Just Do It. I was terrified to make the plunge from the security of my 9–5 to entrepreneurship and C-level life. But once the BandAid was ripped off, I never looked back. I only wish I had done it sooner. The amount of opportunity that opened up once I broke free was more than I could have imagined.
As a part of our series about powerful women, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Bianco Schoeffling. Julia is the Chief Operating Officer and in-house Casting Director of The Halp Network, a company created to match trusted creative entertainment professionals and vendors with the best opportunities within the ever-changing world of entertainment. From gaming through traditional production, Julia has built a network of incredibly talented industry professionals, who have assisted companies in achieving their creative goals. Over the past 16 years, Julia has had a hand in some of the most influential interactive franchises in history including Gears of War, God of War, Call of Duty, Skylanders, Uncharted, The Last of Us, Legend of Zelda, Mass Effect, Dragon Age and many more. Previously, Julia was Director of Voice Over Services and Head of Casting at Formosa Group where she helped form the interactive division which grew into a division of 20 full-time employees in only five years. More recently in her role there, she focused on casting for interactive and new media including performance and voice capture. Recent casting credits include Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, hit throwback Crash Bandicoot: Insane Trilogy, the VR title Lucky’s Tale 2 and Square’s Secret of Mana. Prior to Formosa, Julia worked for top developers and audio vendors in Los Angeles including the award-winning Soundelux Design Music Group and world-renowned game developer, Treyarch. A New York native, she currently lives in Los Angeles with her beautiful daughter Nina, husband and two dogs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Certainly! I have always been passionate about arts and entertainment, and growing up I knew I wanted to work in the field in one way or another. I ended up pursuing a Recording Arts degree at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The best decision of my life was going to school in a large city where after graduation, the majority of my friends and classmates stuck around. Not only did it leave me with a deep community after graduation, it was my first realization that my alumni networking is the real deal and would be a big part of my future. In my second year of college, I was looking for a part-time job and coming up empty. One day after ironically getting rejected from a job at Starbucks in Manhattan Beach (I swear, I’m a fun person!), I was interviewed and subsequently hired as a receptionist at the seminal video game developer, Treyarch, putting into motion the trajectory of my entire career.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Prior to leading The Halp Network, I worked at several service based companies where we owned and operated beautiful facilities with proprietary workflows and top creative talent. There is tons of competition but rarely do you get the opportunity to see and understand their workflow, strengths and weaknesses. Since heading THN, the most interesting thing that has happened is our ability to see and understand an entire landscape of services offered as well as get inside knowledge on how each provider operates. This allows us to have a much better understanding of the industry as a whole and has created a feeling where instead of competition, everyone has an opportunity and a place in the market.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I was first starting would be assuming that if you build it, they will come. (Hint: They might not!) I learned that even if you have something really great to offer, there are still a lot of factors to someone’s decision to make a purchase or attend an event. It’s important to survey your audience and have a constant dialogue with your customers to truly understand how they interact with your business and why and how they make their decisions.
What is it about the position of C-level executive that most attracted you to it?
To be honest, I was totally hesitant to take on the COO title. I felt like an imposter. But after some lengthy conversations with my business partner and CEO, it was super clear that the division of labor and responsibilities within the company made the C-level title appropriate for me. I reluctantly took it, but I feel like I’ve grown into it well! I love being in charge of how the puzzle pieces work and having an overall perspective of the company.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-level executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
The role of an executive is to be aware of and constantly work to make better the overall vision for the company. This is done by listening, adapting and ultimately making informed, confident decisions. Listening to your employees and partners and making sure their needs are met is essential.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?
I love being in charge of a vision and I love being able to confidently make decisions. I also love being in charge of my schedule, even if it means working more from random locations.
What are the downsides of being an executive?
Decision making is not always easy or a positive experience. Difficult decisions often need to be made, and it isn’t always fun being the bad guy. I feel lucky to have a great CEO who listens to my process of talking through the bad things before having to make the call or send the email I’m dreading. I’ve heard leadership positions can be lonely, but we have a very collaborative approach to the company.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a C-level executive. Can you explain what you mean?
I think it’s a myth that if you’re a C-level executive you can’t touch the creative stuff. While managing the daily operations of THN, I also am a casting director, which feeds my creative side. I didn’t know it would be possible to balance, and some days I think I’m crazy for doing so, but casting has brought so many opportunities our way as a company, as well as for me as an individual, that it has been a positive experience for all.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Raising children while running a company is a different challenge for most primary caregivers, female or non. We know that many women are primary caregivers in addition to their high-level executive positions and balancing expectations between work and life is a huge challenge. I hope as more women and primary caregivers become leaders, the challenges that face working parents will start to get addressed and resolved. Flexibility is king.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I thought I would be more stressed and we all have our days, but I’ve definitely relaxed in this role! I also thought I would have more free time because I’m able to set my schedule, and while I have more flexibility, there are definitely more early mornings and late nights.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?
Executives come in all shapes and sizes, but confidence is important. To properly lead a team, you have to inspire and assure and be willing to make decisions, even unpopular ones. If people management, discretion and decision making are not in your wheelhouse, you may want to avoid an executive track.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
You don’t have to follow anyone else’s road map to success.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many individuals that helped me get here, I can’t name just 1! That said, my daughter was born 4 years ago and life has never been the same. I credit her with my complete perspective change on life and seeing the value of the days and hours that I was dedicating to someone else’s vision. If not for her, I never would have made the plunge into entrepreneurship and C-level dreams.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
We just came off of GameSoundCon 2019 and we had some really wonderful panels and speakers. I felt like we really made an impact on folks looking to get into the game audio industry. The Halp Network is also a proud supporter of the Pablove Foundation.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Just Do It. I was terrified to make the plunge from the security of my 9–5 to entrepreneurship and C-level life. But once the BandAid was ripped off, I never looked back. I only wish I had done it sooner. The amount of opportunity that opened up once I broke free was more than I could have imagined.
- It will always take longer than you think. I usually account for at least 15 min of “F**k Up” time when planning anything, and I translate that to 1 day, week, or month depending on the expectation or task at work. Everything takes longer than you think, so plan for it.
- Let it Go. There will be days, oh there will be days. But at the end of the day, let it go. There will always be ups and downs but it is how you ride that tide that makes you a leader that someone wants to work with and for. I held onto anxieties and past experiences in previous positions and I have a much better perspective on this now.
- Be Open. I’ve never been so open to meeting people in my life. I used to consider myself a shy person, but being open has created so much opportunity for me. One personal referral can change the course of someone’s life and that is exciting. I’ve met more than one Uber or Lyft driver who has ended up working with me in some way or another. Everyone has goals and who knows how you can help them get there.
- Check Out. Whether it’s a daily 10 minute meditation, maintaining self-care like massage, acupuncture or chiropractic or whatever it may be that you need, the “check out” is almost as important as the work itself. For me, meditation helps me unscramble my brain. It’s almost like the “sort by” function on your desktop 🙂
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would tag along to the already burgeoning movement of #representationmatters.
Our world is a rainbow of people and in order to write, build, make or create, we need a variety of minds on a problem in order to best attack it. From casting to staffing, I truly believe that all areas can benefit from being representative of our actual world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m happy to have this question because I have a new one! I famously say “baby steps” when addressing any issue. But recently after seeing the wonderful Frozen 2, I now have an official quote — “Just do the next right thing. Take a step, step again. It is all that I can to do the next right thing”. And that’s it! That’s all you can do, and taking it in manageable steps is the best way to achieve or resolve pretty much anything.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Mindy Kailing or Lena Waithe because they’re beautiful boss women with an eye on representation and inclusion in media.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.