On October 27th, Penn’s Her Campus chapter hosted a very special virtual event featuring Mandy Velez, the Assistant Managing Editor at The Daily Beast! Velez, who was the 2012-2013 Campus Correspondent of Her Campus at Pitt, sat down with our members for an exclusive Q&A session detailing her impressive career journey, providing helpful tips for various career paths, and discussing the intersection of politics, feminism, and media.
Currently, Velez’s job at The Daily Beast is managing the digital publication’s content, ensuring diversity in the outgoing stories, and overseeing audience development. She started as a Social Media Editor for The Beast – promoting articles, digging into breaking news stories, and building social media engagement on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
- Velez’s Career Journey
Velez’s previous experience working in a full-time social media position at Google helped build valuable skills and contributed to her ongoing professional development. Her biggest advice on building a brand and managing social media is to understand how to process and read analytics — which might sound complex and scary, but is often as simple as counting the number of likes or shares for a post and then using the data to come up with a strategy on how to improve engagement.
In particular, Velez emphasized three essential skills to fuel social media success:
An extremely valuable skill is being able to first read and process information, then translating it into brief, digestible content. Velez highlighted the need to effectively grab people’s attention in a short time frame.
Understanding your audience
If you want to make sure your content is getting the attention it deserves, it is crucial to know your audience: what their likes and dislikes are, how they have engaged with your content in the past, and how to predict their future behavior based on existing insights.
It is equally important to know your own strengths and interests, so you can leverage your individual superpowers (whether that’s editing, community-building, solving complex problems, etc.) and deliver the best results.
- Shaping Your Own Career
A simple, yet powerful, quote sums up Velez’s tips for finding professional success:
“If you love it, you’ll find a way to make it work.”
The first thing students should do to prepare for their early career is to engage deeply with themselves and figure out their interests and passions. The next step is to narrow down what industries they want to focus on. One important tip from Velez was to be bold and creative in gaining experience in the fields you might want to pursue — something that Velez took into consideration throughout her college career by pursuing internships related to digital publishing and writing news pieces.
“I always wanted something under my belt,” Velez explained. “Every choice I made [for my career], I had the future in my mind and everything I did was a building block, a stepping stone for my next step.”
Even if you aren’t sure of what your immediate goals are, it’s always important to keep figuring yourself out. Asking yourself what your superpowers are and what value you can bring to the table can help you evaluate your interests. Velez added that you should be bold and go after various internships since this allows you to see yourself in different positions. Finding what you’re not interested in and what you don’t enjoy doing can also significantly help in planning your career path.
- Politics, Feminism, and Media
The intersection of politics, feminism, and media consistently shows up in the news and makes up a large portion of the discourse within journalism. Velez has written news articles on topics, such as gender in the workplace, as well as smaller stories to advance the conversation around feminism.
“I wanted to write about communities or situations that people didn’t know much about,” Velez said. “I wanted to give a voice to those communities.”
Being drawn to gender-related issues during her career, Velez explained that she is inspired to shed light on lesser-known stories. She acknowledged that using journalism to promote feminism can be a difficult task, but she has found success in taking it one step at a time and finding specific stories to write about. Velez’s top priorities are making sure her stories are valid and crafted to effectively uncover important aspects of women’s lives.
One challenge that she faces when discussing politics or promoting related topics is gaining the trust of her readers. Velez recognized that in the media and publication space, people tend to become very partisan, and their differing perspectives can blur the true message behind written content. However, she seeks readers’ trust by doing her background research and doing her best to tell truthful stories with valid evidence from trusted sources.
Ultimately, it is crucial for digital publications to help readers understand how reporters and platforms produce and distribute their content. Going forward, it’s clear that a key objective is to work toward authentic, accurate reporting to maintain the public values of trustworthiness and validity.
- Looking Ahead
For her closing thoughts, Velez addressed how women, especially women of color, can better ensure they are taken seriously. One strategy she uses to bolster her confidence is to ask herself whether other people would feel afraid to say what she wants to say.
“What’s helped me is giving myself an inner pep talk,” she explained. “It’s okay to be scared, but you are where you are for a reason. You care about your future, and that means you’re incredibly smart and capable. You have a lot to offer and a lot to say.”
Velez concluded by emphasizing once again that students should take time to discover and explore their areas of personal interest. If you don’t know what you want, you can at least figure out what you don’t want by pursuing diverse career paths. It’s okay to run into roadblocks, change your mind, and switch gears. These steps are all part of your growth and progress!
“Follow your passion. If you care enough and love an industry or a skill, you can make everything work around that,” Velez told our members.
Through her words, Velez helped us gain insight and inspiration. Like our guest speaker, you are also capable of having a positive influence on those around you, and you have a lot to offer the world. Finding success is a process full of opportunities to learn valuable information about yourself. On behalf of our Her Campus chapter, we wish you the best on your journey, wherever it takes you!