Jessica Yee (’11) works with Publishing in New York

New YorkWhile moving to Brooklyn during the summer of 2011, I had the quintessential, clichéd “New York is so inspiring” experience. Although the physical trip to New York was terrifying (my parents and I had several extremely close calls with aggressive cabbies), seeing the Manhattan skyline for the first time was exhilarating and inspiring in a cheesy kind of way, especially when it hit me that this would be the new place I’d call home.

Fast-forward a week and I was bawling uncontrollably on the phone to my best friend in Michigan, moping in my unbelievably hot, air-condition-less apartment with four gigantic mosquito bites on my ankle. I was physically and emotionally miserable, and I was 100 percent convinced that I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.

But things worked out, as they always tend to do. I started my graduate publishing program at NYU, got internships and jobs, made some fantastic friends, and conquered my fear of getting lost on the subway (though for the first six months I was always afraid that each time I left my apartment I would somehow get lost and end up in some obscure neighborhood in Queens with no idea how to get home).

Moving to a big city where I had no friends, family, or connections was the last thing I thought I’d be doing after I graduated from UNCA with a mass communications degree. I was a bookish, painfully shy kid when I was younger, and I was terrified of being vulnerable in unfamiliar or intimidating experiences. But around the middle of my senior year at UNCA, I realized that I co uld not see a future for myself in journalism. The thought of staying in my comfort zone and settling for a job I wasn’t excited about really pushed me to explore new opportunities. At the suggestion of a colleague on The Blue Banner, I completed editorial and art internships at Lark Books, which sparked my interest in publishing.

Once I decided to pursue publishing as a career, furthering my education seemed like the obvious (and only) option at the time. I was accepted at four graduate publishing programs iOpen Roadn cities across the country: Portland, Oregon; Washington DC; Boston; and New York. They were all tempting in different ways, but as the mecca for publishing, New York edged out the other options.

I’ve been in the city for a little more than four years now. I work in publishing at Open Road Integrated Media, and I’ve been at the company for almost three years. I started in 2012 as a managing editorial assistant, and back when our department was basically just me and two other NYU publishing grads, I had to learn extremely quickly and on the fly. After a year I became the metadata coordinator, and I’m now the associate digital asset manager. I’m responsible for all the metadata, cover images, and content assets for our entire catalog, which at this point is about 8,000 titles.

I’m responsible for data entry and supervision of our title management system, and I handle all the metadata, cover images, and content assets for our title list. As part of the managing editorial department, I often work with our editorial, art, and marketing teams as well. In particular, I work closely with merchandising and marketing to set up price promotions and monthly campaigns at retailers. I also work with Ingram and other printers to make sure our paperback book assets and metadata are complete and correct in their sales catalogs. Customer-facing data is also my responsibility, so I maintain regular correspondence with our 30+ retail partners to make sure our books’ product pages are up-to-date and formatted correctly on their sites.

The fact that my job is significantly data-driven gives me a wealth of opportunities for the future, should I decide to branch out and pursue a job in a different field. Data has never been more vital, especially since digital commerce has become the norm and transactions are instantaneous. It’s more and more important for all companies to use their data to support discoverability, customer analysis, and general operations. As Open Road’s title list has grown, I’ve had to come up with creative solutions for managing our books in both internal and customer-facing systems, and I’ve gainOpen Road maped a lot of technical skills that apply to data management in publishing and other industries.

Working at Open Road and going to NYU forced me to do a lot of things I used to dread—public speaking, presentations, leading training sessions, and diving into new experiences without knowing exactly what I was doing. It’s made me more assertive and confident, both personally and professionally. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, and one that I’m still working on, is how to balance my work and my personal life.

When I fiOpen Road booksrst started at Open Road, the company was still very much in its start-up phase, and as such, we all worked extremely long hours, including taking work home on weekends. Now that we’re more established and our company is constantly growing, I don’t necessarily need to work on the weekends or stay for 10-12 hours during the week (though forcing myself to leave at a reasonable time is still a struggle). I’ve had to accept that the work will always be there, and that it’s important to take breaks and maintain perspective. I’m not a doctor or a public leader. I work in publishing and help make books. If something goes wrong or a project has to get pushed back a day, it really isn’t the end of the world.

That’s a lesson that I wish I had learned a year or two ago—how to relax and not take everything so seriously. Big changes are intimidating, and leaving college and entering the real world can definitely be a daunting experience. I went directly from UNCA to NYU, and I think my fear of idleness was the biggest reason I didn’t take a couple of months to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. I hope current students don’t feel like they have to settle for the first job they can find. Even though I’m not in a position where I use my degree on a daily basis, it was a huge stepping stone that allowed me to get where I am now. Don’t feel like you have to follow a specific track just because you studied a certain subject in college.

However challenging my experiences in New York have been, being here gives me opportunities that I never would have had if I had stayed in my comfortable, safe bubble. Not only do I get to work in an industry I love, I’ve made wonderful friends, learned from some inspiring professors and colleagues, and accomplished personal goals I didn’t even know I had.

Sandy LaCorte’s (’08) Path to National Weather Service

Hello! My name is Sandy LaCorte and I graduated from UNC Asheville in 2008, where I earned a B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences and a minor in Mathematics. One interesting thing about my choice of major is that I was not always interested in meteorology. In fact, growing up I was diagnosed with astraphobia, which is the fear of thunder and lightning. It was through the process of learning howthe atmosphere worked that I was able to overcome my fears and in highschool I realized that my fear had become my passion.

I have always been a person who enjoyed being a part of many things. So while I was focused on opportunities within my major, including being an active member and officer of the American Meteorological Society Student Chapter, a weather forecast team member for the University Weather Information Line and The Blue Banner, I was also involved in other various activities. I was a SUMMIT freshman orientation leader and University Ambassador, a member of the campus Habitat for Humanity organization, and a Senior Class Board member, just to name a few. My experience at UNC Asheville was one that I will never forget, and one that I truly believe helped pave the road to where I am today.Image

What are you doing today?

Today, you can find me in Wilmington, NC where I am a Meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS). My daily responsibilities include ensuring the quality control of incoming and outgoing climate and river data, issuing a variety of forecasts, including aviation and rip currents, answering public phone calls, assisting with local and national media interviews, and taking part in community outreach. One of the great things about being a NWS meteorologist is that you have a lot of opportunities, so in addition to my daily tasks, I’m the chief editor of our office newsletter and a team member for various office programs, including rip currents and severe weather operations. I’m also currently working on a tornado climatology research project for the Carolinas and am collaborating with numerous co-workers and agencies throughout the region on a Hurricane Hazel 60th Anniversary project.

Can you tell us about your first job search?

My first job search situation was quite unique, in that I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity that not many students have. As a graduate student at the University of Alabama – Huntsville, I applied for and was accepted into the NOAA SCEP (Student Career Experience Program). This program allowed me to work at the National Weather Service in Huntsville, AL (co-located with the university) while I completed my graduate work. After finishing graduate school with a M.S. in Atmospheric Science in February 2011, it was only a few months later in April when I began working full-time at the NWS Wilmington, NC office. The SCEP program allowed me to gain the necessary experience that would help to open doors very quickly for the next step in my career.

What experiences have best prepared you for your current professional role? 

Throughout my time at UNC Asheville, there were many occasions outside of my education classes in which I learned something that prepared me for where I am now. From networking at conferences to being a part of extracurricular activities, I also was fortunate to participate in an internship during the summer of 2007 at the National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg, SC. What an awesome experience! I had the chance to work on weather projects, shadow staff members, work during severe weather events, and overall learn what it was like to work in the field. It wasn’t long before I realized that this was the career route I wanted to take. During the late Springs of both my junior and senior years I also had the opportunity to be a part of storm chasing trips in collaboration with Virginia Tech – an opportunity in which other classmates had participated in years past. I may have seen just over a dozen tornadoes in these chase trips, but the most amazing aspect was the ability to see with my own eyes the evolution of supercell thunderstorms, just as we learned in the classroom. In graduate school, I was a part of a field experiment project, VORTEX II, which allowed me to collaborate with classmates and other universities with weather instrumentation to study tornadogenesis.

What is next for you?

As a meteorologist in the National Weather Service, there are different levels within the agency, each with its own different responsibilities. At this time, I’m in the process of applying for the next level, which is exciting. Overall, the learning and education continues. There isn’t one day that goes by that I do not learn something new and it’s not only fun but amazing.

What do you know now that you wish you knew as a student?

As a student, no matter the age, I think it’s common to always compare yourself to your peers, especially academically, which can at times be discouraging to anyone. Something that I learned through college is that everyone is going to both learn and academically perform differently. But that doesn’t matter. Your time in college is your time. You are laying the foundation for your future and no one else’s. No one can take that away from you!
If you’re passionate about a certain subject or career path, you have to find that inner strength. When you’re able to do that, your success will prevail above all. No one said college was easy, though often it seems easy for some of your peers. Again, that doesn’t matter. Hard work truly does pay off in the end.

What advice do you have for job-seeking students who are pursuing your degree?

One main piece of advice I like to share with students interested in Atmospheric Science/Meteorology that I’ve found to be important in my journey thus far is this: Network, network, network. If you have the opportunity to go to a conference, bring business cards – it’s ok to have a business card as a student. This is a great way to share your information. I’ll be honest – the first conference I went to was the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, wherImagee meteorologists from all over the world were in attendance. I literally approached people I did not know and started talking with them about their careers and how they came to be where they are now. This not only allowed me to learn about the numerous opportunities in meteorology, but here I am 7 years later, and I am still in contact with some of those same people. Many may not realize how small the meteorological community actually is. Someone you network with could be a future co-worker or boss, or could provide you with information for that one opportunity you’ve been looking for to take that next step in your career. If you are unable to attend a conference, you can still network. If there’s a certain path you’re interested in, whether it be the National Weather Service, the private sector, military, research, teaching, etc – ask your professors if they know anyone in that particular area that you could speak with to learn more about it. Always use your resources. If they do not have the information you need, they will point you in the right direction.

Other pieces of advice would be to go above and beyond. If you are assigned to read a research paper for class, go ahead and read another paper. Take an extra elective class, get involved with a project, find a summer internship, etc. Anything extra that you do just adds that much more to your experience and it’s that sort of passion that will be recognized by future employers.