How did you get your start in magazines?
I originally wanted to work in book publishing, so I moved to Boston and went to work among the old publishing firms in the city. I thought it was the best thing in the world. But once I started working in textbook publishing, I realized that it might not be quite right for me.
So I moved to New York and went to grad school at Columbia to buy myself some time. Eventually a friend-of-a-friend got me in touch with human resources at Condé Nast, and I ended up landing a fact-checking job at Vogue. I was already interested in working with magazines because it seemed like such a fun industry, so it was a great opportunity.
Any embarrassing moments along the way?
I learned very quickly that there is no place for ignorance or innocence when first starting out. While fact checking at Vogue, I came across the acronym “CEO” and didn’t know what it meant. So I asked! I’ll never forget the look on my colleague’s face. I’m sure she was thinking, “You’re so stupid.” I bet she couldn’t wait to tell all her friends about the naïve new fact-checker at work. It was a quick realization for me that this business is hardcore! I also quickly learned that I was going to be working with very sophisticated colleagues and if I wanted to go far, I had to catch up fast.
Is there any advice you received that really stands out?
The HR person at Condé Nast told me that if I wanted to write, I needed to surround myself with people who would make that happen for me. So I left Vogue after a little over a year and went to GQ to assist the managing editor. Eventually, I gained more and more writing and editing responsibilities. I learned that if you want something, you should ask for it. Skills trump everything, and no matter where you’re working, your skills should get you places as long as you have awareness and finesse.
What advice do you have for people just starting out in magazines?
Be willing to take a lower masthead job, because chances are it will be the right thing to take you where you need to go. And don’t get hung up on the silly stuff—life is long. Make smart moves that have to do with what is essential for you and what you want to do. As an intern, you’re put in a place where you’ll meet the people who will help you accomplish your goals. Take advantage of that. I’ve seen many people make odd career choices just for the money—and I’m sympathetic towards what it takes to survive in NYC—but I think it’s more important to stay in touch with what’s going to make you happy.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
I love working with copy—whether I’m writing it or editing it. That, and I love the kinds of people that this business attracts. I’m so lucky to spend every day surrounded by very smart, interesting and engaged people.