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Harriet White (MSJ18)

Product Manager, Newsy
Catherine Ngai

Thanks to her hands-on education in Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Medill, journalism masters alumna Harriet White (MSJ18) was well prepared for her career as a product manager at Newsy, a video news network.

In this role, she manages audience experience across web, mobile and cable products. She works closely with the editorial, marketing and business teams to design and build audience-centric news products.

Two key areas White studied at Medill drive her mindset as she assesses what the future of video news looks like.

How has your Medill training helped you in your career so far?

My Medill training gave me the frameworks I needed to succeed in my career. I took some reporting courses; however, given that I pursued a specialization in Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship, my primary classwork was in product development, UX research, design thinking and audience development strategy. This combination gave me not only an in-depth understanding of the journalism industry but also the tools I need to approach innovation in an ever-changing field.

Medill’s experiential approach was what made the real difference in developing these insights and tools. I took innovation courses in San Francisco, visited Tokyo through Medill Explores to study business journalism, and launched a product in NUventon Web + Media that we pitched to venture capitalists.

By the time I graduated, I had a product and media savviness that only years of experience could have cultivated. That savviness gave me the confidence I needed to network and successfully apply to product management positions. As a product manager now, I lean on my Medill innovation training to think strategically about Newsy’s product experience.

How did the Medill network help you in finding your job?

The Medill network was instrumental in my job search. I always felt comfortable reaching out to alums on LinkedIn or at networking events to learn more about the industry and discuss my experience. I had an instant family in the journalism industry that I could lean on. This network was especially helpful when I attended the Online News Association annual conference this past September. Whenever I met a Medill alum who knew I was job hunting, they never hesitated to connect me to a colleague or even help set up an interview at the conference.

What is an experience that stands out from your time at Medill?

My quarter in San Francisco was one of my greatest experiences at Medill. We took product courses at the epicenter of innovation and with professors who had actually developed media products. That exposure was invaluable and gave me an understanding of innovation that cannot be taught in a classroom in Chicago. The Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship specialization director Professor Rich Gordon also organized several visits to places like Google and NerdWallet where we had the opportunity to network with and learn from Medill alumni. It was a truly unique experience that positively affected my budding career in product management and journalism.

What advice do you have for someone considering Medill?

I recently met the former Chicago bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, and he wisely remarked that you only become a strong journalist by actually practicing reporting and writing. You don’t study journalism; you do journalism. Medill is an environment where you are on the ground reporting and writing from day one. That experience is invaluable to not only your development as a journalist but also finding jobs because you graduate with a real portfolio. Medill’s experiential focus is really what differentiates the education.

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