Kiana St Louis is the Assistant Editor and Community Manager of 99U, where she is responsible for editing content on the 99U website, managing all the social media platforms, communicating with the 99U community at large and leading as the contact/production person for the 99U Quarterly Magazine.
99U is one of the websites that we adore, it’s a platform dedicated to providing the “missing curriculum” that help Creative people
Last year, we got chatting with Kiana and later got to ask her for an interview about her work at 99U, project(s) and mapping a career path.
For Creative Girls: How did you get started as an Editor? Describe your walk into being the Assistant Editor of 99U
I was hired by Adobe/99U in July of 2015, about 2 months after graduating from the State University of New York at Oswego. There, I obtained my bachelor’s in communication, media, and the arts, with a focus in Public Relations and Journalism. In my senior year of college, I decided that working retail wasn’t an option for me. I just felt like after spending thousands of dollars on school, Aldo, Macy’s or anything else wasn’t seeing me. So with that drive, I applied to jobs like crazy. I was traveling to and from the city for interviews during my last semester. Two days after graduation I got a call back from this pyramid scheme (however, I didn’t know that at the time) I worked with them for 3 weeks and made enough money to go to Caribana. After quitting, they told me good luck trying to anybody and that I should prepare to live with my mom for the rest of my life. That took a jab at my confidence until I realized they might have just been salty. Regardless, for the next month, I woke up at 7 am like I had somewhere to be. I’d work out in the morning and dedicate my afternoons to job applications and looking for networking gigs. I connected with friends and other older people I knew that worked in the field that I wanted to be in. I got a hook up with the PR team for Pepsi and after seeing my portfolio, they wanted to hire me, but 2 days before that Adobe reached out to me asking if I was still looking for a full-time job. I held off on accepting the Pepsi gig right away and met with the 99U team. What attracted them to me most was all of the editorial work I had done in school. Shortly after the second interview, they offered me a job. I went from having nothing for a month to two amazing offers in the same week. I went with Adobe because I felt more aligned with the 99U initiative and felt as if I’d have the better opportunity to write. I’ve always been a sucker for words. I guess the pyramid scheme job was completely wrong about me. Being comfortable in failure is never an option.
99U’s Mantra is steeped in providing the missing curriculum for a Creative Career. It’s an amazing goal. How have you been achieving this goal?
That’s the beauty of working with 99U and Adobe, the ladder for success is available to any and everyone. As employees, we’re constantly encouraged to network, build and join programs, and ask questions to higher ups. Because of that, in an effort to build my creative career I’m constantly thinking of the future. I have conversations with people both in and outside of my team, I join clubs, I attend events, I travel, and have somewhat become fearless in doing things on my own. I am definitely still on the way to achieving my career goals, but I definitely do feel closer to them today than ever before.
What do you do every day from the time you get off your bed? What does your routine entail?
I wake up at about 6/630 and try to engage in a morning devotional, even if it’s not as detailed, I make sure I talk to God in some way shape or form before I do anything. After a fight for the bathroom, I’m showered, dressed and making my bed (it’s a pet peeve of mine, I hate walking into my room with a crazy looking bed lol). After that I’m out the door, walking to the train and usually in the office an hour and a half earlier than I need to be. We start at 10 am but I’m usually there around 830/9 just so I can get the emails out of the way before diving into the creative work. Depending on the timeline of things, at work, you can usually find me looked away in an office somewhere hammering out pieces, editing, handling finances, scheduling socials, or working on the next email campaign. After work, I work, out, either kickboxing, soul cycle, the gym, or maybe a hot yoga class. As of late, I’ve been giving my evenings to my side project #100daysofdating, so after the gym, I’m usually working on an interview. After that’s done, I’m back home around 10 and drained.
What is the most exciting thing about the work you do every day? And how would you define Creativity?
The most exciting thing is getting to work on different aspects of the upcoming 99U Conference. Event planning is a beast of job and our events lead is literally killing it! So, getting to help out when she needs me is always a good time. I define creativity as our personal release. When life gets in the way and the day-to-day is just too much, writing, art, painting, photography, design, anything regarding free-flowing effort and passion is a way to break away from the current. Creativity is the power to take your personal release and make something that inspires others.
When you see a Story or decide to write/edit one, what’s the most important part the story hits you first in the face? From what perspective do you look at Storytelling?
For me, it’s always the title. The story and take away will do what it needs to for the reader but I believe the title draws them in. I look at storytelling as a way to connect experiences. If I’m somewhere that I want you to be, I want to be able to draft up a story so mouthwatering that you’d want to be there too which involves giving you the absolute best of where I am.
What pieces of advice would you give to writers about creating and churning out their best?
First, I’d say take away the definitive “best.” I believe in writing and in creativity as a whole, your best is yet to come. If you want to write something amazing just do it and have faith in your work. Don’t look for validation of who you are in others. Sharing your work requires strength and the willingness of risk. Maybe no one sees it, or maybe everyone does. I believe if you’ve touched at least 1 person, you’ve already won.
You’ve written about the burden of recognizing what to do after school and mapping a career path. What’s the one thing that helped you recognize what you wanted to do? And how can other young people make this decision? Do you think there can be a framework for helping young people make good career decisions after school?
It’s weird, I’m still not all the way sure of what I want to do. I know that I want to continue doing some sort of writing. However, I also want to work on events, be a brand consultant, travel the world, get paid to sleep, and maybe start an after school program centered around the arts for young boys. I don’t have a clear path but I do know that I have an unparalleled drive to be great. I don’t need the world to know my name, but I do hope to make an impact. I realized that after graduating school. Once I got into the working field and learned all these different facets of the job, I just want to continue learning and have the perfect thing find me. I feel like school can teach you a lot of things, but you have to get your hands dirty to truly know what’s out there. Schools don’t do the best job of this, but I do feel going away to school or just allowing the opportunity to travel would be most helpful. It’s all about experiences.
On another interesting note, you recently started writing about 100 Days of Dating. What’s the concept centered on and what do you hope to achieve with the project?
#100DaysofDating is my version of the 100 Day Project. I chose to focus the next 100 days on being consistent in my craft of writing. While I get to write at work, it’s not entirely the same because it isn’t what I want to write about all the time. So this project helps me do what I love and forces me to do it daily. I’ve chosen to focus on love and sharing the stories of lovers because I wanted to believe in love again. I believe that while we are different in so many ways, and in the same aspect we are very much the same. We all hurt, cry, strive for happiness, and want to be loved. I wanted to see what it is like to love for men and women through the good and bad experiences in hopes of inspiring me and those who are reading to never give up on it. Things and people don’t always work out for us the way we want them to, but I’m learning that that is not always a bad thing. Love is always at the core of all things that we do. By reading these pieces, I hope the brave stories shared ignite something in those reading. Whether it helps someone in a similar situation or is just a good laugh, I I just want people to know they are not alone in how they feel.
In the next couple of years, what kind of work/project(s) do you see yourself doing?
A future project involves helping up and coming artists and brands. I’m interested in brand consulting and I’ve learned so much here at 99U that I think can help with that. Whether it be marketing or event placement or whatever the future client needs, I want to help someone take their career to the next level. I’m also toying with the idea of turning the #100daysofdating series into a book, details pending ☺
Tell us about 3 women you admire.
3 women I admire: Solange, Karen Civil, and my mom.