Maya Pope-Chappell, a senior editor at LinkedIn, is the host and producer of an online series called How I Got Here where she interviews successful people about the zigs and zags along their career paths. Recently, Chappell chatted with theGrio to talk about how she got here.
The bubbly, California native shared her own story, career lessons she’s learned along the way, some of her favorite How I Got Here episodes and what she’s learned so far from her time at LinkedIn.
theGrio: Before we get to your show, I wanted to talk about how you got here. How did you get started?
Maya Pope Chappell: I’m from Oakland, CA. Went to college at UC Santa Cruz. In college, I realized I wanted to become a journalist and tell stories. Once I started writing for the school paper, I fell in love. I had an internship at Kaiser Permenente through a program called InRoads. I worked there straight out of college and the plan was to save up my money, move to NYC and become a journalist. I figured the best way to do that was to go to grad school, so I went to CUNY in New York.
theGrio: How did New York impact your career journey?
Maya Pope-Chappell: I interned at CNN, NBC, the New York Amsterdam News, and Essence. I even wrote a few pieces for theGrio. When I started grad school, I thought I wanted to go into magazines, but then the school was focused on new media and digital storytelling. It changed my view of what I wanted to do. I got a job at the Wall Street Journal four months after I graduated. I started out as the founding assistant web producer for the New York section and then transitioned to being the online news editor for WSJ.com based in Hong Kong and then eventually went on to become the founding social media and analytics editor for Asia.
theGrio: Such a bold move! You had never even been to Hong Kong before, right? What did your family think?
Maya Pope-Chappell: Right. I had never been there before. My mom had been there when I was a kid, so I have memories of the souvenirs from that. Something that I notice is present in my own career is that I like to take on things that are new and exciting. I like to create things and start from scratch. My mom was super supportive of my move. Most people spoke English so that wasn’t an issue. I lived there for a little over two years.
theGrio: Eventually you made your way back to the United States. I’m told you came across the LinkedIn job on LinkedIn? Normally people find other jobs on that platform.
Maya Pope-Chappell: I was ready to move back to New York and take on a new challenge and you’re right, I came across the LinkedIn role on LinkedIn. I’ve been on LinkedIn since they started. It’s nice to have your network. I had someone who knew someone who worked here, so I had that. At the time, they were looking to expand the team. I like that it’s a different approach to news and original content. I also really liked the mission of the company, which iss to create economic opportunity for everyone in the global workforce. It’s not only the opportunity to tell stories, but to tell stories that could create opportunities for other people. I worked for the New York office for a year and then moved back to the Bay Area about two years ago.
theGrio: For LinkedIn, you have a couple ‘founding’ adjectives in there for your various roles. This lines up with your previous experience of trying new things.
Maya Pope-Chappell: Around here things changed up all the time. I’m really able to take on different tasks and I appreciate that. I have the space to do that. That’s how the How I Got Here series came about. It’s an opportunity to showcase real stories of people and success and give people something to aspire to.
theGrio: Has your own experience impacted how you approach this series?
Maya Pope-Chappell: I’ve always been fascinated by people’s stories and how they got to where they are. I consider myself to be a very ambitious person. I always want to do well and be successful. So I’m always attracted to those types of people and wondering what their stories were and how they got where they are. I want to feature not only people who are big names, but also “hidden gems.” They are people whose names you might not know, but they’ve done really extraordinary things in their careers and have really interesting stories about how they got to where they are.
theGrio: How can LinkedIn members contribute to the series?
Maya Pope-Chappell: I want to members on LinkedIn to share their own How I Got HEre stories. There are things that could benefit someone else. I’m really calling on members to share their own storeis whether that’s in the form of a post, video or whatever it might be.
theGrio: What’s our biggest challenge with How I Got Here?
Maya Pope-Chappell: The biggest challenge is scheduling. It requires a lot because it’s not just a sit-down interview, it’s also gathering b-roll with that person, following them around. It requires that person to invest a lot of their team. We have a small team, but we make it work.
theGrio: I understand if you don’t want to point out favorites, but do you have favorites?
Maya Pope-Chappell: Ha! One of my favorites is Melissa Butler. She is the founder of the Lip Bar. I really like her story. She talked about rejection from Shark Tank to VCs telling her that her idea would never work. But, she persevered and ended up being very successful because she defied the odds.
Another one that stands out is Van Brooks, the founder of this non-profit in Baltimore called Safe Alternative. He suffered a really tragic accident in high school when he was playing football and ending up being paralyzed in a wheelchair. His story is so inspirational. He talks about finding his why and his purpose for doing what he’s doing nad how that accident really contributed to that. I alike all of them, but those are two of my faves.
theGrio: With all of your own experience and the super dope bird’s eye view of other people’s career paths, what advice do you have to people who are contemplating making a sharp turn in their career?
Maya Pope-Chappell: I would say do it. Take that turn. That’s something that is true for me and the series. One of the themes is don’t be afraid to deviate from your intended career path. Be willing to take chances. It’s about where you move from one level to the next or one experience to the next. Take that left turn whenever possible. Trust your gut.
On top of that, it’s just saying yes to opportunity. First and foremost, everything starts with work ethic and focus. All of the people who I feature are super hard workers who stretch themselves to be the best and stand out. There’s a willingness to learn and seek out information. Stay curious.
Check here for the latest How I Got Here episode.