My day job is public information officer, or PIO, for the City of Madison’s Engineering Department. If there’s information to be shared with the media and the general public, I’m the person who makes sure that happens.
This is a new role for me—I just started in March—and a new role for Engineering too. Every other department had a PIO but I’m the first PIO for Engineering.
I came to this job after years in journalism, most recently as the anchor and investigative reporter for NBC 15. It’s interesting to see the overlap between the two areas: In both jobs I serve as a funnel and a filter to share information with the public, though of course now the media is one of my “publics.” I’m not leaving journalism behind; I’m building on the skills I already have.
I hadn’t been looking for a new job—I truly loved being in news—but I happened to hear about this position from a friend and the more I learned the more it seemed like a perfect fit. As I learned about the responsibilities the job entailed, I found myself thinking, “I can do that. I can do that.” But what was even better was that the role would allow me to build new skills too.
It’s exciting to be part of the infrastructure that helps people live their lives. Engineering touches so many areas: sewer, mapping, construction, sustainability, roads and flooding. There’s a lot to know but I love having the chance to dive in and learn from a great team of smart, talented and caring individuals.
Too many times people don’t really think about city engineering until something goes wrong. I want to make sure people are in the know ahead of time to help minimize concerns and uneasiness whenever possible. This role is allowing me to impact the community on a different level than I did as a journalist, plus it’s challenging me professionally.
I also love that it’s providing a better work/life balance—I actually get to see my husband! Plus, I’m now in a role where I’m not constantly surrounded by difficult things. In news you come face to face with hard things in a condensed amount of time and you have to be diligent to avoid getting hardened by that. I’m proud that I got to be a truth teller and I will always treasure my time in news. Now more than ever, we need a strong media and I’m so thankful there are people committed to this work.
My most memorable caffeine experience was the caffeine I consumed while staying awake (and warm) over a nearly 24-hour window during the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. It was so cold—and let me tell you, I grew up in northern Minnesota just 10 miles from the Canadian border, so I know cold!—and coffee was critical.
The day started with a 2:30 wake-up and a drive around downtown Minneapolis to do live shots for our morning shows. Then we had to find and shoot stories to air later in the day and at some point we actually got to hit a café and get another coffee—heaven in a cup!
Next up, shooting stories for 5, 6 and 10, plus something for the next morning. By the time I got to bed it was 1 a.m. the next day. When you love the work, and you have an opportunity like covering the Super Bowl, you go for it and caffeine is your best friend!
My current caffeine of choice is typically black with vanilla flavor. If I’m getting fancy I’ll go for a pumpkin latte, iced.
My favorite place for coffee is the Ancora on King Street. It’s close to my work, has a great environment and I love their mint vanilla zombie latte. Is it caffeinated you might ask? Oh yeah!
The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are women who have broken through the glass ceiling. I so look up to them. I’d love to meet Nora O’Donnell, she’s the news queen! She is so ethical and smart and holds people accountable. And of course I’d love to sit down with Oprah—that would be nothing short of amazing.
But truly, just the chance to sit down with any successful business woman and have the opportunity to pick her brain and learn from her would be great.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of clarity. I would pick two: women knowing their value and hunger.
Women often struggle to understand their worth and I experienced that firsthand during this transition process. I value myself, but I don’t think I fully appreciated everything I could bring to an employer and going through the interview process helped clarify that for me.
In the area of hunger, I see the struggle at both the local level and the international level. What could we accomplish as a world if no one had to worry if there was enough food for themselves and their families? That peace of mind would change the world.