Cornell alumna shapes future of media at NBCUniversal

When Ali Soong ‘16 goes to work each day at NBCUniversal, she wields her diverse Cornell education.                                 

As senior director of product management, Soong’s days could include anything from meeting with business users about their current problems to defining new enhancements for future development or collaborating with product marketing for new releases.

Soong’s dynamic position reminds her of the variety that she relished as a Cornell student in the College of Arts and Sciences, where she majored in information science and then completed Cornell’s accelerated master’s program.

“The entertainment industry is so closely tied to information science as technology is always evolving," Soong said. "Everyone is experiencing it in real-time with the rise of streaming. AI, automation, privacy and digitization are all key areas that play a role in media, and I have been in several conversations around all of them as we try to evolve our business to keep up with our users and consumers.”

“I really enjoyed having a somewhat flexible major that allowed me to tailor my classes for my specific interests and satisfied my passion for technology, human-computer interaction and communications,” Soong said. With interests in varying fields, Soong completed courses in classics, computer science, business and more. 

She found her job at NBCUniversal through a Cornell job board, where the rotational program caught her eye because it required exposure to various departments — allowing for numerous insights into an expansive industry. 

After two five-month rotations, Soong transitioned to a full-time analyst position, working on the Bravo, Oxygen and Universal Kids networks. From there, she became manager of the client strategy team. “I worked across the whole NBCU portfolio, including all of our TV networks, digital properties and data products to provide custom solutions to our largest advertising partners,” Soong said.

She then transitioned into a newly-created agency monetization lead role, where she's  involved with upfront negotiations and supports sales, planning and finance leaders.

Finally, Soong landed in her current role, working with business stakeholders and engineering partners to roadmap product enhancements.  “It’s such a rewarding role because we are constantly innovating, thinking about what comes next, and getting to see the impact of our work on the overall business,” she said.

Soong nods to her time at Cornell for equipping her for this role. “Cornell really helped prepare me for working on my own and figuring out the best and most efficient ways to get things done,” she said.  Also, “the diversity at Cornell helped prepare me for interacting with people who have very different communication styles and helped me become a good listener and clear communicator.”

Furthermore, her degree in information science has proven critical in her current position. Soong explained, “My info sci background helps me work better with the engineering teams and pick up technical concepts more quickly. I know that a huge part of my success has been my ability to thrive under pressure, stay calm and prioritize.”

To future graduates interested in a career in media, Soong offered some advice.

“Remember that the media industry rarely hires ahead of time. It’s likely that any jobs posted need to be filled ASAP, and they will not consider holding a position for you.” 

She also encouraged students to educate themselves about the industry. “This will both give you something interesting to talk about in interviews that can help demonstrate you are actually passionate about the industry, and it will make you stand out.” 

Finally,  “Don’t be so caught up in picking the absolutely perfect role for you since, in actuality, you won’t truly know what’s perfect until you try it out,” she said. “It’s more important to find the right people and company to start.”

Hannah Mitchell is a communications assistant for The College of Arts & Sciences.

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