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Renita Young (MSJ09)

Renita Young (MSJ09)

Senior markets correspondent at Schwab Network

150x150-renita-young.jpgTell us about your career path. How did you get where you are today?

During my first week in the MSJ program, Medill Professor Joe Mathewson walked into my classroom and provocatively asked, “Wanna cover the biggest story of our lives?” It was January, 2008, and he was talking about a fast-moving downturn that would later be named the Great Recession. The Credit Crunch. The Housing Crisis. The Global Financial Crisis. An all-encompassing firestorm that would teach me the importance of understanding financial markets and how they personally impact me. 

I took an optional 5th quarter for the Global Journalism program and worked with K24-TV, Nairobi, Kenya’s first locally headquartered 24-hour news station, as a business reporter. After graduating, I worked as director of social media for a Chicago-based women’s networking organization, which lead me to other full-time opportunities, freelance gigs and mentors who would help guide my way. My first full-time journalism job was as the founding local editor of AOL’s in Evergreen Park. During that time, I also got my first radio job, as a lead contributor to the Urban Business Roundtable on WVON Radio in Chicago.

Nearly two years later, I took a huge leap of faith to go full-time freelance with the goal of covering global journalism. My first gig was in London as a freelancer for a local website during the 2012 Olympic Games. While I was there, I also managed the Jet Magazine Twitter feed (#JetOlympics2012) and was a contributor on BBC TV and radio stations.

After returning to Chicago, I secured two regular freelance clients: Reuters News and, then owned by NBCUniversal. At the time, the city was approaching the Chicago Teachers Union’s first strike in 25 years, which would fundamentally shift the fight for public education reform in the United States. As 26,000 teachers hit picket lines for seven schooldays, I covered the story for both publications: feeding Reuters string every couple of hours, then going home late at night after the day’s final press conference to write my next-day story for The Grio. I would also cover election night, President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, the highly contested Illinois 2nd Congressional District race, landmark bills from the Illinois State Capitol and other breaking crime, education, weather and political news from the Midwest.

In 2013, I was offered a job as a business reporter for the Pulitzer Prize-winning | The Times Picayune in South Louisiana, where I spent two years covering the redevelopment of downtown Baton Rouge and across the city. It was also the first time I experienced a layoff—back to Chicago I went. Back home, I freelanced for several clients, my main one being Medill, where I interviewed students who aspired to enter the MSJ and IMC programs. I also worked at CBS Chicago as a web producer for both WBBM TV and Radio.

My next few jobs were strictly business. After freelancing for Reuters for a few stints over a few years, I was hired as a National Association of Black Journalists Fellow in Chicago. I got my first taste of the financial markets covering grains commodities. Five months into the fellowship in July 2017, Reuters offered me a full-time position in New York City as a commodities correspondent. Five months into the job, I created #GoldWatch, Reuters TV’s first social media show. I would find all the alternative uses for gold, and host the weekly show, which was blasted out on Reuters’ Twitter handles. Reuters began to sell advertising around it and the show eventually grew to gain more than 250,000 views per weekend. On my end, I used it to boost my personal brand, and created a consistent posting strategy.

Little did I know a Bloomberg recruiter was watching and reached out to me over LinkedIn. I joined Bloomberg TV in January of 2019 as a markets reporter. A little over a year into the job, the pandemic struck, and after opting to work from home, I began pitching commodities updates to TV and radio producers—which landed me a comfy spot in radio, tracking audio from my closet floor daily. During the eight months working from home, I produced a six-episode radio series on reopening the MTA. I also developed Bloomberg Quicktake’s first personal finance show, #YourMoneyStory, in which I’d interview personal finance influencers on the concepts of wealth-building.

Shortly after, I returned to the office and helped launch Quicktake’s news shows as the afternoon anchor. I resumed working with radio, where I launched the Bloomberg Black Business Beat and Bloomberg’s daily Crypto update. I also self-produced daily features during Black History Month and Women’s History Month of important contributions made to society by members of these underrepresented communities. Additionally, my radio feature on the social media influencer pay gap won me two awards: The Association for Women in Communications’ Clarion Award for Radio Feature Story and First Place in Radio Enterprise Reporting for the Journalists Association of New York. The latter was the sole piece nominated in its category. Such an honor!

That brings us to today. I returned to Chicago in October, 2022, after being recruited by TD Ameritrade Network to be a senior markets correspondent.

What are your main responsibilities in your current role?

My main responsibilities include giving live commentary on major stocks and company news through the lens of the investor across the network’s shows. Additionally, I host the daily video-on-demand segment, “The Wrap,” giving an overview of the day’s market coverage. And lastly, I occasionally do longer-form interviews that share thoughtful insights from financial disruptors across different sectors.

How has your Medill training helped you in your career?

The Medill network is strong. No doubt about it. I’ve been able to get an inside peek at many newsrooms through informational interviews with fellow alums early on. That enabled me to develop relationships with newsroom leaders that I still have today.

The Medill Network is always a strong support system at industry conferences and job fairs. I will never forget the day that former Associate Director of Medill Career Services Kimberley Cornwell backed me into a hallway at my first post-grad National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) job fair, so that I could cry off the pressure of finding a job in a recession and going back home with an offer. During my time at Medill, then-Professor, now Dean Charles Whitaker would often give stellar career advice, and post-graduation, would help me navigate job transitions. Professor Lisa Fielding critiqued my numerous resume reels for years, always offering sound advice on improvement. And now-Assistant Dean of Graduate Admissions & Financial Aid Julie Collins has always provided a safe space to discuss anything career-related, gave life advice when needed and gathered my peers and me for alumni dinners at NABJ conventions.

Throughout the years, I’ve been given advance notice of job opportunities, and help in establishing interviews, recommendations to hiring managers, and on-the-job training that wasn’t customary, but necessary for success. Another important thing: Medill gave me my first taste at being a global reporter during the Global Journalism program. That significantly set me apart when I started the job search process and continues to inform my strategy whenever I’m reporting in territories where I haven’t reported before.

How can your industry be more inclusive and representative of society?

The business journalism industry—and the finance sector—can start by intentionally hiring, training, and placing in leadership positions, more talent from underrepresented communities. The marketplace of ideas greatly benefits from a diversity of opinions, practices, and perspectives.

Companies in these industries should consider continuing to offer the same support, mentorship and ongoing training opportunities to these new recruits and their peers throughout their tenure with their respective jobs, while empowering them to take full advantage of the opportunities by clearing space in their schedules for them to do so. Even the best company efforts to provide these things often fall flat because an employee simply does not have the time in their schedule to participate in such opportunities.

Industry leaders can consistently brainstorm how to create a safe space where employees feel comfortable bringing more of themselves to work and speaking up without fear of retaliation.

And lastly, after covering diversity, equity and inclusion in finance, greater business and entrepreneurship for the past few years, some of the most successful examples I’ve seen go a step further than recording their diversity data and publicly releasing it. They attach diversity goals to performance evaluations and company bonuses to hold their leaders who are responsible for making the changes accountable to the companywide goal of increasing diversity.

How have your identities influenced the way you navigate your professional career?

I’ve navigated my career leading with experience, talent, grace and gratitude, and with the consciousness that I am a Black woman in an industry dominated by white men. It’s caused me to feel powerful, proud, like a pioneer. And at different stages, it’s also caused me to tread lightly in new spaces. I questioned whether my hair would be accepted. If my style was on brand. Or if I’d be viewed as “aggressive,” or as “challenging” for any reason. After going through the ups and downs of this collective, today, I approach each decision with my initial stance, infused with the confidence that I belong in the room, and that there are both professional and greater reasons why I’m there. Additionally, I seek to learn the company culture, and make it a goal to regularly communicate with my managers to ensure we are all on the same page when it comes to the work that I’m producing. I also keep track of my success at the company, so that during review times, I can clearly articulate my wins, how I’ve helped enhance the company, and my areas of opportunity.

What advice do you have for someone considering Medill?

Medill is a fantastic place to discover your interests, strengths and develop your weaknesses in journalism. And it’s highly valued by many standards in our industry. So I would strongly suggest anyone coming to Medill to think carefully of how you could develop a niche in journalism, beyond general news. That’ll help you develop a mastery in an area, stand out during the job search process and give you the confidence of knowing that your time, talent and dollars were well worth the decision.

I would also suggest anyone, irrespective of their career choice, keep a running list of the things you naturally love doing, are good at, and that friends, family and others notice in you beyond your career choice. This could include things you do well within your career. Skills that are transferrable into different types of businesses, sectors or other careers. These are your areas of influence and your zones of genius. Your moneymakers. You never know when a costly emergency will strike, a layoff will happen, or when you may want out of a particular employment situation. I’m a strong believer in the reality that one stream of income is too close to none. The goal is to be able to monetize your natural talent to provide you with multiple options, multiple streams of income, a way to pay off debt if you need, or the opportunity to give as you desire.