For most, working at investment firm Goldman Sachs would be the pinnacle of success. But for Denmark West, that’s only the beginning.
On Friday, approximately 40 people came to Huntsman Hall to hear the successful Denmark West speak about his experiences working for Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, BET and MTV.
The event, hosted by the Undergraduate Media and Entertainment Club and the business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, was one of many for Penn’s second annual Media and Entertainment Week. Both groups hoped the week will give students a closer look at the many career opportunities in the entertainment industry.
“[The] media field seems kind of daunting, and kind of mysterious to a lot of people,” said College senior Anna Sabo, co-president of the Undergraduate Media and Entertainment Club. “We’re here to help people who think they might be interested figure out if its for them or not.”
The groups chose West as their speaker because of his inspiring motivation to achieve more.
West started as an investment banker for firms such as Goldman Sachs before becoming chief of staff for the Windows Client Division at Microsoft. He then began his career in the entertainment industry as executive vice president of MTV Networks, and later worked as the president of digital media at BET until 2011.
Despite his success, “he still sees that there’s so much to do,” explained Wharton junior Christina Westley, co-chair for Media and Entertainment Week. “Especially here at Wharton, and at Penn, to have that mentality is really good.”
As the students around him began eating heaping plates of Chinese food, West outlined his gradual migration towards the communications industry.
By working in finance and technology, he became a valuable asset and realized that his passion was communications.
Media and Entertainment Week seeks to emphasize this very idea — that anyone can go into communications and apply their background skills and experiences.
“[West] has been able to leverage his diversity to everything he’s done, which shows you don’t have to have a one set track to be successful,” Wharton junior and Alpha Kappa Psi member Kenge Blue said.
West gave his opinions on start-ups and marketing. “[Startups] have the advantage when you’re changing the business model, or changing the name of the game,” West said.
To back up his argument, West used the Pebble watch as an example. The invention merged a digital watch with a smartphone and used a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money for production.
He explained that it would be successful because the watch fundamentally changed the media experience. Watch users can control music, receive emails and see Facebook messages or Twitter notifications with the push of a button.
By directly accessing the market, the inventors raised over $10 million dollars from over 60,000 financial backers.
Marketing, West continued, is crucial to building a strong business. While most companies consider it to be the least important thing, he argues that it’s a keystone towards creating a better business.
West’s thoughts had a significant impact on the students attending the event. “It was mostly interesting to see how everything he’s been doing is so applicable to our lives,” Wharton sophomore James Zhao said.
Penn students should expect more guest speakers through Alpha Kappa Psi’s “Aspire to Excellence” series, which West was part of this semester. Past speakers have included venture capitalist David Pakman and former Lionsgate and Paramount executive, 1985 College graduate Allison Shearmur. The series will continue into the spring.
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