In the days before iPhones and internet, while other kids were playing teacher or house, I was reading the newspaper into a tape recorder, “anchoring” my own tv news show.
From the time I was young, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. It never wavered or changed, like other things in my life (such as that dark period before I loved avocados or when I hated wine), I never second guessed this dream.
Enter college. No major change, no shift, no worries. Print journalism was dying and I was told that the probability of anchoring in a large market was small. Still, that didn’t deter me. There was something about communication- pure and simple with your audience- that was innate.
But things changed and sands shifted. Like many journalists, the allure of PR drew me in. It was a semi-regular schedule, semi-regular hours and more pay that my measly producer salary drew. And though I didn’t love it, it taught me well. Through PR, I was introduced to tech. I was still a storyteller and (in theory) the audience was still my main priority.
I found, though, that I increasingly wanted to connect with a brand’s audience in a deeper way- to help build the trust and customer experience. Essentially, I wanted to manage the community. And so, earlier this summer, I jumped at a chance to direct the community for an early stage startup.
It was lean….incredibly so. But almost immediately after accepting, my role shifted completely. And while that’s to be expected to a certain point in the startup world, it became something that I didn’t recognize for a vision I didn’t understand. But nonetheless, there were opportunities to learn everyday.
We were building everything on our own. The messaging, the voice, the experience. It was all on us. And these things I loved. I loved conducting a grassroots study to figure out how people perceive us and our website. I loved figuring out what people liked and what they hated and why. I don’t think I realized I was doing user experience. But what I realized is that I really, really liked it.
And so a few weeks ago, when I received word that funding wasn’t going as expected and that wasn’t any money to pay me…well, I guess you could say that it was my first taste of the not so glamorous world of startups. They’re not all the 1% success stories. Some crash and burn. And while it hurts, it can also be a chance for a new chapter (“One door closes” and all that jazz….).
So on November 24th, I began a new journey, studying UX at Tradecraft, under the visionary Kate Rutter.
In a way, my childhood passion has come full circle. When I was a journalist, the audience was my main focus. It mattered most that I understood my audience and how to communicate with them. In critical times, if I did not understand them, I would fail as a communicator.
The audience- the user- will continue to be my main focus. I have a lot to learn but between you and me, I haven’t been this excited since I was a kid, reading articles from the Picayune Item into my tape recorder. So raise your glass with me. Here’s to a new journey.