From Traditional to Digital: How Nikki Mendell Landed a Job at Refinery29

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Coming from traditional PR, Nikki knew she wanted to work for a company that had a more digitally minded business model, but wasn’t sure where to start. Continually asking herself “What do I actually like and care about?,” she realized she wanted to work at company that she truly loved and believed in. Enter: Refinery29. With the fashionable part down, Nikki turned to GA to brush up on her digital marketing skills.

What were you doing before coming to General Assembly?

Prior to GA, I was working at a media relations agency, where my clients were in the hospitality industry. Media relations and PR is one of those industries that’s been around forever, and while online media outlets and social media were very important to the success of the clients, the job didn’t require a lot of digital marketing knowledge. Prior to that I worked in product development for a private brand at Macy’s–different world entirely!

What brought you to GA?

I decided to set my sights on an online media company, where I saw a lot of room for growth and creativity. However, I knew that I needed to learn more about the industry in order to find a job there; I had to learn what makes an online company tick. I had a friend who was taking a web development class at GA and was on the same looking-for-an-industry-switch track as I was. I looked up the classes, found Digital Marketing and realized registration for the next class was closing the next day. I signed up that night!

Congrats on your new job. Tell us about your role.

My new role as PR coordinator at Refinery29 has been so much fun. First and foremost, I have been an avid Refinery29 reader for many years because I love the voice of the site, the content that they choose to cover, the amazing aesthetics, the interesting point of view on news and important issues… I could go on and on. Working alongside the creators of the site I love has been a treat, and the people are as fun, cool, and smart as you’d expect.

I am responsible for communications throughout the company, both externally and internally. There are always multiple exciting initiatives happening that we want to share with the world, whether a great event, a fabulous new hire, or the launch of a new or improved product. In addition, our editors are experts in their field and are often called upon for their point of view on trends, so I make sure they are getting the kind of visibility they deserve.

My goal at Refinery29 is to continue to help spread the word about this amazing and growing company.

With a PR background, how did you transition into FashionTech?

My transition had a lot to do with the knowledge I gained from the DGM class at GA. I have been able to combine my PR background with my passion for Refinery29, and the new skills I learned in class helped me feel comfortable in the tech world. A lot of the terminology that we covered in class, from the difference between visitors and pageviews, to the meaning of “above the fold,” to social media best practices, have become relevant to many conversations at Refinery29. I’m now able to intelligently participate in the conversation.

Have there been any challenges that you didn’t expect?

It has been challenging walking into a very successful and fast growing company where there is so much going on, and really hitting the ground running while having to trust myself and my intuition. Luckily, I’ve been surrounded by wonderful and smart people who have been great resources along the way.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself in the past year?

Probably the most surprising thing I’ve learned about myself is that I know more than I think and that my opinion is valuable. It took some time to get out of the intern or assistant mode, but I’ve come to realize that if I feel strongly about something, my vision is as valid as anyone’s. Everyone has something unique to bring to the table and I’ve become more aware of what I can offer.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced?

The biggest obstacle I’ve faced is just trying to find a company where I felt like I was a good fit, and where I saw room for growth in order to establish a career, rather than just a job.

Where do you see yourself in three years?

That’s so hard! I hope to be still at Refinery29, which at that point will be an internationally celebrated company that is continuing to raise the bar for media. I hope to be acting as a mentor or advisor to recent college graduates who are looking to find their passion. And I hope to have taken a fabulous trip to somewhere new and adventurous in the world – the travel bug is getting to me.

Can you share your guilty pleasure—Make it guilty.

One is definitely online shopping – so many companies offer free shipping AND free returns, that I’ve gotten into the habit of treating the shopping cart like a dressing room. The busier I get, the less time I have to shop in real life, the more my online shopping habit grows!

Brianna Plaza graduated from Digital Marketing and is an Alumni Stories Lead. She currently works on the marketing team for General Assembly in New York City. 

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