Alumni Spotlight | Saying 'YES' and taking risks
It was late 2017 when recent Rutgers University- Newark college graduate Giovanna Noguera (Gio) was introduced to FUTURE NOW Founder Peggy Kim at a WICT NY (Women in Cable Telecommunications) networking event. Noguera was interested in learning as much as possible in the media industry, and the two sparked up a conversation.
"I asked her questions about the organization," Noguera said. "We exchanged business cards, and then I reached out to her, and I asked if I could do an informational interview with her. I did my research by learning as much as I could and having questions prepared for her." The two met at a Starbucks and talked about life, work, and Kim's personal experiences in the industry. Noguera was soon offered an opportunity to volunteer with FUTURE NOW as a social media manager, and she said, "Yes!"
Two years later, she was invited to join FUTURE NOW’s board and is its youngest member. It is that type of networking, willingness to serve, and hard work that have been hallmarks of Noguera’s success.
Today, she is an Advanced Targeting Planner at Discovery, where she works in a team to create plans for clients across 17 networks.
The job requires data, research, and understanding client expectations to develop plans that work for them. While there is a system and technology that take in all this data, there's a human element to Noguera's job that requires her to be an effective communicator and manager of people.
"It's a team effort," said Noguera. As the Jersey native's LinkedIn byline reads, "Paying it forward every chance possible," Noguera helps and mentors the sales assistants who report to her.
She helps them prepare for planner positions, edit emails to clients, and gain sales. Her greatest satisfaction comes from seeing them win.
Working in sales does come with its challenges, one of which is managing everyone's expectations. "No plan has only one network. So, making sure we manage each team's expectations and communicate, so that one team doesn't feel left out, and then also making sure the client is getting what they expect is difficult," said Noguera. Each team has to go through several internal approvals before the plan is executed on any network, even if a client approves it.
Noguera has been Discovery Inc.'s advanced targeting planner since June 2019, and she used her same approach as a volunteer for FUTURE NOW to earn the role at Discovery Inc.
She began as a sales assistant on a contract with Scripps Networks Interactive, now owned by Discovery Inc. Describing herself as "competitive" and someone who likes the rush of sales, Noguera waited for a role to open up. In May of 2019, it did.
"I reached out to one of the planners on the team, asked her thoughts on my pitching and what to expect," Noguera said. "I scheduled a meeting with my new boss, and before that, I already applied online. I came in with my resume and was like, 'I want to learn more about your team and what you do. I've already applied. Here's my resume. These are all the reasons I should get this position.'"
Noguera interviewed two weeks later with the Vice President, did her pitch, and was offered the role.
Her willingness to put herself out there, say yes to opportunities, and take risks have been important to her personal and professional growth.
"It forced me to toughen up, and it made me confident in my voice, which is something that I was not. I'm still working on that," she said. "I definitely want to stick to sales because I feel like it pushes me, and it pushes me internally more so than anything."
2020 was a challenging year for the young professional. She had to deal with personal family issues that made her seek therapy.
"You can't go see family. You essentially can't go outside, and in my household, we're super strict about how we handle the pandemic, quarantining, and following all the CDC guidelines. Still, you can only Zoom and FaceTime friends and family for so long," Noguera admitted. However, she has found a great support system through her family, friends, FUTURE NOW, and her colleagues at Discovery Inc. "A lot of my assignments were pulled back to help me. Sometimes when you're going through things, it's hard to be on 100% when you're barely on like 40%. I feel like that's one of the reasons why I had such crazy burnout. It's one of the reasons why my stress levels were so high," Noguera said.
The pandemic has forced this hard-working and driven media professional to learn three valuable lessons:
Breathe. "Everything is going to be okay."
"It's all going to work out. There's no reason to hold your breath. As long as you're a hard worker and you're motivated, you'll be fine," said Noguera.
She advises students and recent graduates to think outside the box when trying to break into the world of media and entertainment. Noguera didn't have any prior connections to the media industry and came from a low-income household. So, she put herself out there by applying for the T. Howard Foundation Internship Program and volunteering for organizations like FUTURE NOW.
"My experience was running track and working at a retail store. Throw yourself into the deep end and have faith," Noguera said. She also recommends that when you reach out for opportunities, reach out with a purpose, and be prepared.
Noguera describes the FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference as a master class like no other. "It opens you up to all the different opportunities and things that are happening in the industry," she said.
She's been fortunate enough to attend three conferences, and she always learns something new. She loves that the speakers don't sugarcoat anything about where the industry is headed.
"If you want to be ahead of the curve, apply to the FUTURE NOW Conference," Noguera said. "If you want to increase your chances of not only working in this industry but being successful, you need to apply to the conference, because the things you learn in terms of monetary value...you can't put a price on it." Noguera also encourages students to volunteer because that showcases the love you have for the industry. "My volunteer work has opened up so many different conversations, not only with my peers but also executives."
Noguera said that FUTURE NOW volunteers gain support systems not only professionally but spiritually and emotionally. It helps separate one from the rest, and Noguera noted that you never know who will be who in the future. "That person that you volunteered with can be like the CEO of Disney 30 years from now."
Lastly, Noguera shares that volunteering with FUTURE NOW provides community and the opportunity to make many great friends and connections in the industry and a way to showcase your work. She continues to reap the benefits of volunteering, learning from other FUTURE NOW alumni and board members while also contributing her skills, ideas and opinions.
For 2021, Noguera has two New Year resolutions. "Continue to be comfortable asking for help, and my second one would be to enjoy life."