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Mike Mallazzo (BSJ14)

Director of Content at Dynamic Yield
Mike Mallazzo

Why did you choose Medill?

Quite frankly, because it seemed like the most intellectually interesting environment to spend four years in. Media was in existential crisis in 2010, and I figured there had to be some opportunity in that. Also, a generous financial aid package vis-a-vis other schools that accepted me didn't hurt.

What is your fondest memory of your time at Medill?

When one of our large investigations in collaboration with WGN-TV for Medill Watchdog dropped, we rented out part of Buffalo Wild Wings and had the story air on most of the giant TVs in the joint. Booting out Monday Night Football to run a six minute investigative news story on 200-inch screens was about as cool as it gets.

What was the greatest challenge you faced during your Medill career?

The first freshmen year class where you have to report in all different media. I had no idea how to work the camera, edit video or literally do anything. Throw in no reporting experience and it was a really solid baptism by fire. It was fun, though. Because I had no skill whatsoever, I had to get creative in my storytelling approaches to cover for my complete lack of talent, a skill that has served me well today.

Why do you think Medill is unique?

There is work being done at Medill that simply doesn't exist in the traditional journalism or marketing worlds whether it be investigative reporting or research in neuromarketing. And as an 18-, 19-year-old kid, you have the opportunity to be involved in this stuff. Can't imagine that exists elsewhere.

What was your greatest achievement or best experience during the program?

Spending upwards of 18 months chasing down various government agencies from the FBI on down to secure two CDs filled with decades of investigations into a certain Chicago figure who played outside the law. Of course, the bulk of the juicy information arrived after the story was published. In fact, just this week I received a response from the FBI to a request for information I sent as a sophomore at Medill, six years ago.

How has your Medill training helped you in your career so far? Are there skills or lessons you learned at Medill that you still use today?

I think, above all else, it's given me an ability to thrive in situations of uncertainty. Unlike other more academic pursuits, in journalism, you don't control the story. It's shaped by the participation of your sources. It forces you to think on your feet and scrap your best laid plans, a skill that carries over unbelievably well into many disciplines.

What advice do you have for someone who might be looking to pursue a degree in journalism? Or IMC?

Tune out the noise. It's a great career path, and a Medill degree will open up a world of opportunities. Ignore the uncle that uses every Thanksgiving as an opportunity to tell you that newspapers just ain't what they used to be and find mentors in the industry to find your way.

And, of course,  embrace data and the analytical side of your brain. I always found it incredible how many Medill students who had been sitting in a calculus class six months prior tuned out the quantitative. A storyteller who can glean insights from real gnarly datasets is the best asset any newsroom, marketing company or startup can have.

How have you tapped into the Medill network in your career?

My first two jobs out of school came directly from the connections I made at Medill, and I've always turned back to NU first when I look to hire. Have yet to bring any Medill folks into Dynamic Yield, but of course, we're hiring!