SM: How did your middle-class background impact you at Pepperdine? Did you feel as though you belonged?
JH: I went through stages. At first, I went through an envy stage. I have never told anybody this but hopefully you will understand. I felt like wealthy females always had this look on their face that was completely relaxed, as if they had no stress. I felt that I could tell from their outward appearance that they never had any sort of sorrow or anxiety. I felt they had never worried about anything. Obviously as I went through my college career and got to know those people intimately, I found out it is exactly the opposite. Strangely enough, in comparison I was the one with the ideal life.
As I sat in that first broadcast journalism class, I took one look around and realized that I could not in good conscience rack up as much debt as I was about to in order to seek a career on camera. I just knew that it was not something I was really into for the long run. I then switched my major to television production, and being in the environment I am in now I feel so unworthy with that major! I did parlay that into a career. I worked, and I interned during my first semester in L.A.
I was a set intern on “Friends,” and I then went on to a few other internships which were all over the place. I found my niche in series development in MTV. Series development is analogous to being a VC in the cable television world. You hear pitches from the creative community and then purchase projects and develop them. I have always had an innate business sense from my parents, and I wanted to find a career that offered a cross between creativity and business.
My brother is incredibly creative. He is the artist of the family. I had this strange passion for business as well. Numbers are fun for me. I get basic business principles naturally. I really loved series development so I interned there for two years. My final year I was interning there five days a week, full time and taking night classes at Pepperdine to finish my degree. About three weeks before graduation I called my parents and told them that I was not really sure what I was going to do after I graduated but that my plan was to just keep going to MTV. I figured that nobody at MTV knew when I was going to graduate so if I just kept coming they would eventually start paying me.
SM: I think unpaid internships are great. I see all this debate today about unpaid versus paid internships. You should be grateful to have the chance to work on something where you are given the chance to learn.
JH: We have a dozen interns at Eventbrite right now and most of them are paid. That is one of the subjects on which Kevin and I differ. He thinks that in order to be competitive and attract the great talent, you have to offer paid internships. I am in the opposite camp because I had to pay for my internships.
SM: When did you graduate Pepperdine?
JH: I graduated in 2001. A week before graduation I let those plans slip to an executive at MTV who was a mentor of mine. He said, “Hold on, you can’t be serious that you are graduating and don’t have a job here! You are a huge part of what we are doing!” I had integrated myself with the department, not because I was angling, but because I loved it. I still to this day feel guilty about this, but there was an assistant who was not pulling his weight and was a nuisance to the department got fired and I filled his position. I have not reconciled that to this day; it just felt wrong.