Alumni Spotlight | Nothing is Impossible
Chima Egbuzie is the epitome of letting nothing get in the way of your goals and dreams.
Hailing from the "Giant of Africa," better known as Nigeria, Egbuzie moved from his homeland to New York City in 2012, where he attended the then Bronx Lighthouse Charter School.
Egbuzie contemplated what he wanted to do for a living during this period of his life. A switch from French to film class gave him the answer he was searching for. "I was very impressed with our teacher and how she talked about storytelling and how you're able to tell stories in a video, " he said.
Egbuzie was often told that studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics was the gateway to a good life. People would tell Egbuzie that individuals who looked like him failed in the area of arts. However, his film class taught him to view the film industry as a way to tell stories of his battles with immigration.
That experience led him to earn a Bachelors in Economics and Screen Studies from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. He narrowed his passion down to producing. He freelanced until he landed a job at HBO Max/Warner Media as a Coordinator in the Social Media Department.
According to Egbuzie, the long road to HBO Max wouldn't have been possible without FUTURE NOW. In 2018, he was accepted to the conference but couldn't attend because of final exams. He applied again and attended in 2019.
Egbuzie recalled his first conversation with the Founder and CEO of FUTURE NOW, Peggy Kim, at a networking function and was in awe of her discussions with professionals who were well into their careers. Egbuzie then told Kim that he would like to volunteer his time with audio and video editing for the conference.
"She also mentored me, teaching me how to edit more and making things more smooth," said Egbuzie.
The FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference taught Egbuzie how to properly navigate the business, including networking with professionals and his peers who are the next generation of leaders.
"I learned how to be able to network and how you can add value to people," said Egbuzie.
FUTURE NOW also taught the young professional the meaning of leadership. Egbuzie said that a leader is not just someone who makes decisions, but someone who can teach other professionals, be a fantastic collaborator with a massive amount of positive energy.
Egbuzie is almost a year in at HBO Max, having started his job in July 2020. He showcases his leadership skills at work by learning something about his colleagues through virtual coffee chats every two weeks.
"I'm always trying to learn about other people," he said.
It was this strategy of networking through virtual coffee chats that helped Egbuzie land his gig at HBO Max. Prior to that, he was a junior digital producer at McCann Advertising Company, marking his first foot into the industry that allowed him to express himself creatively.
Egbuzie was then laid off in March 2020 due to the pandemic and began networking through LinkedIn. He developed a plan to get a job by writing down the top five companies he wanted to work for and finding five to ten people who worked in his desired department.
"I sent them all LinkedIn requests," said Egbuzie. "I ended up having close to 50 virtual coffee chats with different people."
Egbuzie connected with someone at Warner Media who worked with the senior vice president of HBO Max Marketing. He explained his passions and goals, and a few weeks later, a position opened up in the social media department.
Egbuzie sent his resume to his connection and was given an interview date and time. He prepared for his interview with HBO Max by earning certificates through LinkedIn on budget management and social media. He was offered the position, landing a full-time job at one of his top five companies. Talk about planning and persistence!
"I always tell people as much as it is important to learn what you are learning in college if you want to find a job; it depends on your connection," said Egbuzie.
Egbuzie is empowered to see those who look like him moving up in the arts and entertainment sector. He hopes to model his career after actress Issa Rae and Bozoma Saint John, the chief marketing officer at Netflix. He believes it's vital for him to have a seat at the table to ask the necessary questions representing the Black community.
Egbuzie's three biggest lessons in navigating the industry include networking with a purpose. Egbuzie is big on jotting down your goals in a journal and manifesting them through planning.
Secondly, try to find a job that will lead you to your final destination. Lastly, and most importantly, know your worth. "Lead the conversation, but don't get a low ball to the point where you have no choice," said Egbuzie.
Aspiring media professionals must first build up their skills and resume to reach their ultimate career goals. He advises those wanting to make it in this business to consider volunteering for FUTURE NOW, especially if the college or university you are attending does not provide the resources or tools you feel you need to get your foot in the door.
"I do believe in getting paid. But back then, I was willing to do work for free because I wanted to learn from the best of the best and learn how to get into the media industry," Egbuzie said. "I thought it was very insightful for me to know how to establish myself in corporate America. I think if someone is hungry to get into this industry, this is a good way to figure out how to make it work."