A first for Life TK—we're dipping into engagement this week with Rubina Madan Fillion, the director of audience engagement at The Intercept. There, Rubina runs social media; works on SEO, analytics, newsletters, membership, and more; and is charged with not only growing the number of people who are engaging with The Intercept but also making its content more shareable.
Rubina pretty much always knew she wanted to be a journalist, but it took her a little while to figure out just what type of journalist she was going to be. After a couple of impressive internships, she landed a job as an education reporter at a small newspaper in Georgia—but it didn't feel quite right. She didn't like the daily grind of churning out words and words and words, and was more interested in alternative storytelling. "When I was reporting in Georgia," she says, "I read the book called Quarterlife Crisis, and I was convinced I was going through one because I could not figure things out. I was so unhappy, but I couldn't really figure out why. I knew I needed to leave my job." Sound familiar? Listen here for Rubina's surprising anecdote about which Comedy Central TV show inspired her to get a master's degree from Columbia University's journalism school.
Once at Columbia, Rubina took a graphics class—alternative storytelling!—that set her on the path to the career she has now. Her professor liked her final project so much that she asked Rubina if she'd be interested in freelancing for the graphics department of The New. York. Times.
But before she ended up at the Times, Rubina faced another career challenge. She interned at the Associated Press and hoped for a job there...but they weren't hiring. However, it only freed her up to permalance at the Times, which led to a full-time job at The Wall Street Journal, where she spent most of her twenties.
I assumed that someone who ticked off the New York Times and WSJ boxes—places where journalists dream of working—before turning 30 must have had an intense vision board, but that wasn't necessarily the case for Rubina, and she lets me in on the perk of not making a five-year plan. "If I had a five-year plan, I would have always been a little bit unhappy with what I was doing then, and thinking about what I would do in the future," she says. "Whereas I feel like for most of my life and most of my career, I've been really appreciative of what I have and been able to go with the flow with whatever the next step would be."
In this episode, Rubina also talks about the toughest career decision she ever made: leaving her job at WSJ, a place so comfortable it felt like home, for one at The Intercept...when she was five months' pregnant. Job uncertainty—my favorite subject, and I share a little bit on this, too. Oh, but one happy update: My job situation is not as precarious now as it was at the time of this recording, and, in fact, things are improving for me. This is journalism, folks. Listen below, or subscribe in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.