Kate Desena





Marist College - B.A. Communications (Advertising) with a Professional Certificate in Art and Advertising Design

Quinnipiac University - M.S. Interactive Communications

Kate DeSena got her current job by first taking one in an industry she didn’t like. At all.

After graduating with a degree in advertising, Kate began her career in finance. It wasn’t her passion; she wanted to work in the entertainment industry. But finance got her foot in the door. And when it came time to move up in finance or move on, Kate went back to school to study interactive communications and started applying for jobs in a variety of fields. She landed a job at HBO as an account assistant, and with hard work and persistence, scored a leadership position as a sales development executive.

Kate’s current work allows her the freedom to be a little bit of everything: event planner, graphic designer, presenter, motivator, trainer and marketer. She draws on her own experience as a telemarketer in college to motivate and empathize with her sales reps – proof of her mantra, “No experience is irrelevant.” Kate says finding your passion and what energizes you is no easy feat, referring to her early career as “24 and unsure.” She suggests writing as a way to explore your innermost desires and advises, “Don’t put limitations on yourself.”

No experience is irrelevant; failure is a learning experience, and limitations are useless.

How did you discover your current job?

I received a B.A. in advertising and upon graduation, took a job in something completely unrelated: finance. Did I like finance? No. Am I good at it? Yes. I’m good at anything I put my mind to. When I interviewed for this position, I displayed my “can do” attitude and my penchant for learning quickly. I even made it clear that finance wasn’t my passion, but was important for any aspect of business. I wanted to work in the entertainment industry and this got my foot in the door. I assisted 30 people for two years. I often went above and beyond my job description. I implemented several new processes and became the “go-to” person in the department for problem solving and brainstorming. If I wanted to stay in finance, I easily would have been promoted. But I didn’t want to get stuck in a career that didn’t fulfill me. I loved where I worked, but hated what I did. During this stage of my life, I called myself “24 and unsure.”

I went back to school for interactive communications because the program dabbled in a little bit of everything (writing, Web production, design and communications). I always had a hodgepodge of interests and found it difficult to concentrate on one passion. I also started looking for a new career.  Within two months, I interviewed for 10 positions (and went on more than 30 interviews!) in all different fields — event planning, marketing and Web production. Eventually, I got a job at HBO as an account assistant in their Domestic Network Distribution Department.

This was my gateway. I supported eight sales development executives. Eventually, one of them left and I expressed my interest in the position, even though I had only been working in the department for seven months.  The company contemplated giving me the position, but ultimately decided they weren’t going to fill it. However, now everyone knew I was looking to grow and they were more than supportive. Again, I started the interview process. This time, I interviewed for five different positions outside of HBO before another sales development executive position opened up. I applied for it, gave several presentations, presented my references and got it!

What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?

My job is extremely flexible. I'm responsible for point of sale activity to maximize subscriber growth for the Cablevision and RCN accounts. I develop enticing incentives that will motivate the call center reps to sell. However, I must be mindful of individual sales goals and ensure that we'll get a return on our investment. For example, we just awarded trips to Las Vegas to see the Pacquiao fight. This entailed planning the trip to Vegas, purchasing boxing tickets, creating winners packets and designing collateral to promote the incentive.

The job requires 50 to 80 percent travel and I have all local territory, so I spend a lot of time driving to call centers and affiliate offices. During the drive, I’ll take some business calls, but I usually rock out to my favorite tunes or listen to motivational podcasts. While there, I deliver new hire trainings and programming updates to call center management and reps. I also conduct sales days and sponsor business lunches.

What I love about this job is that get to do a little bit of everything. I never wanted to settle on one passion or interest and I didn’t have to. I'm an event planner, graphic designer, presenter, motivator, trainer and marketer.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?

In college, I was a telemarketer for four years. I understand how tedious and stressful it is to be on the phone for several hours every day, especially with unhappy customers. I go into the call center and brighten their days with a tiny trinket. I'm obsessed with motivation, so I apply everything I know to motivate these sales professionals to achieve their personal best, especially as it relates to HBO sales. It’s also rewarding to hear positive feedback. I just delivered a speech to 75 direct sales agents. Afterwards, the director came up to me and said, “You don’t understand; these are sales people. They deliver and hear presentations constantly. You kept them engaged. That’s no easy feat.”

The most challenging part of this position is adapting to the changes that digital television distribution creates. The future of television is uncertain and everyone's uneasy. Cable companies are beginning to lose subscribers and premium television networks aren’t one of their top priorities. They're also fearful we might go over the top with the introduction of HBO Go. However, we’ve spent over 30 years developing these relationships and we want to maintain them. And to do so, we must tread carefully. Negotiations often take time and getting into the call centers isn’t always easy. It can get frustrating. The job requires you to balance their needs with your own. You have to be able to adapt as the business realigns itself with emerging technology.

What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?

I’m on the road frequently, so office work gets backed up. Often, I’ll spend a full day traveling and then have to work from home to catch up. It can be tiring, but I love the job so I don’t mind.

What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?

A lot of what you’re hired to do isn’t necessarily what you end up doing. Be open to learning new skill sets, even if you dread it. You never know when it will come in handy and it will make you more valuable in the future.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?

I’m lucky: I’m young and unattached, so a heavy travel schedule doesn’t affect me much. However, women with a family at home need to find a balance between personal and professional life. The entertainment industry itself is glamorous to the outside world. The positions within are coveted, especially at a company like HBO that treats its employees impeccably and provides so many perks. Growing within the company can be difficult for anyone because no one wants to leave. Additionally, highly skilled people are willing to take a pay cut and demotion to work at HBO. You need to be patient, and believe me – it isn’t easy.

Who are your role models?

Bethenny Frankel’s persistence inspires me. She failed in the cookie business (several times) and in acting. Additionally, she career-hopped. However, these experiences prepared her for her current career. No experience is irrelevant. She continued to work hard and refused to let her past failures define her. She took actions, even if they didn’t always turn out the way she expected.

What are some of the rules you live by?

No experience is irrelevant, failure is a learning experience and limitations are useless. Oh boy, I love my quotes.

"What you want to do, and what you can do, is limited only by what you can dream." -Mike Melville

"People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing - that’s why we recommend it daily.” -Zig Ziglar

“You can have everything you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” -Zig Ziglar

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” -Alice Walker

What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?

This is a competitive industry. Hundreds of people apply to a single position through HBO’s internet portal; it’s important to tailor your resume and cover letter to the position. Many people will emphasize networking, but don’t discredit the value of a well-thought-out application. When I started looking for a new position, all of the interviews I received were through online applications. Don’t get discouraged. I didn’t get any of these jobs, but I persisted and gained interview experience. Eventually, the right fit came my way and I was able to speak well to it.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

If you asked me this three years ago, I would have said here! This was part of my five year plan toward becoming a talk show host. This job is giving me exposure to talking in front of large audiences, engaging with different personalities and motivating others. This was a step in that direction. I also made a recent appearance on a reality television show. It didn’t turn out quite as expected, but I was brave and came out more confident and in love with the cameras.

Additionally, I neglected the site I built for my master’s project -- Powerful In Pumps -- but I hope to expand it and continue to create motivational vlogs geared towards the “24 and unsure.” I’m discovering that no matter what you do in life, you can apply the skills you’ve learned elsewhere.

I’ll continue to make strides toward this lofty goal.

What are three things you love aside from your job?

Reading non-fiction books, graphic design and celebrity gossip!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Finding your passion and what energizes you is no easy feat. I’d suggest writing as a way to explore your innermost desires. Also, don’t put limitations on yourself.