A career in transition

Internship allows MBA student Devorah Cohen to explore the business side of the entertainment industry

Devorah Cohen, MBA ’08, has always been interested in the entertainment industry. She received her undergraduate degree in film production at The University of Southern California and even after moving on to her career as an attorney, it seems she never lost her love of movies and television. So when it came time for a career change, Devorah came to MIT Sloan with her sights set on breaking into the business side of the entertainment world, and her summer internship at NBC Universal marked an exciting step in that direction.

Hollywood sign Photo: Devorah Cohen doesn't necessarily ‘wanna be in pictures’ but she's working toward a career in the business side of entertainment.

As a summer associate in Business Development and Strategic planning at Universal Pictures in Los Angeles, Devorah had a number of responsibilities — from doing market research on new industry trends like 3-D movies, to analyzing potential investments, to running green-light modeling on new films — and she says the experience made her more certain than ever that the entertainment field was exactly where she needed to be. “It was my dream job for the summer,” she says. “It was a small group and it was great. I got to take on a lot of responsibility because they were pretty much short staffed, and it was great to be right on the Universal Pictures lot in L.A.”

In the end, the fact that her work revolved around movies was what was most satisfying to her. “As a lawyer,” she says, “even when you are working on entertainment stuff you are still basically arguing over documents. But over the summer I really loved the substance of what I was doing. You still research a lot of things, but the end product isn't a thirty page brief. It's something much more interactive.”

Melding two worlds

One of the things that surprised Devorah most about her experience at NBC Universal was the rigorous quantitative analysis. She was amazed by the extent to which each film is modeled out before green-lighting, and it was a perfect place to gain valuable hands-on experience. “It was like a lab,” she says, “where you got to practice all the skills you learned. All summer I kept saying I was so glad I took financial statement analysis because otherwise I would have been lost. I had to do some DCF analysis, multiples analysis, and it really helped me.”

The internship also allowed her to home in on those areas of the industry that interested her most. “I think that I gravitated a lot more to the finance aspects of the job,” she says, “rather than the operational, which is probably why I am going into media banking, not media consulting. But it really solidified for me that I am so glad I came to business school and made this decision to switch careers, because I enjoy it so much more than my career as a lawyer.”

As for the future, Devorah says she definitely wants to continue working in the entertainment field, though probably in New York. She says she feels lucky that she was able to gain this early entrance into a field that can be quite hard to break into.