We spoke with Leigh Silver, a 2012 Penn graduate and English major who has since started her own independent consulting company. Leigh shared with us insights into the digital media and editorial space, as well as why she decided to leave the traditional corporate workforce.
What was your work experience right out of college?
At Penn I had thought about going into academia, but I ended up working as an editorial intern at The Huffington Post. From there, I spent two years working at Complex Media, a pretty well-known platform that was later purchased by Verizon and Hearst. In the last year and a half, I shifted to a startup and joined Odyssey as a managing editor.
How was working at a startup different from your previous jobs?
Working at Odyssey was truly a crash course in building a business. Since I was one of the first 25 employees there, I felt like I was able to contribute a lot. For example, I built up their Facebook page to attain a peak traffic of 30 million unique visitors per month. Odyssey had an especially interesting model because not many other brands have a presence on college campuses, and that brand awareness among millennials was definitely their most valuable asset.
So why did you decide to become a sole proprietor?
I left Odyssey in December of 2016. I always knew I wanted to work for myself.
What was it like getting your business off the ground, and how did you find your first clients?
All my clients have come from leveraging my own network. I connected with my first and second ones through former advisors at Odyssey. I also talked to other media companies in the space. Having a strong background in audience development and marketing for media was very helpful. Most of my work today focuses on social media strategy, content strategy (PR, thought leadership), analytics, and SEO. I’m constantly thinking about bringing in new clients.
What has been surprising about running a startup?
Wearing multiple hats and forcing myself to take on diverse roles that were needed for the business to be successful. I’m not necessarily the expert in some, but I’m always learning new skills. Back when I worked in large companies, I always tried to learn from my supervisors and even the people I hired—just because employees aren’t above you doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. Lately I’ve also been enjoying the execution side of consulting because I like to see projects through and experience their success.
How has technology changed the way you work?
It’s been great. I live in Brooklyn now and am able to work remotely, giving me more ownership of my time. Technology is leveling the playing field and letting more people be successful. You don’t need to be an expert or a professional engineer to get your start. I constantly use Google Hangout and Slack. At the same time though, the job of a traditional “writer” is sort of disappearing, as more companies move to outsourcing and video production.
What are the top three items that you’re always carrying?
Well… I consider myself a minimalist. I’d say my cell phone, Citi bike pass, and water bottle since I’m always running from something to something.
And finally, your top piece of advice for current Penn students?
Don’t undervalue the network at Penn. Leverage it and make as many connections as possible with classmates, professors, and speakers. There are so many organizations and opportunities on campus, so get more involved!
Written by Lydia Chen (W’ 19).