Welcome to the second edition of a brand-new series at TFD dedicated to understanding how people like us launched careers they love. Whether you’re in the process of applying for your first “career job,” or are trying to switch careers at a later stage, every job searcher, at some point, finds themselves asking one big question: how the hell did everyone else get to where they are? Often we’re told by successful professionals in a kind, sympathetic tone that they know what it’s like to be in the job searcher’s shoes. And while this sentiment is appreciated, in the midst of chasing down your ~dream job~, it’s hard to be convinced of the validity of that statement. So, we’re working to gain insight into professionals’ career trajectories: from how they got their start, to how they scored jobs they love. If you have a cool job that you worked hard to get (and didn’t land because the CEO knew you when you were in diapers), email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, Patrick Pho, who leads a content production at VW, answered the following 10 questions:
1. Did you go to college, and what did you study?
Yes, I attended Fitchburg State College (now Fitchburg State University) where I majored in communications media with a dual concentration in film and video, and communication studies. It was important to me that I went for a dual concentration in communication studies because I knew early on that I wanted to learn the craft of video production, and work outside the entertainment industry. I was attracted to PR and marketing courses at FSC, and I hoped to find work in those fields.
2. What did you do immediately after college?
My college program required that I take a full-time internship during my final semester. Through Fitchburg’s internship program, I was placed at a PR firm near Washington, DC. After a couple months on the job there, I was offered a full-time job after graduation. When it was time to graduate I went back home, got my diploma, then moved to Arlington, VA, and start working a few days later.
3. What drew you to your job/industry in the first place?
I picked up a camera in fifth grade and fell in love with the whole process of “making movies.” I spent a lot of time making videos with my friends throughout middle and high school, and I knew it was something I wanted to keep doing. I originally wanted to be a video editor, but in college, I quickly learned it wasn’t what I wanted to do for a career. Instead, I started learning the business of producing and managing productions.
4. How did you land your job? We want the whole story.
At my first agency job, I worked with a lot of clients, including General Motors. My work caught the eye of another agency — the social media agency for Chrysler. I joined their team and used my knowledge of cars and production to manage social media for Chrysler, and also help provide in-house production management for the agency.
I was then contacted by a recruiter at Volkswagen who was looking for someone to start and build a brand new team dedicated to producing content for their brand marketing team. To build something brand new within a company at Volkswagen was something I couldn’t pass up.
I love to think how 18-year-old me didn’t know a thing about cars, but ended up building a career through work with over 14 auto brands.
5. What advice do you have for people looking to get into your field?
Networking was key in discovering the opportunity which led to my work with Chrysler. My all-time favorite interview advice is The Briefcase Technique, which I highly recommend any job searcher look into. Now that I am in a position where I interview potential new hires, I’m surprised by the amount of people that don’t do enough preparation for the interview.
When it comes to TV and video production, respect is earned, not bestowed. Work hard, and others will notice.
6. What was your starting salary at your first job in the industry? Was this comparable to other places?
It’s hard to remember, but I think it was in the low 30,000s.
7. What is your current job and what does a typical day at work look like for you?
I am a content producer for Volkswagen of America’s brand marketing department. I lead a team that works across all areas of marketing in producing content. That means my team is responsible for producing content that goes in a lot of places, including retail stores, digital, social media, and broadcast.
Every day is different. I manage several projects in various stages of production. I work with our agency partners to plan, produce, film, edit, and deliver videos. I could spend my day reviewing a budget for a future project, while writing a treatment for another, while reviewing a rough cut of a spot, and going over notes and feedback for another. Also, my job takes me all over the country, and sometimes the world. In one month, I’ve run around our global headquarters in Germany, walked the fields of Georgia at an enthusiast event, and sat in a director’s chair inside an L.A. studio.
8. What is the most challenging part of your job (that most people outside your industry wouldn’t know about)?
Anyone in production knows that it’s controlled chaos. It’s hardly ever the glamourous life people imagine film and television to be. Shoot days can run 14-16 hours and there’s always a problem that could potentially threaten a project and ruin weeks of preparation it took to get you there. It takes a grace under pressure and quick thinking to make sure you’re able to handle the inevitable curveballs that come your way.
9. Is this the career path you always envisioned for yourself?
I guess so. For a high school English class, I had to write a letter to my future self. I gave the letter to my mom and amazingly she handed it to me a couple of years after I graduated. In that letter, I predicted that I would get a job from an internship, and then have a career making videos.
10. Where did you think you’d be initially?
In that letter, I also mentioned that I thought I’d be working in news and living in New Hampshire. So, not all of my predictions hit the nail on the head.
Patrick is an experienced digital producer who specializes in creating and telling stories for major consumer, entertainment, and automotive brands. He currently leads content production for Volkswagen of America. He is on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
Image via Unsplash