By Esther Goldschlager • September 29, 2015•Ms. JD
I had the pleasure of connecting with Helen Babb through a professional women’s organization in DC. Helen holds a law degree and is a strategic communications professional. I hope that you will enjoy learning about Helen's career path.
1) Can you please provide a brief summary of your professional background?
During and while finishing my Arts/Law degrees at Melbourne University, I worked as a copywriter and editor for a boutique publishing company and also in communications for a small anti-trafficking non-profit called Project Respect. After moving to Washington DC I was lucky enough to be a Fellow on Capitol Hill with the U.S Helsinki Commission, and previously I had interned with Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC). After a brief stint working in legal recruiting and sales, I now work at ConwayStrategic, a progressive strategic communications firm in Washington DC.
2) What prompted you to decide to attend law school? Did you want to be a lawyer or did you want to use the skills learned in law school to carve out a different path?
In Australia we generally study law as an undergraduate degree (this has started to change but that was the case while I was deciding what to study at University when I was 17). I had always loved the humanities, writing, analysis and debating, and was passionate about social justice causes, so it seemed like a good fit for me. In addition, my older brother was studying Law and was enjoying it (plus I thought my brother was possibly the coolest person ever, so if he was studying law I thought it must be amazing!). I was 17 when I was choosing what to study, so I didn’t really have a clear idea of what being a ‘lawyer’ would be like, but even then I know that the skills I would gain would be valuable in any career path.
3) You are a Program Associate at ConwayStrategic in DC. Could you please tell the readers what this position entails?
My position is very dynamic and every day can be very different – something that I love! As a progressive strategic communications firm, we work with some really interesting clients on progressive issues, and most of the work I do is reproductive justice related. My position involves reaching out to, working with and tracking media, drafting talking points or written pieces and brainstorming and implementing advocacy campaigns with our team (this can involve anything from coordinating collateral orders to creating a trending hashtag). I feel very lucky that I am able to utilize the written and oral communications skills that I gained through both of my degrees every single day, and the ability to work to tight deadlines always comes in handy! Having an understanding of how legislative and judicial systems work here is also extremely useful, although I am by no means an expert in either of those.
4) Do you have specific advice for newly minted female lawyers/JDs who are embarking on their careers?
I would say taking some time to figure out what drives you is really important. That was always something that I wrestled with while studying and especially right after I graduated. Although they were a little bit nervous that I did not go straight into practice, my family and friends were very supportive of things like practical work experience, volunteering and travel to expand my view of the world outside of my city and define what issues were important to me. It was no surprise to any of them that this turned out to be women’s equality, empowerment and reproductive justice! Another piece of advice I would give is to speak to anybody who will let you buy them coffee and learn about the range of professions and practice areas out there. For a field like communications, that can sound quite vague, it’s great to be able to ask specific questions about what someone does. I am constantly learning from people who are a lot more experienced and smarter than I am, and I feel grateful for that. Plus, one of those people you speak to might even become your fantastic new mentor! Finally, to steal a sentiment from Amy Poehler, work hard, be polite and always be thankful for what you have.
5) Is there anything that I did not mention that would be helpful for the readers to know about your career path or your current position?
I would say that everybody’s career path, like each person, is different. If you want to do something that is outside the ‘norm’, then don’t let the fact that is different itself deter you. The person who cares the most about what you will spend the majority of your working life doing, and who will steer your career path, is you! So trust your intuition. Also having a great network of supportive, inspiring and fantastic women is invaluable. If you are in DC, I can’t recommend the Women’s Information Network (WIN) highly enough. It’s a network of progressive professional women who are always willing to help others and share knowledge. I am also a member of the Bossed Up community, an amazing national network and training program dedicated to helping women build sustainable and healthy careers.
Helen Babb is a Program Associate at ConwayStrategic in Washington DC. She was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) and Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from the University of Melbourne. Helen is an alumni of the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington Developing Leaders Program, and a Co-Chair of Practice Your Politics team for the Women’s Information Network (DC).