We all know what it feels like to pull all-nighters; to put in countless hours on a project and only receive a pat on the back. Yes, you may be working towards an end goal or a dream job, but sometimes the climb to the top can feel a little thankless. Those we read about in the news or see on TV who have reached the pinnacle of their careers inspire us to keep going. But rarely do those of us still on our way up get any recognition, before we get the corner office. *Cue Drake’s Started from the Bottom.* That’s why we love to highlight Made Women on the rise -- those who have just earned a promotion or secured a new job. They may not be calling all the shots just yet, but we can learn a thing or two from their journey thus far. Our Made Woman of the Month for March is LA’s own Amber Wilson! Amber recently made a career move that turned out to be her best move; landing her dream job at Live Nation Entertainment– the world’s largest live entertainment and e-commerce company. After working for years in the non-profit sector, Amber’s new gig put her closer to her goal of working for a global company, doing corporate communications. Congrats, Amber!
It was a special treat to interview this Made Woman because she is a dear friend of mine. A fellow USC Trojan, Amber and I met freshman year of college. I always loved that Amber knew who she was, what she wanted, and how to get it. Unlike some other Gen Y-ers, she didn’t suffer from feeling overwhelmed by her options or unsure of her next steps. A communication major, she enjoyed writing, music, travel and connecting with others; and hoped to take the things she loved and turn them into a successful career. Her self-assurance made her one to watch on campus. A true leader, she made time between internships and classes for volunteer groups like Blacks In Action -- where she spearheaded the creation of an annual scholarship for incoming freshmen who had given back to their communities.
During school she interned at Atlantic and Hidden Beach Records and wrote for publications like Saturday Night Magazine. She also took time to travel and studied abroad her senior year -- living in Bilbao, Spain for four months and then in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Amber was able to soak up some sunshine and some culture during her time abroad but it wasn’t all about fun. She credits this experience for sparking her desire to work for a company with a global reach. “There are defining moments in our lives that shape who we become, and studying abroad in Spain and Argentina was that moment for me. I learned so much about myself and became exposed to many other different types of lifestyles and culture. To this day I still have friends around the world from when we studied together. It made me a global citizen and showed me how connected we all can be, if we want to be.”
While Amber did know what she wanted, getting from point A (being recent college grad with no experience) to point B (having the career of your dreams) is not always a linear journey. After graduation she worked for the Century City Chamber of Commerce as a membership coordinator where she used her skill set to boost membership and manage communications. She worked there for four and a half years moving up to membership director along the way. Working for a non-profit meant budgets were tight. Amber was forced to get creative when thinking of ways to build membership and host networking events that members would appreciate. She crafted unique experiences for attendees, inviting out masseuses for one event and partnering with the Microsoft store for another – creating a live, interactive gaming experience. At a time when Twitter was just emerging, Amber also oversaw the launch of the Chamber’s social media platforms, and added value to local businesses by sharing news on their events and promotions. Her ideas added a fresh spin to the Chamber’s media and promotions without breaking the bank and the experience taught her how to be resourceful and think on her feet. Though she valued her time with the Chamber -- along with the connections and knowledge she gained along the way -- Amber found herself wanting more. Her world perspective made her daydream about working for a company that made a global impact.
Instead of just dreaming about it, Amber decided to do something to gain more experience and connections around Los Angeles. She started her blog, Wilson’s "Where to" Guide, a source for reviews and write-ups on local businesses and events for young urbanites who love travel and good food. Amber honed her writing skills and built a powerful network while blogging about the city she loved. “LA is just so rich and diverse. It’s a place where you can do so much. Just when you feel like you have a handle on LA, you learn something new...you can never get bored. And if you do -- ‘Hey, check out my blog,’” she says laughingly. People began to connect with her posts and started inviting her to attend their events. She interviewed people like Calvin Richardson, Brian McKnight, DJ Lady Sha -- the first female DJ to spin on live radio in South Africa -- and other trailblazers who were making an impact in their communities. All the while she was perfecting her skills as a writer and editor. “For three years I wrote a blog post every single week, regardless of what was going on with my full-time job, or my social life,” Amber says. Traveling and writing for her blog gave her an outlet for her creative energy.
Amber realized she had learned all she could working in the non-profit sector and wanted to move on -- but the tough job market stunted her progress. “There was a point when I wanted to make a change; I was applying for job after job, I was interviewing and getting to the final stages but nothing was happening.” Amber didn’t give up on her dream and become complacent. Instead, she got creative and focused on how she could stand out as an applicant. Finally, the stars aligned and preparation met opportunity. Amber was offered the position with Live Nation Entertainment as a corporate communications coordinator working alongside the Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications. The company manages tours for heavy hitters like Beyonce, Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and Linkin Park. They also are the parent company for venues across America like the House of Blues and the ticketing site Ticketmaster.
Amber says that she is always excited to go to work now and see what is happening firsthand in the music industry. Amber drafts press releases for upcoming tours, corporate or charitable partnerships, handles media inquiries, writes and distributes a daily newsletter to 45 countries. She manages social media and stays on top of industry news. She said she was nervous about distributing content to media partners at that level when she started but has since gotten the hang of things: “If you are really a writer you can write about anything.” Her position in the C-Suite alongside all the executives allows her to learn from other leaders and see what it takes to run a Fortune 500 company. Her success with her blog breeds more success at her current position. She knows the value of her connections and understands PR better now that she has a media perspective. “You always have a vision of how you think something is going to play out professionally… it doesn’t always happen that way. But the key is to be prepared when opportunities do come, so that if it’s the right opportunity you can jump on it,” she says.
Now that Amber is a bit closer to her dreams she says that it was her perseverance that made the difference. Even though her course wasn’t quick and easy, she has now established herself in the professional world and created a network that she can count on throughout her career. Even though the going gets tough she knows that it is through hard work that dreams are realized, “We are not owed the right to follow and pursue our dreams; it is a blessing and an honor.”
DJ Lady Sha isn’t afraid to throw off the yoke of tradition in favor of the road less traveled. She is a genre-defying trailblazer in the male-dominated world of DJ-ing. Originally set on a course to study medicine at UC Berkely, Sha bucked medical school for a life of turntables and dance floors -- and she hasn’t looked back. She is an award-winning, globe-trotting entrepreneur whose diligently cultivated and eclectic sets helped her to become the first female to win the Winter Music Conference DJ Spin-off (2008). Although based in Los Angeles, Sha’s drive and spinning prowess has taken her the world wide to New York, Miami, Jamaica, and South Africa, where in 2004 she was the first woman to spin live on South African air waves. I got the chance to chat with Lady Sha after she DJ’ed the Made Woman 2 Year event:
Lady Sha: Always, thanks to my Mom and Dad! Whether waking us up with music on weekend mornings or playing it in the car, we were always listening to something. Back then it was a mix of my mom’s favorites from Persian music to Elton John, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, etc... or my Dad’s choice – anything on KCRW.
Lady Sha: I love such a huge range of music from pop to underground, hip hop to dance music, and even country jams that I don’t consider anything a guilty pleasure. Most days I’m digging through hundreds of new and old mp3’s to see what I want to include in my sets, so when I have time to listen to music for pleasure, I just go with whatever I’m in the mood for at that time. On my runs, I like to listen to hip hop and dance music for example. In the car after a long night, I like to listen to KCRW late-night or a country station, something completely different than what I was just playing at an event for four hours.
Lady Sha: I didn’t even know I WAS interested in DJ-ing a little over a decade ago. While I was at UC Berkeley as an undergrad studying Pre-Med & Anthropology, my neighbor happened to be DJ Phatrick. He asked me to sit in on one of his DJ courses on campus. At first I told him I was too busy – not only with school, but with my hobbies as a guitarist, singer, and member of the UC Berkeley Poetry Slam team. With his convincing though, I sat in on his class and fell in love from that moment on. Two weeks after the course ended I bought my own turntables.
Lady Sha: I think the most valuable advice I can give is to have clear focus on where you’d like to go, make sure your entrepreneurial signature is creative and original -- or improving upon what already exists -- and have a phenomenal work ethic to achieve your vision.
Lady Sha: DJ-ing more frequently and working around the clock to showcase my style and abilities at gigs and with mix CDs, my mark slowly became increasingly noticeable and present in Los Angeles. Now to expand that to the world...
Lady Sha: The pioneers of hip hop and dj-ing were male and to quote the film Miss Representation, “you can't be what you can't see”, so I think it took some time for females to break into dj-ing. I hear about so many more females DJ-ing now than 10 years ago. There’s a snowball effect of more and more females entering the industry and finally evening out the playing field!
Lady Sha: I’ve had a ton of fun at DJ gigs in New York, Miami, Rome, Vegas, and San Francisco as well as in countries such as South Africa and Jamaica. However, nothing is as amazing as a popping dance floor in LA filled with the intense energy of my friends and people that have danced to my sets over the years.
Lady Sha: Not only do musical tastes differ in club scenes around the world, but also from club to club here in LA and from night to night in each venue. One night you may have a hip hop crowd, another night a dance music crowd, and on another night, a crowd that wants to go on a genre-hopping journey with the DJ of the night.
Lady Sha: My absolute favorite thing to do when I DJ is to play for a crowd that will let me take them on a ride through different genres from hip hop to trap, dubstep, dance music, indie-rock, and hip hop and R&B jams from the 80s and 90s. I’m not happy having to stick to any one genre.
Lady Sha: Show Me Love – Robin S. The only variable is what I pair before and after the song that affect the impact the song has on the crowd.
Since her new and improved website launches in early November, it’s easy to stay up to date on all of DJ Lady Sha’s happenings including daily updates on her performance schedule and new videos and mixes. But in the meantime to get your fix, you can check out Sha on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.