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Allison Perry: Advice from an Artist at Snapchat

Allison Perry is twenty-eight, lives in Venice Beach, works at Snapchat, and wants you to know two things: college doesn’t define you and networking is crucial.

Perry works as a “concept artist” on the Bitmoji team (for those who don’t know, Bitmojis are small animation-type caricatures that say different messages or do various actions). Someone pitches an idea of an action for a Bitmoji, she makes a storyboard for the action, her drawings are modeled and textured, and the 3D aspect of the Bitmoji is finished. “Basically any costume or prop or celebrity that shows up in the 3D Bitmoji experiences… I do the 2D concepts for. I explain to the 3D artists what to make it look like.”

So how did Perry get here?

The answer brings to light both of her mantras. The first? College doesn’t define you.

Perry first went to Scripps, a liberal arts college in Claremont. After she got her degree, she went to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, one of the top art schools. However, she didn’t make it to graduation; right before receiving her diploma, Perry dropped out after receiving a job offer.

When asked what she would do differently, she said she wouldn’t have gone to two colleges. “I’m drowning in student loan debt and like 60% of my paycheck goes to student loans.” She told me she’s “living in poverty despite making almost 100k.”

She says she no longer believes in college: “I personally think that college, all college, for the most part, is a scam, especially with how expensive it is.” She admits that her student loans have forced her to “[live] in poverty despite making almost 100k,”

And also, “nobody cares if you have a degree in art.”

She recommends reading Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich, a book about alternatives to the outdated education system. For example, college graduates today often face substantial debt; the average college student owes more than 30,000 in student loans, and only are financially independent when they’re 30. Instead of college adapting to become a more financially tangible possibility, more students are passing up a degree because they can’t afford it. She says she wished she had read it in high school because it changed her perspective on the role of education. It made her question the immense value we associate with college, and wonder whether it’s actually necessary for everyone.

She doesn’t want to tell people not to go to college, however. She knows the best choice depends on your path and your goal–for so many job fields a college education is pivotal. But she questions how society views college; in her opinion “college is treated too much as this ubiquitous thing that everyone does [and] that you have to do…  it’s because the people giving us advice about going to college are operating on a different paradigm… and we’re being encouraged to do things that made sense 30 or 40 or 50 years ago.”

The second of her mantras, which she continued to stress throughout our interview: the value of networking.

She came into her job at Snapchat a little over a year ago after an acquaintance from college reached out about the open position. She looked into it, took a 10-20 hour test, had an interview, and got the job. “But I really don’t think I would have gotten this job if she hadn’t reached out to me,” she theorizes. “And she reached out to me because she was following my work on social media, which I’ve been making an effort to keep up to speed and regularly updated.”

She said the best piece of advice someone has even given her was that employers have two piles of portfolios for a given job: the pile of general applicants, and the smaller pile of employee recommendations. Companies will never look in the general pile unless they’ve exhausted the pile of recommendations. She was told that her goal is to be in the first pile, and to do that you have to be “on people’s mind… at the front of their thoughts.”

How do you become the first person people think of? Through the one thing she wants to emphasize more than anything: networking. “It really is the main way people get jobs now… especially in this economy and this job market where every single industry is hyper saturated.”

Networking, in fact, is the second of three parts she thinks are required to finding a job.

The first part is the skill: “your portfolio, how well you can draw.”

The second, your network: “who knows you, who do you know… [which] can be built through networking, through cold-emailing, through networking events or conventions.”

And the third? Timing: “If there’s no job obviously you can’t get hired.”

“A lot of people put way too much pressure onto that first category… and they think, ‘oh, if I’m just good enough, someone will just find me;’ but the fact of the matter is, no matter how good you are, if no one knows you exist it doesn’t really matter.”

She believes in “advocating for yourself and your goals, and doing research about how to achieve your goals, and realizing that [even if] everyone is saying that you need to do a thing, make sure that that’s something that is right for you.”

One of the most important pieces of advice I hope you take away from this article is that you shouldn’t throw away your own personal goals. And although that sounds like it should be on a cheesy inspirational poster, I think it’s valuable, especially at CPS. In this community of high-achievers it’s easy to put too much pressure on yourself, and feel like where you go to college will define you and your talents and shape the rest of your life.

That sentiment— the sort of recipe society has invented for “how to be successful”— is the same thing that has us choosing extracurriculars that would look best on college applications over what we are actually passionate about. You obviously have to work hard, but make sure that whatever you’re working for is something you want, rather than something people are telling you that you need.

As Perry puts it: “everyone’s path is really different and there’s no one way to do a thing, so instead of getting paralyzed by looking for the right way to do a thing, instead, just trust your gut.”


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