Hawks to Watch: Stephanie Downes, Digital Media Manager

Why Stephanie’s a Hawk to Watch:

When you think biology degree, you may picture someone sitting in a lab or collecting specimens outside. For Stephanie, a biology degree led to a different path, where skills in analyzing and experimenting help her engage audiences with digital media. Following graduation from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Stephanie moved to New York City and has become a rising star at Condé Nast. This biology graduate is now winning awards and praise for growing the online audiences for well-known magazines covering fashion, popular culture, and music, including W magazine and Pitchfork.comat one of the biggest and most respected media companies in the world.


Introducing:Stephanie Downes Job: Senior manager, audience development at Pitchfork Age: 26 KU degree: B.A. Biology (2013)


Tell us, in 140 characters or less, what you do for a living:

I lead Digital Audience Development and Analytics for Pitchfork.com, at Condé Nast.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

I can’t point to a specific achievement, but working hard and smart every day to put myself in a situation where it’s possible to get promotions and raises is something I’m proud of. I’m close to quadrupling my salary since my first full time job after college, and that feels good. Not because I’m trying to live an extravagant life, but knowing my value, doing the work, and successfully advocating for myself feels good. I received the Business Accelerator Award at Condé (thank you Biology degree), and co taught a class at NYU on digital media.

What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?

Honestly I’m not sure that I have seen my career low yet since I’m pretty early on. I don’t really keep track or dwell on the low moments. If you expect to make mistakes it seems less devastating when you do. There have been plenty of less than ideal situations in my career but they all have led me to evaluate the situation and make a new game plan.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

"You can’t get what you don’t ask for! That means applying for jobs you might be underqualified for, taking on responsibilities that are outside of your job description, and asking for more compensation for your work when you deserve it."

Also, always have a mentor that’s pulling you up with them and giving you feedback. Men tend to be good at this but we need to get better, ladies!

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

Digital media changes every day which makes it exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. For the most part I’ve dedicated the beginning of my career to myself. Ten years from now I hope to be actively helping others further their careers and understand their self worth.

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?

Don’t stay at a company because you feel like you owe it to the company, or because you fear everything will fall apart if you leave. A company will never care about you the way you care about it, so do what’s best for you first. And if things are truly going to fall apart if you leave, then it’s not a sustainable business anyway.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

Text reads: "I leave the World Trade Center and take the subway back to Brooklyn where I spend plenty of time at Prospect Park. I love going out to dinner with friends, practicing yoga, and cooking at home."

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

In New York my fun fact is that I’m from Kansas, a lot of people are surprised when I call them and my location caller ID reads “Topeka”


Live from New York, Stephanie takes over the College Instagram:


Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts.