When Lily Ladd, KSB/MBA ’08, entered the media production field in the late ‘90s, the first rumblings of a digital revolution were underway. “The analog camera was going by the wayside, and digital cameras were entering the industry,” she recalls.
In 2006, only 4 percent of the top 100, non-animated fiction films at the US box office were filmed solely on digital cameras. In 2017, that number was 82 percent. And while film studios anticipate saving billions of dollars by switching to digital, thousands of people in the industry have already lost their jobs—and thousands more are at risk.
Thriving in any industry requires cultivating a variety of skills and the ability to learn more quickly. According to Ladd, that’s what helped her not only remain but excel in her career. “I found myself being one of the few people who had been trained in the old way, so I could relate to that, but I also had the skill sets and the savvy to meet the new way,“ she remembers. “I was connecting the dots and figured out what bridges needed to be built to get from the old model to the new model. Part of what shaped my career is the notion of operating at the intersection of technology, strategy, and business disruption.”
According to the World Economic Forum, 35 percent of the skills workers need in all industries will have changed by 2020. A quarter of adults already report a mismatch between the skills they currently have and the ones they need for their job. In order to stay relevant, people need to regularly evaluate their skill set and the future of their field, then take the initiative to learn the skills that will be in demand.
Ladd recognized that she needed to understand more than just multimedia technology to stay ahead of the rapidly-changing curve—she needed the business know-how to be a leader in the industry. “I found myself getting good at understanding technological drivers, but I didn’t have the mechanics in terms of general business knowledge to be able to step up and lead at the next level,” she says.
When Ladd chose to continue her education, she found a perfect fit in Kogod. “It all made sense to me,” she remembers. “I was struck by the flexibility of the MBA program and the access to not only great leaders in the faculty but also the business leaders in the greater DC area.”
In Kogod’s MBA program, Ladd learned the fundamentals of leading businesses and people while gaining hands-on experience as a technology and business development consultant—a crucial component in making the transition from media production to strategic leadership. “You don’t find many practitioners who trained to be in strategy,” she says. “Strategy comes from experiential, applied learning—being in situations where you’ve had to navigate a whole bunch of different challenges. Then you build a gut or a knowledge base that you apply to situations going forward.”
After getting her MBA, Ladd continued her work as a strategist with Deloitte, National Public Radio, and Blackboard until landing her current role as the vice president of strategy and partnerships at Salesforce. She also helps Kogod students prepare for lifelong learning as an adjunct professor. “I love understanding what the next generation is thinking, and I love being a conduit to the working professional world,” Ladd says. “I love being a lifelong learner and helping others become that and enjoy it.”
With technology changing the way people work and live with ever-increasing frequency, disruption in the workplace is inevitable. Ladd embraces the disruption by immersing herself in it. “I’ve pretty much—looking back—taken on opportunities where there’s a transition or disruption occurring, and I can be a catalyst for change,” she says. “I find that I really thrive in helping companies positively navigate that change.”