are curious to learn more and see what the actual output was, put yourself in the shoes of the prospective hiring manager of the HR person who's going to be reading your resume, what do you want to see on there? What do you want to have access to as that person who doesn't know you who is literally going to make a judgment call based on the sentences and paragraphs that you have on a single sheet of paper? 


[0:55:56] Grace Ibrahim: That's awesome.  


[0:56:00] Irina Gilbertson: And ask for advice from your peers, from your professors, from those folks who were your mentors at internships or at jobs, to look at your resume for you. 


[0:56:15] Grace Ibrahim: That was going to be my point earlier, just to the like spelling errors. And sometimes we read our own stuff so much that we will inevitably forget something. So, my advice is always give it to at least two fresh eyes, at least one, but two, because you don't know what that one's going through that day. They could also be very just energy down, you know, you just never know. So, I would say two even if that's just like, sometimes I just send them to my siblings. I have three other siblings. So, I'm like, well, I got three people right there, you know, who are very much involved in their own resumes. So, I send it right over, but it's just, it's so good to just whoever you can send it to, just so they can look because their eyes are fresh. And they'll find that right away. 


[0:56:55] Irina Gilbertson: Yes, you need that gut check from someone else, especially if you're stuck on how you describe a role and your achievements within that role. And it might make sense to you as you're writing it because you know it inside out, but to someone else who has not lived it and you did, they might read that sentence and go what I don't understand what this person is trying to tell me. So that's equally as important. It's not just the spelling errors and the formatting. It's how is someone else reading that? And are they actually getting what you're trying to describe? Is that understandable? Is it concise? Is it clear? Because I can tell you, I've seen many resumes where like I can tell what someone's trying to tell me. But the way in which it was written was very jumbled and roundabout because you get so stuck in your head because you're so familiar with it that it becomes difficult to think about it from the outside. Yeah, always do that gut check. Siblings are great friends, roommates, professors, guidance counselors, at the schools, internship mentors, coaches. 


[00:58:04] Grace Ibrahim: Whoever's willing to just take a look for you, I suggest you take advantage of that for sure. 


[00:58:13] Irina Gilbertson: And take that advice to heart. I have completely chopped up some resumes for former colleagues of mine, friends of mine, and I can tell the frustration when I'm talking them through all the things that I would change or send them something that is redlined top to bottom. Know that the person that's helping you with that isn't doing it to show you everything you've done wrong. You've asked them for help. And they're offering that help so that it can be the best possible document to represent yourself that it can be. Again, that document is the one thing that follows you around your entire career. It's the most important thing that you will ever spend your time on in your career. It really is. And don't be afraid if someone's just got red marks. 


[00:59:07] Grace Ibrahim: That's also just understanding what constructive criticism is and your relationship with that. And just the more you understand what that is, I guarantee the more it's easier to just get someone's comments and not take it to heart at all. Because it's like, okay, got it. I'm gonna definitely put these in action. Thank you so much.  


[00:59:22] Irina Gilbertson: Yes, exactly. 


[00:59:25] Grace Ibrahim: Well, thank you so much. For anyone listening, I actually kind of like how this episode all came full circle. We started talking about what you like and what you don't like. And then we ended with, at the end of the day, everything kind of sort of leads to it's okay to find out what you like and what you don't like. So, love that. Irina, thank you so much. There have been some valuable tips and tricks in here. I'm excited to meet you, hopefully, at a future alumni event. 


[00:59:54] Irina Gilbertson: I am definitely planning on going to as many as I am available for in the future. So, I absolutely hope to see you in person after seeing email communications.  


[1:00:05] Grace Ibrahim: I know and now this great episode, this is one of my favorite episodes. This was awesome. Thank you so so much. 


[1:00:11] Irina Gilbertson: Thank you for having me. This was really great. And I hope that at least some of the information that I've provided is a value to students at SOC. And if anyone wants to reach out with questions, or if you want me to take a look at your resume, I'll be happy to do it. So please don't hesitate. Use me as practice if you want for, you know, cold emailing or cold messaging folks. I'm happy to help because I wish I had had more of that when I was just starting out in my career. LinkedIn was very new and everything was very word of mouth, who you knew, someone who could put you in touch with someone else, folks weren't really reaching out of the blue as much as they are now, and so it was a huge learning curve for me probably more mid-career when I really needed to do that to figure out the how, and know how to write an intro to myself to get someone else to engage because it just wasn't an inherent part of my early career. So take advantage of those folks who are offering you help now and be ready for when you graduate. 


[1:01:22] Grace Ibrahim: And with that, we will put Irina's contact info in the description so you can visit her LinkedIn. Take a look at what to do on that profile, as well. A lot of tips and tricks there. But thank you so much. If you'd like to listen to older episodes of the podcast, please visit Spotify or video podcasts on Spotify now, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts or really wherever you get your podcasts. And if you want to donate to the School of

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