Asiya Yakhina: Product Designer at The New York Times

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This week, we interviewed someone who scored a very cool job right out of undergrad. Asiya Yakhina is a Product Designer at The New York Times who uses technology and data to help readers. In her job, she supports the parts of The Times we don’t necessarily think about everyday – the digital infrastructure that creates the best possible experience for subscribers. Read on to learn about designing products digitally, working at a huge company, and how she uses technology to create thoughtful experiences. 

Let’s start with the basics. What’s your official title?
I’m a product designer at The New York Times.

You’d interact with the messages that I touched in one way or the other, either when you first subscribed or when you visit your account page on the NYT website. The stuff we work on probably isn’t first to come to mind when you think about The Times. My team is kind of like a backstage crew in a theater. We’re not performing in front of the audience, but we’re lighting the show, we’re selling the tickets, we suggest what other shows you might like, and we listen to you if you’re not happy with the play.

2. Have you always had an interest in design? Where does it stem from?
I’ve enjoyed drawing and painting since I was a kid so I’ve always wanted to make visual things. Though my day-to-day work is less visual than I expected :) So I just try to sketch in my free time or on my commutes.

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Can you tell me a bit about what you were doing before this?
I was studying at Wellesley College, taking classes in art and computer science. During my junior and senior years - also working on a couple of research and design projects at the Design Lab at MIT.

What was the process like to be hired at the NYT?
It was quite seamless. After I sent in my application, there was a phone call. It was exactly two years ago but, from what I remember, we talked about my background, the work that I’ve done and my interest in the role. After that I came into the office to talk to the people who I would be working with. I applied for several open roles, so I was talking to people from multiple teams. I shared two of my previous projects for the portfolio review, talked a lot about my interest in validating ideas with real users and, as a result, got an offer for a position focused on designing experiences for tests and experiments.

What are your main responsibilities in this role?
I’m on the new subscriber on-boarding team. My main responsibility is to help design a strategy and, later, an actual experience that will help our new subscribers get as much value from their subscription as they hoped to get, or maybe even more. Since we’re in the earlier strategy stage as a new team, in practice that means having a lot of meetings, conversations, and brainstorming sessions to come up with ideas we’d like to test out with our users.

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What’s the environment at your office like? Is it corporate, and is there a dress code? 
Corporate - probably? The dress code is something like “business casual”. Though I also see people comfortably stepping outside of those boundaries without being judged or excluded. Work days are usually 8 hours, they can be from 9 to 5, or 10 to 6. It just depends on your meeting schedule and personal habits. As for bigger culture things, there are definitely certain patterns in how people talk and navigate work/social situations; it’s usually done with a level of thoughtfulness, respect, and perhaps a bit of distance. Though those kinds of patterns vary from team to team. As people get to know each other better, they’re generally more comfortable to open up. I often see examples of how in smaller groups the individual personality has the real power to transform the culture within the team, while also challenging certain rules or ways of thinking. That’s what I’ve seen happening in my new team, at least.

What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on at The Times?
Last fall I worked on an email series aimed for readers who have cancelled their subscription. The email experience that was already in place didn't come from a very thoughtful place and was essentially bombarding people who unsubscribed with discounted offers to get them back. It’s tricky to challenge a practice that someone else designed and implemented. Firstly, it can get personal. Secondly, in this particular case, an argument could be made that enough people click on the subscription offers and come back. But we found a pretty fun and helpful metaphor that could challenge the old approach. The metaphor compares our relationship with a reader to a romantic relationship. Would you find it strange if your ex texted you a couple of days after you broke up, asking if you’d like to hang out, as if nothing happened? Probably not. That metaphor helped us a lot in navigating the political implications and soon it became pretty to clear to everyone that talking to our readers after a cancellation needed a more thoughtful touch. 

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What’s it like to work in a big company as a designer?
The Times has a strong design community which means that I’m surrounded by really smart and experienced designers who are there to guide me when needed. Critique is a huge part of the process and I really appreciate the opportunity to get my work reviewed. I found both of these things pretty valuable, particularly because this is my first full-time job out of college.

What are your least and most favorite parts of the job?
Working in a big company sometimes feels like working on a really big ship. For that ship to stay on an optimal course, a bunch of little parts and mechanisms have to be in sync and agreement. Thinking about it this way leaves me in awe of the scale of the mission that I’m contributing to. So that’s one of the favorite parts. The least favorite part is just a flip side of what I just described. We can’t always move fast, things take a while, and sometimes that’s the only way.

Are there certain design programs that you use on a daily basis?
Sketch, Figma - for mocking up static designs. InVision - for making prototypes and sometimes Principle for motion prototyping.

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If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Illustrating children’ books. Or making video games.

Okay, but what do you do? Please write your answer as if you’re explaining to your ten-year-old self!

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Thank you so much, Asiya! We loved learning about your role and what digital design entails. Readers, after renewing your subscription to the NYT (or signing up for the first time), come back next week to learn more about how Asiya balances work and her personal projects. (Photos provided by Asiya Yakhina).

Amina Daniels: Founder & Owner of Live Cycle Delight

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Amina Daniels is an absolute powerhouse. She grew up in Detroit but moved to the Big Apple right after graduation, and had a very successful career in retail there. From opening stores on Fifth Avenue she jumped into the startup scene, and realized that she wanted to run her own business. She moved back home, and through obstacles she opened her very own boutique fitness studio. Now she's on a mission to encourage more women of color to improve their wellness habits and ultimately their lives through making better choices. Read on to learn about what it took to open Live Cycle Delight, and how she got back up after being quite literally knocked down. 

Let’s start with the basics. What’s your official title?
“I don’t really get caught up in those funny titles. Head Honcho is what I’d like to call myself. I’m the lady in charge running the show, but also the founder.”

Can you tell us the story of your career so far, about what you were doing before this?
“Nine lives I’ve lived. I was working in retail in New York City. I also had a podcast, we recorded out of Radio City. I actually launched a podcast network that now has The Read, which is probably the most popular podcast on the network, they have over 55 million streams so it’s grown. It’s called The Loudspeakers Network. I did that while I ran retail stores. I started off at French Connection. During college I interned in their PR department. I thought I was going to work in fashion PR and then I moved to New York and realized that that was a very challenging industry to get into.”

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What about it was so hard?
“...Nepotism. It was just a job that went to daughters and sorority sisters. I interviewed for several top PR agencies, and I would have the 4th interview, which is so tricky. You’re like “I’m in there! This is the final interview, why would somebody waste my time with four interviews if I wasn’t going to get it?”

But two weeks after I moved to New York, my first job was in management at French Connection. I also did the North American rollout for all the stores for shoes – I did the PR directive, and taught the city stores on the features and the benefits. I ultimately left French Connection and went to G Star, that was the first store I opened. It was a great experience, it was interesting, it was not nearly as corporate. My old director of stores, she called me about an opportunity to open the Tommy Hilfiger flagship, which was a much better opportunity and a little bit more money, still penny pinching.

I opened that store on 5th Avenue. It was the same year Tommy Hilfiger closed Fashion Week, it was just a whole other stage. I left Tommy Hilfiger to go to Juicy Couture. It was a 38 million dollar store so a lot larger volume, a lot larger responsibility. I was over the women’s department and I ran a really tight ship. Juicy Couture made some changes and they brought corporate in. What I was so good at doing was managing my business and using reports, but they were taking those reports away. People instead came in from Bare Minerals which was makeup and they were taking over VP positions. They had no idea how to run retail and ultimately, I’d say ran Juicy Couture into the ground. That’s why you don’t see Juicy Couture stores anymore. And just that simple leadership can change it.

I left Juicy Couture and I went to Michael Kors in Flatiron. So, I went from a 38 million dollar store to a 3 million dollar store. I went from having $320,000 days and 200 employees to having $12,000 days and having a team of 12. So it was different. It wasn’t nearly as fun. I also didn’t love the product like I loved Juicy and when I was at Juicy I just had more responsibilities and more control over running my business. I left Michael Kors, and I went in an entirely different direction.

I worked for a startup for a woman who went to Kellogg so she was really smart and analytical. She started a business called CleanBeeBaby, which was a mobile cleaning stroller service and repair. She started that in LA, and she was expanding to New York. In LA, she would drive a van to a mall and they would see 15 strollers while the mommies shopped and they could clean the strollers. In New York, the logistics are totally different. So aside from launching her business there was a lot of trial and error, but we did everything. The baby industry is another billion dollar industry, if you have a lot of money, you can have a lot of good accessories for your baby.

I did that and ultimately my parents won over and convinced me to come back home because there was money being given to entrepreneurs [in Detroit]. Like a lot of people who work for startups, I have a lot of instructors who are like, I want a studio, I can do this, it’s pretty customary that that happens. So I moved back home in 2013, which was very challenging.  I never thought I would leave New York, I was obsessed. Since the young age of 13 I knew that I would live there, and I always thought I’d be a New Yorker and we’d have a happy marriage. But it wasn’t happy, so I left.

I came back home and I knew I wanted to work in health and wellness. I knew that there was an opportunity to create more accessibility at the boutique fitness studios. In New York, boutique fitness was popping, everyone exercised, Soul Cycle was a cult. Even though when I lived in New York, I never did Soul Cycle.

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Never?
I did a class since, but when I lived there, that was not my fitness of choice. I did bike, I biked everywhere in New York City. When I realized that I could bike there faster than the train, I was like “what am I doing on the train?! This is crazy!” I’m losing that monthly card every week. My brother, every time he’d visit me he’d say “New Yorkers are so cold, they will watch somebody die on the subway”. And I was like, ‘well A, we’d get fired on our way to work, if you wasted 2 minutes, you’re late and then you don’t have a job,’ and then you see so much, and it’s so much work to be there. Unless you’re just living in the 1% and you’re overlooking Central Park and paying for cars I mean, there’s a certain sect of population that doesn’t live a hard life. But for the majority of the New Yorkers who live in the city it’s a grind. That’s why if you’re working as a waitress you’re probably doing 3 other things as well just to be there.

I ultimately packed up my bags and came on home, and I started working at LA Fitness. I wanted to get a better understanding of the layout of fitness. I felt like an outsider in Detroit. I hated being back, I missed New York, all of my friends were there. I’m from Detroit but had no friends here, I was living at home with my mother, it was terrible! Like what am I doing here, what is this life? So I was doing more yoga, I was biking a ton because it made me feel better. I was doing that, and I got hit by a car and that just kind of slowed everything down. I spent the next 2.5 years in and out of surgery but I was still starting my business. I was like, ‘okay, I’ve got this time.’

Downtown Detroit told me they wanted SoulCycle, that I couldn’t do this [open there]. They were like, ‘SoulCycle’s coming!’ but Soul Cycle is never going to come. But they used that, they were like, ‘Yes they are coming, they’re going to go right here.’ I was like, you guys, I’ve lived in New York, I’ve run stores, that doesn’t make sense for them. And if that’s what you guys want, then fine. But they strung me along, Midtown Inc. strung me along because they had some properties. I looked at over 92 properties. I had people tell me different things. There was a space I wanted, that landlord told me I needed to pay $38,000 which was the rent for the whole year if I wanted that place. So it was obstacles.

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I won Hatch in 2015 and I thought ‘Oh my god, now I’ll find a place, it’ll be so easy’. No, it wasn’t easy. It still had its challenges. I had more support, but didn’t make it easy. In 2016 I won Motor City Match. This was nothing, this being Live Cycle Delight, there was just not even a window here. We added a stairwell, they dug into the ground. I was like, ‘This is it!’. They were like ‘It’s dirt, what do you mean this is it’. I was like, ‘This is the space!!” And we opened in 2017.

The neighborhood is perfect. I did not want to be in West Village, I wanted to be in downtown Detroit, and I am so thankful that I ended up being here. It’s the best place. There’s parking, there’s people, there’s food and it’s in the middle of a neighborhood that’s changing, so it’s a good place to be. There’s many lessons in being patient and waiting for things to happen and staying humble and working and being resilient. And being open for places that you didn’t anticipate you were going to be.

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So in the year between Hatch and Motor City Match and getting this space, were you still doing something on the side?
Yes, so I was working and I was also recovering. I had 2 surgeries. The accident was in 2013, and I was in a cast. I had a surgery in 2014 and in 2015 and I still need a surgery, but I just don’t really have the time for that. I was working as a personal assistant for Dream Hampton. She’s a native Detroiter but she’s based out of New York, Detroit, and LA. It was another great learning experience, working for women who run their own businesses.

Before this, were you ever a personal trainer?
So I have certifications and I’ve gotten certifications between surgeries. I have a personal training certification from SCW Fitness, I also have Group Strength training with them. I got that in 2015. I have a Real Ryder certification, Schwinn cycle certification, Stages Cycle certification. I have my 200 yoga hours from Kripalu which I did in 2016. I have my TRX Group training, my TRX Rip Training Certification and I think that’s all for my certifications for now. We’re hosting a STC in July so that’s a suspension training course, which is just a basic course. I’ve also done 2 TRX summits, so you earn a lot of points towards your education in those summits because you do so much TRX and you have workshops.

Okay so now that you’re doing this, it’s amazing! Is there something that’s part of your job that you weren’t expecting?
Because I managed people before, in retail stores, I’d say my retail stores background is the most helpful for people. I also had a learning curve because I managed people in my 20s so the majority of the people I managed were older than me. So you have to learn how to manage different people and also understand how you are perceived and recognize that in your management style or in your approach of how you need to connect with people.

I would say, you make every decision. I don’t have a partner, so every decision, sometimes it’s just like, oh I have to make EVERY decision? And I’m still growing so I can’t necessarily afford the team that I’d like. We don’t make enough to support so many roles on staff, but I look forward to that. In a perfect world I’d be able to teach a lot less than I teach and have more time to create and manage. But because Detroit just doesn’t have a ton of talent, I can’t rely on that because people won’t come to those classes. If you have a specific personality on the bike who brings it and people really resonate with that instructor, they show up. And right now, I’m that person so until I can find some more people…

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I’m looking! I’m always looking to diversify my staff, I’m always looking for other ethnicities with certifications who can connect to people. People want to see themselves. And some people don’t want to see me, so also I’m cognizant of that. I’m on-boarding new people so I can have a buffer between myself and customers, and a buffer between myself and my team. I would say the challenging part is that I need more people so I can delegate tasks, but to delegate tasks I need to know they’ll do it right. And unfortunately you have to prioritize. Like, what emails pay the bills. And then the ones that don’t...also, I did a lot of free stuff on my way to get to this place. And now everybody still wants me to do free stuff. They throw the word ‘community’ around like ‘oh it’s for the community’.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
If I was not here, I’d probably be in LA. A lot of New Yorkers have found tremendous success in LA. And all the brands are there, all the partnerships are there. I would’ve been in the fitness and wellness arena. But here, I want to grow into a digital capacity. I still want more women of color to have access to fitness. So we have some mobile fitness ideas for college students. I want to do a black college tour, I went to a HBCU, at homecoming it’s a really fun time and you know, if we can roll out some fitness content that would be the goal. And then long term, long term, create a studio bike, an in-house studio bike that’s more affordable than Peleton so you can reach a different demographic. Fitness is a billion dollar industry, there’s a lot of opportunity to make it more accessible.

And one of the other reasons you asked why I came home - diabetes is a cause of death. Heart disease is a cause of death. Diet and exercise are ways to prevent diabetes and heart disease, hypertension, and in my community, those diseases run rampant, and typically just because of choices. Most of the time we don’t have people who are like ‘you can be healthy by just exercising’. 

Okay, but what do you do? Please write your answer as if you're explaining to your ten-year-old self.

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Thanks so much, Amina! You run an incredible studio here in Detroit, and we loved hearing more about your journey. Readers, after signing up for the nearest spin class or just taking a walk outside, come back next week for another learning lesson from the one and only Amina Daniels. (Photos provided by Amina and Live Cycle Delight)

Lisa Callif: Entertainment Lawyer

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This week we spoke to Lisa Callif, an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, CA. Not only has she known her passion since she was a teenager, she’s been persistent in pursuing a career in law, and she’s now a partner at her firm, Donaldson + Callif. If you’re eager to learn about a career as a lawyer, read on. You can expect a helpful landscape of the field of entertainment law, an honest assessment of what it takes to be a happy lawyer, and how to use mistakes to evolve into a more successful lawyer.

What is your official job title?
Partner. Yeah, I’d say Managing Partner.

Can you tell me the story of your career so far.
Where do I begin? When I was thirteen or fourteen, I made the decision to be an entertainment lawyer, partly because I grew up in Los Angeles around the arts and I loved movies, television, music, and all those things. But it was clear early on that I was very artistically challenged and I wasn’t cut out for a career as an artist. My father was a lawyer and I put the two together: “Oh, I could be a business person but still be involved in the arts – entertainment lawyer.” I went to undergrad at NYU, worked in the music industry for a couple of years and then went to law school out here (Los Angeles) at Southwestern. In law school, I knew I really wanted to pursue not just a general legal degree, but I wanted to really specialize in entertainment.

Entertainment was really the focus of my job search, where I went to network and how I tried to position myself in the marketplace. At that point, I didn’t really know exactly what that meant— what is entertainment law? “I’ll be Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s lawyer, and it’s going to be amazing!” That was my impression of what it meant to be an entertainment lawyer – that’s all I knew. Law school is three years, and during the summer after my second year I worked at a small firm doing entertainment litigation—litigation is when things go wrong and you’re in court fighting over something.  I figured out pretty quickly that I didn’t want to do that long term - I wanted to be the person putting deals together, not doing damage control when they fell apart.  Then I got a job at a national firm called Proskauer Rose and did some entertainment litigation there. I also did a lot of securities and white collar regulatory work—we defended executives of public and private companies, when they or their company was under investigation for some type of fraud or financial wrongdoing.

After working at Proskauer for four years, while I loved my experience there, I knew that was not the career trajectory I wanted to be on.  Most lawyers in that area go to work for the government, typically for the SEC or the US attorney’s office, and that just wasn’t my passion.  That’s when I started to look for a job in entertainment, and that’s when it became a little bit more clear that there are different types of entertainment lawyers.  To break it down, there are really 4 types of entertainment lawyers:  (i) lawyers who work in-house at a studio, such as NBC, Netflix or Sony. They do very specific things within that company that need to be done on the legal side, such as licensing material that the company owns or acquiring properties;  (ii) talent lawyers who represent actors, directors, writers and other artists; (iii) litigators who handle disputes and duke it out in court; and finally, (iv) lawyers like me who work on the production side.  We represent producers and production companies.

During my job search I met Michael Donaldson, who’s now my partner, he represented independent filmmakers and theatre.  When I first met him, I didn’t really know what that meant, but basically what I do is to help people who are making movies or television programs put together their project and make sure they’re legally sound. We draft and negotiate all the agreements with the actors, the director, the producers, the composer, the editor—all of the people who work on the film. And we also handle financing and distribution agreements.  So, if a company like Netflix or Sony comes on board, and they want to distribute the project, we help negotiate that agreement. We represent a lot of documentary filmmakers and filmmakers who are producing scripted projects based on true stories.  In connection with those clients, we do clearance work, which is a big part of our practice, and that’s really reviewing the film and any applicable agreements to make sure that anybody who watches the film won’t have a valid legal claim.

For example, if the client is using third party materials in their project, like clips from another film, we make sure that all of that stuff is properly cleared – either licensed from th owner or used pursuant to fair use (which is a person’s right to use a limited amount of someone else’s material for the purpose of comment or criticism). We also want to make sure that everyone who appears or is discussed in a film, assuming it’s a true story, is accurately depicted and won’t have any valid legal reason to complain.  We can’t prevent people from getting upset, but we can make sure that their upset doesn’t turn into a valid legal claim.  .

Do you think that, in general, law is a career that you have to be set on pretty early? Or can you decide to pursue law later on in life?
I think it goes both ways. A lot of people decide they want to be a lawyer later on in life. There are a lot of lawyers who have a background in music or who were actors once, or singers, or whatever. That wasn’t a fulfilling career for them, or a realistic path, and they wanted to stay within the industry and decided later in life, “Let’s take a business route here, I can go back to school.” So, I think it’s something that people can decide at any point.

You spoke about different areas within entertainment law. How far into a law career can you get before you have to specialize? And how easy is it to move across law disciplines?
It’s actually quite difficult to move into entertainment. While I do think it’s good to have other experiences early on, once you’ve been practicing for three or four years and you’re doing something that’s different than entertainment, it’s going to be challenging to cross over.  Just as it would be in any area of the law.  If you’re doing litigation and you want to do corporate law, or you want to do labor law, it’s difficult as you become a more seasoned attorney.

As you get older, you’re getting paid at a higher rate, you’re billing clients at a higher rate, and if you don’t know that area of the law, you kind of have to start over again. You wouldn’t go to an ear/nose/throat doctor if you have a broken leg. And if you are an ear/nose/throat doctor and you want to practice orthopedics, it would be very difficult to transfer over cause you kind of have to get that education again. Although it’s not that cut and dry with law, it’s similar.

What’s something you wish people were more aware of before pursuing a law career?
I think that they need to understand that many lawyers, unfortunately, are not happy in their jobs, which is very disappointing. I wouldn’t go to law school for the money. You think, “Oh, I’m going to make a ton of money.” As a junior lawyer, unless you get a job at a big firm, the money’s not fantastic, especially early on.

I don’t always encourage people to go to law school. You have to really want to be a lawyer and have a very specific purpose for doing this, not just “I don’t know what else to do, so I’m going to go to law school,” because it’s a challenging career and law school is extraordinarily expensive. You may come out of law school with $200,000 in debt and get a job that’s not paying you that much money—that’s quite challenging in and of itself. I always advise that if you’re going to sign up for three years of school, and possibly a lot of debt, you should really have a passion for the law.

That’s something I wanted to ask you—when you’ve had a really long day and you’re exhausted, what motivates you to keep going?
I happen to be very fortunate because I actually do love what I do. I have wonderful clients that are appreciative of us and we really get to help people make their dreams come true in a lot of ways. I work with independent filmmakers, a lot of documentary filmmakers, and we help get them to a place where their film is a viable project – often times when they didn’t think it was. That’s quite rewarding. We work on a lot of socially conscious films that are changing the world. We worked on Icarus, which made a really big impact, globally.  We worked on Blackfish, which was really impactful.  I’m working on a film now about child slavery in India, which is incredible, another about the California foster care system.  It’s quite rewarding seeing these films go out in the market and effect change. We also, fortunately, have an amazing team of people in my office – people who I’m happy to see and work with every day.

What traits do you see a lot in lawyers that are happy and successful in this field?
To be happy, you have to love what you do and want to fight for your clients because you believe in them.  That’s really the long and short of it.  If you love your job, everything else will fall into place.

In terms of success, one thing I view as important is having the ability to understand the other person’s point of view. You have to know how to read the minds of your clients, a little bit. Sometimes they ask for things, but they might not really mean what they say. Or they might think they want something, but you can explain to them why that’s not a good idea, or why you don’t think it’s the big picture to get that. You also have to understand where the other side is coming from and what they need and want to get a deal done. If I’m representing a producer and there’s an investor on the other side, I want to be able to understand the investor’s point of view so that I can help my client negotiate a deal that’s going to work for both of them.

And having patience. It probably applies to most jobs. Having the ability to let things play out, to negotiate round after round after round.  To listen. And people skills. One of my first bosses told me that to be successful, you need to possess the three A’s: Affability, Availability, and Ability – in that order.  I’ve learned this is very true.   

What are your main duties in this position? They can be day-to-day tasks or more big picture ones.
Basically, I have two hats in my office. One is managing the office, ensuring that we’re well staffed, that people are happy, bills are paid, the managerial/administrative aspect of running any business. And then the other part, the legal part, is very much representing independent filmmakers and theaters. I spend a lot of time negotiating deal points, talking to clients and counsel for the other party to close deals and get things done so clients can focus of creative and move forward with their projects. The rest of my time is spent doing clearance work. With clearance work I’m watching the film or television series and going through it with a fine-toothed comb, checking all the materials they have in there and making sure they are being used properly. Then I’ll have conversations with clients about what needs to be done for the film to be in a state where it can be delivered to a studio and exhibited. One of the key things we work on is getting our clients insurance for their film. Once we get insurance, it makes distributors and financers more comfortable.

Could you tell us the best mistake you made as a young lawyer?
When I was at my old firm, I was doing litigation and with litigation there are so many requirements set by the court. Federal court, especially.  There are rules for everything - font size, margin size, the number of pages… It’s very, very specific and it can feel like you’re set up to fail cause there’s so many rules.  Well, I did fail, on more than one occasion and the lesson was that I needed to take responsibility for the failure and figure out how to fix it.  Regardless of what the mistake is, rather than, “I screwed up, and the world’s over, and I’m going to get fired from this job,”  I learned how to deal with a mistake and fix it. Having that attitude of “how do we fix this?” is such a valuable learning experience.  Everything is fixable and you have to be willing to figure out how. 

You said that one of the important things about being a lawyer is being a people person. Do you have a particularly helpful networking tip?
Most importantly, it’s to not be afraid to initiate a conversation.  Say “hello,” first.  Make small talk on a conference call before you get down to business.  Keep in mind that people like to work with people they like, and it’s often easier to get things done when you have a good rapport with your client and with other lawyers. 

Also not being afraid to ask a question goes a long way.  It kind of goes back to being in school, when you had a question in class, and you think you’re the only one, so you don’t ask it, and then you talk to your friends and nobody understood what was going on. When you’re on the phone or on a conference call and someone throws out a term of art that you’re not familiar with, I think it’s really important to say, “I should probably know this, but what does that mean?” Usually even that little thing is helpful from a relationship standpoint because it creates a commonality amongst everybody. And often people will say, “I’m so glad you asked that. I didn’t know what that was either.” It’s just that ability to not be afraid to ask questions. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s key.

What is your least and most favorite part of your job?
I would say the least favorite part of my job is long conference calls. Sometimes an issue can be handled by email, and you end up being on the phone for an hour, which sucks. My favorite thing about my job is finishing an actual project and seeing it with an audience. For example, going to the Sundance Film Festival and seeing a client’s film that I’ve worked on for two or three years; having the opportunity to celebrate with them. That’s the most rewarding part of the job.

Okay, but what do you do? Please write your answer as if you're explaining to your ten-year-old self. 

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Thank you so much, Lisa! We learned so much from speaking with you, and it was so interesting to learn about a different side of the entertainment business. Readers, come back next week for another dose of Lisa's wisdom.