30 Under 30: Aaron Edwards, Mobile Editor at BuzzFeed News

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This week marks the release of our annual 30 Under 30 issue, and because each of these individuals is so interesting, we thought we’d further highlight them by running some brief interviews with them.

Name: Aaron Edwards
Age: 23
Neighborhood: The hotly disputed Ridgewood/Bushwick border area so eloquently deemed “Quooklyn.”
Occupation: Mobile Editor at BuzzFeed News
Who would be your choice for a 30 Under 30?
Blue Ivy. Or North West. Just kidding. Not really. But most certainly Amber Gordon, who has built an amazing community over at Femsplain (get to know them). I’m such a fanboy of her team and their work.
 
Who are your role models in your industry?
I’m really fortunate to have been hired by a truly badass journalist and product-builder, Stacy-Marie Ishmael. When we first sat down to discuss the team she was putting together at BuzzFeed News, we spent a good 30 minutes talking about diversity, Jamaica and Trinidad—the islands our families call home—and building awesome things. It was the most refreshing conversation I had in a while, especially in an industry run by white dudes (don’t get me wrong though, some of my best friends are white dudes). Other awesome folks I admire so very much: Nikole Hannah-JonesLaSharah BuntingJenna Wortham, John Eligon, Stephanie ClaryRobyn TomlinErrin Haines Whack, Ashley FordSaeed Jones and Chris Geidner.
 
What was a turning point for you, when you realized you could make a career out of something you loved to do?
When I stopped listening to everyone telling me what I should be doing and started following what made me incredibly excited and curious, a world of opportunity opened itself up. For a while I had been a reporter, which I enjoyed and was good at, but I was so intrigued by the world of creating products and solving bigger questions about how people get information and news. After I finished up a reporting fellowship at The New York Times, I was offered a job that I was actively told I wouldn’t like. It ended up being true, but the things I gravitated toward in the job — tackling massive questions about the future of the industry—I ended up loving. So when I left that first job, I kept down that path.
 
What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
Don’t be a jerk, especially on social media—we’re all trying to figure this thing out. Never assume you have nothing to learn from someone, but also never assume people will have your best interests at heart. Work first, network later. A foundation in reporting and writing can take you to many corners of journalism that you didn’t expect to end up in. Don’t do things you hate, but don’t consider yourself above work that must be done. Negotiate your salary, benefits and perks with confidence, and have the experience to back it up. Advocate for yourself, but seek out advocates who believe in you because they won’t always come to you.
 
Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
Every day when I wake up and peep over the Ridgewood/Bushwick border to see all the bustling Brooklynites, full of promise and hope, I think to myself, “wow, the M Train must be down.”
 
Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
If you haven’t felt this way before, I’d like to meet you. To me, this is one of the most natural feelings to have. Working with passion and drive is such a strong force, and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (I think it was D’Angelo who said this). For every project you pour your heart, mind and soul into, there will oftentimes be just as much force that pushes against you, making you question if all that work is worth it. Colleagues will annoy you, people who don’t understand your work will interrogate your motives, other people’s experiences will give you grass-is-greener syndrome. Someone will always seem like they are doing better than you. That tension will make you want to change gears, and to be honest, I would welcome those feelings. Reassessing and reevaluating what you’re doing and where your attention is focused is healthy, and holds you accountable to yourself. It’s what led me to work in product to begin with, and I love that I made that jump. I don’t come from a well-off family that can support me hopping around and taking risks without a strategy behind it all, though. I have to be wise about where I go and why.
 
What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
I definitely had a “holy shit I was a part of this” moment when the BuzzFeed News app launched. Aside from that, landing a story on the front page of The New York Times was probably the biggest for me. I was 20 years old, so I couldn’t get into a bar to celebrate. It was a simpler time.
 
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I see myself taking my inquisitiveness toward product creation and applying it to more industries, bridging the gap between raw creativity and tech. Or maybe not! I also think that at 33 I’ll be ready to have a dog, a husband, or perhaps both.
Follow Aaron Edwards on twitter @aaronmedwards

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