Gerald Porter Jr. - 2018

Position title: Journalism, Public Relations, Communications

Pronouns: he/him

What career pathway have you pursued since your time in the UW-Madison English major?

I’ve had the privilege of working in two careers since graduating from UW – journalism and public relations/communications. I was lucky enough to start my reporting career at Bloomberg News after completing two summer internships with the Chicago Tribune’s Daily Southtown newspaper and The Wall Street Journal. My three years at Bloomberg afforded me the opportunity to report on the biggest global companies and business stories, from the trade war to the global pandemic. My award-winning coverage of U.S. business and consumer trends was even more rewarding as I got to break news on the White House and U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s handling of the vaping crisis, the Black business movement following George Floyd’s murder, and the impact of inflation on U.S. consumers. These skills and experiences helped me switch to the public relations and communications industry in Fall 2021. Two years later, I’m now an Account Supervisor at The Bliss Group, where I currently assist our professional and financial services clients in media relations, executive visibility programs, as well as corporate and brand storytelling.

What did you enjoy about the English major?

It’s rare that you enjoy most if not all classes in your major, but it truly was the case here. One of my favorites was a fiction and poetry workshop my freshman year, in part because it was an illuminating intro to the breadth and depth of the English major’s offering. The structure of the class – and each workshop I took until graduating – encouraged students to share their work, thoughtfully provide each other feedback, all while having strong 1:1 support with the professor. Fast forward to senior year, these elements were instrumental to my senior thesis, which was a delight in and of itself as I got to pursue my screenwriting ambitions. Even though UW didn’t have a dedicated screenwriting course or professors with that specialty, the faculty was supportive in meeting my interest by finding somebody who could oversee my script development. Ultimately, I wrote two episodes of a TV pilot, something I never imagined being able to do until UW empowered me to fully pursue it.

How did your time as an English major prepare you for your current work? What skills do humanities students bring to your industry?

For every workshop I took, my favorite aspect was the rule of silence during peer reviews. It simply meant that a student couldn’t comment on anybody’s feedback until everyone in the room had a chance to share their opinion on that student’s work. For such an uncomfortable and vulnerable position, especially when you’re in a room with people you don’t know very well, it showed me the importance of not only being able to give and receive various types of feedback but – more importantly – not taking it personally. People will have something to say about the work you produce regardless of your industry. Even though all feedback might not be good or constructive, it’s an invaluable skill to actively listen, provide thoughtful comments where you can, and receive other’s thoughts for what they’re worth.

Other majors, certificates, or key points of involvement during undergraduate studies at UW:

Journalism major; UW Chapter of National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ); Eye to Eye; Badger Herald; University of Westminster (2016-2017)

What is one piece of career advice you would offer our English undergraduates?

Stay curious, never say “never,” and be patient. We’ve come to understand life as a fast-moving blur, but it’s always worth stepping back to see just how much time we truly have to achieve our career ambitions as they evolve. As you plot out the opportunities that’ll advance your career, it’s important to remember that it’s a journey filled with many steps. You’re not falling behind if a certain job or role doesn’t align with the path you’re beating on. See it as a chance to figure out what you really want to do and how the next endeavor will guide your steps forward. In that vein, keep an open mind to the emerging opportunities that you may never have previously considered. I never expected to be in PR, but a timely connection and my journalism experience made it possible after realizing that I was ready for a new challenge in my career. Changing paths doesn’t mean you weren’t successful. So if you ever feel “stuck” or that you need a spark from something new, just go for it. As long as you put your best foot forward, trust your instincts, and believe in yourself and the skills you’re building, you can’t lose.