Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We can’t say enough great things about Belisa Silva, the Head of Content and Communications at GLOSSYBOX. She’s smart, an excellent writer, warm, welcoming, well read, and insightful. A self-proclaimed “theater geek,” Belisa decided to pursue Journalism in college as a way to combine her natural talents and curiosity. After college, Belisa worked at a small newspaper in New Jersey, but eventually made her way to New York City to interview with Condé Nast. Having spent time as an Editorial Assistant and Editor at Beauty Inc. and Women’s Wear Daily, respectively, Belisa is now at GLOSSYBOX, a monthly beauty subscription box.

Throughout her years of experience with journalism, beauty, and fashion, Belisa has great advice to share. She’s a believer in hard work, quieting distractions, and finding your own perspective. Regardless of whether you’re into journalism or the beauty industry, Belisa’s motivating words are sure to inspire.

Name: Belisa Silva
Education: B.A. in Journalism and English, minor in Spanish from Lehigh University
Follow: @GLOSSYBOX / Glossybox.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Belisa Silva: Looking back as this someone now older and wiser, I realize how lucky you are to be young and discovering things about yourself and the world around you. It is amazing to be in that moment of your life where everything is fresh and new. You are defining the future of your life and the possibilities are endless! It seemed more scary than fun at the time, and I wish I had lived in the moment more. I also wish I would have taken on more that came my way with more zeal and positivity rather than fear.

CJ: You attended Lehigh University and majored in Journalism, English, and Spanish. How did you determine what to study?

BS: When I was in high school I was a big thespian, and I was really into theater and singing. I was Dolly in Hello, Dolly! my senior year, did the morning announcements, and I was choir president. I was your typical theater geek girl, but also very into culture, literature, and writing.

I went to college thinking I’d do musical theater. When I got there, though, it felt a little limiting. I had always been a good writer. My dad is a writer and English professor, so literature had been a part of my upbringing. I loved works like Hiawatha and The Tell-Tale Heart from a young age. In college journalism seemed really interesting to me because it was a good combination of my natural talents and my natural curiosity and affinity for getting to know people. I love to investigate things and find out an interesting backstory. It felt like an ‘aha’ moment when I declared the major, and as a journalist not a day went by that felt like work.

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CJ: What did your post-grad journey look like?

BS: When I first graduated from college, I realized writing is one of those industries that everyone wants to be a part of. It’s very saturated market and hard to break into. You have to pay your dues a lot, which I did. That meant not making a lot of money and a lot of running around doing grunt work, which I also did.

Directly after college I started working for a small newspaper in New Jersey, which was a very hands on experience. It was a tiny team and we had a lot of pages to fill every day! I had to write eight stories a week about a town that had very little going on in the way of news. To create stories I would drive around town looking for things going on, and stalk the phone book, then Google names of residents to find interesting stories. This experience really tested my creativity and I met some incredible people. In fact, the article I’m most proud of writing to this day came to fruition during my years at the paper. It was about a local girl named Maggie Doyne, who had just graduated from high school, and afterwards moved to Nepal. During her time there she witnessed a lot of poverty and saw so many children in need, so decided to open an orphanage on her own. Maggie was looking for fundraising to complete building her children’s home, and from my article she was able to get more donations and has since started a school. She is still extremely inspiring to me.

My next job took me to New York City, a place I always felt I wanted to live. A good piece of advice to share, which I learned from my first interview at Condé Nast, is how important it is to be open to saying ‘yes.’ I met with a recruiter who asked what I was interested in as far as a job. I told her fashion and beauty and would love to work for a magazine like Vogue. She then asked if I would be interested in doing something less glamorous and covering the trade side of the industry, as opposed to the consumer side. I didn’t know what that meant at all. But, I said ‘Yes, I’ll do anything, I just want to be here!” She told me later that this was a huge reason I was hired. If I had been closed off to the idea, she wouldn’t have remembered me six months afterwards when a job as an Editorial Assistant for Jenny Fine, the Editor-in-Chief of Beauty Inc, opened up.

Jenny was the biggest influence in my entire career as far as writing goes. She demanded excellence and really pushed me to be better. In my first few years I questioned my abilities, and there was a lot of hard work. I emerged from that experience able to edit my own articles, which is one of the biggest lessons in journalism. A few years later when a job became available at Condé to be a market editor, Jenny recommended me for it. Those experiences had its challenges and there was self-doubt, but ultimately it was all worth it. New York is a tough place, as is editorial, but I put in the time and the work and it paid of. Working as an editor at Women’s Wear Daily was amazing, and I worked under Pete Born, who is a true journalistic legend, not to mention the kindest boss I ever had.

When I was at Women’s Wear Daily I interviewed the president of GLOSSYBOX, Elian Pres-Gurwits. He was head of the U.S. business at the age of 26 and spoke passionately about his company and his life experiences, including living and working all over the world. I was intrigued. At this time, GLOSSYBOX had a job opening and Elian thought that I had the right personality and background, so he offered me the position. Leaving editorial was tough because I really worked hard for it. I put in almost 10 years to be an editor, but I felt that it was time to stretch myself and it was time to say ‘yes’ again to something different. I didn’t know a lot about business, and I figured it was a good opportunity to push myself, travel and learn the ins and outs of the beauty industry.

CJ: What an amazing journey. When writing an article as a journalist, what is your process from start to finish?

BS: I first start by aggregating everything I know I need for the story and I put it all in one place. Then I go through and eliminate what’s repetitive or uninteresting, and come up with an overall feeling and theme for how I want people to feel about it. For example, with the Maggie Doyne piece, I wanted to highlight how young she was, and how in a blink of an eye, made the decision to help complete strangers by opening an orphanage.

I always want to get to the root of the story. Whenever I write anything, it’s important to me that I understand it 100 percent. I don’t like writing anything I don’t completely comprehend because I know it won’t translate to the reader. I want people to feel what I felt, so I have to understand my interview subject. I’ve interviewed amazing people, and for me it’s about getting to the essence of the person. I want to provide insight from my perspective. I live by the motto, “Show don’t tell.” Create an emotional experience for the reader.

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CJ: Great advice! You are now Head of Content and Communications at GLOSSYBOX. What does your role entail?

BS: I handle all of our written assets that accompany each monthly box, as well as communications internally and public relations. I also oversee our partnerships.

In order to grow the business, I leverage existing relationships, and luckily I have a lot of relationships with people who I’ve met from the beauty industry. I try to pick a lot of people’s brains, because I know that I don’t have all of the answers. I like to ask my friends who work in various sectors for their expertise. All-in-all, I approach partnerships the way I approach journalism; aggregation and dividing and conquering. Since we have such a small team at GLOSSYBOX North America, my idea can become a new box in a matter of months. It’s such a rewarding experience.

CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in working as a journalist or in the beauty industry?

BS: Be a sponge and be humble. Always listen. Model yourself after the people you want to be like. There’s a great word called propinquity, and it means that what you’re around you feed off of and become. You don’t have to be physically there, which does help, because it can also happen through your mindset. If you’re in the mindset of wanting to be a journalist and you start reading writers you admire, you’re going to get better and start writing in a more elevated way.

It’s also important to gather different perspectives so you can find your own way. You don’t want to imitate one person. When I reflect on my journalism career, I think back on a professor I had in college or a book I read or my first editor, and realize I incorporate elements of each into what I do now. Another piece of advice would be: don’t be afraid of hard work. Case-in-point, for my first internship at ABC’s 20/20 I commuted into New York City from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania three days a week, first thing in the morning on a train that took three hours. I made sure that no matter how exhausted I was from a full workload as well as an internship, I kept smile on my face and said ‘yes’ to everything I was asked. If I hadn’t been there and said ‘yes,’ I wouldn’t have had the opportunity for networking and eventually finding a job. Always remember, there’s no substitute for hard work.

Also, don’t be distracted. I can always tell if an intern is distracted, checking social media. It makes a difference when an intern is completely present. Quiet the distractions. Give 100%. Facebook will be there when you’re done with work.

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CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

BS: Self-doubt. Insecurity has always been my issue. I’m not the kind of person who thinks I’m the best. That’s just my natural thing – I’m very hard on myself. That’s something I’m working on, and I haven’t figured it out just yet and it is definitely a work in progress. Part of my role here means being confident and trusting myself. Sometimes I might overthink and over-analyze, and this is something that can make corporate growth more difficult. It’s important to remember that everyone has their own unique perspective and special qualities, which make them an asset.

CJ: What are your favorite books?

BS: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Awareness by Anthony De Mello, and On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about?

BS: One thing recently that I’ve been reading about that makes me angry is disrespect for women. I’m such a supporter of women and hate seeing when they are marginalized. Another thing that gets under my skin is prejudice and blind hate. People you can’t reason with and people who twist religion to support hate – that drives me crazy.

I’m also hugely into animals. I have a cat at home who I found on the street. She was two weeks old when I found her and she was in really bad shape. I was on my way to Fashion Week and I saw her – she looked like a dirty little rat. I took her to an animal hospital on my way to a fashion show, picked her up after, and I’ve had her ever since! I honestly love all animals and often times wish I could open a farm and adopt every unwanted dog and cat in the world.

CJ: What is a memorable travel experience that you’ve had?

BS: When I first got hired at GLOSSYBOX I went to Berlin to meet the whole team. I spent a few days after by myself exploring the city. It was actually really cool to travel somewhere by myself. I wrote down everything I saw. As amazing as it was I felt a bit isolated because I didn’t know anyone in the country. Traveling solo was something I’ve never done. I decided to spend ta full day exploring and found myself at the Pergamon Museum that has unbelievable relics from antiquity, including the Pergamon Altar, a massive frieze built during the 2nd century BC. I came alive that day at the museum. The rest of the trip was amazing, and it was because I allowed myself to enjoy the moment rather than be stressed.

CJ: Any travel tips?

BS: I created a book that I took on every spring break and all vacations with my friends. I traveled with the same friends for college spring break all four years. We wrote down all the funny things we said and did, and now it’s this epic book with all these different time periods. All of the hilarity is captured in this book and nothing is forgotten.

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

BS: I have a creative brain so organization and time management don’t come naturally. I have to proactively work on it. I used to just write notes on everything, and would have post its everywhere with random notes to myself. I’ve learned to compile where I keep my notes and calendar so everything is in once place.

As far as time management, I think of the day in blocks. The morning is a time to connect with the team in Germany. After lunch I do my follow-up calls, and then late afternoon is my creative time for partnership outreach. Overall there are certain things I know I have to do, but I put it in my schedule at a time when I know I can get it cranked out. I manage my time based on what’s logical and then frame my day around when the best time to do what is. I have to force myself to organize. I’m a creature of chaos.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

BS: First of all, start a skin care regimen. Also, I would tell myself to lighten up a little and that things that seem like huge deals now have a way of working out in the end. I spent a lot of my twenties very stressed about where I was going to be in life and what I was going to do. It would’ve been nice to trust in myself more and realize even if something goes wrong, there is always something to learn from it.

I also wish I would’ve studied abroad during college. I started a magazine and worked on the newspaper and was part of choir, and I felt like I had so much to do. I could’ve put it aside and done one less major or minor. The experience would have been more worth it. I now realize the power of travel and seeing new cultures and wish I could have experienced it when I was younger. I was a little overambitious in some ways and a little afraid in other ways.

Belisa Silva Qs

Images by Belisa Silva

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Saying that we are fans of Darling Magazine would be a major understatement. We are huge fans – we love how real it is, the topics covered, and the positivity expressed on each and every page. Did you know that Darling Magazine never uses Photoshop to alter women’s faces or bodies. Pretty cool. Not only is the magazine a joy to read, but the Darling website provides a dose of daily happiness and articles that are deeply relatable.

When you’re on the Darling website, Nicole Ziza Bauer is the one curating everything you see, such as writers, articles, ads, and collaborations. So you can thank her when you read an article that makes you reflect on what’s important in everyday life. Though Nicole now spends her time storytelling, her time used to be spent in labs and conducting medical research. Nicole originally pursued a career in the medical field, she stepped back and thought hard about what she wanted to do, not what she should do. This reflection brought her to a new, more creative path.

Nicole is a world traveler, an avid list-maker, and someone who is true to herself, and her journey will inspire you to follow your heart and to not worry if you don’t have everything already figured out (who really does anyway?).

Name: Nicole Ziza Bauer
Education: B.A. in Zoology and Molecular Biology from Miami University
Follow: NicoleZizaBauer.com / Darling Magazine

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Nicole Ziza Bauer: Enjoying it, savoring it, not being in a rush to grow out of it.

CJ: You majored in Zoology and Molecular Biology at Miami University. How did you decide what to study?

NZB: I planned on going to medical school after graduation, so I wanted to major in something that would best prepare me for what lay ahead.

CJ: After college you were a Staff Research Associate at UCLA Medical Center researching how the heart works. What was this experience like working in a lab and conducting research?

NZB: Working in the lab was a great transition from college life to the “real” world, since I was still in an academic environment very similar to where I had spent the last four years. It was challenging but also inspiring; I got to be on the very edge of research that could potentially save lives. Though there was a lot of monotony and repetition in the lab, each day also held the potential of unlocking something that nobody had ever seen or understood before. That was really motivating.

CJ: After preparing for medical school and doing post-grad research, you switched career paths and went into a career of storytelling, writing, and creating. Before Darling Magazine, you were a Purchasing Agent and Event Coordinator. What inspired this change of heart and how did you deal with the stress of making this transition?

NZB: I wish I could say it was one simple thing that sparked the change, but nothing in life is ever that black or white. While I was excited about medical school and worked really hard to get accepted into one, I also kept a strong inner dialogue after college and that prompted me to truly evaluate where I saw my life headed and if there were other things I might want to do instead of becoming a physician.

I had always been a creative child and writing and art brought me a lot of joy. When I stepped back from what I thought I “should” do in order to appear successful in the eyes of others and slowly started asking myself what I wanted to do, the answer came into focus. From there I started looking for opportunities that would better enable me to learn and grow creatively.

Nicole and Horse

CJ: How were you able to block out the external voices and follow your internal compass?

NZB: Trusting that I didn’t have to have it all figured out, or have a clear idea of my career path once I graduated helped to free me from the stress surrounding the decision. I had to (and still do) remind myself that taking things one step at a time is OK. Our character and appreciation of life is built in those tiny steps. Thankfully, I had a few close friends that I could lean on when I was deciding whether or not to go medical school who guided me out of the fog a bit. Having those trusted sources to remind you of your worth, your convictions and your big dreams is so, so important.

CJ: What advice would you give a young adult who might be at a “passion crossroads” in his or her life? 

NZB: I would say: Hi, can I give you a hug? Because you are completely normal!

College is great for so many things, but a lot of times it can also lead us into a false belief that it’s the only time in life to figure things out or decide our future. That’s simply not true. If you are conflicted over what you’re pursuing right now, ask yourself some tough questions: Why did you choose the road you’re on in the first place? Whose applause are you seeking? Do you want out because you’re afraid of hard (sometimes tedious) work? Or are you simply realizing that there might be other avenues out there that you’d enjoy and want to explore?

Our early to mid-20s grant us many opportunities for making decisions and learning how to make independent choices. It’s really important that we look at crossroads or changes of heart not as failures, but as chances to better understand how we’ve been made, who we are, and what our unique role in the world should be.

CJ: You are now the Online Managing Editor at Darling Magazine, a guide to “the art of being a woman.” What does your role as Online Managing Editor entail? What do your daily tasks look like?

NZB: As online editor I’m responsible for all the website, blog, and advertising content that Darling develops. This involves creating and maintaining an editorial calendar (so that our site always has new material), finding and communicating with writers, and generating article ideas, and sometimes even writing myself. My daily tasks include lots of emails, reading and editing articles, chatting with different Darling staffers, and maybe a meeting or a phone call with a brand about potential collaborations.

Nicole ZB

CJ: You curate content, writers, ads, and collaborations on the Darling website. How do you go about narrowing down content so it fits the Darling mission, and how do you establish collaborations?

NZB: Great question! Knowing what you stand for is key to developing a powerful brand. Therefore, with Darling I’m constantly evaluating if something will serve to reinforce our mission statement or if it’ll conflict with it. I try to put myself in the position of a reader and ask: What would they take away from this article? Would they be more inspired to own the things our mission statement says about them, or less? The same goes for working with other writers and brands. We have to be on the same page, working together for that same common goal, rather than just using one another for increased status or popularity.

CJ: We loved your inspiring article ‘The Myths of Wanderlust’ – how has traveling influenced you, and is there a particular trip you have taken that stands out in your mind?

NZB: Thank you! Traveling is definitely something that I choose to prioritize, as it helps to keep my problems small and sense of wonder and world awareness large.

Probably my favorite adventure to date was the month I spent backpacking around Italy with my husband. My grandmother was Sicilian, so I’ve loved everything Italy since childhood. I studied the language a bit in college and then spent a few weeks in Rome after graduating, but getting to go off the grid around the entire country (for a whole month) felt like a dream. It was like coming home.

Darling Mag

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

NZB: I am an avid list-maker. Every thought, idea, or task that I need to accomplish gets written down, that way I immediately get it out of my head and onto a tangible piece of paper. From there, I look at my week’s agenda and decide when I can schedule time to complete the most pressing tasks. I never go anywhere without my giant, spiral-bound notebook calendar.

CJ: When you are feeling overwhelmed or having a bad day, how do you like to unwind or reset?

NZB: It depends. Sometimes I just need to say a quick prayer, vent to my husband or call my best friend. Other times getting outside and taking my dogs on a walk or going for a hike will help. And when all else fails … I’ll watch old Netflix episodes of Murder, She Wrote. JB Fletcher can solve anything.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

NZB: I love animals, so I’m a huge advocate of pet adoption. Not only can we provide an animal with a safe and loving home, but we in turn learn compassion when we care for things smaller and less consequential than us. Darling also has a partnership with IJM, of which I am a huge fan. They have such a comprehensive model for bringing justice and eradicating sex trafficking across the globe. It’s very impressive and inspiring.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

NZB: Lately I’ve been trying to get by with less, get rid of more, and curb the mindless spending that’s all too easy to fall into, especially after trolling blogs or social media. In the last few months I’ve donated about five bags of clothing, which has been really eye-opening to consider, especially when I find myself “needing” something new. Most likely, I don’t.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

NZB: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

NZB: Study abroad. Also, take a deep breath; this is just the beginning.

Nicole ZB Qs

 

Images by Emily Blake and Nicole Ziza Bauer

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we met food editor Laura Shunk for her Professional Spotlight, it was over breakfast (naturally). While enjoying eggs and toast, we discussed studying abroad, being a food writer, and being on the board of New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Having studied International Relations at Claremont McKenna College, Laura is smart, thoughtful, and passionate about her career and involvements. We love Laura’s outlook about post-college years being a skill gathering time, and if you’re a student, take notes on the top three traits she looks for in interns. For a more in-depth look at Laura’s life, great advice, and to learn how she got to where she is today, read on!

Name: Laura Shunk
Age: 28
Education: International Relations major at Claremont McKenna College
Follow: Fork in the Road – Village Voice / Twitter / New York City Coalition Against Hunger

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Laura Shunk: I don’t know if there’s one good way to describe it or way to answer that. I think about how to seize any time in your life and it’s engaging in things that you care about and you feel invested in for whatever reason, whether that’s because you’re helping a cause you’re interested in or enriching your own life and knowledge and setting yourself up for future success.

CJ: What did you major in at Claremont McKenna College and how did you determine what to study?

LS: I was an International Relations major. Before I was an International Relations major, I was an Economics major, a Government major, a Literature major, a Biology major – I probably changed my major about 10 times. I ultimately settled on International Relations because it was the only major that required you to study abroad and I really wanted to have the opportunity to do that. It ended up being a great major.

CJ: Where did you study abroad and what was your big takeaway?

LS: I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I learned Spanish, so that was a very tangible takeaway. I spoke it fluently after that. Study abroad isn’t necessarily about the classes you take or what you study, it’s more about seeing a different culture. I studied development theory in college and I had never seen it applied in real life, and I spent the summers in parts of Latin America in poor communities, but I had never understood what it meant to be in a developing country and Argentina put such a vivid experience to that. A broader understanding of the world and understanding that other places in the world aren’t just like here and that people are great everywhere.

CJ: Are you happy you went out-of-state for college?

LS: Yes, I highly recommend it. My parents told me when I was getting ready to go to college, “Go out of state because you can always come back.” That was the best advice anyone ever gave me.

CJ: Where did you intern and how did you go about securing those internships?

LS: My only internship was at Chipotle, which I had throughout college, in their corporation headquarters. I was part of the culture and language program, so we were writing and managing programs that helped employees learn English, which helps them advance in restaurants. It was an amazing internship, it ended up being so hands-on and I secured it by working my network. I knew I wanted to do something that used my Spanish and do something in the business world and I was interested in food, but I wasn’t quite sure how to put the two together. I knew people at Chipotle and asked about internships and they pointed me to the right place.

CJ: You are a Food Editor at Village Voice Media. What does being a Food Editor mean?

LS: On a job responsibility level, I manage the division of a section, I assign stories, I edit stories, and I keep the online part of the food coverage of the Voice and the paper moving in the direction I think it should be moving.

CJ: What makes a good food writer? Is it traveling and eating, or is it eating a lot?

LS: It can be a lot of things. There are a lot of different kinds of food writers. The best food writers have a unique angle of some sort. They could have traveled and bring a cultural awareness to the food that they’re eating or writing about. They could really love the human story behind foods. They could love the environmental factors or the experience. There are a lot of ways to be a food writer.

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CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

LS: I wake up, drink a lot of coffee, spend the first four hours of my day editing and writing and getting our blog set for the day, and then I spend the second half of my day interviewing, talking to people, strategizing, and transcribing. There is also a lot of eating involved. I am out to dinner every night and out to lunch a lot. Sometimes I’ll have two dinners.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be a Food Editor do now to set themselves up for success?

LS: Write. That would be the first thing. Writing is a skill that no matter how naturally good at it you are, you get better as you do it more. And find a good editor because that helps a ton. Start a blog. With the direction media is going, get good at social media, photography, and film. In that same vein, a good food writer has a unique angle – learn something in the food world better than anyone else knows it and you’ll be the go-to person for that topic.

CJ: In addition to being a Food Editor, you are active with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. How are you involved and why do you believe in their mission?

LS: I sit on the board, which means we meet and hear about the day-to-day of the organization, we help with fundraising, and we help with higher level strategy decisions. The board provides overall strategic direction and fundraising help.

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger works with and on behalf of food pantries around New York. Instead of just helping soup kitchens fulfill their duty, we work on changing the rules of the system. We are focused on fixing the problem as opposed to just putting a Band-Aid on it. Being in the food industry, fixing the problem is important to me.

CJ: If you were hiring an intern, what are the top three traits that you would look for?

LS: Eagerness. The best intern I had was eager and never said no. That’s a big one. A certain level of maturity and self-awareness. Be able to take direction and accept that somebody might have something to teach you. Communication is also important, especially today, you’ve got to be a good communicator.

CJ: You’ve been out of school for seven years. How did you transition from college life to “the real world?”

LS: I approached post-college as a skill gathering time. I looked at it as a time to do a lot of different things, and I ignored people around me telling me I had to have a career where I was moving up. I didn’t buy it. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but it worked out on my end. Being flexible is important. I moved from L.A. to Denver, went to New York, back to Denver, and then back to New York. Some years were harder than others. The year I quit my consulting job and was working for a quarter of the salary waiting tables I would think, what did I do? That’s when I would think that I wasn’t transitioning well post-college. But it’s all temporary and things work out. If I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.

CJ: What activities were you involved in throughout high school and college? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?

LS: In high school, I was the editor-in-chief of the yearbook, I was on the mock trial team, I was on the golf team – but I’m pretty sure I only did that to get out of gym – and I was a girl scout. That was meaningful not so much from the organizational perspective, but because I did a lot of community service, which was very rewarding and momentous.

In college, I did different things such as Model EU and a foreign affairs club because I got to travel. At Claremont McKenna, I helped design a curriculum that helped staff, such as janitors, to learn English. We would tutor them one-on-one, and that was rewarding.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life – at the office and/or during your down/personal time?

LS: I think a lot about making an impact. Going back to what I said about seizing your youth, feeling engaged is huge. I worked a lot of jobs where I didn’t feel engaged. I feel engaged now and I feel compelled to continue to dig in and I want to feel that way forever about what I’m doing. I’d like to do something that impacts my community in a positive way.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

LS: Recently: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

CJ: Who is your role model?

LS: I’m pretty lucky to have a lot of role models. I had an editor in Denver who I would consider a role model. Still one of the greatest editors I’ve ever worked with. She taught me a lot about the business, and she is one of those people whose impact on me is something I hope to have on others.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

LS: Don’t worry about it when you feel uncomfortable. You’re going to have times where you are unsure if you can pay a bill or if you’re going to be fired. These things will happen and it is part of it and it is fine and it usually works out. Try to enjoy it and try not to get caught up in others telling you what to do or how to feel.

Professional SpotlightSkillsSpotlight

When it comes to creating awesome books for kids, Kate Olesin, Editor at National Geographic Kids Books, knows exactly what she’s doing. Incredibly talented and creative, Kate started her career with National Geographic as an intern in college. When Kate graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2009, she secured a position as an Editorial Assistant. Over the years, Kate has quickly worked her way up to Editor (and she’s only 27!). Kate’s passion for her work is obvious when she talks about the various types of books she works on, her day-to-day duties, and her love for reading and inspiring kids.

Outside of the NG office, Kate loves to stay active by running, hiking, and gardening. Work life balance is important to Kate, and seeing how she juggles managing a team and 10 projects at a time, having some downtime is very necessary. For all you writers and editors, Kate has invaluable advice to share about how she time manages, seeks mentors, how to set yourself up for success, and what traits make a rockstar intern.

Name: Kate Olesin
Age: 27
Education: B.A. in English and History from University of Massachusetts Amherst
Follow: Twitter / LinkedIn

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Kate Olesin: Young people are in a really good spot, especially right now, where many companies and professionals are looking for young, cheap, and really smart people. Our youth today are the whole package. They are really taking the time to go after their dream jobs and doing more than they’ve ever done before. Seizing your youth means taking advantage of the skills you already have. You are young, you are smart, and you have a larger breadth of knowledge of this changing world than a lot of other people who are already established in their careers. Young people today are so ambitious and smart and so many of them are just good go-getters.

CJ: You majored in English and History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. How did you determine what to study?

KO: I was the first one of my siblings to go to college, and it was funny because when I applied to school, I went to my high school guidance counselor’s office because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So, I picked up the biggest book in the office and it was the UMass Amherst book. Then when I got to Amherst, I ended up being placed in an English talent advancement program, and I really loved my classes and all of the people and students I was living with — all English majors. I decided to pursue book publishing pretty early on because of my lifelong love of reading. English really prepared me with the critical thinking skills that I use every day in my job.

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CJ: What was your first job out of college?

KO: Getting my first job was a mix of good timing and luck. I actually interned in the children’s books division of National Geographic right after my freshman year of college. I graduated in 2009 in the worst economy ever and I was terrified. Hiring in the book industry was stagnant and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had applied to publishing companies all over the country as well as some think tanks with zero response. But after completing my NG internship, I knew Washington D.C. was really the city I wanted to be in. So, I looked on National Geographic’s website and knew that they had a hiring freeze going on, but an entry-level position was open in my old division. It was perfect, and everybody I worked with as an intern was still there!

So, I started as an Editorial Assistant at National Geographic after college. I worked on book projects, did the administrative filing and copying, and really threw myself into it. After two years, I became an Assistant Editor. After about 10 months, I was then promoted to Associate Editor, and as of this past February, I am now an Editor. What’s nice about my group is that there is a clear career path and lots of extremely helpful mentorship along the way.

CJ: What sparked your interest in publishing?

KO: I’ve always loved books and I’ve always been a big reader. Ever since I was a kid I tore through children’s books. I grew up within walking distance of my local library, so I was constantly checking out books. But, children’s books are still what I love to read today. I love reading young adult novels. I do like reading adult books, as well.

For a time, I focused on journalism and reporting at my college newspaper and through internships. I did really like being a reporter. It’s demanding and rigorous, but I found that I really wanted to work with books and with children somehow. The nice thing about working at National Geographic, which is such a mission-driven organization, is that the books are non-fiction. We are telling true stories to kids who want to hear them and just maybe they’ll learn something from it. It’s really inspiring.

I wanted to work for a company that would uphold strong educational values, and I think I found one.

CJ: You are currently an Editor at National Geographic Kids. What are your roles as Editor?

KO: A lot of people assume that editors just focus on nitpicky copy editing things. Though I do a little of that, it’s not so much like my time is spent identifying what a past participle is. I do a lot more project management work. My job involves top of the line thinking and wrangling the entire team to make sure all of the pieces come together to form a complete product.

Each editor also acquires titles, and to do that we really look broadly at what the rest of the market is doing. We see what’s doing well, what’s not doing well, and what might fit into our publishing plan. Then we come up with ideas. For instance, I’ve done a couple of books relating to online games, another about George Washington, and another about dog communication. We take popular or core curriculum topics and their characters and tie in real-world information. So, something like taking an exciting game and pairing it with non-fiction information is a way to get kids hooked and inspire a love of reading and the real world.

There’s a lot of development that we do. We have three types of books: gift books, kid-driven books, and library review driven books. Our core age range is 8-12 years old. We also do preschool books and tween books for kids who are 10-years-old and up. So we try and come up with titles that fit into those molds or on topics that they care about.

When it all comes together, I hire authors, we work with our designers and our team of photo editors. Then it just goes from there. I do the text editing and reading through to make sure the narrative and big picture makes sense.

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CJ: What is the process for creating a children’s book?

KO: It’s a long process. It usually takes about a year. Printing and shipping the books takes a long time. In the publishing industry your books have to be ready months before they go on sale so all of the major reviewers can review your book. That’s at least six months of time right there.

In our division we’re pretty unique in that we do a lot of in-house development. At National Geographic Kids, we have honed in on what kids want to read and what nonfiction content they are interested in. We take our market research and talk to our panel of about 4,000 kids about what they want to see. We call them our “kid bosses” and they’re very honest with us. When we find a topic that clicks, we get to work.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from being an editor?

KO: The importance of relationship building and how to maintain those relationships is one of the big lessons I’ve learned. Having connections and positive relationships with everyone I encounter at my job is really important, whether it’s a big-time author or someone I work with only once.

It’s also been interesting looking at the bigger picture instead of just having tunnel vision and focusing on your own work. Seeing how your book might fit into the broader picture of a marketing plan or a digital plan or anything else is helpful. I’ve learned to see how I can contribute in other ways with great ideas.

CJ: What is the best part about being an editor? The most challenging part?

KO: The best part is physically holding that book you worked so hard on in your hand when it comes off press. All of the photos are high-resolution and the paper is beautiful. Most of our books have a masthead in the back, and seeing your name printed is really nice.

I’m the head of my team for every book I work on. Being in charge of creating a product for children and making sure that it’s wonderful and inspiring is so thrilling. It’s something I never would have imagined that I’d get to do at 27.

The most challenging part is the deadlines. We have a lot of work to do here. Making sure the project keeps moving forward is sometimes a puzzle. It’s sometimes easy to leave projects on the back-burner. I am working on approximately 10 different books right now that are all in different stages. Juggling all of the different pieces can be challenging.

CJ: How do you time manage?

KO: I do a lot of things electronically and I use a lot of to-do lists. We have a couple of project management programs here. And over the past five years, I’ve learned to plan ahead as much as I possibly can and I’ve become a little more firm. It’s easy for a young person to be a little more lenient, but sometimes you have to crack the whip. Not all of the time, and certainly people get busy, but that’s just the nature of working in a time sensitive environment.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

KO: When I’m at the office, I read, read, read. Our CEO has a saying that “every day matters” which I think I’ve taken to heart at work and outside of the office. I’ve been trying to focus on a lot of work life balance, which I think is very important. It’s hard to do when you’re a young person just starting out in your career. So, I really try to get my work done for the day, go home, go for a run, make my dinner, and relax. If I have to finish things up at home, I will.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be an editor do to set themselves up for success?

KO: Do as many writing projects as you can. I’ve hired interns and young people to work for me, and the first thing I look for is a well-written cover letter and involvement in writing somehow. It can be for your school newspaper or your own blog or a review site. Good writing skills are a valuable asset. I also like to see young people who are willing to do anything and just throw themselves into any task with a positive attitude.

When I first started working at National Geographic, I did a bunch of filing and copying. Even though that sounds boring, I made it a fun learning experience by reading through every piece of paperwork I had to file and copy so I understood what was happening. If I had questions, I’d ask. I learned our entire filing system and reorganized it for efficiency in two weeks. All of this, which sounds like grunt work, gave me a serious advantage in the end and I was able to understand our administrative process very quickly. Anything that you do can be a learning experience, no matter how menial you feel the task is.

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CJ: When you were an Editorial Assistant and as an Assistant Editor, you hired, supervised, and evaluated editorial interns. What traits make a rockstar intern?

KO: An outgoing personality. A lot of times our interns will have to make calls or talk to experts to verify information. They need to not be afraid to pick up the phone to make a call or ask questions to find the answer.

It’s so hard when people don’t know what they’re doing but won’t ask questions. When someone sits there and doesn’t know what to do, the work doesn’t get done. Questions are never dumb. I think a lot of students feel silly when they ask questions, but they really shouldn’t. Questions are a really important part of the learning experience.

CJ: When you aren’t editing children’s books, how do you like to spend your time?

KO: I’ve started running. I’ve been doing that for about six months. It’s important for people to know that when you start working at a demanding job, it is hard to get active. I think it’s important to stay active because it gives me extra energy. I like to hike, garden and generally be outside. I love to go to the Shenandoah Mountains, which are only a couple of hours away. In D.C. there are free museums so there are always awesome things to do.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

KO: I’ve always enjoyed being a mentor and helping people see the best parts of themselves. I like to inspire ambition in people. Especially working at this organization where our mission is to “inspire people to care about the planet,” that’s something that really drives me. I like knowing that every day when I come into work, I’m helping make a product that can inspire a kid to get outside, or to save lions, or to just love reading.

CJ: How do you go about finding a mentor?

KO: In college I was a peer mentor and resident assistant. Here I try to develop relationships with the people I work with. To be able to go up to them and ask for their opinion about a sentence’s structure, how I might respond to a delicate situation, or for help with a project, is so helpful.

I am a person who loves having people as sounding boards for ideas and questions. Part of it is to feel validated in my own decision-making, but the other part is just to work out the problem. Developing those relationships has been really important. Whether it’s with people here or with authors I work with, it’s a learning experience and I do love to learn. You learn from teaching and you learn from the people you teach.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

KO: When I was 20, I had about four jobs in school. Part of it was to make money, and part of it was to inspire my love of learning. I worked at my university press, babysat, in an office, and worked on the weekends at a hotel. I would have told myself to take a slight step back once in a while. Take a hike in the woods or go to the beach. Unplug for an afternoon. Everything doesn’t have to be go-go-go all the time. Today when I take a breath, I appreciate where I am and what I have going for me.

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