CUA's Class of 2011: Lauren Maffeo

Lauren Maffeo graduated CUA with a BA in Media Studies in 2011. She reached out to Her Campus CUA, and after speaking with Lauren we discovered that she is quite an accomplished woman who can offer fellow CUA students some valuable advice!

What changes have you seen in CUA/Brookland since you graduated?

It blows my mind how much Brookland has changed. I only graduated 4 years ago, but the neighborhood is unrecognizable. When I was at CUA, the Barnes & Noble was “South Side,” where most freshmen lived. And there was no Brookland Pint or Busboys and Poets!

How did you enjoy your time at CUA? Would you change anything?

I had a great time at CUA. My goal in high school was to attend college in a large city on the East Coast. I got a feeling on my tour of Catholic that I didn’t get on any of the others. I can’t describe that feeling except to say that I felt happy -- like I had found what I was looking for.

I did wish that CUA was bigger at times. By the end, it can feel like you’ve met everyone and are doing the same things on repeat. But I wanted a liberal arts school in the heart of a big east coast city. And I got my wish at CUA. 

At Cardinal Weekend 2014

What led you to The London School of Economics and Political Science? Did you plan on furthering your education when you were an undergrad student?

I vaguely considered grad school as a college student. I somehow heard about an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in 5 years -- an idea that appealed to me. But I put it on the back burner until I studied abroad at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, through CUA during my junior year. I loved studying at Oxford so much that it sparked my interest in pursuing postgraduate education in the UK.

Oxford in January 2010 -- the month I first arrived and traveled abroad.

How was the time you spent in London? Did you travel around Europe? If so, what was your favorite city?

I absolutely loved London. I became the person I had always wanted to be in that city. Between attending grad school and starting my career there, I have many roots that I hope will stay strong. I also traveled whenever time and money allowed. London is extremely expensive, so freelancing there was hard. But since so many of my grad school friends were from different European countries, I often had free places to stay on my travels.

I have visited 15 European countries so far (and will visit them all, if possible!). It is hard to pick a favorite, although I especially loved Rome and Prague. I also just returned from visiting Croatia, and Lokrum (an island near Dubrovnik) is the most beautiful place I’ve been so far.

On Lokrum Island in Croatia -- October 2015

What was it like to work as a media consultant for UK startups? Is the work culture in Europe different than the American work culture?

Europe is so diverse that work culture varies between countries. But having worked in the UK, I can say that there are many subtle differences in how Brits and Americans communicate -- especially at work. There are loads of hidden nuances about how to phrase things, talk about yourself, and deliver feedback -- the UK is a much more indirect, implicit culture than the East Coast of the US.

Discerning those differences was a real challenge. But my first jobs as a freelance reporter and media consultant set the stage for my current career. And as my company expands our work internationally, I look forward to applying my experience. The world is more connected than ever. Knowing how to cross cultural boundaries in business is a must-have skill.

You seem extremely accomplished with all of your current titles. How do you balance your busy work schedule with your social life?

Working from home is a huge help. I save anywhere from 5-10 hours a week by not needing to commute. That time quickly adds up and allows me to pursue other projects. My company is based in Silicon Valley, CA -- not DC. So, I connect with the city I live in through other opportunities. That is why I get involved with social, alumni, industry, and volunteering events as often as I can.

Out of all your jobs, what has been your favorite and least favorite?

My favorite job is the one I have now at Aha! We are one of the fastest growing SaaS companies in the country, and I was hired as their 9th employee. Finding the right role/company/manager is extremely hard. I have found myself in several work situations that were poor fits for one or several of those reasons.

But those experiences taught me how to find out what I value. Having worked with several startups in the UK, I learned that I value stability too much to join an early stage startup without benefits, full time employment, or profits/venture capital -- at least not at this stage in my life. That gave me a clearer idea of where I will thrive. And Aha! is the place.

Hiking in Lake Tahoe at the Aha! team onsite in May 2015

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

I learned a long time ago not to map my life out. I’ve done and seen so many more things than I imagined for myself 5 and 10 years ago. I truly never thought that I would study abroad at Oxford, let alone get a master’s from The London School of Economics. And the thought of a career in technology never crossed my mind until I was networked into the industry. Life has been an adventure that way.

So, I don’t have a fixed idea of what my life will look like 5 or 10 years from now. But I do know that my life today allows me to invest in things I value -- travel, exercise, faith, and spending time with loved ones around the country and the world -- all without sacrificing my career growth. In 5 and 10 years, I hope I’ll be growing in all of these areas.

With Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after a lecture at LSE in December 2011

How did you get involved with the CUA Business school mentor program?

My friend’s boyfriend helps run the mentor program and reached out on LinkedIn to ask if I was interested. The program is still very new, but there’s a lot of interest from mentors and mentees alike. Careers often look very different than what you first envision; I had no clue in college that my career would take me down this path. So, I’m most excited to show my mentee how many options she has, and introduce her to a new area of marketing -- content.

What is your biggest piece of advice to graduating seniors trying to get a job or apply to grad school for next year?

This is more general college/job prep advice. While I was still at CUA, I was told that if employers have to choose between a 4.0 student with no work experience or a 3.5 student with several internships, the latter will win. I internalized that advice and used it as my baseline. As long as I maintained a 3.5 GPA, I allowed myself to join clubs, take part-time jobs, and pursue internships.

If you graduate from college with several jobs and internships on your resume, you can add them up. You will likely have between 1-3 years of cumulative experience. That means you might be able to bypass entry-level roles that assume no experience.

Where do you currently live in DC? Where are you from?

I live in DC’s Friendship Heights neighborhood, just over the border of Bethesda, Maryland. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, and my parents still live in the house where I was raised.

Now that you’re back in DC, what does your weekend look like?

Weekends usually involve a long run on Saturday mornings, followed by catch-ups with friends. Most of my DC friends live between Woodley Park and Columbia Heights, so I spend a lot of time between Woodley/Dupont/Logan Circle/U Street/CoHi. When I’m not there, I catch up with friends abroad using Skype or FaceTime. I’m also the Communications Coordinator at my church (The Table DC), which meets for services each Sunday night.


My mom and me at the Kennedy Center in August 2015

What are your favorite things to do in the city? Any favorite restaurants?

I love to run, and DC runners are spoiled. We have some of the best races in the US -- I completed 4 US Military races this year, which I loved checking off my bucket list! DC has some of the country’s best museums as well; I love seeing new exhibits at places like the National Gallery of Art and (my favorite) the Newseum. Plus, I’m a big foodie, so meals at Le Diplomate and Barcelona on 14th Street are always a treat.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I’m a dual citizen of the United States and Ireland. My grandmother was from Castlerea, and if you have a natural-born Irish parent or grandparent, you can apply for Irish citizenship. It affords the legal right to live and work anywhere in the European Union without needing visa sponsorship. That is a huge benefit for those who want to live and work abroad. I encourage anyone who thinks they might qualify for dual citizenship to research whether it’s an option for them. It opens a new world of opportunities.

Ready to hit Europe the same day that I ran the Army 10 Miler - October 11, 2015