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MCC Alumni Q&A

picture of MCC alum Carolyn Lahorgue

Future of the Industry Q&A

with Carolyn LaHorgue

Carolyn (BS 2015) is a Project Manager at Omaze, an online sweepstakes platform dedicated to raising money for nonprofits, where she previously served in a Partnerships role. She joined Omaze after working in film acquisitions/sales at companies such as Miramax, ICM Partners, and The Weinstein Company.

Where are you originally from? Marin County, California

What do you currently do and where do you work?
I’m a Project Manager at Omaze, an online sweepstakes platform dedicated to raising money for nonprofits

Any additional studies while you were in school that impacted who you are and how you crafted your career?
I minored in BEMT which I really fell in love with and set me on my initial career in film acquisitions/sales. Though I pivoted away from that world, it still set me up well to dive right into the industry after graduation.

What are the biggest misconceptions about your industry that you want to debunk?
Omaze is unique in that it sits at the intersection of philanthropy and e-commerce. I think the biggest misconception we battle with is that non-profits need to spend all their money on direct services. When non-profits can invest in overhead (amazing hires or marketing their services to beneficiaries/potential donors) they can expand the amount of services and impact in their communities. We should start letting non-profits grow and scale in the ways we expect from for-profit companies, because that means a wider reach for incredible organizations that help some of our most at-risk populations.

Where will your industry be in 5 years?
My sincere hope is that in 5 years, companies like Omaze will be popular hubs for connecting the typical consumer to non-profits in a way that lets them see their impact as a donor and makes them a regular contributor to the organizations' work.

What is your typical day-to-day like?
Half of my job is producing the experiences on our site -  ensuring our internal teams hit deadlines and have everything they need to create amazing content, and that everyone is on the same page about how we are marketing/executing everything. The other half of my day is pushing forward long-term projects. That usually means sitting in on strategy meetings to guide team members towards clear decisions, fielding questions on any aspect of a project, and checking/adjusting timelines to make sure we’re on track to our goals. 

What problems do people in your company come to you to fix?
I’m the fixer for most anything operational, organizational, or efficiency-related. I help find new ways for teams to work together or cross-functionally so everyone stays aligned on what we are doing, how we are doing it, and why. Communication is so paramount to any organization. It’s one thing to have a great idea and a visionary strategy, but having the foundation of team communication and organization means you can execute against that strategy faster and more effectively. It also boosts team morale to feel like they are in sync with each other and working towards the same goals.

If your co-workers gave you a nickname, what would it be?
Maybe Speedy Gonzales. I try to keep my inbox really low so I can respond as quickly as possible to inbound questions. I never want to be the obstacle to something moving forward so I’ve always valued speed. 

What is your favorite part about the job?
I love being a project manager because it requires me to know at least a little bit about everyone else’s job since I interface with everyone at the company from our associates to our CEO.  There are so many subjects I love but would never want to work in like law, software coding, or graphic design. My job allows me to learn more about those fields without being accountable for the output. I always have a great birds eye view of my company and get chances to think on both a macro and micro level, strategic and tactical. 

What are industry specific phrases that you learned on the job that you probably didn’t learn in the classroom? 
There’s so much jargon that has become ingrained in me that it’s hard to parse out what I learned before and after NYU, but I’ll take a shot at some really prevalent terms:

  • “CTA” = call-to-action. A CTA tells the user what you want them to do next - whether it’s “click the link in our bio” or “check out other products like this”
  • “Dogfooding” = when employees of a company use their own product to test it and give feedback
  • “UGC” = user generated content. Instead of commissioning your own photos or videos sometimes companies will use content from average people on social media to market their product.

What is the best piece of advice for anyone who wants to get into your industry or strives to have your role one day?
First - stay curious and ask lots of questions! Being a project manager requires you to know all facets of the team you’re working with, including their strategy and how they execute. Also, being able to retain that information helps you become an invaluable  authority. I get lots of questions every day on things I don’t even work on directly because people know I’m always listening and trying to make connections across the organization. Second - don’t be afraid to change course. I thought I had my career all figured out once I graduated but 2 years in I realized the film world wasn’t for me anymore. It was terrifying to forge a new path but I’m so glad I did the work of reflecting on what I wanted from my work life and showing people how my existing skills could pivot. My job is far more rewarding now that it aligns with what makes me fulfilled.