Serendipity is often defined as luck - or a happy accident - and for Sarah Soldano '10, she felt like she was in serendipitous situation when she landed her first job at Barefoot Books. But between her skillset and ability to make connections, Soldano had put herself in a solid position for a variety of opportunities to happen.
"Honestly, I didn't really have a firm plan for my career path, or an intention to combine art and writing in my profession. I kind of thought I'd end up pursuing one or the other. It's crazy to say, but I sort of ended up on the career path that I am on by chance, and by taking advantage of opportunities that arose around me," Soldano said about her position as the senior design manager at Barefoot Books, an independent children's book publisher based in the United Kingdom and Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I got an internship, networked, proved my skills and had a little bit of luck with the timing of it all."
Before graduating from Emmanuel, Soldano landed an editorial internship at Barefoot Books from January to May 2010, which then turned into a graphic design internship from June to July. In July, the company was so impressed by her that they hired the Emmanuel grad as a graphic designer. Nearly two years later, she was promoted to global designer. During her time in this position, her director left the company and was not replaced - this was an opportunity for Soldano to prove herself.
"I guess I did a good job, because within six to eight months of her leaving, I received my first promotion. Shortly after that, I was able to hire a design assistant to work below me and I started a consistent internship program at Barefoot," Soldano said.
Soldano was promoted to a senior-level position in January 2013. Being a small company, she wears many hats in the role; she art directs/designs all major print marketing collateral, creates online marketing graphics, manages the in-house designer and interns, as well as freelance designers and photographers, designs book covers, creates book templates and brand guidelines, redesigned and project-managed the Barefoot Books' main website in 2013 and more.
Recently, Soldano has been assigned to design and project manage the production of the publisher's semi-annual catalogue - a large, but creative undertaking.
"It's super gratifying to see how well received it's been by our community," Soldano said about the catalogue. "I also love when I am able to work on book covers. I've been fortunate enough to work on two out of the three new titles we are releasing this spring. I enjoy the really creative design projects the most."
Another fun project that Soldano has been working on is lifestyle photography for marketing and catalogue purposes. The photography has included images of children reading with their mothers and interacting with books and games. Overall, Soldano's favorite part of her job is, "having the opportunity to work on fun, creative projects pretty regularly, mentoring my interns and junior designer and working with a really fun and talented team."
At Emmanuel, Soldano was an English writing + literature major and a graphic design minor. Surprisingly, she had no intention to combine writing and art in her profession, but her love for both disciplines started at a young age. In the second grade, she won a competition for writing a play that was performed, and in middle school she belonged to a young writer's workshop at a local library. She was an avid journaler with a love of writing poetry and fiction in high school. As for art, Soldano has always enjoyed being expressive and creative in her work and practiced drawing, painting and photography. Right before she came to Emmanuel, she considered pursuing graphic design.
Throughout her time in college, Soldano landed two other internships that would help boost her skills in writing and design. Her first internship was in Emmanuel's Office of Marketing Communications (OMC) and her second was at Ladies' Home Journal magazine in New York City. As a rising junior, she worked at the College as an ecPULSE mentor (formally known as RISE), where she tutored current events and writing. During her senior year, she returned to the OMC as a student worker.
Alongside work and internships, Soldano was active with other activities on campus including: a member of the indoor track + field team, a contributor to BANG! Literary Magazine and a member of the Colleges of the Fenway Chorus. She also studied abroad in Cannes, France, for a semester during her junior year.
Soldano credits her required internship experiences and studies at Emmanuel for helping her become a more professional and well-rounded person and designer, which was "an incredibly important foundation for me going into the working world," she said.
She added, "I loved my time at Emmanuel and think Boston is an amazing place to get an education. I also loved (and now miss) how easy it was to be involved in lots of things. I think my professors were great and sometimes I miss being in class."
Although she has achieved so much, career-wise, with only having graduated five years ago, Soldano admits to doing a lot of soul searching to figure out where she will be in five or 10 years. Ultimately, she would like to be doing something creative for a company whose mission resonates with her, or possibly having her own freelance design business.
"Whatever I end up doing, I'd like to feel passionately dedicated to my work and gratified by what I am accomplishing, but I also want to feel well-balanced and happy," she said.
With this valuable experience under her belt, she advises young Emmanuel alums and current students to pursue their loves, to network, to exhibit confidence, to take initiative, to not take rejection personally and to be themselves.
"Barefoot has been a really amazing experience to have had right out of college - I've had the opportunity to learn and grow a lot, very quickly," Soldano said.