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Interview with Prodigy Grad - now an Exec Director at Paramount Pictures

Liz Reid - May 07, 2014

Interview with Prodigy Grad - now an Exec Director at Paramount Pictures

Flora Huang graduated from INSEAD with the 2010 class. Now, she is the Executive Director, Motion Picture Planning, at Paramount Pictures - a pretty awesome job to say the least! Here, she shares how her MBA at INSEAD has helped her career in more ways than one, offers some excellent advice to incoming MBAs, and tells us about 'a day in the life of Flora'...

Flora_

What were you doing before you went to INSEAD?

I was working at a commercial real estate company that owned and managed office buildings throughout the US. I was primarily responsible for financial projections which I used to value assets, structure leases and commissions, and determine acquisition and disposition strategy. I also managed our relationships with our joint venture partners.

In what ways was attending INSEAD an important experience for you?

INSEAD – in giving me access to all of the opportunities in the world – helped me to figure out what it was that I really wanted to do.  Taking a year off and stepping away from it all also helped me in that process.  It’s easy to get caught up in your daily life and routine and lose sight of your long term goals.  INSEAD got me back on track and made me realize that entertainment was where I wanted to be, where I had always wanted to be.  Equally as important was the life experience. I often joke that after figuring out how to live in France I feel that I can do anything.  But as much as that’s a joke, there’s truth in there.  Being able to quit a good job in a bad economy, and move halfway around the world without knowing a soul there, was definitely character building in many ways.  And of course, is the lifelong friendships and worldwide network that I built while there.

Do you feel that attending business school had a significant impact on your career? In what ways?

The most obvious impact is that I wouldn’t have the job that I have today without an MBA, nor would I be able to move up in my career.  It opened doors for me, especially since I was an industry changer.  The less obvious impact is the way the experience has enabled me to achieve success in my job.  The soft skills that I learned have made me a better manager and leader, and the hard skills have helped me with some of the more technical components of my job.

What advice would you give to incoming MBAs at INSEAD?

Focus on the relationships and don’t stress about grades.  This is harder than it sounds, especially for the type of people that attend INSEAD – people that are used to being at the top of their class.  I was a bit guilty of this myself for the first few months of INSEAD. Determined to make the Dean’s List, I was locked away in my room studying and neglecting the real value of the MBA – the network.  Thankfully I figured that out and changed my strategy. There are some truly amazing, accomplished people, some of whom will become your lifelong friends and some that may become your business partners – so my advice would be to focus on getting to know those people. Four years later, no one remembers who was or wasn’t on the dean’s list.

Walk us through 'a day in the life of Flora at Paramount…'

I work in a highly dynamic, energetic, unpredictable environment.  What’s great about Paramount is that I work with other people that are passionate about what we do; we are passionate about film, and about the company’s success.  That can definitely create a stressful environment, but I find that it’s one that I thrive in.  On a typical Monday, we look at the performance of our films over the weekend and adjust our forecasts accordingly.  Theatrical performance drives all the downstream markets – DVD, iVOD, sVOD, TV, etc – so one weekend’s performance can have a large long term impact.  We quantify that impact and determine what that means for the company. We’ll look at different scenarios and run analyses on different strategies for distribution.  And of course, there are a lot of meetings, where we bounce ideas off of each other and work on strategy and goals, both for individual films as well as the company overall.

How do you think your time at INSEAD has helped you at Paramount?

INSEAD taught me how to work with different cultures and personality types.  There is no cookie cutter type at Paramount; everyone is unique and different.  I think back to the group assigned to us at the beginning of INSEAD and thinking that there was no possible way that I could work with these people, to at the end of four months, thinking that my group was the best and wanting to work with them on all future projects.  INSEAD forces you into uncomfortable situations and teaches you that you really can learn to work with anyone.  I find this useful in my dealings with people around the studio, as well as with those that I directly manage.

Looking ahead, what would you still like to achieve in your career?

Having only been at Paramount for a little over three years, I feel like there’s a lot more I’d like to achieve!  The industry is changing all the time with the advent of new technologies and platforms and we are trying to keep up and adapt our strategy accordingly.  I definitely want to be a part of that strategy change, and to help lead the company to a long term success story.   I hope to have a meaningful impact both to the organization and to the people that I lead… I want to be someone that is remembered.

Want to get an MBA and change your career path too? Learn more about getting a Prodigy student loan. Or perhaps you want to invest in students like Flora? Learn more about Prodigy's investment community here.

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