When you join Marketing in the Pamplin College of Business, you join a network of some of the most successful Hokies on Virginia Tech’s campus. Coming from global powerhouse corporations like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon…when we say Hokies run the world, we mean it. Sandy Bass is no exception. We had the pleasure of sitting down with him to talk about his journey from Virginia Tech to working at Warner Bros on films like Harry Potter and (now) breakouts like Abbott Elementary from ABC and Disney….and all the twists and turns he took to get there.

“We've interviewed you for our department before (because you're awesome), but some things have changed haven't they? You’ve moved from Warner Bros to Disney. Tell us a little bit about what's new in the world of Sandy Bass!”

Oh, wow. So much has happened since I graduated back in 2012. I moved to DC and worked for theatre organizations in the first three years following my time at Virginia Tech, and then I decided to move to Los Angeles at the start of 2015. I didn't have a job locked, but I knew that the west coast was where I wanted to be. I also knew that I wanted to do digital marketing in entertainment, and after connecting with professionals in the industry and shopping around a few different agencies, I was finally able to land my first official job in entertainment with McBeard, a company of Fullscreen, followed by smaller boutique agencies. In March of 2020, I then wanted to focus more on in-person events, so I joined an event production company called JJLA. However, this was right around the start of the pandemic, so timing wasn't exactly ideal, as events were slowly getting cancelled and venues began to close their doors with the looming uncertainty of COVID-19. I knew that I had to make a shift back to digital, and thankfully, I was able to secure my first job on the studio side with Warner Bros. Pictures. I was hired as one of the Digital Managers and worked on a number of global campaigns, including The Suicide Squad, King Richard, Elvis, and Don't Worry Darling. Over the last month, I was contacted by Disney's HR Team, and I was ultimately offered a job on their ABC Television Team as Digital Creative Manager, working on shows such as Abbott Elementary, Dancing with the Stars, The Oscars, Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, and Celebrity Jeopardy! I couldn't be happier in my new role, and I'm incredibly thankful to work for my dream company at ABC Disney.”

“As we get into the interview and job search season for juniors and especially seniors, what would you tell them? You've worked for some of the biggest companies in the world...a lot of students want to be in that position, how do they do it?”

“My biggest piece of advice is to do your research on the company and really understand the roles and responsibilities of the position. There are so many people competing for jobs in general, and the entertainment industry is even more competitive. You have to be hungry, passionate, and possess the drive to stand out amongst the crowd. Hundreds of thousands of people want to break into entertainment, but only a fraction actually put in the work. Do your due diligence by researching the company's story, making a connection to your personal brand, reviewing their recent work, tying that to your personal experiences, and presenting yourself as the solution to their problem. Companies hire because they have limited bandwidth, lack certain skills or knowledge, or they wish to explore different spaces. When you clearly present yourself as the answer to the employer's problem, they will push for you to join their team. Some of my best applicants tailored their resume to align with the skills outlined in the job description, and some of my best interviews are with those who are knowledgeable of the industry, are familiar with the latest platform updates, and can share specific examples of how they overcame challenges. Google is at your fingertips. Use it to expand your knowledge and soak up as much information as possible pertaining to the position, the company, and industry at large.”

“When you fail, how do you react? How do you rebound?”

“I hate and love to fail. I hate when I make a mistake, but I love it when I learn from my mistakes. It's very rare that I make the same mistake twice, as I always try to apply those past shortcomings to future successes. When I do fail, I take a deep breath, step away to collect myself (whether that be going on a run, walking, or doing a little workout), reflect on how I can avoid making the same mistake again, and I move on. A failure without learning is simply a waste. I hate wasting time, I hate wasting money, and I hate wasting opportunities to learn and grow. Fail. Learn. Grow.”

“Where do you see marketing going in the next 10 years?”

“I see marketing continuing to evolve in the digital space. There's so much information that we're continuously bombarded with, different ways in which that information is relayed, and endless obstacles that prevent messages from successfully being delivered and received. In the next 10 years, I envision marketers will develop innovative ways in which information can be routed from the sender to the receiver in record timing and with limited distractions from potential barriers. More direct contact by catering to audiences' specific needs, wants, and desires.”

“What's the secret to happiness? How do you have a great work life balance?”

My secret to happiness is self care. This means something different for each person. I personally find self care in spending time each day to work out, look at what's on my calendar for the day, sort through my priorities, and step away from work / people as needed. This last part can be VERY CHALLENGING to do, but I am getting better and better at this with time. Where I take great pride in my work and my work ethic, I also acknowledge when I need a break. There's a great story about two lumberjacks. They both work a full day, but Lumberjack A takes an hour break each afternoon while Lumberjack B continues to chop away without a break. For some reason, Lumberjack A is able to produce more wood than Lumberjack B. When B asks A what's their secret to chopping more wood, even though A takes an hour break each day, A answers that they sharpen their axe and rest during their break. This allows them to recharge, cut faster, and be more productive. In order to give your work (and your relationships) your all, it's critical that you remember to sharpen your axe.”

“Finally, can you talk a little bit about your career and how your time at Virginia Tech got you there. If you feel comfortable, can you talk about what's it's like to be out in corporate and speak to any advice you'd give young gay and underrepresented business students?”

“PRISM gave me the real world experience that I needed before graduating from Virginia Tech. To be one of the founding CMOs and legacy members of the student-ran organization is simply remarkable. Without PRISM and the mentorship of my advisor, professor, and friend Donna Wertalik, I would not be where I am today. Although I gained a wealth of knowledge in the Pamplin classrooms, my experiences with PRISM stretched well beyond the campus of Virginia Tech, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to help start, manage, and build that legacy. It's one of the proudest honors I have from the university. Speaking of pride, I'm also proud to say that being gay is part of my identity. Just as I'm proud to be Black, proud to be Filipino, proud to be from Virginia, proud to have graduated from Virginia Tech, I'm proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I know there are many people who are not able to live their authentic lives and share this sense of pride in their true identity. I know first-hand what it's like to not feel comfortable in your skin, to fear judgement of what others think of you, and to endure those feelings of exclusion and rejection. However, that's no longer the case for me. I spent too many years living in the closet and having shame for who I was, and it's taken time, confusion, understanding, patience, pain, acceptance, and learnings to get where I am today. Today, and each day moving forward, I truly love myself and my community. I'm proud to volunteer for the Human Rights Campaign and serve on their National Board of Governors. I'm proud to be one of the most competitive kickball players in a local LGBTQ+ recreational sports league. And I'm proud to be one of the fiercest performers to hit the dance floor when prompted by nearly any track by Beyoncé. This is all part of the Sandy Bass brand — just as I'm known for my organization, attention to detail, and positive attitude — and this brand is visible in both my personal and professional spaces.”

“Bonus: What was your favorite dining hall on campus and why?”

“West End — all the best foods: burgers and fries on game day or London broil when you're feeling fancy and need to get rid of your remaining balance at the end of the semester. Ahhhh good times…”

To connect with Sandy Bass on LinkedIn, follow the link and feel free to say hello. Whether it's guest lectures with professor and strategist Donna Wertalik, or reviewing resumes with students, Sandy is part of the number four strongest alumni network in the country....all ready to give you the tools to change the world.