For UC Irvine (UCI) alumna JuHee Kim, her role as Managing Director of VaynerMedia LA is just the latest in her long string of accomplishments. Over her twenty years in the marketing and media industry, JuHee has worked with some of the largest media companies in the world. From Disney to NBC Universal to Fox, “one of the hallmarks of my career has been reinvention and being open to change,” she explains.
JuHee’s professional success stems from a lifelong love of movies and television. “I was the kid in front of a television, watching live action dramas, news content, not cartoons, at a very young age,” she laughs. “You know, those are my most vivid memories of childhood—the content that I was consuming.” Looking back, JuHee identifies the TV shows and movies she watched as much more than entertainment. “As a child of immigrant parents, it was a gateway and a portal into the broader culture,” she says. “And so content and culture have been a passion of mine since I was a child.”
Still, the idea of turning her love of media into a career didn’t cross her mind until she attended UCI as an undergraduate. “I entered UCI [with] no idea what I wanted to do, ” she recalls. Though she was a political science major on the path to enter law school, she wasn’t passionate about her work. However, everything changed for JuHee when a professor at UCI introduced her to film history and theory. The realization that media and content were legitimate areas of study spurred her to pursue a master’s degree in Media Studies at Northwestern University. This in turn put her on the path to working in entertainment and media. “So I can say that I got my start at UCI,” she smiles.
As she advanced in her career, JuHee saw that there weren’t people she could identify with and look up to in the industry. “My experience as a Korean-American woman in this industry, I’m finally coming to terms with all the reconciliation that is required as a woman, a person of color” she reflects. Now, by sharing her experiences, JuHee hopes to empower young people looking to enter the industry, specifically those that identify as first-generation and people of color. She explains, “I think it’s important to talk about, those of us who have any influence, have a responsibility to those coming up.”
JuHee now recognizes how much her ethnic identity shaped her journey. “If you talk to most children of immigrants, first-generation kids, I think we all on some level have struggled with or dealt with that duality and living of the two lives,” she says. JuHee believes that understanding how to confront these dual identities is essential for first-generation students preparing to enter the professional world. She explains that these students will have to grapple with major questions like “How do you not lose yourself in your efforts to succeed? How do you not completely lose sight of who you are and where you come from?”
For students who are getting ready to enter the workforce, JuHee stresses the importance of commitment and time. She prompts, “What you’re passionate about and what you’re good at will evolve over time? That said, if you’re on the path to be a lawyer but you already know that that’s not something you’re going to enjoy doing day in and day out, that’s probably not the right path.”
She also encourages students to be proactive about networking. “It is so critical,” she emphasizes. “I see so many resumes—it’s much more meaningful when I can actually tie a resume to an actual person.” JuHee urges students to go out and meet as many people as possible. Whether that be through informational interviews, outreach programs or other opportunities, she underlines the importance of putting yourself out there and not being afraid of rejection.
Now as an industry leader, JuHee is eager to see reinvention and change within the media and marketing industry. She hopes to inspire the next wave of young professionals from all backgrounds to leave their marks on the industry.
“For the students at UCI that are interested in a career in advertising and marketing or in media, there is a career for you—we need you. Especially those of you that are Black, LatinX, Asian. We need you in our industry because our industry shapes culture, we need to do better. That’s the truth. And so if I can be a resource, a sounding board, a person you recognize and identify with, then I’m happy. I’m happy to do it. […] It’s time to leverage some of this experience to help make the path less bumpy for those coming up.”
The UCI Women in Leadership series is dedicated to amplifying the stories and voices that have historically been missing from the leadership and entrepreneurship conversations. If you have questions for JuHee or would like more information about the series please contact Matt Princetta, Director of Development, Student Success at firstname.lastname@example.org.