By Gianluca Russo
The ideal college experience varies greatly from student to student. While partying and having a “good time” often take the forefront for some, others use their time at a four-year or two-year institution to make large strides in their career. And though college is certainly the time to discover one’s self, make long-lasting memories and friends, and to have fun, those who start their career while still in school have a much better chance at success upon graduating. One of these is Alan Henry, current head of Digital Media and Regional Managing Editor of BroadwayWorld.com.
Henry grew up in Thornhill, Ontario, with a strong love and passion for the theatre. Musicals engulfed his life as he devoted many years to perfecting his craft, as both a dancer, singer, and actor. Yet, when it came time to choose a profession, Henry decided that a life on the stage was probably not the best choice for him. Still, though, he needed to ensure that theatre and Broadway were a part of his everyday life in some capacity.
“I’ve always had a passion for the performing arts, but knew that being on stage probably wasn’t right for me in terms of a career. I wanted to do something that combined my interest in business, writing and connecting with people and the performing arts,” Henry said.
Henry decided to attend York University to obtain his Bachelors of Commerce/Marketing. Although it was a major switch from being a performer, Henry knew his love for social media and marketing would allow him many opportunities to stay connected with the Broadway community. When an opportunity arose at BroadwayWorld, theatre-focused website with a reach of over 5.5 million monthly readers, Henry, in his starting years of college, was determined to launch his career. “I applied as an intern and worked my way up to paid work and eventually a full-time job. I like to think I just worked my way into this position,” he explained.
When asked how he worked his way up with the company, he added, “I think for me it was just a matter of slowly taking on new responsibilities and opportunities. I would make it known that I was always up for more if the chance would ever come up. I had this ridiculous five-year plan to work my way to Broadway — I had it in my head I had to be at a certain level experience-wise by graduation date to get the types of jobs and opportunities I wanted post graduation so I did whatever it took to make that happen. Looking back it was pretty aggressive and unrealistic but somehow I guess I willed it into fruition.”
Henry’s motivation, determination, and talent led him to accomplish his goals. After years of hard work at BroadwayWorld while still in school, Henry graduated last April and accepted a full-time position with the company. Later that year in August, he accomplished another goal was made the move from Canada to his dream home in New York City.
No doubt, however, it was a difficult few years, especially managing his professional work and college life. “Obviously, being a full-time student — balancing my professional work with my academics — could be a challenge, to say the least. I’d be lying if I said my academics didn’t suffer as a result, but I think overall it worked out ok.”
Although, looking back, Henry is incredibly proud of how far he’s come and is in disbelief that he now resides in New York City working within the Broadway community each day. “It’s still hard for me to believe sometimes, but mostly I’m just focused on getting my current work done — inbox zero is a myth, kids — and figuring out what’s next for me.”
Henry isn’t too sure what the future holds for him, but is excited, nonetheless. “I haven’t really given it too much thought. I decided I’d just enjoy things for a bit and see what happens next. I’d love to do more writing — writing a book has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid and so hopefully at some point down the line that’s something I can take on. I’d love to produce theatre at some point as well.”
When asked about advice for college students looking to make large strides in their careers while still in school, Henry advised, “There’s really no right or wrong way to do anything. I wasn’t great at school (I’m academically hopeless) but I like to think I’m good at my work. It’s very cliché — but just figure out what you love to do and find someone willing to pay you for it. Or something close enough.”
Regular contributor Gianluca Russo is a freelance writer who attended Schenectady County Community College and now attends UAlbany.