Penn Perspectives: A Q&A With Rachel Gogel, C'09

Rachel Gogel, C'09
Creative Director at Facebook
Major: Fine arts and minor in anthropology
Location: San Francisco

How has your liberal arts degree been influential throughout your career?

Having a liberal arts degree, in my opinion, gave me the opportunity to become a more well-rounded individual and develop several skills versus focusing on just one concentration. It also helped me become more open-minded to the world and instilled a healthy mindset of trial and error in my job search approach until I found something that fulfilled me. I had internships all throughout college so that I could try a few different things. I actually wondered when I graduated if I would regret not going to art school and becoming more specialized in one craft, but ultimately after almost 6 years of working, I have always felt at an advantage because I am thinking about solving business problems with creative solutions, and very focused on strategy, beyond just the art of design.

Also, pursuing this type of degree was a very conscious decision for me. My parents, who are originally from the United States, encouraged me to look at schools here because of the liberal arts education system (I grew up in France where such a system does not really exist). After doing some research and a campus visit, I fell in love with Penn. I liked the idea of being part of an intimate and constantly evolving art program within a larger, established institution that attracts students interested in business, international affairs, and economics.

What is the value of the Penn network, and how has it played a role in your career?

I always say Penn prepared me for the world first, and then for my career. Ultimately though, being better equipped to go out into the world and figure out how to live and survive while pursuing my passions was key. I had a very goal-oriented and entrepreneurial approach to building my career (probably influenced by being so closely tied to Wharton) and figured out what my network should be early on: my friends, teachers, mentors, alumni and more. The international community, the liberal arts education, being able to take classes in different departments, being surrounded by very smart and loving people all driven about different things, it all challenged me and pushed me further in my own career. Learnings and insights from my network in different fields has had a great impact on my day to day life.

Ultimately though, Penn offered so much than just strong academics. I loved Philadelphia (it has so much history and such great restaurants!), and I enjoyed exploring the city. I was also involved with on-campus publications like the Penn Review and Kedma, played intramural basketball, and joined the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) to immerse myself in an arts/graphic designer community. Above all, I found some of my best friends at Penn, and tried to be outgoing and have a good social and school life balance.

How do you stay connected with Penn Arts & Sciences, and why is it a priority for you?

I'm all about paying it forward. My younger brother ended up going to Penn as I was entering senior year too. Some of my best memories are from college and I have built a close friend group from that experience. At this point, I have now returned back to Penn on four separate occasions to speak on panels (April 2014: Penn Traditions Alumni Panel; November 2013: Alumni Panel at ICA; November 2012: Mentoring Meal: Art Director, GQ Magazine; March 2011: Careers in the Arts Panelist), have been a Penn Alumni Interviewer for prospective students for a couple of years, mentor a few younger Penn students and alumni, have hosted groups of Penn students at my office to talk career paths, was featured as a "Young Alumni Spotlight" in a recent Penn Parent Newsletter, and have shared my creative job e-newsletter (called Creative Jobs.The List.) to Penn listservs for almost four years.

I'm definitely a proud alumni and I'd like to think that my own path can inspire current students at Penn to think outside of the traditional Penn route--you can have a successful career in media and the arts if you want to. The handful of alumni that helped me with my first few interviews in publishing in 2009 were all found through QuakerNet too, and I encourage everyone to use that tool in order to stay connected to the Penn community.

What advice would you give students at The College who are trying to decide what career path to pursue?

The best thing you can do is stay active: take up side projects, try a few different internships, network with your peers and professors, join clubs and groups on and off campus, TA a class if you can, and take classes outside of your comfort zone. You never know where it will lead. Most importantly, though, try to find what you love to do, and give it a real shot. You are your biggest supporter. And you may think that I have it figured out, but I'm still learning new things every day.

What was your favorite course at The College and why?

I loved my class "Open Book," taught by legendary Sharka Hyland. Students proposed a topic based on their area of interest and engaged in a focused, semester-long exploration, which they presented in the form of a designed and printed book. My book was titled "Reminiscence Book," which was a compilation of ‘journal entries’ written from memory on family trips that I could remember. Since it was based on memory, entries were very fragmented and contained several typos. The book was typed using a 1980s IBM Personal Wheelwriter Electric Typewriter. It was awesome! The size of the book was determined from the maximum size paper the machine could hold and each entry was written in the form of the country where the trip took place, thus creating a new and distorted map based on memory. Hope that class still exists!