This week, Pace University MS in Publishing alum Ayana Underwood spoke to current students about her journey into publishing. A 2020 graduate, Underwood originally believed she would be a chemist but after creating a blog called ComixBawse and working as a contributing writer for both Black Girl Nerds and Women Write About Comics, she knew that her heart belonged in publishing.
While a student of the program, Ayana worked as the graduate student aide and had the opportunity to travel to the Beijing Book Fair with three other students. She also interned at Hachette Book Group in the marketing department and at W. W. Norton in the subsidiary rights department.
Following her graduation, Ayana Underwood began working for Verywell Mind, a wellness brand at Dotdash Meredith. In March of this year, she was promoted to Associate Editor and had the opportunity to help produce the Verywell Mind podcast. Starting in October, Ayana will be moving to Hearst to work as a Senior Health Editor for Self magazine.
Students were engaged throughout Underwood’s lecture and found themselves inspired by her story.
Underwood shared four pro tips with students as a takeaway:
Pro tip #1: Get A Mentor (Or Two)
Underwood believes that everyone should have a mentor within the industry. She proposes finding someone who is in a position above yours and is someone you generally like and respect. With a mentor, you have someone to advocate for you, help you develop skills, and can connect you with colleagues through references and recommendations.
Pro Tip #2: Never Stop Learning
She describes this idea as upskilling, or simply learning new skills to add to your repertoire. She suggests several online learning platforms, including ACES: The Society for Editing, The Poynter Institute, and the CDC. She says that digital publishing is always changing, and having additional skills and certifications will make you stand out to employers.
Pro Tip #3: Learn Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a very important part of publishing, particularly on the digital side. Optimizing your content to include SEO keywords, Underwood says, helps users find content that fits their needs, increases traffic to your website, and helps your business outrank others on Google.
Pro Tip #4: Get Involved
According to Ayana, one of the most important things you can do is join company ERGs, or employee resource groups. These include BIPOC groups, LGBTQ+ groups, and more. She also suggests attending as many company events as possible and talking to coworkers on other teams. By attending these events and joining ERGs, you will make yourself more visible at work as well as building your network across departments.