The Syracuse Redemption

Article contributed by Matt Prohaska, Principal, Prohaska Consulting

The best movie ever with the worst title ever has to be The Shawshank Redemption, right? There are so many great scenes, amazing moments, and the ultimate triumph-over-adversity story.

I was reminded of one of my favorite scenes when planning for the next couple of days. I will be on the road tonight heading to my alma mater, Syracuse University, where amazingly the forecast calls for highs in the mid-70s. The school must have some deal with the weather gods since it seemed every time there was Parents Weekend, Homecoming, or recruiting high-school seniors, the weather was gorgeous. Then we get there and it rained all 30 days of November 1989.

But I digress. I’m going there for our Newhouse Communications school’s alumni board meeting and Career Day talking to freshmen. The Morgan Freeman scene from Shawshank I remembered was Red’s finale parole board hearing when he explained wanting to go back and find that younger Red:

“I wanna talk to him. I wanna try to talk some sense to him — tell him the way things are.”

OK, I’m certainly not saying I was a criminal at SU or that life outside of school has been a prison term. It’s just the part about wanting to give some perspective from the past, gulp, 20 years since graduating. So here goes:

  • Own Your Brand – don’t let others define who you are and what you can do.

  • If you have the luxury of choosing, work for bigger companies earlier on before going to a startup.  There is a better chance of working with others at your level and age and a better opportunity to work for and around great people to see the proper ways to conduct business.

  • Don’t start any business only with your own money.

  • Don’t take a job if the person recruiting you only focuses on how much money you will make. Find a company with a mission that fits your passion and interests as well.

  • When times are tough, some people you most expect to help will not return emails. And some people you least expect to help will come out of nowhere to lend a hand.

  • Do what you say you’re going to do. And if you suddenly can’t, let people know you can’t before they expect you to be done.

  • Put yourself and others on your team in a position to be successful. Don’t try to fit yourself or someone else in to do something you know in your gut will not work out.

  • Chase great people doing whatever more than chasing great ideas from people you don’t know

  • Return everyone’s calls and emails, or at worst have someone else return them, even if there is no business reason to work with that person. S/he took the time to reach out – it’s the least you could do if only to say thanks but I can’t help or this isn’t a fit.

So what would you tell incoming freshmen today, or even graduating seniors wanting to get into the digital media and ad tech business? Let me know what else I’m missing and don’t worry – I’ll be sure to source you so they reference your lines when they make it big….

Matt Prohaska is the Principal at Prohaska Consulting, a company that helps leading digital media and advertising technology firms with their digital sales, marketing, business development, and operational strategies.