“Mermaid Barbie, definitely! I love to beach,” Irina Gilbertson, SOC/BA ‘06, responds during a fun Q&A with American University School of Communication (AU SOC) host of the Media in the Mix podcast, Grace Ibrahim. Gilbertson even used one of her electives at American University to get a SCUBA diving license! Gilbertson’s adventurous spirit and commitment to exploring new horizons are just one facet of her fascinating career path.
Gilbertson graduated from SOC with dual degrees in public communication and political science. She also participated in the Leadership Certificate Program here at AU. She currently works at Amazon overseeing strategic campaign development for brand and promotional initiatives for Ring, the home security brand. This year, she is stepping up to support SOC students by becoming mentor in the SOC Alumni Mentorship Program where she hopes to help our students grow professionally.
“It’s been a bit of a journey,” Gilbertson said. She started her career in advertising then transitioned to media and entertainment at WarnerMedia (now Warner Bros. Discovery). Ultimately, she says, she’s had the wonderful opportunity to have three distinctly different careers in marketing. She takes listeners through all the twists and turns on Media in the Mix, including pro-tips on resumes, career building, and networking.
For a peek at her fun side, Ibrahim captured this Q&A:
AU SOC: What is your favorite spot on campus?
Gilbertson: I enjoy people watching so one my favorite spots to hang out on campus was the Friedheim Quad. I’d usually grab lunch and go sit on the grass or on a bench to read and watch other students come and go – catching up with friends whenever they’d pass by. The green space in the center of campus feels like a small park and reminds me of the National Mall.
AU SOC: What is your favorite coffee shop (or restaurant) in DC?
Gilbertson: When my friends and I were feeling “fancy” we’d go to P.J. Clarke’s. The food was good, and the ambiance was nice. It’s also centrally located for bar hopping after dinner and was always a great place to start the night. On a student budget, P.J. Clarke’s was an “it” place to go for dinner back in the early 2000s.
AU SOC: Favorite nightlife activity?
Gilbertson: I always loved walking around the National Mall at night. It’s peaceful and feels like you’re somewhere in Europe because of the architecture of all the museums surrounding it. But if we want to talk about actual nightlife, then bar hopping in Adams Morgan until close.
AU SOC: What’s the last thing you bought from Amazon?
Gilbertson: A book that a friend of mine wrote, The Lucid Nymph, by Richelle P. Gist. It was so neat to see her name on the cover and her bio on the back when it arrived! Made me feel like I knew a celebrity.
AU SOC: If you wrote a book about your career so far, what would you title it and why?
Gilbertson: “Jump Around: Cultivating A Fulfilling Career.” It used to be somewhat taboo even when I entered the workforce in 2006, but it’s now become the norm to change companies or your entire career every few years. I’ve worked at a number of different companies across different industries as a Marketer and I’ve seen the direct and immediate benefits of having such a diverse portfolio of work experience in my day-to-day and long-term career planning. I’ve learned so much and made so many impactful connections, including lifelong friends. Now that I’m mid-career, I’m keener on staying in one place for the long haul but jumping from one company and industry to another every few years for a while also helped me learn about what I do and don’t like about different types of companies, industries and roles to feel truly fulfilled at this stage in my career.
AU SOC: What’s the very first job you had (that’s not on your resume) and what did you learn from the experience?
Gilbertson: I worked as a retail associate at a boutique clothing store in a mall when I was 16. The most important thing I learned was to do something that makes you uncomfortable. I took French lessons since middle school, but I never spoke it outside the classroom. One day, a family traveling from France walked in after having lost all their luggage and needed all new clothes. The other associates were too intimidated to speak to them and I figured it was as good a time as any to apply skills from the classroom out in the real world even though I was scared to sound stupid. I made a great commission that day!
AU SOC: If you were a Barbie (i.e., the Barbie movie), which one would you be and why?
Gilbertson: Mermaid Barbie, definitely! I love to beach (see what I did there?!). I actually used one of my electives at American University to get PADI Open Water Diver Certified in my final semester and I’m so glad I did. I’ve put it to good use over the years!
Tune in to episode 20 of Media in the Mix to get schooled on your networking and resume-building skills.