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2015 Scholarship Winners Get Advice From Young NYFWA Members

When the 10 recipients of this year’s NYFWA scholarships were awarded their scholarship checks on May 11, they also had the opportunity to learn about some of the early observations of a few NYFWA members who were in their shoes not long ago. Cezary Podkul, Sherry Hsieh and Laura Keller, all of whom are NYFWA members and novice journalists themselves, took the opportunity pass along advice to the scholarship recipients who will be following their footsteps into the world of financial journalism.

“There will be jobs for you,” said Podkul, who now works at ProPublica. “There are so many jobs that didn’t exist just a few years ago that now do exist,” he said, sharing his own unconventional route into financial journalism. Having initially begun his own career working on Wall Street, Podkul said he quickly discovered that he hated it –though he noted that his Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint skills are second to none. Despite the long hours he worked on Wall Street, Podkul said he used to get home from work and blog. Then one day he got an email from someone at Forbes who had noticed his blog and encouraged him to keep writing. “Within a few months I left banking in August of 2008, which was a pretty good time to leave,” joked Podkul. Like many financial journalists, his foray into financial journalism was at a newsletter –something he said new entrants into the field should not rule out. “Going to a trade publication at first and getting that experience is a terrific way to get your foot in the door,” he said.

Keller also spoke of the benefits of starting out at a trade publication. Having moved into financial journalism with a background in public policy, Keller, who finished graduate school in 2012, did an internship at Bloomberg. “I didn’t get hired when I was there and that was disappointing. But the editors at Bloomberg said ‘go to a place that we hire from and become the person that we need to hire,’” she said. Even though she has since successfully made the move to Bloomberg as she’d initially wanted, she too recommended trade publications as a great entry way into financial journalism. “At the trade publications you have to be aggressive and to tell people what your publication does and why they should talk to you,” said Keller Additionally, she said specializing in a specific area has the added benefit of being able to do more hard hitting stories. “I didn’t have to do the superficial new stories and was able to go deeper,” she said.  

Sherry Hsieh, who just finished graduate school in December 2014 told graduates not to be scared of finance, noting that she had no background business background before moving into the profession herself. “You can do it. It’s definitely a beat that is hard, but it is doable,” Hsieh said, adding that she also helped her chances of landing her first job by getting an internship at a wire service covering the debt markets. “Networking is important, but don’t think people are just going to hand that first job to you,” she warned.

The NYFWA awarded $30,000 in scholarships of $3,000 each for 2015 to students from New York University, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Baruch College and Yale College.