Yale School of Management

‘Career Conversations’ Podcast: Ikya Kandula ’22, Paramount Pictures

Season 3, Episode 23: Ikya Kandula ’22

Ikya Kandula ’22 spent her summer as an intern at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles. This episode is part of a special mini-series of Career Conversations focused on MBA summer internships where we ask rising second-year MBA students to check in from their experiences, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM. She is interviewed by Amy Kundrat ’21.

 Listen to the episode & subscribe to Career Conversations

Listen

Transcript

Ikya Kandula:
My favorite thing about this job, was that I felt like a journalist throughout it. I got to do a lot of the deep dives into looking at what the audience is, what the positioning could be. And it's really layering on each other as well. Welcome to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. Each episode of Career Conversations, is a candid conversation about careers from members of the Yale community. Kind of like an informational interview, except you get to listen in.

Amy Kundrat:
Today, I am joined by Ikya Kandula. Ikya is a full-time MBA student, who interned at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles in Domestic Film Marketing Strategy this summer. Ikya welcome and thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about your internship experience. Before we jump to that, I like to learn a little bit more about you. You worked at the Federal Reserve, a fintech startup.

Amy Kundrat:
I've seen your byline in a Washington post magazine, fast company and Conde Nast Traveler. Most recently exploring racism experienced by hikers and climbers of color. So wow where to begin? Can you walk me through what you've been doing before you came to SOM.

Ikya Kandula:
Yeah. So I mean, you really nailed it all. I was mainly working in regulation and compliance. I at the fintech startup, I was really focusing on removing algorithmic biases so that people who don't have access to financial tools through whatever system, through the U.S. financial system, can get access by some of the regulatory changes that we were making.

Ikya Kandula:
It was really interesting work because that was a lot of the stuff that I was focusing on in college as an econ major as well. But during that time as well, I was a freelance culture journalist. Some of my favorite pieces are of people in my own community that I've written about. So I've written about my eyebrow threader in Oakland and how she moved from Nepal. I've written a lot about rock climbing and I'm writing a piece coming up on state funded outdoor equity programs for you.

Amy Kundrat:
Wonderful. So what brought you to SOM?

Ikya Kandula:
When I was looking at business schools, I was really considering two different dimensions. The size of the organization and the opportunities within the school itself, that I was afforded. I was really looking for a smaller school, just because I went to Berkeley for undergrad. I was in Haas. Berkeley as a whole, was perfect for me in the undergrad setting because it was so big. But I wanted something that was a little more tailored, something where I could know potentially everyone in my class.

Ikya Kandula:
And then the second piece, was this like what I was afforded in the program. And I really valued how much SOM focused on the society element. I mean, everyone talks about it. So it was such a big part of the recruiting, but also how much SOM valued its connection to the larger Yale environment. I really wanted to take classes that weren't just business school classes and I really wanted to go abroad.

Ikya Kandula:
And those are two things that SOMs great at. I wasn't sure if this was the end, I'll be all of like where I wanted to go, until I came to visit for welcome weekend. I was the only group of people in my class that got to go to welcome weekend, but it was awesome. The things that really shifted my perspective on business school and what I wanted, was meeting so many people coming from non-traditional backgrounds and people going into nontraditional backgrounds.

Ikya Kandula:
Everyone was so, so different from the idea I had of people going to business school. And I really, really valued that. Even on that three day weekend that we had, I just could tell there were so many people that I could learn from and hang out with and just had really interesting perspectives that I had never considered.

Amy Kundrat:
It sounds like welcome weekend was very affirming. So when you came to SOM the first year, what was that like for you? Can you share some highlights from first year?

Ikya Kandula:
Obviously, first year was very different because COVID, but I feel like SOM gave me what I came here to do, which was such a massive pivot. I didn't mention, but coming into SOM I wanted to transition from regulation compliance into media and entertainment. I really wanted to focus on potentially managing magazines and newspapers, just because some of my favorite writers have been fired in the past. However many years, some of my favorite publications have gone out of business. And I feel like that's really due to the revenue model that's really antiquated.

Ikya Kandula:
So that's what I came to business school to do. It's just a huge pivot in terms of job function, even location. And then during the year, I mean, everyone tells you how much you need to network for media and entertainment. And I think doing that sort of networking, I was able to kind of understand that the group of MBAs working in journalism, is small and a lot of them suggested I should work somewhere that has some of their management problems solved, before going into journalism and perpetuating what already exists.

Ikya Kandula:
And I've found that advice super helpful. That led me to more of the film studio, film company side. And I did a triple pivot, which I heard was just really rare coming to business school. So for me SOM last year, was okay, obviously it was a check plus because I did the thing. And then in terms of actual events that I can think of, the people that I've met here, again just have been so incredible.

Ikya Kandula:
Some key highlights. We had one of my friends organized an open mic night and people shared poetry and pieces that they had written for that event, or for other events. And it was just ... It ended in like a little jam session. It felt so electric just to be with people who were thinking about things in a different way than I had anticipated people who had gone through different life experiences. And people sharing them in such a vulnerable and intimate way.

Ikya Kandula:
And I felt like regardless of the changes that happened last year, it did allow us to be vulnerable and intimate, in a way that I hadn't anticipated. And I feel closer to some of my classmates, than I probably would have in a normal year.

Amy Kundrat:
Were there any classes or professors that stood out for you last year?

Ikya Kandula:
I really enjoyed Workforce with Jim Barron. I also, Competitive Strategy was just the class that I talk about with everyone. And I think Joey Deb and Judy [inaudible 00:07:11] just incredible. They were both great lectures, but they were also were able to frame problems in a way that really cut across industries, which I mean a lot of SOM classes did, but that one was one that I kept bringing up in interviews.

Amy Kundrat:
Well, what kinds of conversations did you have in first year? What kinds of clubs nudged you toward your internship? What kinds of tools and resources did you find yourself drawn to and pulling upon to land your internship at Paramount? And sorry, maybe I should ... I kind of buried the lead there. I should ask you, where did you intern this summer?

Ikya Kandula:
I was an MBA intern at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles. I did domestic films marketing strategy.

Amy Kundrat:
Great. And so maybe I'll circle back to my question, which was, how did that come about? What did that recruitment process look like for you?

Ikya Kandula:
Yeah. Something that every single person in the world says about media and entertainment recruiting, is that it's all networking. And I really thought that was a joke or that wasn't that serious, until I was actually doing it. It was ... So like you mentioned, I had a lot of conversations in the beginning. The first semester was pretty much just talking to people in the media field because that's what I thought I wanted to do. And talking to them about how they got there, what problems that they're facing and where they could see me sort of fitting into that space, if I was to go.

Ikya Kandula:
And that really sure, I didn't land ... I didn't necessarily try to land an internship at something like the New York Times, but it really helped me figure out why I didn't necessarily need that in my portfolio. So having those conversations, just was really helpful in the rest of my recruiting process. And then media and entertainment club shouts out with the best club on campus.

Ikya Kandula:
I was really involved in that last year. And through media and entertainment, we did the Paramount Case Competition, which was basically that last year's topic, was what's the best way to launch Paramount Plus? And that coincided with the launch of Paramount Plus. So that was the first case competition I had ever done. And the first one that really peaked my interest, that put me in the world of what Paramount was doing and got me thinking a lot more about film and streaming in TV.

Ikya Kandula:
And then at that conference or that Case Competition that was also part of the UCLA conference, they had a speed networking session where you basically just got to meet 30 media and entertainment per professionals in 60 second chunks. I thought that was so useful because again, I had mostly talked to journalists or people in the journalism space. And now I'm being opened up to more of the entertainment side. So it was like a quick crash course into that.

Ikya Kandula:
We did not win the competition and the people who win, get an internship. It was a bummer. But once I left the competition, I had gotten a call from a recruiter saying, "I could see you fitting into the data side of the organization." I didn't realize that was the first interview. I didn't want to necessarily be part of the research team, just because I felt like I hadn't explored strategy, before and that's what I wanted to do.

Ikya Kandula:
And told her that I didn't get a call back. And I called her a week later, being like, "I just wanted to follow up. I really love the Case Competition. I feel like I have all of this knowledge about Paramount, that I want to go somewhere and we had a great conversation. And then I had my interview the next day.

Amy Kundrat:
Did you get to watch movies as part of your job? If you can share which movies you got to watch or work on during the course of your internship?

Ikya Kandula:
Yeah. So in terms of movies I watched, this is so bad of me, but I had not seen A Quiet Place or A Quiet Place II before I started my internship. So I did watch those because we were giving Paramount Plus access. And then in terms of movies that I worked on, I worked on Top Gun Maverick, Transformers, Rise of the Beasts, Mission Impossible 7. And those are the larger franchise films I would say.

Ikya Kandula:
And then one of the coolest things about my job, is that I got to read scripts and just really think through the marketing of things that hadn't even been green lit yet, which I didn't even know was part of the job description.

Amy Kundrat:
So yeah, if we could jump into the Domestic Film Marketing Strategy, what does that look like at Paramount Pictures and for you this past summer?

Ikya Kandula:
It's actually kind of multi-part. The marketing strategy role, almost functions as an internal strategy team within the marketing department. And marketing for films, really hits a lot of corners. Because you can start thinking about marketing. Like I mentioned before, the script is even green lit, all the way to a month before the movie gets released, all the things that they're going through.

Ikya Kandula:
And so it's basically understanding the marketing bits that fit into a campaign. So for example, for a Marvel movie, like, oh for Shang-Chi basically, we knew when trailer one came out. That was the trailer that everyone was seeing on YouTube trailer two. And also the random sort of marketing events that they were doing. So Simu Liu during the pitch at the Giants game counts as part of the marketing campaign.

Ikya Kandula:
So it's really thinking about how to lay out the marketing campaign, but even before that, what it means ... What sort of audience we're targeting? How do we position the movie? Where does this fit into the COVID timeline for movies? And is it a theatrical movie? That's a question that I didn't necessarily know we would be thinking about. So now with streaming as an option, what makes a movie worthy of showing in theaters? Is a question I think Paramount's thinking about, but also all studios are thinking about it now.

Amy Kundrat:
I would imagine things are changing so rapidly now, given COVID and given the proliferation of channels and where you can watch. So how did you think about audiences? How did you think about channels? And did you particularly focus on any of those? Or did you really think about the overall strategy?

Ikya Kandula:
My favorite thing about this job, was that I felt like a journalist throughout it. I got to do a lot of the deep dives into looking at what the audience is, what the positioning could be. And it's really layering on each other as well. We can't really think about positioning where our campaign pillars, without understanding what exactly this movie is about and why people would want to come watch and which people are really pulled in from it.

Ikya Kandula:
And even before we start there, it's pulling out the cultural trends and sentiments, that lead people to want to go to the movies right now. So one of my favorite projects, was looking at what does the future of the Romcom industry look like? Why haven't people been going to Romcoms in the past 10, 20 years? Why are Romcoms almost exclusively on Netflix now? And understanding how that fits into, who's going to come to see our movie? And is that a good or bad thing?

Ikya Kandula:
How are people pulled into Romcoms? Is it the cast? Is it the chemistry that we're showing on trailers? Is it the story itself? So deep dives like that, were a big part of the internship program because it's something that full-time staff ... Honestly doesn't have as much time to deep dive into. But it was so critical to the actual audience identification and positioning process.

Ikya Kandula:
And so, because I was looking at it on a very journalistic lens, I was doing a lot of academic research. So why is Amblin Entertainment still so popular? Why do people love the Goonies so much? Why do people love ET so much? And how can we pull that exact sentiment, into the cultural landscape that we are in right now? And I was really trying to understand. I looked at a bunch of academic papers on what the Goonies meant to people? Why it worked at that time? Why politics and suburbanization, really fit into the rise of movies like the Goonies, or even like 16 Candles?

Ikya Kandula:
And how suburbanization has shifted? And how we can kind of figure into Twins responding to COVID and feeling like they don't have a sense of that same level of privacy that maybe Latchkey Kids had in the '80s? Why they don't necessarily feel connected to something like Stranger Things or the new Ghostbusters movie. So it was very, very interesting, but it was a lot of business knowledge that I pulled into more of the journalistic elements that I didn't think there was a connect for.

Amy Kundrat:
Wow. Yeah. It sounds like you really found a way to merge all of those elements. Your experience as a journalist and your work this first year. Which has me thinking, what classes were helpful in supporting this internship? Or maybe frame the way you thought about some of the problems that you were helping Paramount solve.

Ikya Kandula:
Definitely customer. I could not have known the frameworks that we were really talking about, without having such a foundational understanding of marketing through customer. The Workforce class was really interesting for me to understand just the structure of such a big organization. Essential bank structure, is really different from a startup structure, is really different from one of the oldest film studios.

Ikya Kandula:
And so kind of understanding the ways in which people communicated with each other and what management was like, was really helpful. And then outside of SOM, I took a French New Wave class that I feel like helped me analyze or understand what sort of the aesthetic and script level elements of a movie, I should actually be paying attention to. So when I was actually reading scripts, I thought a lot of ... I thought back to a lot of the lessons that we were learning in class. And I wrote about more of the business side of movie studios for our final paper. So it was interesting to see how that connected with working there.

Amy Kundrat:
So was this internship affirming to you, in terms of what you want to pursue post SOM. Do you think this is the industry, this is what you'd like to pursue? Or did it kind of change that at all?

Ikya Kandula:
Oh, absolutely. I again, because it was such an evolving process for me to understand what I do want to do after, I knew the general industry, but not necessarily which side of media and entertainment. I feel super affirmed after the summer, just because ... It's so interesting to me. I loved talking about this job. I loved working on it. It never really felt like work. And honestly I've never felt that way in any job I've ever had.

Ikya Kandula:
So I definitely see myself wanting to pursue at least the marketing strategy element, hopefully within a film studio lens or streaming or TV, in that vertical, even within the next five years.

Amy Kundrat:
That's great. So you're about ... You've already started year two. We're already there. What are you looking forward to most this year? You mentioned earlier, just being able to take some electives and explore some things. But would love to hear a little bit more from you about what classes, events and things you're looking forward to in your second and finally you're here at SOM.

Ikya Kandula:
So I'm really excited for the electives element that you mentioned. So I'm actually ... I'm studying abroad spring one. I'm going to HEC Paris. That's also something that would not have happened without having taken an elective outside of SOM last year. Obviously my French New Wave class influenced it. I'm studying abroad spring one. I'm taking a lot of non SOM classes this semester, so I don't necessarily have the opportunity to next semester. And I'm really excited about it.

Ikya Kandula:
Let's see I'm taking a management seminar in the drama school, which has been really, really amazing to see because it's literally taking the case method, that we're learning in business school, but fitting it into the theater and arts context. Because theater managers write their own cases of about theaters that are relevant right now. And theater news that's happening right now.

Ikya Kandula:
And it's an eight person class. It's most of them are SOM joint students and drama school joint students. And so it's been incredible to sort of do the case method and understand how different industries work, more on the art side, instead of maybe more on the classic industry side that SOM was focusing on. And then I'm taking up Social Justice in Global Food systems class in the environmental school.

Ikya Kandula:
They in the class were working with two nonprofits. Were working on a general project focused on the Black commons and returning land ownership to Black farmers. And I wanted to take this class because it felt very practical. We were actually doing a lot of research to come up with a public facing document, that is going to be useful to these organizations after. So that practicality element I sought outside of SOM.

Ikya Kandula:
And then in terms of SOM classes, I'm taking Pricing Strategy and the Science of Experiences and Wellbeing. And both of those, are because of my internship. I felt like ... I mean, for streaming especially, what does pricing look like? We're facing a lot of pricing problems in the movie industry as a whole. So everything about going to the movies, is experiences. So I really wanted to understand, how does marketing a traditional experience look like? And what have we been doing thus far? And something to note too, is I'm continuing my internship into the fall.

Amy Kundrat:
On that last point, sometimes you need to know the rules to break them, with COVID and all the disruptions we've been having. So what is one thing you've enjoyed this summer, that you've done this summer, that you traveled to this summer, that has nothing to do with your internship and perhaps nothing to do with SOM? Something in particular that you really enjoyed this summer.

Ikya Kandula:
So my internship was fully virtual, but I decided to live in LA for a month, just to figure out if I like it. Because I'd never done it before and I could potentially move there after I graduate. And I loved it. One of my favorite things that I did, was go to the Cinespia, which is basically, it's basically an outdoor movie screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Ikya Kandula:
And it was the first weekend that it opened. So we saw Daze and Confused on 4th of July weekend. Laura Dern was there, but I did not see her. And it was incredible to be next to a bunch of movie studios with my friends in Los Angeles, watching this giant movie on this giant screen.

Amy Kundrat:
Wow. That sounds really cool. I thank you for your time. This was great. I wish you a lot of luck in year two.

Ikya Kandula:
Thank you.

Amy Kundrat:
You've been listening to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. If you like what you heard today, please subscribe. You can find us on Apple Podcasts or however you take your podcasts. Career Conversations is for produced by Yale SOM. Our producers are Amy Kundrat and Emily Kling. Our editor is Laurie Toth. Our theme music was arranged by Dakota Stipp and Liam Bellman Sharpe. Thanks for listening. And we hope you'll tune in again

About Career Conversations

In this podcast series, SOM students sit down with alumni for a series of candid conversations about career paths, industries, opportunities for MBAs, and discussions on various career topics including work-life balance and creating a meaningful impact in business and society. This series is produced by and recorded at the Yale School of Management.

Subscribe

Subscribe to Career Conversations on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, SoundCloud,Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform.

Careers