We recently conducted an interview with Sunmin Kim, the managing editor of Student Reporter. Sunmin was kind enough to tell us more about herself as well as share some of her insight and advice into how she found her way into a position with Student Reporter. This is a great interview that can help both job seekers and those that are currently employed but thinking about changing jobs. Give it a read and make sure to follow Sunmin on Twitter!
Tell us a little about yourself and what you are currently doing - give us a brief bio. If you’re in school what is your major and what degree(s) are you working toward(s)? If you're working what degree or training did you need to obtain this position? If you're doing both, does the work you do correlate with the degree you are pursuing?
I’m currently the managing editor of Student Reporter, which is a journalism start-up that aims to be a global business news outlet for the Under-30 crowd. Besides working in operations and management, I joined the project as a co-founder to work on a venture level and get it investment ready. This means working closely with the founder on business development, launching new projects and strategic initiatives and building a core team.
Before Student Reporter, I was always in school – I joined as soon as I finished my masters. While in school though, I had done projects as a consultant for a few nonprofits and think tanks, mostly around helping business be more “green” or adopt sustainable practices.
What made you choose the degree you obtained or are obtaining? Did your degree lead directly to the work you're doing now? If so, which skills and qualifications were particularly important? Is your current career/school focus different from what you originally planned to do when you graduated high school? If so, how did it change?
I actually don’t come from a journalism, media or even business background. Both my bachelors and masters degrees were in Engineering. I was always interested in big picture – the big, complex, interconnected problems and Engineering (science & tech) was my own (bit naïve) way to try to solve them. In undergrad, I was very hands-on: I spent a lot of time in nanotech cleanrooms, on a lab bench, optimizing biofuel production at a very, very small level (down to the enzymes). In grad school, I worked with complex system modeling to try to understand corporate sustainability strategies and different stakeholder groups and interactions in business and sustainability.
I would be lying if I said that these skills were directly applicable to what I’m doing with Student Reporter today, but I don’t regret it. I’m a very curious and hands-on person by nature, so engineering was a good fit for me. I like knowing (or the idea of knowing) how things work, in albeit a reductionist and mechanistic lens of an engineer. I can say though that engineering has given me a thick skin: I don’t get intimidated by the scale or complexity of a problem. But this also means that I get stuck in details and being very one-track-minded to the point of not seeing what is more important.
Did you find the position through networking? Online? School guidance?
I “discovered” Student Reporter when googling Rio+20 (a big sustainability UN conference). I applied without knowing anyone or anything about the program, and to my surprise, was selected as a reporter for the program.
Now, on the other side, we use social media a lot to recruit reporters and editors. Facebook is particularly helpful for recruiting students for reporting opportunities. Twitter is more useful for hiring editors because journalists are very active on Twitter. We do get in touch with career departments at universities to have them share our employment opportunities.
What piece of advice have you learned from a job or internship that you'd want to pass on to a graduating (school name here) student that they wouldn't learn in class?
I don’t think I learned this from a specific job or internship, but don’t justify your choices by “sunk costs”, which is a business decision-making term for costs of what has already been occurred and no longer be recovered. If you’re not happy with the career track your University degree perfectly set you up for, don’t follow it just because that’s the step that was put in front of you. If it IS interesting for you, and your past four years in school, your internships, extracurricular activities, set you up for it perfectly, then you are very lucky. But no matter what position you are in or what your ambitions are, you shouldn’t be robbed of not pursuing something because of “sunk costs” or not feeling like you are ready. When you’re doing something interesting, more often than not, you won’t feel like you’re ready, and I guess, in the end, that’s what keeps it interesting.