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Q&A with Chelsea Grain ‘16, Content Strategy & Analysis Manager, Netflix

Published By Duke Arts / published on: July 8, 2021

In this interview for the Duke Entertainment, Media, and Arts Network (DEMAN), Chelsea Grain ‘16 discusses how she leveraged Duke resources into her current position at Netflix. “Feed your passion—try classes that make you excited, get to know your professors, give yourself permission to fully commit to your interests while you're at Duke,” she shares.

Majors: International Comparative Studies; Portuguese / Certificate: Marketing & Management Studies

What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?

The most important part of my Duke experience was learning how to collaborate and connect with such a wide variety of classmates and professors. You’ll find that, in your career, you’ll need to partner with people who prefer different working or communication styles and have different interests and core competencies. It’s really important to learn how to be a good collaborator with people who may be wildly different from you because the benefits of collective knowledge and effort are innumerable. No great feat was ever accomplished alone!

How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?

Duke was chock-full of resources. Between leveraging the Career Center as much as possible, attending recruiting events, and participating in various summer programs, I felt like there were endless opportunities and resources to help me get ahead. I think it’s really important to take advantage of those. Additionally, I made it a point to give myself license to recklessly nerd out about the things I was passionate about while I was there. Feed that passion—try classes that make you excited, get to know your professors, give yourself permission to fully commit to your interests while you’re at Duke. Don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else is doing.

How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?

After school, I tried to think about my career path as a “syllabus” of sorts. I considered myself in “skill acquisition mode” and instead of turning to professors to outline my learning agenda, it was now my responsibility. My main goal was to identify roles where I could learn as much as possible with adequate support and mentorship. As such, I actually started my career in investment banking—I worked on the Leveraged Finance team at Morgan Stanley. It was an excellent training ground in terms of work ethic, professionalism, and finance. It gave me the quantitative and analytical foundation I needed to be able to work on the business side of an industry I was more passionate about: entertainment.

What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?

My favorite thing about my profession is the incredibly talented and brilliant people I work with. I love my colleagues—they work so hard and devise so many innovative solutions to challenging problems. Their creativity and excellence inspire me every single day. The most challenging part of my job is trying to accomplish everything that I’m excited about in a mere 24-hour day! More recently I’ve tried to tier out my to-do list to budget more time for sleep and downtime because I could work all day if I was left unchecked. As it turns out, that downtime is critical because I actually am able to generate my best ideas in the “in between” hours when I can get creative and feel less pressure.

What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?

  1. Try to get your feet wet early. Apply to fellowships that focus on the industry you care about, try to get summer internships or involve yourself in the local industry in Durham while you’re in school. There are so many ways to get involved and learn early on, don’t wait until you graduate!
  2. Do extensive research. Listen to podcasts and read books, articles, blogs and reddit threads about the industry. There’s so much to learn and it’s changing so rapidly, you should try to absorb as much information as possible.
  3. Talk to as many people in the industry as possible to get to know the broader entertainment ecosystem. There are so many roles that could be a good fit for you—do your homework!

Anything else to add?

Starting your career is hard no matter what industry you chose. Remember that no one job is going to ruin your chances at having your dream career. There are going to be peaks and valleys, great jobs and not-so-great jobs. If you don’t get the first job you apply to or get feedback around needing more experience, hurry back to the drawing board so you can pivot and find a different way into the industry. Don’t wallow too long in the disappointment of a single “no.”

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