Vice President of Softlines and Franchise for Disney Animation, Pixar and Princess Melissa Lasdon discussed her experience working with brands and filmmakers to create products that reflect the company film franchise Tuesday.
More than 50 students attended the event at Wallis Annenberg Hall to learn about the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism alumna’s career experiences as part of the Annenberg Career and Development office’s Lunch with a Leader series.
Lasdon started the conversation by sharing her experience applying to a Disney internship through a career fair on Trousdale Parkway her senior year. After interviewing with the company and receiving an offer, she considered rejecting the position, but her boss at the public relations firm she was working for at the time encouraged her to accept it.
“I said, ‘Hey, Disney called. They’ve offered me this job, I’m going to turn it down. What do you think?’” Lasdon said. “And [my boss] looked at me, and I will never forget this for the rest of my life: ‘You will learn more at Disney in six months than you did four years in college. You should go take the job and call me when you’re done’ … That was the moment that made me decide it’s OK to take the risk.”
Lasdon said her interest in consumer products attracted her to a franchise role at the Walt Disney Company. She said she especially enjoys extending viewers’ Disney film experience through consumer products such as T-shirts and figurines, a job that she accomplishes in tandem with filmmakers.
“Being able to work with filmmakers is pretty amazing,” Lasdon said. “I get the opportunity to sit with them sometimes, and I’m in awe of their talent, and I feel very privileged to be trusted with how [we are going to] create a great product collection … that reflects what you’re seeing on screen.”
Lasdon also gave advice to students on building their resumes. She said that when evaluating job applications, she looks for individuals who would complement her team with applicable skills such as social media experience. She urged students to be prepared to portray their resume skills during in-person interviews.
“When you build your resume, there’s obviously key words … but it’s also making sure that you can speak to it in the interview,” Lasdon said. “Make sure it’s things that you are passionate about.”
Lasdon shared her experience as an undergraduate at Annenberg, especially as a senior who was unsure whether she would have a job after college. She advised students to be confident in their skill sets and consider venturing into career paths they have not considered.
“I was so worried and set on [a career in public relations],” Lasdon said. “There are so many tracks. There’s so many things to do, and be open to those and have the confidence — you’re going to land [a job].”
Ally Chen, a sophomore majoring in communication, said she related to Lasdon’s personal experience as an undergraduate at USC and appreciated the advice Lasdon gave on exploring career options after graduation.
“I can really empathize with … the anxiety or fear about a nonfuture after graduation,” Chen said. “I think what she said about her experience really encouraged me to view myself with a growth mindset because … it’s OK if I don’t know things right now.”
After interning at Disney for five months, Lasdon received a part-time job at the company. Six months later, she was offered a full-time entry-level job in the consumer products division. Lasdon said she had these opportunities not only because she was in the right place at the right time but also because she took initiative, independently picking up extra tasks.
“I always looked for [ways to help the company] and I think that was part of how I was saying to [Disney that] I want to stay,” Lasdon said. “When I started to feel like I’m doing my job really well and the feedback from them is, ‘You’ve got this,’ I [would respond with], ‘Can I take something else on?’ My personal philosophy is doing the next job before you get it.
Lasdon encouraged students to find academic and professional mentors to help guide them through their next steps.
“Mentorship is critical,” Lasdon said. “It shouldn’t stop when you leave ‘SC. Having mentors [makes] such a big difference. I can’t tell you how many people I know have gotten jobs because of their mentors and have come out of moments of ‘can I do this?’ … It’s not about an abundance of [mentors]. It’s about the right ones.”