What is it like to be 25 years old, live in New York City, and have an exciting job at one of the world’s media giants? That’s exactly the life of 2004 West Windsor Plainsboro High School South graduate Ashley Schriefer, who will be sharing exactly how she got there at the West Windsor-Plainsboro Career Fest on Sunday, May 15, from 2 to 5:30 p.m. at the Plainsboro Municipal Center.
This annual event, open to all girls in grades 6 through 12 and hosted by WW-P Girl Scout Troop 71847, gives attendees the opportunity to meet and mingle with young professional women in a wide variety of careers at various stages. They will hear firsthand how these women chose their careers, what they studied and what they had to do to achieve their goals, along with candid stories about the ups and downs of their chosen professions. There will be three panel discussions, as well as a break for refreshments. The day will close with a raffle and door prizes. Girls do not need to be a scout to attend.
In addition to Schreifer, other panelists include High School South science teacher Kate Heavers, veterinarian Lesley Vannerson, pilot Kathy Prestera, entrepreneur Terri Petry, special events coordinator Emilia Vincent, and architectural designers Tania Althoff and Kathryn Walsh.
After graduating from South, Schriefer earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management from Penn State University. Between her junior and senior years of college, she interned at Spike TV’s talent and event department and also was hired as a production assistant for Spike’s 2007 Scream Awards in Hollywood. She says that while it sounds like a very sexy job, especially being around celebrities, the experience taught her that when she got a real job, she would not want to work with celebrities after all.
“I went to Hollywood and I did things like escort Harrison Ford to the green room (the room just offstage where actors wait for their cue) and bring him back from stage. But everyone was so intense and crazy over the celebrities, just tripping over themselves to serve them and meet their every demand. I remember everyone trying to find Red Bull and vodka for the band just because they wanted it immediately. I remember one grown woman crying like crazy because she got the wrong tea for Ozzy Osbourne. I didn’t want to live my life feeling pressured that I would anger some celebrity and have everyone mad at me. That internship was a real eye opener.”
At her current job in digital ad sales for CNBC.com Schriefer works on the financial media company’s website with agencies and advertisers to find innovative ways to reach consumers online. “My role is to put together a plan, and a proposal, and figure out what kinds of placements best work for them,” says Schriefer in a phone interview. “Some of the companies I work with are TD Ameritrade and Cisco. Once the ads are up and running, I monitor the delivery of the campaign, since we can view and count the number of times someone sees an ad.”
Schriefer says her job is fast-paced and challenging, which is why she loves it. “I especially enjoy working with the clients. I like being able to envision the execution of an ad in a fun way and then being able to sell that. Ads that are on the website have become a huge thing over the last year; it’s a booming area.”
Ashley’s first real job after college was in advertising sales at CNN.com, part of Turner Broadcasting. She started as an assistant in July, 2008, and was promoted to account service representative. She left CNN.com this past March to join CNBC.com, located at NBC Universal in Rockefeller Center.
“I can look out my window over Rockefeller Center, and I can see the crowd of people for the Today Show. I can see the filming of ‘30 Rock’ and where ‘Saturday Night Live’ is taped. NBC is a brand I’ve always enjoyed, so it’s cool that I’m here,” she says.
Her younger brother, Steve, graduated from High School South two years behind her, in 2006, and also lives in New York and works in digital ad sales for Nickelodeon. Schriefer credits their interest in media as well as the fast track of their careers to their mother, Marissa, a senior vice-president in human resources for MTV.
“My father was a stay-at-home dad, and the doctors and dentists would assume that they were supposed to talk to my mom, but it was my father who ran things at home. I liked that it was different,” says Schriefer. Her mom’s media career took the family all over the United States, which explains why Schriefer was born in Long Beach, California; went to elementary school in Santa Clara, in northern California in the heart of Silicon Valley; and then moved back to southern California, to Valencia, for middle school. When Schreifer was a high school freshman, the family moved to the Walker Gordon Farm neighborhood in Plainsboro, where her parents still live today.
Schriefer has some solid career advice to girls eager to get on the fast track to any job. “I definitely think it’s huge to get an internship because it gives you a great first experience in an office, learning what etiquette is with E-mails, setting up meetings with people, and getting advice. One of the biggest things you can do is to ask someone to go to coffee with you, ask their advice, and get feedback on taking the next step. If you are an intern, people are open to letting you come into their office to talk. It’s a good way to get to know people and know what you should be doing.”
She acknowledges that given today’s economy, most of the best internships are likely to be unpaid. “But if you can afford it, try to suck it up for a summer, work, and get the experience you need. The experience you get is invaluable, and that’s how they get away with not paying. You have to consider it an investment in your future and look at it that way.”
Schriefer credits much of her success in college and the real world with the preparation she received at High School South. “When my older friends went to college, they would come back and say South prepared them so well for college and then I went away and found that I felt exactly the same way. The work load, all the studying and papers, I was already doing that at South so I wasn’t overwhelmed by college. Also, being at a school with such diversity, I got to meet all kinds of people, so you don’t think twice about people with different religions or races; you’ve already been exposed to it.”
Is there anything she would do differently in her career to date? Since she counsels young women to seek out and embrace as many internships as possible, she is quick to admit, “I wish I had more internships during my college years. My internship at Spike TV was invaluable in teaching me how to deal with all kinds of people and all kinds of situations. I would go back and do many more if I could.”
Career Fest, West Windsor and Plainsboro Girl Scouts, Plainsboro Municipal Center, 641 Plainsboro Road, Plainsboro. Sunday, May 15, 2 to 5:30 p.m. For girls in grades 6 to 12 to meet and mingle with young professional women in a wide variety of careers. Panels of women at various stages of their careers tell how they chose their careers, the requirements for their chosen field, and the ups and downs of each profession. Panelists include a veterinarian, a commercial airline pilot, an entrepreneur, architectural designers, and a digital media salesperson. Refreshments and snacks. Hosted by WWP Girl Scout Troop 71847. Register. $10 includes admission snack buffet, drinks, and prizes. www.wwpcareerfest.com.