“It’s all about attitude” said Katie Levine at one of the eighteen Brown Bag Luncheons arranged this year to give NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute students a chance to meet with alumni in small groups. The subject of the lunch was “Twists and Turns: Unexpected Careers after SPI.” The speakers were Katie Levine (class of 2007), now a Communications Specialist at HBO, and Cara Ann Serio (class of 2005), Manager of Corporate Affairs at Ralph Lauren. Each shared stories of their career trajectories, insights into the industry, and the positive impact that their SPI experience had on their professional pathways.
Levine explained that her interest at the start of SPI was staunchly centered on books, particularly editorial. To her surprise, she really enjoyed the magazine section. Then one speaker, Amy Peck, who was then PR director of Domino (a Condé Nast publication which folded in 2009 and was recently resurrected as a special edition, Domino Quick Fixes), made an incredible difference.
“Amy came in and spoke about public relations at a magazine, and I just loved it. I thought she was great,” said Levine. “She opened my eyes to the idea that I could do PR for magazines.”
Not only did SPI broaden Levine’s horizons about potential career paths, it also helped her reach new goals. For anyone who has been too afraid to greet speakers after their presentations, the following story just may motivate you: Levine approached Peck right after her talk and made an impression. Soon after, Peck was looking for a new assistant and reached out to the students who had shown an interest after her SPI talk; Levine interviewed and got the job as a Public Relations Coordinator at Domino. How’s that for an incentive to muster your courage and approach your favorite SPI speakers?
Cara Serio, in turn, spent several years in accounting before coming to SPI. She broke into the publishing industry as a temporary worker at Condé Nast and enthusiastically recommended temp agencies as a great avenue for those beginning their careers. Because Serio is now on the business side of operations at Ralph Lauren, she has come to appreciate and rely on skills she acquired at SPI.
“Because of my experience at SPI, I still to this day can work with our advertising team and I know what they’re talking about,” she explained. “I can actually speak the lingo.”
Both Katie and Cara also agreed on the competitive and sometimes cut-throat climate of magazine publishing, but they emphatically reminded us that attitude is everything. They affirmed the notion that one can get ahead without losing sight of veracity and integrity.
Though neither alumna is directly working in the business of magazines, both look back on their time at SPI as a formative, valuable experience. SPI changed their preconceived notions about possible careers in publishing and armed them with skills they use to this day. Further, SPI has allowed them to share their wisdom and experience with another group of students.
by Eleni Palis