Netflix Product Innovation, Class of '00
Why did you choose to become an English Major?
Initially I became an English major because I felt my writing wasn’t fluid enough. The high school I attended was fantastic, but we spent most of our energy analyzing literature and little time writing. At Michigan there was no choice; I remember a class taught by Tobin Siebers on “Horror,” in which we had to read sixteen books and write long essays about each in a semester’s time. Learning to write quickly and simply has helped me in every job since.
How are you applying your English major experience today in your life / career?
Currently I work in Kids product innovation at Netflix. In this role, I seek to create delightful and easily navigable experiences for any child using Netflix age 12 and under. This work includes research, design, and partnering with our content, engineering, and editorial creative teams to present movies and shows to kids in unique and personalized ways. Before Netflix, I held many leadership roles at media nonprofit Common Sense Media in both their education and consumer groups.
Why do you believe an English degree is relevant today?
I’m a true believer in the power of a liberal arts degree. The critical thinking skills one learns as an English major are transferable to any other profession. That said, for liberal arts majors in the tech industry, it may be wise to revise how one views tech jobs. For example, I view the core of my job as “telling stories,” not as “engaging with tech.” Through this lens, I can recast the description of my job into this: We are trying to tell the stories of our catalog in ways that will resonate with kids. We are showing them lots of vibrant pictures that clue them in to the themes and essence content. We want them to have an easy time finding the things they love. Many of these aims require empathy. I learned about empathy by reading from the viewpoint of different characters in different books, and from speculating about what they might be feeling.
Any indelible Michigan memories?
A Graduate Student Instructor freshman year told me I had great potential. This comment influenced my decision to be an English major.
Classes by Tobin Siebers, Scotti Parrish, Merla Wolk, and Richard Tillinghast.
The music school. I was able to complement my English degree with interesting classes from other schools. This flexibility isn’t possible with some other majors. I was able to take cello and piano lessons at the music school for credit, and play in a quartet.