Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Laura Held (B ’04), Partner at Shamrock Capital

Laura is a Partner of Shamrock Capital Advisors, an investment firm based in Los Angeles that focuses exclusively on investing in the media, entertainment and communications sectors. She currently serves as a director of Bayard Advertising, Adweek, Wpromote and Mobilitie, and previously served on the boards of Questex and RBmedia. Shamrock traces its roots back to 1978, when the predecessor firm was founded as the investment company for the late Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney. Prior to joining Shamrock in 2012, Laura previously worked at The Walt Disney Company, The Carlyle Group and Credit Suisse. She received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown and her MBA from Harvard Business School.

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

A huge turning point in my career was taking a job in the Corporate Strategy group at Disney after business school. It was a catalyst for a number of personal and professional changes in my life, including moving across the country to Los Angeles and starting to build a career in media and entertainment. Prior to business school, I followed the traditional finance path of two years in investment banking followed by two years in private equity. I started as more of a generalist, but many of the deals I worked on were industrial or aerospace related. I realized that if I was going to specialize in a sector, it needed to be one I was more passionate about than manufacturing. I loved the idea of working at a company like Disney, but first had to convince my interviewers that I was serious about a career in the industry since I didn’t have any media experience on my resume. Luckily, I got the job and I spent the next two years getting a crash course in the industry from some of the brightest people in media and entertainment.

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

Working in private equity requires you to wear many hats. No two days are ever the same. This is part of the fun of the job, but also can be very challenging. You have to be able to multi-task and keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is getting to partner with the managers of the companies we invest in. Once you make an investment in a company, you are working alongside that team for the next 3 to 5 years. You really get to know people when you are interacting with them almost daily over that period of time. I have learned a ton and built some great relationships through that process.

What is something current you are working on that you are excited about?

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how data and technology are transforming the marketing function within organizations, and the opportunities and complexities that this creates for brands. Typically, marketers spent a lot of money on big traditional ad campaigns like TV commercials. These could create buzz and drive overall brand awareness, but often the results were very hard to track and measure. Now, you can engage with your customers in an effective, digital, personalized way that is a better experience for the customer while driving higher loyalty and lifetime value for the marketer. This is a theme in our industry that I am very excited about, and I am actively looking for companies to invest in that are playing on this trend.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?

Absolutely. I think that Georgetown really instills key values in its student body with its Jesuit roots. I liked that while I was in the undergraduate business school at Georgetown, I spent the first two years taking a much broader set of classes and learning from people that were pursuing very different careers. I then spent a semester in Australia and a summer in England my junior year which broadened my mindset further and helped provide a global perspective. I also learned firsthand how much business and government intersect during my time in DC. This all contributed to a valuable set of experiences and relationships that I have drawn on throughout my career.

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?

To work hard and not to stress about the end game. I think that in today’s world, there is immense pressure to figure out what you want to do with your life very early on, and to make sure that everything you do is furthering that goal. The reality is that most careers are not linear. It is incredibly valuable to try different things, even if they teach you what you DON’T want to do. It takes time and experimentation to understand what you enjoy and what you are good at, and where those two intersect.

How is the ever-changing media landscape affecting your industry?

It is expanding the universe of investment opportunities for us at Shamrock Capital. While our focus remains media, entertainment and communications investing, this now increasingly overlaps with other areas such as technology, software, education and e-commerce.
Best Business Advice Received: Take the call. Or the meeting. Or the Zoom…. There are many days when my schedule is busy and I’m running from meeting to meeting. I often wonder if it was a smart move to add that extra coffee or meeting to the calendar. But you never know when a new introduction is going to lead to something meaningful. I have been encouraging myself to “say yes” more often, ever since I first read Shonda Rhimes’ book, Year of Yes, a few years ago. Some of the best relationships and opportunities come from unexpected places.

Trait You Most Admire in People:

Loyalty. I have always been someone who is incredibly loyal to friends and family and I really value that trait in others as well.

Favorite App, Website, Podcast or Social Platform (other than related to your own company):

There are a number of apps I’ve been using non-stop over the past year. Slack has been great for work as it enables casual conversation with colleagues while we can’t be in the office. I like Instagram as a way to see what friends and family are up to, even though I don’t really post myself. To squeeze in some workouts, I have been using the Peloton and Mirror apps. And I have been using the Goodreads app to keep track of all the books on my reading list.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:

I’d have to go with Third Edition. This is where I celebrated my 21st birthday. Not only were all my Georgetown friends there, but my family came in town as well and it was worlds colliding. It was an amazing night.

Favorite Georgetown Memory:

I have so many fond memories of Georgetown. I loved my experience there and could not be a bigger fan. My three sisters, husband, and brother-in-law all went there too, so we have become quite the Georgetown family! The annual Foxfields trip that a bunch of us would do every year is definitely a favorite. We would get dressed up, rent buses and head down to Charlottesville for the day to watch the horse races and do some tailgating. I also loved living on the 2nd floor of New South my freshman year. I really lucked out and had a great group of people living on that floor with me. The people I met in New South when I was 18 turned out to be some of my best friends while at Georgetown, and some of my closest friends to this day.