From Financial Analyst to Stage Manager for The TODAY Show
A native New Yorker, born and bred in Brooklyn, Yosef Herzog ’02HS, ’07SB graduated from the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys in 2002, then spent two years in Israel before entering the Sy Syms School of Business in 2004.
At Syms, he pursued a bachelor of science in finance and then in 2007 took a post-graduate job as a financial analyst with The Bank of New York Mellon in mortgage-backed securities, just as the Great Recession kicked into high-gear. “About a year after I went through my interviews,” he said, “The Bank of New York Mellon was one of the few banks left standing.”
But while he liked the work well enough, something else tugged at him. “Growing up, we didn’t have a television,” he recalled, “which made me always want to watch it.” He also had a talent for managing logistics behind the scenes. By happenstance, after a couple of years at the bank, he found himself applying to the NBCUniversal Page Program, described on its website as “a 12-month rotational development experience designed for high potential early career talent.” The Program accepts around 1.5 percent of applicants, reportedly making it more selective than Harvard admissions.
Herzog made it into the program, which set him on the career path of working on assignments at Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and now has him working as a stage manager for The TODAY Show.
“When I was at YU, I didn’t realize that I could have a career in media,” he noted, “because that’s not a real focus of the University. Don’t get me wrong,” he added with a laugh, “I enjoyed my time at YU. I graduated with honors, I made the dean’s list, I got to play NCAA volleyball and I played an important role in student government, but I never thought working in television was an option for me.”
But he’s glad he followed that tug he felt seven years ago, a point he made in a 2013 panel discussion with YU students at the Israel Henry Beren Campus. “I told them that an arts career is possible, even if they didn’t have nearby role models,” he said. “They can pursue those careers if they want to pursue those careers.”
At the moment, Herzog is content with the work he’s doing. “I love television as a platform,” he noted, “and I love executing the behind-the-scenes work.”
Last year, though, he did have a bit of the limelight with Kathie Lee and Hoda on TODAY. “After graduation, I became a little sedentary,” he said, “and put on over fifty pounds I didn’t need, which flipped a switch in me, so I went from zero to 60 in the opposite direction, changing up my diet and exercise routine and losing the weight.”
Publicists and editors from Men’s Health were often on the show as guests, and noticing his new transformation, they offered to feature him inside the magazine, which appeared in January 2016 (with a buff John Krasinski on the cover).
Hoda and Kathie Lee got wind of it and gave him a little face-time on the show. He used the opportunity to promote The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), a charity he was supporting by running a half-marathon. “It was definitely a win-win,” he said. “LLS got a plug, I got a little notice and I ended up raising over $2,500 for the charity.”
Directing may be a possibility in the future, but for right now likes being behind the camera, not in front of it. “I consider myself pretty lucky with my job. I get to travel to amazing places and meet interesting people.” He did say that getting up at 4 a.m. was a bit of a drawback, “but the rest is good.”
While television was not on his professional horizon as a student, his education at YU prepared him for pursuing any career he chose to pursue. “You come out with a four-year degree, you’re competent and you can pretty much do whatever you want to do,” he said.
And the key to success, no matter what the degree? “You’re never going to have the exact experience that an employer is looking for—you’ll have the experience you have—but really you just want to be reliable and competent. Everything else you can learn on the job. Once someone comes to learn that they can rely on you, they’ll like you. It’s really that simple. And then you’ll move up.”
Yosef Herzog’s career is a good example of how being in the right place at the right time combined with perseverance, good humor and patience can land a person in a job that fits well. “You don’t have to stay where you are,” he advised. “You can always find a way to do what you really want to do.”