Karen Abé, a USC Annenberg alumna and Universal Studios’ Vice President of International Marketing for Home Entertainment, dropped by on February 8, to share some keys to success and her career journey with USC Annenberg students and the public.
The event, organized by Annenberg’s Career Development office, is part of their ongoing Lunch with Leaders series.
Abé (B.A. Journalism ‘89) manages all of Universal Studio’s profit and loss for all home entertainment around the globe. Internationally, about 10 offices worldwide report to her. Her main focus is on optimizing every film title in the home entertainment window after the theatrical release. Currently, she is working on new film franchises, such as “Fast and Furious” and “Despicable Me.”
During the lunch, Abé discussed her career and the unforeseen directions it has taken her . Inspired by the movie “The Killing Fields,” Abé initially wanted to become an international foreign correspondent to report on humanitarian issues, such as the atrocities committed in by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, as explained in the movie. This prompted her to major in journalism at USC Annenberg. However, she soon realized this was not the career for her.
“Sometimes you do not end up doing what you major in,” Abe said. “I wanted to make the world a better place, and along the way I came to Los Angeles and fell in love with movies. I started working in the entertainment business, working for studios and study abroad while at USC.”
“Eventually she landed her dream job at Universal Studios, a place she calls “innovative.”
“Universal Pictures is a fantastic company because they’re really investing in the future. We are acquiring other businesses, such as Dreamworks and Buzzfeed, and expanding internationally by buying digital companies,” Abé said.
She described a typical day’s work at Universal Studios: she’s up at 6 a.m., checks her email and starts making international calls regarding sales results. She then delves into answering questions from her staff and reviews TV spots and packaging. She spends much of the afternoon in brainstorming meetings, sometimes pitching ideas to directors such as Steven Spielberg and Gary Grey. She leaves the office at 7 p.m. but usually takes this time to make calls to offices in Australia and Japan. She also travels at least once a week to visit the international branches of Universal operating around the world.
Recounting her years at Annenberg, Abé explained how the school was integral in her success. She said Annenberg is a place where students can academically challenge themselves and make connections.
“Going to Annenberg is such an advantage because people know you come from a strong university, so you are more likely to get your foot in the door,” she said.
She suggested that current students jump at any opportunity to make connections in their line of work, whether through alumni or USC’s internship program. Abé explained that it is vital that Annenberg students market products and have a mission statement because this will help them figure out who they are and what they want in a job.
“Work for people who want you to innovate and never lose that passion,” she said. “It’s a journey.”
While Abé covered a large range of topics during Lunch with a Leader, she emphasized that it’s most important to find something to be passionate about.
“Follow your passion and keep your eyes open to new opportunities along the way,” she said.