Kevin Allocca, head of Culture and Trends at YouTube and BC ’06, spoke to students last Friday night in Devlin 008 about his unconventional career path, including his TED Talk and guest appearance on the television show Food Network Star.
Allocca said he spent his time at Boston College directing the comedy group “Hello … Shovelhead!” and writing a humor column for The Heights, having little idea what he wanted to do beyond his undergraduate years and having attended a “Career Makeover” event in an attempt to find direction.
“Through all this I said, ‘You know what, I really want to do comedy … I really wanted to be a comedy writer,’ and that’s what I wanted to do,’” Allocca said. “So, I was like, ‘I’m going to move to L.A.—that’s what I’m going to do … move to LA, try to get a job as a comedy writer.” He went on to recount his frantic search for a job in the city, and he said that in his first five months he was able to find a job with a new political satire website within The Huffington Post called “23/6”. Allocca described his time as a comedy writer for this website as his dream job, which made it that much worse when he was laid off.
Jobless again, Allocca said he was forced to return to his desperate search. He eventually found a job working as a reporter for MediaBistro, a website which analyzes the media industry. Only one year into the job at MediaBistro, Allocca accepted his current position at YouTube, a subsidiary of Google.
“I’ve been at Google for four years, and I’ve never been bored at work once,” he said. “In those four years, that’s an incredible thing, and it’s something that I never thought I would be able to have in my life.”
His work involves studying viral video trends and attempting to understand why videos become popular.
Allocca was also a speaker for the lecture series TED Talks, where he spoke about why videos become viral. His talk has gained over one million views and made him into somewhat of a spokesperson for YouTube. This led to his being a celebrity guest judge on the show Food Network Star.
Allocca closed his lecture with five important realizations to which he has come, the first of which was that having a 10-year plan does not always make sense.
“Social media wasn’t really a term in 2006, which was only eight years ago, and we’re here talking about careers in social media,” Allocca said. He noted that his current job did not exist when he graduated college, and that a 10-year plan would not have been possible for him. In the ever-evolving world of careers, there are many things that cannot be foreseen.
Allocca told audience members to understand that not all skills are the same and that they should play to their strengths, highlighting a number of concrete skills he had gained in school as well as a series of “softer” skills, such as leadership and critical thinking. He also emphasized the importance of communication, stating that it was a “critical skill,” and that the importance of a fuller understanding of one’s leadership capabilities and genuine confidence can propel one’s career.
“I think one of the more important things I was able to get directly from my time at BC was the confidence in my abilities,” he said. “It’s very easy to give up when you don’t have that.”