MBA Student

Lights, Camera, Action: How to Succeed in Media & Entertainment

Media and entertainment is big business – and there are many roles for MBAs to play in this $2 trillion global industry. 

During Forté’s 2022 MBA Women’s Leadership Conference in June, three panelists at the Media & Entertainment session pulled back the curtain for MBAs who want to make their dreams come true in media and entertainment. 

  • Christina Jiang: Product Manager, Activision Blizzard
  • Ali Levin: VP, Digital Strategy, Fox Entertainment
  • Danielle McIntosh: Director of Content Distribution, Disney

Behind the Scenes 

A business career in media and entertainment can seem like a paradox. In a creative field, where do businesspeople, who are often more accustomed to using their left brains, fit in? 

It turns out that roles are as varied as any other industry. Working in digital strategy at Fox, Ali looks across Fox’s businesses to determine strategies that will generate revenue beyond television and advertising. She often has to balance priorities. “Day-to-day, I think about the competitive landscape, blue-sky strategies, and running the business,” she explained.

In her role at Disney, Danielle’s primary role is to make deals and negotiate. “For example, I negotiate with our partners, spend time internally, and get platform subscribers,” she said.  

For Christina, working in product development at Activision Blizzard, a giant in the gaming industry, she said, “My product is the game.” With revenue targets, Christina is also responsible for retaining gamers. As she explained, “Relationships are important because a product manager needs to convince other people to keep investing” in the products. 

Christina acknowledged that gaming has traditionally been a male domain, but there is a focus on supporting women’s career growth at her company. It’s also an important issue to Christina. “I wrote an essay in high school about gaming,” she said, asking, “If women aren’t in these industries, how will more women get into them?”

Female leaders outside the gaming sector can have challenges, too. “Disney is very supportive,” Danielle said, “but I do have to step in and push my weight” sometimes.  Ali said her solution is to find both female and male mentors and allies and “not make gender a dividing issue.” She also touted the value of an MBA as a “great negotiating power.”

Passion Preferred, Knowledge Required 

A career in media and entertainment is a less traveled path for MBAs, with the industry accounting for 1.6 percent of hires among MBA graduates in their first jobs after business school (based on a survey of participating full-time MBA programs).

For those with a passion for media and entertainment, however, it’s a natural fit. Growing up, all the panelists were enthusiastic consumers of entertainment, and bringing that passion to a career path can fuel the stamina necessary for a long career. 

Christina, who worked in investment banking before getting her MBA, said that, despite years of playing video games, it took years before she realized, “I want nothing to do with finance” anymore. 

A love of entertainment is not a prerequisite for success in the field – as Danielle said, “You don’t have to veg out on ‘Real Housewives’ like I do to be good at your job” – but knowledge of the industry is essential. “Entertainment is an industry for which you need to understand the language, read the trades, etc.,” Ali said. Her favorite sources for industry news include The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline, and Ad Age.

Christina concurred, saying, “Gaming prefers people with industry experience and knowledge,” and it’s “easy to sniff out in entertainment if someone doesn’t know the industry.” If you don’t have the knowledge, Christina recommended leveraging networks, and immersing yourself in learning about the entertainment industry. 

“Business school gives you a leg up to pivot,” she added. Ali was able to move into media and entertainment after honing her strategic chops in consulting, “from a position of strength,” she said.

How to Break a Leg in the Business

Panelists were full of advice about the unique nuances of the industry. While grades are always important, they may be less so in the media and entertainment field. 

“In media, we’re not looking at your GPA,” Danielle explained. Christina agreed, saying, “The value of an MBA is not your grades. It is what you learned.” Ali suggested grades were more important in areas where you have gaps in knowledge. Coming from a creative background – she has an undergraduate degree in Communications and Media Studies and Film from the University of Pennsylvania – Ali said, “I needed to pay attention in finance.”

As far as what specific classes to take, Ali suggested, “Take the classes that will be entertaining and rewarding for you, and you’ll get the most value.” She benefitted most from speakers who came to talk to students and shared their first-hand stories. Christina cited classes in influence and negotiations as essential, saying, “I got the full value of the MBA with these two classes.” Danielle found soft skill courses like motivating a team, selling ideas, and negotiating the most valuable.

Networking in the media and entertainment realm is also critical.  Ali recommended mining LinkedIn (“a powerful tool”) for connections while Christina added that a personal approach can go a long way. “I will talk to people who reach out even if we didn’t go to the same school. Send as many heartfelt, passionate messages as you can, and ask: is there someone else you recommend I talk to?”

For this audience of women about to embark on their MBAs, panelists had sound advice. Christina evoked Diablo Mortal, her favorite game, saying, “Be confident, be passionate and never sell yourself short – ask for what you deserve.” Danielle suggested leveraging the two years of the MBA “to focus on yourself and build yourself into a leader.” Ali urged the audience, “Do not worry about what others are doing. Don’t compare yourself. Focus on what’s in your control. Have fun – it is the most amazing two years of your life. Don’t worry about the money – you’ll make it back later.”

That’s show biz!

Related posts

Get newsletters and events relevant
to your career by joining Forté.

our partners