Q&A with COM Grad Communication Studies Alumna Tejasvi (TJ) Desai

Recently, the College of Communication welcomed four alumni to share their stories and memories in a panel. COM alumni answered questions from students regarding job hunting, visa sponsorship, and postgraduate experience.

One panelist, Tejasvi Desai, graduated from COM with a master’s degree in communication studies. She is currently a growth-driven design strategist at Grant Marketing. TJ was also willing to get on the phone with The COMmunicator–to answer more questions about her graduate program experience at COM and how that experience propelled her to where she is today.

Why did you decide to go to grad school? Why COM specifically?

Tejasvi Desai: Well, I wanted to get a master’s degree. When I completed my undergrad, I really wasn’t that happy because I got a bachelor’s degree in mass media with a specialization in journalism. I interned at a few tabloid and media companies. I did pretty much everything that had to do with journalism, but I didn’t find what I was doing fulfilling.

After that, I had the opportunity to go to Canada on a study-abroad scholarship. I just went there, and I took a bunch of courses, really random courses that I had always been interested in. I took comedy and satire, I took 20th century drama, South Asian politics and governments, and one of the courses I took was on images, politics and persuasion. That course was part of the school of communication at Carleton University.

That really changed everything because all the stuff I was studying in that class–media theories, how persuasion works, and how the media leverages that to create stories and narratives–I just knew that communication was it. I really wanted to get a higher degree in communication and see what I could make of myself in the United States.

Did you have any other involvement outside of the classroom while you were in COM?

TJ: PR Lab was one of the things I was involved in. I was an account supervisor at PR Lab. I also worked for The COMmunicator as the managing editor. It was a great experience; it was such a fantastic website. I had the opportunity to work with an amazing e-board. It got me in touch with a lot of different departments within COM.

If you had the opportunity to do grad school again, would you still pick BU?

TJ: Of course! Definitely. I actually had a partial scholarship to pursue a master’s in journalism at Columbia University. I turned that down and picked BU instead because I loved the program and how hands-on it was–and you could graduate and straight away get on the job. The program really trains you well for the stuff that’s required of you in the real world. I would definitely choose BU again.

How did your program in COM prepare you for the professional scene?

TJ: I can’t thank my professors and the curriculum that was designed enough. I took a course called new media and public relations, and it actually landed me the job that I have right now. I learned a little about content marketing and HubSpot during this course and upon my professor’s recommendation, I got myself HubSpot’s inbound marketing certification. I didn’t realize how qualified that made me–just having the certification on my resume.

I would also recommend [that] anyone in PR, marketing, and communication take interactive marketing with Prof. Nick Barber. I got the chance to build an AdWords campaign in his class. That’s something you normally don’t get to do unless you are on the job. All the material was very helpful because I could go up to the interview and say, “I’ve done this before,” rather than just say I know this in theory.

Do you enjoy what you’re doing right now professionally?

TJ: I absolutely love it. When I first joined, I was just an inbound marketing coordinator, which basically translates to someone who would help with blogs. Within a month and a half, I proved to be able to do much more than that, and I actually got the role that I wanted. I always wanted to do strategy, and that’s what I do right now–digital strategy.

Have you encountered any difficulties at work?

TJ: No, not really. I was very well prepared, and I think one thing that I realized is that any position that people advertise for–be it analyst or digital strategist, or whatever–all these roles require strong writing skills. That’s where COM really came handy because, despite having a journalism background, COM prepared me to write for different clients. I was already in that mode when I started working. It’s always good to have writing [skill], because it’s not as common a skill as you think it would be. A lot of people can write, but not a lot of people can write well, or write professionally.

Any tips for OPT applications and timing?

TJ: This is a very interesting story that I try to tell everyone possible because I made a mistake in picking my OPT start date–simply because I didn’t know better and had no idea about the consequences of doing so. My counselor never advised me against it, so I went ahead with what made sense to me.

Fresh out of school, all I wanted to do was to find a job and start working. I was scared, [thinking] what if I get a job, and my OPT starts three months later, and the employer was not willing to wait? So, I decided to set my OPT start date within a week or two after graduation in January, considering I had begun my job-hunt in November.

I didn’t realize that by starting my OPT that early, I gave up the chance of qualifying for Cap-Gap, which is very important in order to get two shots at the lottery, while remaining on OPT. The problem was that I did my research, but since I wasn’t looking for this information, I never came across it. I went to one workshop ISSO hosted, and it was really good, but it was too late because it was in held in March–and the H1B application began in April, and I had already made a mistake with my OPT start date. I really hope there’s a better way to educate international students about OPT, H-1B, and other work visa related topics.

If you could give yourself some advice, retrospectively, what would you say to yourself?

TJ: I’d say that I did not take as much time as I should have to network. I feel like if I had done that a little bit more while I was at school, it might have helped me a lot. I was always focused on coursework and outside of that, I kept myself occupied by taking on the responsibilities of an RA (research assistant) and TA.

I never ended up really networking with alumni who were currently working in the industry. I was very close to all my professors and supervisors, and they proved to be great references that I could provide, but I feel like I should’ve created more connections with people who were in the field, as they could’ve helped me get my foot in the door.


Ronnie Feng, Staff Writer

Ronnie Feng is a graduating senior studying advertising with a minor in American Studies. He is currently working on his book about American Fraternalism and its impact on masculinity in the college setting.

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