Q&A with Jon Steinlauf ‘79, Chief US Advertising Sales Officer, Discovery Inc.
In this interview for the Duke Entertainment, Media, and Arts Network (DEMAN), Jon Steinlauf ‘79 shares how his marketing classes at Duke gave way to his current position at Discovery Inc. “If you are lucky enough to find an industry you aspire to be in long term, try to find managers that will help you at good companies with products you believe in,” he says.
Majors: Management Science
What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?
I found the passion for marketing in some courses that I took at Duke in my major and decided to pursue jobs in advertising in New York after I graduated. As a native New Yorker, being in a completely different culture in the southeast was insightful and gave me a better understanding about life outside the big cities.
How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?
Things are very different in what we called back then “the real world.” For me it was harder transitioning from college to entry-level work than it was from high school to college. Most of us have to start at the bottom of big companies. If you are lucky enough to find an industry you aspire to be in long term, try to find managers that will help you at good companies with products you believe in.
How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?
It started for me with marketing courses at Duke. I liked the idea of trying to grow brands within a competitive market. When I was at Duke, I took a lot of different courses in different departments to see where I felt I had both strengths to succeed and a passion to for the work. I transitioned from ad agencies to television networks after six years because it brought me closer to the world I wanted to be a part of long term.
What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?
Favorite: TV is such an important part of most people’s lives that it allowed me to have a very long career without changing industries. Also, television is so popular that people you meet professionally and socially always have opinions to share.
Most Challenging: Navigating through the twists and turns as companies merge and change with disruptive technology.
What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?
Read everything you can about the TV business to understand strategy and trends. Keep a close eye on pop culture; know what’s successful and try to figure out why people are engaged with that content. Network with your connections, family, and friends to learn what entry level opportunities exist in the various paths of the industry.