Pret-a-Reporter

How a Studio Suit Can Transform to Tech Titan: Experts Offer Tips on How to Fit In

8:00 AM 7/19/2016

by Sharon Swart

Before heading to the Bay Area, consider trading in the car, leaving behind the chitchat (not to mention ego) and dressing down: "Position and power aren't shown that way."

Illustration by: Brown Bird Design

Some of entertainment's finest have pivoted to tech, from former Fox Networks exec and current Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins to indie powerhouses Ted Hope and Bob Berney, both now of Amazon. For those contemplating the move from Hollywood to Silicon Valley (or Beach or Alley), experts advise tweaking dress, communication and dealmaking styles.

  • Clothes

    Illustration by: Brown Bird Design

    Lose those Zegna dress shirts, says Christina Mongini, costume designer on HBO's Silicon Valley, as jeans and chinos are the go-to with "always some Patagonia," like fleece vests. Ladies can put away the YSL stilettos: Nancy Tellem, the former Warner Bros. and CBS exec and now executive chair at interactive startup Interlude, first ditched her business suits to run Xbox Entertainment Studios. "There's a concern of overdressing. It's like when you go to a casual party in a gown, you feel awkward," she says. Mongini advises women to keep it classic. "Nobody stands out with what they're wearing," she says. "You can't walk into an office and pick out who is who based on what they wear. Position and power aren't shown that way." The tech sector, she adds, "almost dares itself: How casual can we be while we change the world?" (On the extreme end, bare feet and cutoff sweats can be spotted on big tech campuses.)

  • Car

    Illustration by: Brown Bird Design

    Silicon Valley prefers its local innovation, Tesla, over Hollywood luxury sports cars. Silicon Valley supervising producer Carrie Kemper's advice for those heading north for a tech gig: "On your way to the Bay Area, trade in your white Mercedes for a black Tesla in Kettleman City." Top Valley execs go for Tesla's Model S but desist reaching for anything more exotic.

  • Communications

    Illustration by: Brown Bird Design

    In Hollywood, the biz is built on relationships and personal interactions, both over the phone and in social settings. In tech, everything is communicated and scheduled by email and Google calendars. "They're not as social as we are down here and are very efficient with time," says CAA's Michael Yanover, who commuted for years between S.F. and L.A. while at Macromedia. Making impromptu calls are no-nos. Says Tellem, "When I got to Microsoft, I would call someone and they'd say, 'Is there an emergency?' " Also, know that digital is a let's-get-down-to-business culture. "People in tech tend to immediately state the number of points they plan on addressing," says Kemper. "If you want to pass for a seasoned tech exec, start every sentence with, 'Three things …' "

  • Office

    Illustration by: Brown Bird Design

    In contrast to corner offices and studio-lot bungalows, tech execs work in open-plan offices — often at standing desks, without landlines and maybe with a pingpong table nearby. Expect gourmet cafeterias that cater to even persnickety Angeleno palates. "Valley firms like Google hire intense people. If you don't give them ways to vent, relax and eat, they'll burn out or starve," says Guy Kawasaki, who sits on Wikimedia's board of trustees and whose CV includes two tours at Apple. Adds Felicia Day, actress and chief creative officer of Geek and Sundry, a digital video company owned by Legendary Entertainment: "Tech offices are generally more fun and relaxed than Hollywood's. They are designed to persuade people not to leave." And as one would at Soho House, go outside if you must make a lengthy or schmoozy call.

  • Dealmaking

    Forget Hollywood's complex structures where everyone is working through a phalanx of intermediaries, says Michael Pierce, a former film producer turned VC who invested in tech startups including Thrive Market, HelloGiggles and Prevoty. Dealmaking is "clear" without "gray areas," he explains, adding that while egos in tech exist, "they're not as fragile as in entertainment. The littlest slight in Hollywood, like a call not returned immediately, can scuttle a deal. You don't encounter that 'don't-you-know-who-I-am' attitude." Deals and hires are made based on merit versus personal relationships, notes a recent studio transplant. "Hiring is not run by friends in the company, it's really run by HR — and it's a rigorous process." Another dealmaking tip: "They don't want short-term thinking," says Yanover. "Don't ask about today's payday. It's all about tomorrow. What will build value? What will my equity be worth tomorrow?"

  • Culture

    Whereas Hollywood players benefit from an air of mystery, tech is all about transparency. Make sure you can be researched online, says Kawasaki, and not just on Getty Images: "Fix your LinkedIn profile — it's the first place everyone goes to check anybody out in Silicon Valley." Information is shared freely from the top down: "Don't be surprised if an email of yours is shared with the last person you would want to see it," says Yanover. "It's an open-source mentality." Kawasaki admits that there is one similarity between the two industries: "That concept of fake-it-till-you-make-it is as strong in Silicon Valley as it is in Hollywood — we just fake it with data." But do your homework, says Day: "Use tech in your day-to-day life so you understand the users you're trying to reach. You don't want to be the person in the room who doesn't know how Snapchat filters work. Follow Mashable and other blogs to understand the community — it's just as tight-knit and weirdly small as Hollywood."

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