Name: Mandy Velez
Job Title: Editorial Director/Co-Founder of Revelist
College Name/Major: University of Pittsburgh, English and Communication double major
Twitter Handle: @mandy_velez
Instagram Handle: @mandyvel
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Mandy Velez: I’m the editorial director of news and identity, so there’s no such thing as a typical day in terms of the stories my team and I cover (the upside to news!) but the process is usually the same. I wake up and look for cool stories to cover from home and also approve the pitches my team sends in. Then we all come in and I’ll either get to work writing, editing or packaging stories. Sometimes I do all three at once! I love to write but as editorial director of the news team, I’m in charge of making sure every story is presented in its best form. That means having a strong headline and cover image, but also making sure we’re tackling a story from the angle our audience (18-34-year-old women) care about most! I also approve all freelance pitches that come in before my senior editor starts the edit process.
The rest of my job is a lot of meetings—from planning content around the editorial calendar to helping sales pitch content to brands. I love leading the charge in the kind of articles we’re publishing on the site and also having a say in the behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts of what makes a website successful.
When I’m not doing the above, I answer questions my team has and participate in the fun videos we create every week. I taste-tested pie once—it’s not a bad gig!
What inspired you to co-found Revelist?
MV: My boss at CafeMedia (our parent company) approached me while I worked at my previous job. I had already been covering a lot of social issues, but really wanted to focus more on issues that mattered to women, particularly women my age. So when my boss asked if I’d be on board to start the website completely from scratch I was ecstatic. I had startup culture experience already and loved the idea of creating something completely new. I felt like there was a huge void in the millennial women publishing space when it came to news coverage, and I knew Revelist could fill it. The chance to personally shape the website that I wish I had as a reader sealed the deal for me.
What is the best part of your job?
MV: Selfishly, I love the creative freedom I have to cover the stories within my vertical based on my own interests and also make an impact on people’s lives. We have certain quotas to meet, but if I have something to say, I have the flexibility, and the support, to take the time to write the piece. There’s nothing better than getting a message or email from someone saying, “Thank you for writing that. I’m going through the exact same thing and you made me feel less alone.”
When it comes to the bigger picture, the best part of my job is working with my team writing about issues that matter, period. I got to hire every one of them, and seeing someone go from a resume on a screen to a hard-working, passionate human is such an incredible experience. My team cares about the topics we cover, everything from feminism to LGBT rights and race to space, and there’s nothing greater than working with people who care about those issues as much as you. We launched in February, and we’ve already interviewed Erica Garner, Eric Garner’s daughter, gained a substantial following for our Snapchat show “Brews and the News” and successfully secured partnerships with well-known and high-trafficked websites in the space. These wins are what keep me going, and I wouldn’t be able to have them without my team.
Of course, the Revelist team as a whole is equally as amazing. They make me excited for work every day. They’re also responsible for the third best part of my job, which is the food I get to try after the lifestyle team makes their recipe videos. Deep-fried Oreos, anyone?
What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
MV: I’ve made a lot of mistakes (who hasn’t!), but one happened the year after I had graduated, while working at The Huffington Post. Conference organizers asked me to speak on a panel, and I accepted without asking my editor first. I thought that since I would attend the conference on my own time that I didn’t need to ask permission—I never worked for a company with such a high profile before. But it turns out that I needed to request off to go and I also needed to get approval that I could represent my company at the event. I felt awful, but that mistake taught me that communication with your editor, or boss, on the littlest things (like asking permission) is so important. It shows that you not only respect them to give them the heads up but can save a lot of headaches when it comes to taking off or representing your company.
I’ve also spelled some names wrong, which is a cardinal no-no, but no one is perfect—it happens!
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
MV: I say this at any conference or panel I speak at, but always think ahead. Whether that means asking for a raise to give yourself better negotiating leeway in the future or asking for more responsibilities that align with your dream position so that when it comes along, you have the experience. What you do now is a stepping stone to what you want to do later, so make sure you’re doing all that you can to get where you want to go. I wrote parenting content at HuffPost, but I really wanted to write about women’s or social issues content, so I made sure I did so at my next gig. Ultimately, that experience, in combination with slowly taking on more responsibility (managing a team, creating an editorial strategy) allowed me to be qualified to be where I am today.
How do you deal with criticism in the industry?
MV: Criticism sucks, and I’ll be the first to admit that even constructive criticism gets to me as a perfectionist, but it’s all part of the job. I remind myself that the criticism is to better the website I work for and myself, as a writer, editor and leader. I also remember that most of what I’ve learned—everything from sticking to active verbs when writing to headlines—came from critical feedback. I’m thankful I had tough love from bosses past because that shaped the skills I heavily rely on now. There is a difference between criticism and workplace bullying, though. But anything that makes you a stronger or a more detail-oriented editor, without killing your self-esteem, is always a good thing. Never stop wanting to learn.