FIRST Alumni Careers: Emily Haws

FRC team 1305 alumni Emily Haws entered an exciting career in journalism at The Hill Times. Emily shared some insight on her job and how FIRST experience has helped her along the way!

Q1: Tell us about your job and exactly what you do?
EH: I am a news reporter for The Hill Times, which is a twice-weekly newspaper that covers Parliament Hill. If you think of Parliament Hill as its own contained city, The Hill Times is a bit like the local newspaper. We cover political issues in-depth, but also parties, lobbying, legislation, and the various embassies and diplomacy-related news in Ottawa. I mainly cover the senior ranks of the federal public service, which has been a lot about the Phoenix pay system. I write about four stories per week, and can often be found wandering around Parliament talking to MPs and other reporters. Of course, it’s also always exciting when an FRC team is doing something on the Hill!

Q2: What’s the most exciting part of your job?
EH: I love how much I learn through this job—journalism often requires you to become a (pseudo) expert in a day! Watching MPs enter and exit the House of Commons before and after Question Period each day is also fun, especially when something big has happened. Parliament in general is very exciting, I’m still humbled by the beauty of it all and overwhelmed by the power of the place. It’s also oddly exciting to be able to walk into any door without going though security because you have accreditation with the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Meeting MPs from around the country is also a lot of fun—can I just say that all of my job is exciting?

Q3: What’s the most challenging part?
EH: For me, it’s telling complex information simply and with limited words, but the time crunch can also be a challenge. I’m always on a deadline, and I never have unlimited word counts, so writing the Chairman’s essay in high school was a good start on both of these. I might have been called the killer of characters (and dreams) while mentoring 2706, but I’m nothing compared to how my editors can cut down on words.

Q4: How has your FIRST experience impacted you personally and professionally?
EH: Personally, it’s given me the confidence to know I can endure challenges—if I could be captain in grade 12 while getting into Carleton’s journalism school and having a job, then I know I can get through life. It’s also given me a wonderful group of friends—I was on FRC team 1305 which still lives in North Bay (other than mentors) but district events are always a family reunion. The only people I still talk to from high school are from robotics. Other skills it’s given me include collaboration and time management. FIRST and Gracious Professionalism also made me realize how toxic it is to want to pull down your competition, and like most FIRST people I’d rather attempt to rise above them. I still don’t boo at sports games.

I like to think of journalism as less of a career and more of a lifestyle, so all the stuff it has given me personally also applies professionally. But, the biggest skills FIRST has given me professionally is networking. I got this job by networking with people I knew who had worked here before, and I did all my fourth-year internships in political reporting. Careers are about what you know, but also about who you know, and so putting yourself in situations where you can meet the right people and leave lasting (good) impressions on them is key. Networking also comes in handy when developing a source network, and the key to any good journalist is having people call you back. Putting in the work is also key, so the determination and perseverance FIRST gave me was also a bonus. FIRST also taught me how to fail but keep going.

Oh, and FIRST also taught me life isn’t all about grades. They’re important and I worked hard in school, but wasn’t top of my class. Instead, I focused on getting more experience through writing for the school paper, doing internships, and finding summer jobs. That being said, try to keep your entrance scholarship because paying back student loans isn’t fun.

Q5: What’s your advice for others who would like to get into a journalism career?
EH: – PLEASE don’t let the “journalism is dying” talk get you down. I know it can be difficult, but if you work hard I promise you something will work out. Also, I’d recommend focusing on a well-rounded education over strictly print or strictly broadcast. Journalists these days need to know how to do everything.
– Write for your school newspaper, or radio station, or TV station. Practical experience + it gives you a circle of like-minded friends. Journalism friends never get mad at you for checking Twitter during dinner.
– Do internships. At some point you’re going to need references, and the best ones are editors or mentors who see things in you that you don’t see in yourself. Also, take advantage of any alumni mentorship programs your school offers.
– Figure out a way to get into a newsroom/broadcast studio—I got my start in a newsroom when I walked into my local newspaper and asked for a job. They hired me (probably a naive decision, considering I had written three news stories in my life) and the rest is history. If you’re into radio, try starting your own podcast for practice.
– Watch the news, read the news, listen to the news. You can’t be a news reporter without following the news, particularly the type of news you want to cover.
– Contact me if you have more questions! You can find me on Twitter at @emilyhaws. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll probably be able to point you in the right direction.

Thank you, Emily! We look forward to following your career/lifestyle in journalism.

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