I feel privileged to be working at one of the world’s greatest newspapers at a time of unprecedented turmoil and political challenge. It excites me to be in what feels like the epicentre of breaking news and great minds. The beauty of working in Product Management is that there really isn’t a typical day.
11 October 2019
What did you study at Queen Mary and what are you doing now? I graduated in 2017 with a joint-honours English Literature and Drama BA, specializing in Shakespeare. I also spent a large proportion of my three years as the Arts Editor and then Editor-in-Chief of CUB Magazine. I now work at The New York Times; I have been living and working in New York for just over two years.
Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary? What do you think is unique about Queen Mary compared to other universities? After secondary school I spent a year studying acting at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). As I looked at universities I focused on three things: easy access to academic resources; course flexibility; and the broader ‘feel’ of the University. Queen Mary scored high on all counts. The University Library is great, but the British Library and the wider resources on offer in London even more so. Mandatory first year classes made a lot of sense, but thereafter I felt I would be empowered to shape my academic experience. Finally, Queen Mary offered an unparalleled diversity of students and experience from across the world – much wider than the drama and London theatre scene. I didn’t know when I applied, but I also quickly learnt that the professors and lecturers were pretty amazing: setting high standards, being available and treating us all as adults.
How did your time and study at Queen Mary help your career and development? Academically, my courses set the foundation for skills that I use every day. More prosaically, my time at Queen Mary enabled me to gain a place for a journalism masters at Columbia School of Journalism in New York, which then led to my first full time job. This was as much about the wider experience too. My work as an Arts Editor and then Editor in Chief of CUB Magazine, running a team of over 50 students, securing advertisers, coordinating with printers and editing and proofreading online content, gave me invaluable experience for my current position at the NYT in Product Management. I am responsible for customer e-mails and newsletters, ensuring that our readers get the optimum online digital experience. For me, the key lesson I’ve learnt throughout the last years has been the vital importance of communication, whether written or spoken. Talking to stakeholders, communicating expectations and presenting the right message, whether one-to-one or at a larger auditorium event, is essential. Studying drama certainly helped too.
How did you overcome any challenging times as Editor in Chief of CUB Magazine? Why would you recommend that students get involved with Student Media or societies whilst at Queen Mary? When confronted with challenges, such as late article submissions, CUB colleague conflicts, technical issues with the website, or any other issues that arose my first reaction was to communicate, whether that be sending a message out on social media and to the rest of my team informing them of the issue, or facilitating communication between the people who needed to talk to resolve the issue. I found that the best way to address any issue is to first, communicate, then assess, and then take action.
I would highly recommend that everyone get involved in Student Media and/or other societies while at Queen Mary. It gives you a chance to use and develop skill sets that you may not get a chance to in your degree program, you meet fellow students you may otherwise not have had the opportunity to meet and it could lead to the possible discovery of a new job prospect you may never have otherwise considered (that’s what happened with me and now I have landed on my feet at The New York Times).
Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates considering their career options? Easy: follow your passions and interests. That way, hard work is no challenge. If there is a topic, or a book, or a person who sparks your interest and gets you excited then delve deeper, read more, talk to more people and ask questions. My other piece of advice is to never settle but be flexible. Until I was 18 I thought I wanted to be a Shakespearian actress. I applied to RADA. I changed. I found myself more drawn to the written aspect of drama. This evolved into a wider interest in journalism. I threw myself into CUB. I applied and, astonishingly, got a 2016 summer internship at the New York Times and a place at Columbia. My focus shifted from being a journalist to the business side, especially in the rapidly evolving digital media space. The internship, as they so often do, led to the job offer.
The job titles to which I was working towards may have been constantly changing, but the passion and determination only to aim for the best of brand has been a constant. It is also worth recalling the knock backs, disappointments and rejections. Resilience matters.
How did you discover your internship? What advice would you give to current students who are searching for internships and work experience? I spent a few hours Googling companies I was interested in and admired and the word “internship” in particular, alongside reading blogs and watching YouTube Vlogs about other peoples' experiences.
The advice I have is to Google the companies you like, if they have a program then try to find the head of the program on LinkedIn and then email them. If not then look for a job you’re interested in and email someone with that job at the companies you are interested in and ask about work experience. Always email individuals as opposed to just applying via the formal application process. It may feel daunting to cold email people, but when you get a response it’s worth it as you can begin to form a personal connection within the company and get more information on the realities of working there.
What advice you would give to current students, recent grads and alumni thinking about working and living in another country? Do it. Travel really does broaden the mind. I’d lived overseas as a child and spent time in Manhattan when my father worked there. This allowed me to get a feel for the city, to walk the streets, and to imagine what it might be like to live there on my own. I think that this is essential for any big decision – don’t make it only on the basis of what you read or what others tell you. It has to work for you. I’d also warn aspirant students not to under-estimate the time and challenges of getting a US visa. Start your research and application process as soon as you begin your final year at Queen Mary. Just because you’re applying doesn’t mean you have to do it, but it means that you may have the option. And, finally, don’t under-estimate the cultural challenges of living and working in a new city even after the multiculturalism of Queen Mary.
Why is it exciting to do what you do? I feel privileged to be working at one of the world’s greatest newspapers at a time of unprecedented turmoil and political challenge. It excites me to be in what feels like the epicentre of breaking news and great minds. Working alongside brilliant journalists, software developers, designers, and business partners is incredible, pushing me to be the best I can be.
What was so special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of your most memorable moments? The people. The people I had in my classes, both professors and fellow students, had a huge impact on my personal and academic development. They empowered me to push forward for what I wanted and helped me think through and deal with professional and personal challenges. They know who they are and I will always be grateful to them. My proudest moment was when CUB won the prize for best university media outlet at the annual student media awards and some of our team members won individual awards.
The place. London never fails to astonish. New York is the only city that can compete. Both are diverse, international, beautiful and brim full of art, food, sport, comedy, stimulation and fun.
Do you have any role models that you look up to, both inside and outside of your field? My mentor and inspiration at The New York Times was my boss when I interned and she ran Transformation and Digital Operations. She is an archetypal New Yorker: opinionated; talented; brutally hard-working; demanding; unapologetically strong; and truly passionate about what she does and her team. She was as invested in the individuals around her as she was in the products. She also invested heavily in making the workplace better for everyone: improving Parental Leave Policy, gender equity in pay, and technology education for young girls. She taught me three key things: never apologize for your drive or passion; if you see a problem, think about what you can do to rectify it; and that it’s often more important to set your team up for success than to get your own work done.
Can you describe what a typical working day in the life of a product analyst involves? The beauty of working in Product Management is that there really isn’t a typical day. Depending on what product or problem you are thinking through, as well as what stage of your project development you’re at, your day could consist of back-to-back meetings from 9 - 5pm, or user testing and discovery work, or it could be completely open for you to test and launch a new MVP (Minimum Viable Product) out into production. The aspects of my job that are consistent are that I work with a team made up of software developers, designers, marketing and advertising representatives, as well as a project manager and newsroom representatives. We have a 15 minute meeting every morning to update the team on what we did the day before and what we plan to work on that day, as well as bi-weekly planning and retrospective meetings as we plan and work in two week sprints. (You can read about one of the first projects that I worked on at the New York Times and how it went here.)
If you were given the option to rewind time, is there anything you would change about your university experience? I wouldn’t. Every decision I made led to where I am now. My university experience was far from perfect, there were extremely good and extremely bad moments, but they all helped to shape me, and how I perceive the world so I wouldn’t change anything.
If forced to rewind and do it all again I would have tried to talk to and get to know more people, but that is something I think you can always do more of as you are surrounded by so many interesting people, with varying backgrounds and perspectives.