Vicki Mochama; Toronto; @vmochama
Let’s say we met at a cocktail party, how would you describe your job?
I write about politics and I think about the world—and I hope I’m funny on the way.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to Carleton University and I studied communications. I also studied international marketing at Humber because I thought you were supposed to work in advertising once you’re out of a communications degree. So, I did that.
What was your first paying gig out of school, in your field or not?
Being a very bad administrative assistant at a marketing agency.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I think it’s a Globe and Mail piece that I wrote about traveling while Black. A lot of people liked it and shared the experience and wanted to talk about. It was nice to see that this thing that I didn’t think Canadian media could handle was actually getting some attention.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out.
Oh, I don’t know. Has anyone realized that this is going to work out? Every other month I’m still Googling grad school. So, I don’t know about there being a moment where I thought this is going to work out. I just sort of hope that my industry doesn’t crash and burn.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming career wise to date, and how did you bounce back?
There’s just been so many. I don’t understand failures. To me, it’s been more instructive in the end. I was really bad at a number of jobs for quite a while after graduation, and so figuring out that and it wasn’t necessarily that I wasn’t good at those jobs, but more that I wasn’t at a place that I enjoyed being. I didn’t like the work I was doing and I was just wasting my own time. So I don’t think I have any failures, just lots of instructive and expensive lessons.
What is one piece of career advice you always give?
I only give this one tip, which is you have to return your emails right away.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever received?
“Just walk into the room like you belong.” Um, no. I am Black so there is no universe where someone basically like “Oh yeah this girl, she’s definitely one of us. She can sit wherever.”
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you’re a woman? And if so, what were they?
I would flip that question and just say that I dealt with men who were failures and that I had to be there.
As of right now, would you say that you’re making a fair income for your work?
I make a wage that allows me to live parts of the lifestyle I want to. Am I making a fair income? No, because my work is taxing, and my labour is invaluable.
Do you have a side hustle for extra cash?
Absolutely. I still freelance. Because you know, writing for Metro requires me to focus on news and stuff like that, so I don’t often get to touch on my other interests.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
The worst stereotype about millennials at work is that they are lazy. There are lots of millennials that are lazy and terrible—my brother’s friends are most of them. But there are lots of millennials who are just grinding it out and they work 40,50,60 hours a week and they’re passionate and they’re committed. And the thing that keeps them from staying or looking like they’re excited about their jobs is that they’re underpaid.