Around the World with Presley Attardo

a young woman scuba diving with a shark in the background

What is the path you want to take after graduation? What are your expectations? Are you anxious about the choices coming your way?

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Presley in Bogota, Colombia, 2022

Presley Attardo (Media Studies class of 2015) is Content Strategy Manager for Seller University, the global education platform for people and businesses who sell products on Amazon, producing multimedia content available in 20 countries and in 17 different languages.

The road to this current position was sometimes rough and stretched across several continents and time zones, including England, New Zealand, and Australia. Thus far, Presley describes her management position at Amazon as “the highest career point for me. It was validating getting a role at a name brand company after years of what felt like clawing to find relevant work.” In fact, she says, the process of finding the right job is “a marathon, not a sprint.”

Presley told me, “I’ve always been passionate about creating content. I love telling a story and breaking down a complex process for an audience. Early in my career, I worked as a video editor, graphic designer, and writer, directly creating content. This was fun but did not feel sustainable to me for a few reasons. First, it’s challenging to be creative 40-60 hours a week, endlessly producing new content. When you’re working for a company or a client, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for writer’s block to pass or the time to find inspiration. You need to deliver on a deadline. Every day.

a young woman holding a monkey and smiling

Presley in Bali, 2019

“Second, I realized I wanted to drive – not follow – strategy. As a content creator, I was executing on clients’ and managers’ visions and had little influence on what SHOULD be created. I’ve learned I prefer to lead strategy higher up the stream and leave smaller creative decisions to my team. Finally, and frankly this isn’t really on brand for USF, I wanted to increase my earning ability.”

Presley felt well-equipped to start working when she graduated in 2015. “USF’s Media Studies program gave me technical creative skills, which directly applied to my early jobs, and storytelling skills that gave my work substance. Viewing media through an ethics lens also continues to inform my decisions today… While in college, I completed 4 internships (including one at Red Bull and another at Warner Bros.), so I assumed getting a great job would be easy. You know what they say about assumptions…”

Presley’s first mistake during her initial job search out of college was avoiding entry-level roles, “since I considered myself to have more experience (oops).”

Dream job offers didn’t materialize as imagined or expected.  “As the months went on, I started feeling low. I felt ashamed and embarrassed as I watched peers land jobs. I had two hostess gigs (couldn’t even advance to waitressing) at restaurants and was doing a freelance graphic design project here and there from referrals. I had also moved back home after college so I struggled with the loss of independence. It felt like I was ‘going backwards.’

“It took me a year to find my first full-time job and I hated it. I was working in a windowless office building in Riverside, CA, commuting an hour each way every day.” The company culture and the job as Marketing and Business Development Coordinator creating business proposals and internal marketing assets at a civil engineering firm was not a good fit for Presley. “The commute was killing me. I developed pretty bad anxiety. I remember one day sitting in traffic for two hours after a rough day at work. I got Taco Bell, parked at the beach, and cried.”

a young woman standing on a bridge in front of Big Ben, a large clock tower in London, England

Presley in London, 2017

Nevertheless, Presley persisted, working at the firm for a year and saving all her money so she could split to Europe on a “love quest.” There she briefly toyed with getting a master’s degree in London or Berlin, but ultimately decided the cost, on top of the student loans she had already racked up from her time at USF, was not worth the expense.

“Instead,” Presley explains, “I lived in New Zealand and Australia on working holiday visas so I could earn money and gain experience while living abroad.” In fact, travel has been essential to her development as a media professional and is the most important advice Presley has to offer recent grads. “In the U.S., there’s a misconception that traveling in your early twenties sets your career back. It doesn’t have to. You can find ways to work while traveling, such as freelance production for U.S. clients or relevant contract roles while on a work visa abroad.”

a young woman on top of a mountain, smiling into the camera, snowy peaks are in the background

Presley in New Zealand, 2018

Presley continued picking up graphic design jobs while also waitressing in New Zealand and Australia, where she landed a freelance writing gig for HomeLight, an American real estate tech company. “I was paid peanuts during these years, but they have been the best years of my life so far. More Americans need to take advantage of working holiday visas.”

Eventually Presley took on an editing position at HomeLight, the first full-time job she felt challenged and engaged by, five years after graduating from USF. “Through this work, I learned that I love managing creative people. I’m passionate about collaborating with others and helping them hone their skills. This has become a non-negotiable for me with future roles.”

After gaining experience managing a team of contract writers and adding a few other strong bullet points to her resume, Presley was ready to grow again (and a higher salary wouldn’t hurt). Once she began the process, it took two months for her to land her current position at Amazon.

One bit of important advice: “Never share your desired salary with recruiters. The person who gives the number first loses in pay negotiation.” Also of note, ranges provided on Glassdoor aren’t as accurate as advertised.

The road was sometimes rough and ran through far-flung locations on Presley’s journey to where she is today, but thanks to all those previous (and sometimes unpleasant) experiences, she is able to take on the responsibilities of her current position with confidence. Creating content strategy and managing a creative team requires production experience, skills Presley gained as a Media Studies student at USF and honed as a freelance producer since.

Production taught Presley the value of iteration, each finished product informing the next. “If you’ve worked as a video animator or content writer, you know how long content creation takes. You speak the language and can provide valuable insight. This earns trust with your team and ensures the high-level strategy is feasible on the day-to-day production level. Effective leaders endlessly improve the things they’ve built to increase impact and gain efficiency (lower cost, time, resources needed, etc).”

Presley’s journey around the globe has currently landed her back in California working remotely for one of the largest companies on the planet. While she intends to keep expanding her role there, taking on more responsibility, exerting a stronger influence on strategy, and perhaps one day managing managers, who knows what road she might take next, and where that will ultimately lead?

a young woman pointing to the sky on top of a craggy outcropping next to a hot spring.