Carly Wallace was a senior at UCLA when she first heard about Pinterest from a classmate who lived off campus who was using it to find dinner recipes.
“I downloaded the desktop version and was immediately hooked,” Wallace said. As she prepared for “adulting” she started to use it in a more aspirational way – pinning home decor ideas and work outfits.
Fast forward seven years and that early (p)interest in the platform helped the Sonoma Valley High School grad land her dream job with the company.
Wallace, now 29, was born and raised in Sonoma, attending St. Francis Solano from kindergarten through eighth grade, and graduating from Sonoma Valley High School in 2008.
She says she loved Sonoma Valley High and her favorite classes were with AP English teacher Allison Manchester, who inspired her to get involved with the school newspaper, and with Ken Bystrom, who made calculus “surprisingly fun, considering that it met at every day at 7 a.m. senior year.”
She was a competitive soccer player on both school and club teams until she tore her ACL the summer before her senior year. She made the best of it and took on reporting on soccer games for the high school’s Dragon’s Tale school newspaper.
College loomed on the horizon and Wallace found herself unsure… Would she prefer a big school or a small school? Did she want to be on the East Coast or the West Coast?
“As a high school student it’s tough to know what you don’t know,” she said. She ended up focusing largely on small New England liberal arts schools like Connecticut College and Boston College but ultimately chose to attend UCLA.
“I fell in love with the campus and its liberal arts programs, and a few of my friends were already there and loving it,” she said.
Her advice to current juniors and seniors is to be open to all possibilities.
“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable because you don’t really know how anything is going to be until you try it,” she said. “I visited as many schools as I could because it really helps to be able to visualize yourself on campus.”
Wallace is the middle child, with an older brother Jack, now, 30, who studied finance at Northeastern and a younger brother Sam, now 27, who studied physics at U.C. Davis.
At UCLA, Wallace studied abroad through the Semester At Sea program (think junior year on a cruise ship) and majored in sociology, captivated by analyzing why groups of people behave the way they do. She managed to snag a summer editorial internship at Teen Vogue in New York City, where she said she learned about more about the storytelling aspect of brand management and “really understanding your consumer.”
When graduation rolled around, however, she found the process of choosing a career as nerve-wracking as choosing a college.
She interviewed for advertising jobs and landed an account management position at one of New York’s biggest agencies, Saatchi & Saatchi.
“I was drawn to account management because it is part client services, part creative problem-solving and part strategic planning,” she said.
She loved the job and stayed more than four years, working primarily on General Mills brands, including Cheerios and Lucky Charms. She traveled around the world overseeing TV commercial shoots, working alongside celebrity talent that ranged from Usher to Grumpy Cat. But the highlight of her time was working on a Super Bowl ad. “That’s kind of the crown jewel of advertising,” she explained.