Emily Zheng ’16

Marketing Coordinator at The San Diego Museum of Art | Majored in Media | ezheng151@gmail.com

Where do you work?

I work at The San Diego Museum of Art as the Marketing Coordinator, and in my daily tasks, I manage and produce posts for the Museum’s social media accounts, create their e-newsletters, and update new content onto the website. It is a job that requires constant juggling, so I’m also taking lots of photos and shooting videos for promoting exhibitions that will find their way onto social media. Working as a Marketing Coordinator, a large part of my output is always trying to promote and get as many people interested in Museum events and programs as possible. Because so many people and departments have a stake in what is being marketed, it is essential to maintain good interdepartmental communication and coordination to make sure that different organizations are all getting what they need.

What do you like most about your job?

I like that I am able to exercise certain levels of creative freedom in my work. If I have something to change or suggest to a media platform that the Museum has, they are open to my perspective and letting me run with my ideas. As a result, I have a lot of power in deciding what the marketing material I am in charge of looks like. Once my work gets published, it’s fun to be able to observe the amount of digital engagement to see what works well and what doesn’t. Sometimes, people will react overwhelmingly positively to something that I posted that wasn’t that exciting, and other times, the posts that I spent a long time on can turn out to be duds. Another great aspect about my job is the variety of tasks that I get to work on. I get to take photographs and make videos for publication for social media. I’ll have times where I’m away from my desk half the day at meetings or shoots and hardly have time to sit down. There’s always something happening to keep me busy.

What has your career path been like? If things develop as you would like, what does the future hold for your career?

Since I just began my first full time job out of college, I’ll also talk about my past internships. I was always interested in having a position in digital media, so during my last year of school, I got with an internship in Social Media with a local digital marketing agency. I also was a Media Production Intern with the Cultural Heritage Engineering Initiative (CHEI), a really cool organization on campus that sends students out on field expeditions with cameras and drones to get images for 3D models that help to preserve cultural heritage sites. I worked with them for over a year and got to fly to places like San Marino and Mossel Bay in South Africa. 

Researchers excavating the Arma Veirana Cave in Zuccarello

After graduation and before coming to work at the Museum, I worked at Wonderspaces for a few months. I started as an Art Guide, introducing visitors to work in the pop up exhibit, then got promoted to being an Inventory Manager. So far, my path has mostly been in the field of art and digital media production, which I’m very thankful for. If things develop the way they are now with my current position, I can see myself becoming a Marketing and Social Media Manager in the future. However, I’m still also interested in going back to school for an M.F.A. in a few years. I consider myself a life-long learner, and I have a goal of wanting to further myself professionally in digital media while also wanting to develop my art practice. I took studio art in high school, and made photographs and films in college. One of the projects I made at UCSD is called PROPAGANDA. It’s a series of photographs of hand gestures inspired by the gestures made by revolutionary political leaders from the 20th century.


PROPAGANDA, a photo series (2016)

What was your experience like in finding a job after graduation?

Finding a job after graduation was not easy. I spent a year after graduation looking for work. A lot of that was to blame on my own naivety and inertia. I didn’t know anything in the beginning of my job search and assumed that it was easier than what it was going to be. I thought that I would get replies back and get something going by only sending out a few applications. It took a while for me to let go of my preconceptions and my ego to start applying to more and more jobs. It was only towards the last few months of my job search that I started securing a momentum of job interviews from different companies and positions. This happened because I expanded my search and applied to many more positions, some media related, and some not. Some of these jobs I felt I had a chance at getting theres I felt were out of my reach. The job that I have right now I thought was actually out of my reach. I had been interviewing with another institution for a similar position and did not get an offer, so I didn’t have high hopes. On a positive note, some of the highlights that I got to experience while job hunting was the chance to have my first solo art exhibit, thanks to Farshid Bazmandegan, Founder of Triton Art. I also had the exciting, and rather spontaneous opportunity to work in South Africa for 2 weeks with CHEI, helping to make scans of an archaeology site at Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay. In between, I developed my work portfolio by doing freelance photography and videography work.

What is your most memorable moment as a student?

The Kamil Award is the most prestigious award for undergraduate filmmaking given at UCSD. In my third year, I partnered with my classmate George Fu in a documentary film making class taught by Brian Cross in the Visual Arts Department. We made a short documentary film about George’s grandmother, whom we asked to recount memories of her childhood growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. At the time, this project was by far the largest film either of us had ever worked on. We planned trips driving back and forth between Chino multiple times during the class to shoot footage, which we would present in class for critique. That film is called Growing Up Red. After editing the short film, we submitted it to the Kamil Award for year. Neither of us expected anything when we entered, but somehow, we ended up taking 1st place. I don’t remember what I said during my acceptance speech, but I do remember getting more and more emotional as I was on stage, and my voice started to crack.

Growing Up Red_framegrab copy
Still frame from Growing Up Red (2015) directed by George Fu and Emily Zheng

What’s one thing you wish you knew as an undergrad?

I wish I knew that things like internships, job applications, and interviews become a lot less scary once you start doing them. I wish I knew to apply for things much earlier in advance, and plan better, so that I could have taken more classes that were of personal interest to me. I was a Media Major, but there were classes outside of my coursework in Studio, Art History, and Communications that I would have jumped at but could never fit into my schedule.

What advice do you have for students?

For first years, take a look at the people around you, because some of the friends you are making are the friends you will have for the rest of your life. For those about to graduate, make the most of your time here. I think my last year year was my most productive year, because I signed myself up to take on a heavier course load and started taking advantage of more resources around me. I would also tell students to start the job search early. Even if you think it feels far off, it only helps to look at the kinds of skills employers are looking for and judging how reasonably close you come to their standards.

What do you think is the most important quality or skill students should learn to prepare themselves for the transition into the workplace?

Being able to make a connection easily with other people. That’s going to be key when you are interviewing for jobs. Being a good candidate for jobs means having the skills they are looking for but also being able to communicate that you are a person they can trust. When you are a student, the most precious thing you should take advantage of is your time. Join clubs and do interesting things that get you engaged with other people. Apply for project grants. Also, learn that personal progression takes time. Since I’ve started working at the Museum, I’ve learned that things like exhibits, marketing collateral, and books are planned months, if not years in advance. You learn to think of your life in years instead of weeks and quarters, and that’s a funny thing to suddenly get used to.

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