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MSLCE Student Gets Advice from Facebook, Pandora on SF Trek

By Robyn Latchford

Our trek began with Michael Holtmann, who spoke of his work for the National Endowment for the Arts and his current work for the Center for the Art of Translation. We all loved his congenial manner and his insightful stories about his career path and finding enjoyment in his work. I especially admired his candid comments about having a job that took him to places such as the White House, but not personally enjoying it himself.

He also spoke of a friend who traveled the world in a rock band, although did not enjoy it like he thought he would, and ultimately left the band to find a career that he truly enjoyed and which suited him. This resonated with me, as I have often felt pressured by myself and others to strive for what I think I should want or should be doing, but hearing Michael Holtmann share similar feelings reassured me that everyone’s career path is unique and it is important to notice how your job makes you feel.

Our visit at the San Francisco Symphony was particularly fascinating for me, as I have a background in classical flute. It was inspiring to hear Director of Communications Oliver Theil speak to the prominence of social media and the role of technology for the public relations of a symphony orchestra, especially when it comes to recruiting younger audiences, for which all symphony orchestras are in dire need. When I asked him how San Francisco Symphony distinguishes itself from other great orchestras in the United States and Internationally, Oliver Theil spoke of the orchestra’s involvement in the local San Francisco Community and how bringing the culture and values of the region into their organization makes them unique from every other symphony orchestra.

At Facebook, we heard about the critical research and attention given to each person’s experience. I find it amazing that Facebook hires PhDs in Psychology to gather and analyze data on people’s positive and negative Facebook experiences. It was also interesting to hear that Facebook does not focus on comparing itself to competitors such as Twitter and Google+, but rather focuses on their own branding, values, and strengths to flourish as an online platform.

Hearing from Miriam Karpilow and Kevin Seal from Pandora was an incredible experience for me, especially since my undergraduate degree is in Mathematics. Pandora uses algorithms to compare song similarities and dissimilarities to personalize the online radio experience for each individual user. I would love to work for a creative enterprise that combines music and algorithms, and it was a pleasure to hear Miriam’s sage advice of noticing even the smallest details about yourself to incorporate into your ideal career to find a job you truly enjoy.