Q&A with Jordan Zaslav ‘12, Senior Director of Strategy, Axios
Jordan Zaslav ‘12, Senior Director of Strategy at Axios, shares Duke experiences that helped him secure a career in media and advises students to embrace exploration post-graduation.
Major: Computer Science / Certificate: Energy and the Environment
What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?
Regularly pushing myself outside of my comfort zone was a crucial way to build the skills and confidence I needed to embark on my early career. Fortunately, some challenges “come free” with your arrival on campus (i.e. moving away from home), but others you have to jump into. For me, that was my choice of major (computer science), studying abroad and taking advantage of summer internships.
How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?
Embrace exploration! There is a classic computer science problem where a robot is dropped onto an imaginary landscape in search of the highest point. A common solution is to look left, look right, and go to higher ground. But that will take you to the nearest peak, not the highest one. The best solution is actually first to jump around the map, then return to the best spot and climb toward that peak.
How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?
I think there is too much pressure on students to know what they want to be when they grow up. Most “grown ups” still don’t know what they want to be. I encourage folks to embrace the exploration of your 20s. Focus on chasing challenging work, smart people (bosses, coworkers, friends), and areas that are growing (companies, products, industries). If you can do that, you’ll be on the right track.
What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?
I love working on a product that can’t just be boiled down to the numbers. Working in media always requires making space for the magic of creative people and processes. It’s a joy to be part of creative organizations and to meet the diversity of people it takes to make the show go on. Most challenging? Thanksgiving table conversations with the in-laws about their thoughts on Axios editorial coverage.
What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?
Going tactical with these…
- Be creative in finding a way to connect with at least one person at any company you apply to (via LinkedIn, the Duke network, a cold email).
- Make it easy for people to do you favors and they will. For example, if you email me asking for an introduction, send me a clean email with all the context needed so that I can simply forward it along.
- Email me at email@example.com!