Alumna builds career at the intersection of politics and media

Nisha Chittal is an LAS alumna working for Chittal (BA, ’09, political science) graduated from Illinois at a time when social media was just finding its footing.

She quickly realized social media could be a powerful tool for networking. Using social media, Chittal made connections at the crossroads of politics and journalism and has never looked back. Today she is the chief of staff at where she oversees the many facets of a newsroom with an eye on accessible journalism.

Describe a typical workday. Also, what is an example of the most interesting aspect of your job?
It’s a cliche, but there really is no typical workday in this job. As the chief of staff, I oversee a lot of management, strategy, and operations of the Vox newsroom, so the projects I work on really vary. I spend most of my days in back-to-back meetings, and projects can range from thinking about our revenue strategy to brainstorming new newsletter ideas to discussing how we’re going to cover a major news story or how we’re going to mark Vox’s 10th anniversary. Sometimes it’s working on budgets and creating processes and workflows to make sure the newsroom is operating smoothly. Other times, I’m interviewing candidates for open roles, or thinking about organizational structure and whether we have the right roles and the right structure to set us up for success. It’s never the same day to day, and that’s what keeps it interesting. 

What was your first job out of college?
I worked as a digital strategist at a marketing agency in Washington, DC, and got to teach corporate clients about social media when it was still a brand-new world. 

How did you land that first job?
Networking! While in college, I was dipping my toes into the new world of social media. I was interning for a political blog, and I created a Twitter profile and tried to network on Twitter with professionals in the politics, media, and technology spaces. Someone I got to know invited me to attend a conference called “Politics Online” at George Washington University in DC, so I traveled to DC in the spring semester of my senior year to attend. It seemed like the perfect place to meet professionals in the field I wanted to be in. I met a speaker at the conference who worked at the firm where I would eventually go on to work. We stayed in touch and soon I was applying for a job there, which I eventually got and started working there a month after graduation. 

In hindsight, what about college best prepared you for your life and career?
I was very involved in student organizations, which taught me so much about communication, leadership, organization, and working with people. In particular, I was really active in an organization called AIESEC, an international student exchange organization with chapters all around the world. I held a lot of leadership roles in AIESEC and other student organizations which helped me start to learn how to be a leader. 

How did your major prepare you for your career?
I loved my political science classes, and I found that I especially liked the ones that focused on the intersection of politics and the media, which helped me realize that I wanted a career in political journalism and that I loved writing. 

What do you like best about your work?
I believe journalism is incredibly important to having an informed, empowered society, and I love Vox’s mission to make journalism accessible to everyone. In my role, I’m motivated knowing that the work I’m doing will hopefully set Vox up for long-term success and help us serve audiences who are looking for clarity and deeper understanding of the world around them. It’s that mission that makes me excited to get to work every day. 

Editor's note: This LAS@Work profile is part of a series that features College of LAS alumni and their careers. Visit here to read more.