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Katie Schad Trailblazes Through Creative Industry

Nicole Arca
Now a content producer at advertising agency BBDO, Katie Schad (SC '09) tells us about her creative industry experience and the value of "investing in a community that is invested in you." 

With expertise in research, advertising, and volleyball, Katie Schad is a pro in trailblazing her way across all avenues of success. (Also, fun fact: she is the sister of Max Schad, who was featured in past alumni spotlight.) Read more below  about Katie Schad's journey, from SC to Wesleyan University to BBDO in New York City, in this week's alumni spotlight. 

1. First off, tell us a bit about what you do now and how you got there.
I'm currently working as a content producer at BBDO, a large creative advertising agency. We have offices worldwide, but I work at the HQ in NYC. As the elevator pitch goes, I produce :30-:60 films for brands. But as the media landscape shifts, so does advertising. So, we are asked more and more often to produce virtual reality pieces, 360 videos, interactive content, and share-worthy videos for designed for specific social media platforms. Most of the ideas floating around my office are virtually ground-breaking. The creativity is truly palpable. And as a producer, it really pays to stay engaged in the tech and entertainment worlds. I can't imagine a job I'd enjoy more than this one.

So how did I get here... Production was in the cards for me since the early days. As I'm sure you all can relate, the energy surrounding the entertainment biz in L.A. is magnetic. My step-mom, Monica (mother of Cole Persons '20), used to bring me with her to work to watch live tapings on the CBS lot—the craft services bacon was the proverbial nail in the coffin.

But in high school, career prospects came second to college prospects. I was so fortunate to go on the East Coast College Tour during my junior year, where I was introduced to Wesleyan University in Connecticut. It had everything I never knew I wanted in a college: history, small class sizes, a politically active, culturally alternative, and diverse student body. This list could go on forever. I took classes all across the board, from film to philosophy to biodiversity and feminist/gender/sexuality studies, but landed on a double major in Science in Society (an amazing interdisciplinary program that explores the roles of science, technology, and medicine in society and culture) and Psychology. I also squeezed in a certificate (Wesleyan's version of a minor) in Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory. My academic interested drove me down a path that almost led me to a career in academia, but I chose to scratch that itch by pursuing a Master's in Psychology.

After graduation, I prioritized a move to NYC, so I applied to all the production jobs I could. I was lucky enough to land an interview at BBDO for an internship, an opportunity that I took advantage of with the goal to find a full-time gig in docu or journalism while still bringing in a paycheck. Before that internship, advertising was never on my radar. But I became fully immersed in the fast-paced, creative industry, building skills and networks before the end of the summer. I was totally sold. I've been in agency production ever since.

2. Were there any experiences while at SC that stood out to you? How did these experiences influence who you are today?
Of course! Too many to list here, so I'll stick with one... the people (teachers, students, families, administration) at SC fostered a sense of community that gave its students confidence and a safe environment to explore new interests. It also helped me understand the importance of investing in a community that is invested in you.

In 4th grade, I jumped head first into the athletic world at SC. Despite most of my experience being in baseball, I joined my friends in playing all their favorite sports, including soccer, basketball, volleyball, track, and even football. Volleyball was the game I gravitated toward most. I went all-in through high school, where I developed some of my favorite, lasting friendships. It was my coach, family, and SC teammates that encouraged me to go out for the team at Wesleyan, which I figured was never in the cards for me; to me, the world of collegiate sports was a whole new ballgame. But, given the confidence and “why not?” attitude that my SC family helped me develop, I tried out for the Wes team. Much to my surprise, I played all four years and left with another team's worth of best friends, whose reciprocal friendship and support I value preciously.

3. According to your LinkedIn, you have three published researched papers! (VERY cool.) What led you to do this research, and what are your research interests?
Indeed! As I referenced above, the courses I gravitated toward at Wesleyan led me down a path carved mostly by the study of scientific theory. My favorite professors, Dr. Clara Wilkins (professor of social psychology and an expert in experimental research of prejudice and stereotyping) and Dr. Jill Morawski (professor of the history of psychology and an expert in scientific claims of subjectivity/objectivity) brought me up through their disciplines and encouraged me to continue my research in a Master's program. I worked closely with Dr. Wilkins in her lab, researching intergroup (specifically race and gender) perceptions of bias. Experimental research written for publication can get a little jargon-y, but the concepts we were studying were totally accessible in terms of our everyday social interactions. For example, my thesis examined the role that one's group identification (how much importance a man or women places on their gender as a factor in their identity) and beliefs of status legitimacy (the belief that the current social structures are fair and legitimate) play in their emotional reactions to a man who claims anti-male gender bias. That is, when a man openly claims bias—e.g. "I was more qualified than her for that job, the company probably just needed to fill a quota"— I studied how men and women react to him, and how the above factors mitigate those reactions. That research and its implications feel increasingly relevant in our current political climate and the increasingly diverse media landscape.

4. Your internship experiences span across quite a variety of television companies – Discovery Channel, CBS, and CNN. What is your advice to Trailblazers who want to work at these companies or television in general?
Take advantage of your network! I'm sure you've heard it before, but it couldn't be more true. Sierra Canyon's community is invested in you and Trailblazers are happy to help each other out. All my internships came via connection—some very distant connections, but connections nonetheless. Being in Los Angeles, I bet you know more people that work in entertainment and TV than not!
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