Lauren Bickford is a junior majoring in Communication and minoring in Business. She serves as Co-Director of the Women Leadership Society, is a Tour Guide for the Office of Admission, and a member of Delta Gamma Fraternity. This week, Lauren is sharing her experience participating in an Annenberg Maymester.
I chose USC because I knew it would provide unique learning opportunities I couldn’t find at any other university. Reflecting on my time here, I realize there is no better experience that encapsulates the opportunities I have had, than my Annenberg Maymesters. At Annenberg, a Maymester is a two-week program where a cohort of students travel to San Francisco or New York and visit various media and technology companies. Throughout these two weeks I had an inside look at what it’s like to work at my dream companies and I learned how I can best prepare myself for a career in these industries. Now as I enter my senior year at USC, I am proud to say I have participated in two Annenberg Maymester programs and feel like the luckiest student on campus because of it.
Throughout my two Maymesters, I visited a total of 32 companies, which include: Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pixar, the New York Times, Good Morning America, and the NBA. At all of these companies, I had the chance to meet and talk to executives about their jobs, the challenges they face, and the future of their industries. Getting this honest, uncut look into these companies was a once in a lifetime opportunity. At Instagram, my cohort and I served as a focus group for the product designers, and we were asked our opinions about new features on the platform. At the NBA, I met with commissioner Adam Silver and attended the draft lottery reception, which determines the order of the NBA draft. While on set at Good Morning America, I had the opportunity to talk to Robin Roberts, Michael Strahan, and George Stephanopoulos about their careers, and I got their advice on being the best storyteller I can be. At Pixar, the Co-Director of Finding Dory walked us through the steps of animation, from storyboards to fully detailed renderings and gave us an exclusive preview of Finding Dory before it was released. These moments are just a few of my favorite memories I have had on my Maymesters. At every company visit, I have walked away learning something new that I could never have learned in the classroom. Attending a Maymester helped me connect the dots between what I am learning on campus, and what I can bring to the workforce.
From visit to visit, what I learned on my Maymesters can be boiled down to a few things: stay curious, stay connected, and stay diverse in your endeavors. Every professional I met along the way told me that curiosity is the most important thing in their job. Doing a Maymester has made me curious about how startups get funded, and I was able to learn about funding from the start-up side when I visited Brigade Media, and from the venture capital perspective at our visits to Andreessen Horowitz and Lightspeed Venture Partners. After seeing both parties come together to fund an idea, I see myself more on the venture capital side and hope one day I am part of the decision making team at a VC. Being on a Maymester also allowed me to see the Trojan Family at its best: helping to connect students and alumni so that we both learn from one another. One reason students have access to top alumni is in part due to Annenberg faculty like Willow Bay, who have had amazingly successful professional careers. Willow Bay and other faculty hand-pick alumni for current students to meet. Alumni are just as eager to meet us and pick our brains, and my Maymester experiences helped me realize the scope of USC’s powerful alumni network. Today I lead the Women’s Leadership Society, where I organize opportunities for alumni to come back to campus and connect with students. Lastly, each professional I met had a unique career journey, and I learned there is no ‘right’ way to enter a certain profession. For example, in New York, I met a professional who started his career in Washington in politics, but who now works at the NBA. I learned that the more diverse I am in my thoughts and experiences, the more valuable I become. Even though my resume might look like many unrelated endeavors, employers will see the value of those diverse experiences and they will help me in the long run. Going on an Annenberg Maymester opened my eyes to new professions, helped me see the bigger picture, and helped me find my passions. I cannot thank the Annenberg faculty and staff enough for creating this program and for giving me some of the best friends and memories that I will cherish forever.
-Lauren Bickford, USC ‘18