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The Role He’s Been Looking For

Josh Wolonick MBA ’21 merged his interests in entertainment and finance at Marshall

February 01, 2021

Josh Wolonick MBA 21Josh Wolonick MBA ’21 found steady work as an actor in New York. You might have seen him on soap operas, like “All My Children,” or commercials for BBVA Bank or GoToMeeting. But his survival job — the one that paid the rent — was writing about financial news for the Emmy-winning online financial news company Minyanville, and then freelancing as a financial journalist, with his stories being picked up by outlets like USA Today and Google Finance. From there, he segued to working as an analyst at TransPacific Group, a private equity fundraising company.

His work in acting and journalism reflected his majors, English and dramatic arts, as an undergrad at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. But the analyst position added a new twist to his career.

When TPG offered him a three-year job in Hong Kong, he needed to seriously consider his next move. “I thought, maybe I can re-enter entertainment from the angle of business and particularly finance,” Wolonick said. He started investigating MBA programs and applied to several. USC was at the top of his list.

Marshall’s Los Angeles location meant he would be “legitimately able to make a go at entertainment.” Moreover, the school’s placement rate in the industry was the highest of any top 20 business school, he said. While visiting campus, he was impressed with the classes he sat in on and the warmth of the people. “Ultimately, it was always going to be Marshall.”

Being offered the Laura and Gordon Spivey Endowed Scholarship in his acceptance letter sealed the deal. It not only made the program more affordable, he said, but also “it was a feeling of being wanted.”

“I was also impressed by how quickly I was welcomed into the Trojan Network — which was upon acceptance of the offer,” Wolonick said. And since then, the “response rate from Trojans who want to help another Trojan has been staggering!”

As part of Marshall’s Business of Entertainment Association (BEA), he took an unforgettable trip to the Sundance Film Festival and took on leadership roles within the club in finance and career development, coordinating networking events and starting a mentor program for first years. He and fellow BEA members also placed first in a case competition co-hosted by Warner Bros. and Deloitte. “That win was an incredibly validating moment for me.”

When a fellow member of BEA leveraged his contacts to create consulting projects for members who had lost internships because of the pandemic, Wolonick signed on to write a business plan for a startup production company. “I learned so much about the industry.”

Sony Pictures Television was one of four local and international companies for which Wolonick has worked on consulting projects during his MBA. The SPT project involved a mix of data analytics, financial projections and strategy. The day Wolonick presented his recommendations at the Culver City studio, he said, “SPT President Jeff Frost was in the room!”

This spring, Wolonick landed an internship — reporting to the VP of distribution at FilmNation Entertainment in New York, a leading producer of and international sales company for indie films, whose 2020 “Promising Young Woman” is getting Oscar buzz.

What excites him most, he said, is a fellow MBA’s startup, Showpa, “a content discovery platform with the lofty goal of solving the streaming wars.” He got onboard last summer to help with financial modeling and strategic planning ahead of the launch of the app, which is coming soon, and has signed on long-term as a finance officer.

Thinking back nine years, Wolonick’s goal is the same as it was when he arrived in New York to be an actor. “I want to make a living in the entertainment industry,” he said. “USC Marshall has allowed me the opportunity to put together my love of film and television on the artistic side along with my analytical and quantitative and strategic business sense for the industry.”