You never know how you might use your degree.
For Ashley Holt ’12, her management degree from Clemson University’s Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business has helped her navigate the financial and accounting sides of television production. Her studies at Clemson gave her a solid foundation on how to run a business, manage a project and market a product.
“Production is basically managing many, many things at once,” says Ashley. Currently, with her work on Shark Tank, which centers on searching for new companies and speaking with entrepreneurs, Ashley finds her business background more applicable than ever. Experiential learning outside of the classroom during her Clemson years was also pivotal for Ashley. She would not be standing where she is today without the half-dozen internships that helped her pave a path forward.
We reached out to Ashley Holt ’12 to hear what she has learned along her career path so far. Ashley had some wonderful reflection to offer on her experience and some great advice for current students and recent graduates.
Surround Yourself with a Great Community
While producing is a male-dominated field, Ashley has been lucky from the very beginning of her career to be surrounded by strong, talented women to look up to and learn from along the way. Ashley advises students and graduates alike to go out and find mentors: “Every business revolves around relationships; relationships are everything!” Respect those around you, as you never know who will be in the position to one day hire you — or whom you might one day want to hire.
For those Tigers considering a move, Ashley encourages making the leap. She reports, “Los Angeles is an amazing city full of so many motivated people who want to make it big, and there is something very special about that.” Wherever you go, seek to find a supportive community and strong mentors — and when you are ready, lend your experience to others as a mentor.
Ask Questions and Be Persistent
When applying for jobs, Ashley urges applicants to not be afraid to reach out, ask questions and be persistent. “In life we are always going to have to ask hard questions, like for a promotion or a recommendation or an introduction,” she says. Also remember that interviewing is scary for even very social people. Ashley says she is always nervous with public speaking and she just developed the mindset of going in to do the best that she can. Interviewing is basically dating; you worry about each word in your email, your resume, your cover letter and the interview, but all we can do is put our best selves forward and trust the process.
Pick Up the Phone
Ashley advises not to rely only on email. Phone calls are extremely important. You can go on LinkedIn or the company website and find someone to talk to about the job or application process. Sometimes, you will luck out and have a connection to someone in the company, but other times you may have to cold call. Remember that just like job interviews, those phone calls are hard but can result in a new connection or opportunity.
Gather Learning Both Inside and Outside the Classroom
When branching into new areas, remember that every experience will mold and shape you as a person, and you can pull from so many areas of your life into your work: “If you have the motivation to do a good job, you can do anything!” One significant Clemson memory for Ashley was studying abroad in China as a management major. Ashley went on a two-week course to China where she and her classmates toured factories and learned about management. The inspiration and energy created from going to someplace new and learning outside the classroom were impactful. Ashley reflected that experiential learning opportunities, like internships, allow you to learn something “outside the book,” build relationships and develop skills.
Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset
Ashley encourages both students and graduates alike to remember it’s your right to change and explore. You don’t have to stay on a path just because it’s your major. “There is so much pressure out there to make yourself into a perfect mold, but I encourage you to stay open.” There’s so much excitement and anxiety around graduation, but the world is truly your oyster! Go out there and try things. If you are not happy, pick up new hobbies and look for other opportunities. You will eventually land where you are supposed to be, and an entrepreneurial mindset will help you along the way.
Find a Way to Intern
Internships opened many doors for Ashley. A distinct memory of her internship experience with The Cimarron Group was that the person she was shadowing gave her real work to do on real projects, using the same tools she was observing him use. While one of the videos was non-commercial (a video for his daughter’s birthday party), it empowered Ashley by showing her she could actually do the job of editor. Additionally, Ashley had the opportunity to intern at Entertainment Tonight the same year longtime host Mary Hart was retiring. Experiencing the hustle and bustle of a newsroom and being able to learn from an entertainment icon like Hart and work with veteran producers like Bonnie Tiegel was the inspiration that Ashley needed to continue with a career in entertainment.
Through every show she’s worked on— The Doctors, TMZ Live, World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji, Sexology with Shan Boodram, Jeopardy! National College Championship and Shark Tank — Ashley has met inspiring, talented, hardworking leaders. These leaders demonstrated to her that you can be both successful and nice. Ashley says it is important as a leader and manager to be aware of how your team is feeling, to be organized in how you lay out your operations, and to be intentional in your communications. As 2020 has clearly demonstrated, environments can create stress, and that projects from the top down, so it’s important to be proactive and not let stress trickle down as much as possible.
“Work is so much a part of our lives, so it’s important with all the time and effort we put into our work to also have a good time,” Ashley advises. “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, as it can stifle your productivity and creativity. You have to take care of yourself.”
Ashley also remarked that you should remember everyone is going to make mistakes. It is how you own them and take responsibility that matters. She advises, “never throw your team under the bus,” instead “learn from your own mistakes, as well as your team’s mistakes and use them to the grow.” Lastly, she added, “perhaps most importantly, don’t agonize over mistakes; learn from them and pick up and move forward.”
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