Alexandra Nagourney ’13, Marketing Strategy, Netflix

Please give a brief background on yourself and your career.

I graduated from Wellesley College in 2013 with a major in Physics and a minor in Mathematics. While a student, I was the House President of Severance Hall, student representative on the Board of Trustees, and member of Tau Zeta Epsilon. In the three years since graduation, my career has been a fascinating integration of finance, media, and technology. I started my career as an intern at a start-up, Google, and Deutsche Bank. After accepting a full time offer at DB, I spent 2 years working as an investment banking analyst on Wall Street where I worked on the Charter / Time Warner Cable merger and the sale of Groupon’s Korean subsidiary, Ticket Monster. After realizing my fascination with the rapidly changing media landscape, I completed my two-year analyst program, packed up, and moved across the country to begin my job at Netflix.

How has your career changed since you originally envisioned it at Wellesley? What other careers did you consider as a student? 

I struggled to identify career paths that fit me best because I have always been interested in so many things. When I started my first semester, I received advice from some very wise upperclasswomen who told me to take my first 3 semesters to explore different departments. So I did; I took 12 classes in 12 different departments. When it came time to register for my fourth semester, I found myself only thinking about one thing: an equation my Physics professor had drawn on the board in our last class with symbols I had never seen before. (Nerdy, I know.) He told us if we continued with Physics, we would understand the equation. I knew I did not want to be a Physicist but I was entranced by a mathematical world I never knew existed and desperate to continue where my last course left off. Every other Physics student in my class (there were 7 of us) went on to graduate school, but I always knew that was not my path. I tried to merge my love of science, technology, and business and sought out internships that coupled these interests. (The equation turned out to be the famous Schrödinger equation of quantum mechanics.)

How has Wellesley contributed to your career?

It is difficult to articulate just how much Wellesley has contributed to my career. I could pinpoint tangible examples of when an alum helped me or the CWS provided a resource for me, but the most important contributions have been the intangible ones. Being in such an empowering environment with like-minded women was very inspirational and motivational for me. Wellesley taught me how to speak up, listen well, communicate with others, articulate my point of view, have a different perspective, open my mind, engage with the world, ask big questions, do thorough research, and be comfortable with not having a simple answer. Most importantly, Wellesley gave me confidence.

What is a typical work day or work week like for you? 

At Netflix, I work on the Content Planning & Analysis team supporting Original Series (think Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Narcos). I am responsible for preparing valuation to support the original series team in their negotiations, conducting market research on industry trends, and creating analyses to determine programming strategies. A typical day is difficult to describe since there really is no such thing. But generally, most of my day consists of tons of meetings, data analysis in excel, and presentations in powerpoint. I am either working on an analysis for a specific show or for a broader programming strategy.

What piece of advice would you offer students looking to get into your area of interest and expertise?

Don’t rush. Take your time to really figure out what you want to do. What makes you happy? What inspires you? What is considered work but doesn’t feel like it? It’s ok to not have it all figured out both when you get to Wellesley and when you graduate. Sometimes, Wellesley feels like a pressure cooker because you are among women who have always known what they wanted. If you are one of these women, good for you! If you are not one of these women, don’t worry! You will figure out your own path. Have the patience to define it for yourself.

As much I did not believe it, and hate to admit it, each field I have worked in – technology, finance, media – is a boys’ club. Perseverance and confidence are the keys to success. Even more important is having a network of like-minded women. Join a professional network, find a mentor, organize a book club, reach out to a Wellesley alum. Just do something to connect with young professional women who are in your field.

What do you wish you had known as a student?

Work smart, not hard. I know that people told me this throughout my 4 years at Wellesley so I guess I’m really answering the question: What do you wish you listened to as a student? I always try to do everything and be the best at everything. But excelling in your personal and professional life is not about working the longest hours and going above and beyond on every assignment. It’s about learning to prioritize and understanding which tasks will move the needle.

The other thing I wish I had known would be: Try not to take it for granted. Being in an empowering environment of like-minded leaders who want to make the world a better place is a truly unique community. Experience as much as you can and take advantage of the opportunities Wellesley offers its students.

If you could come back and take one class at Wellesley what would it be?

I love this question! I would take SOC 209: Social Inequality: Class, Race, and Gender. My first year at Wellesley was the first time I ever heard the phrase “white privilege” and I felt ashamed of my ignorance. I aspire to be an educated and engaged citizen. I would love to come back and receive a formal education on social inequality and take part in classroom discussions about the social constructions that result in different life experiences. Maybe I’ll just have to take a WellesleyX course…