Julia Carpenter (ABJ ’13) is this year’s recipient of the John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award, honoring a graduate of the last decade who has experienced a successful early career.
Carpenter is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. She previously worked at both CNN and The Washington Post, and has also written for publications including Glamour, Vogue and New York Magazine.
Covering stories on gender, culture, finance, technology and everything in between, Carpenter has received several awards for her reporting. In 2019, she was honored with the Excellence in Business Coverage Award from The Association of LGBTQ Journalists for her story “When Work Puts You Back in the Closet,” published in CNN Business. In 2020, she received a Front Page Award in the Personal Service category from the Newswomen’s Club of New York for her reporting in WSJ’s “The New Rules of Money” series.
In addition to reporting, Carpenter also publishes a daily newsletter, “A Woman to Know,” and mentors aspiring writers through Girls Write Now.
Following is a brief interview with Carpenter:
GC: What is it about your field that appeals the most to you? Why did you decide to enter that field?
JC: I’m a big talker and an obsessive journaler. As soon as teachers saw those two things, they started recommending I think about studying journalism. In my career now, those two things — my chattiness and my note-taking — are huge strengths of mine. As a student, I loved the idea that journalists could ask anyone about anything and spend all day learning about everything. Even today, I’m still marveled that I will think “I wonder how that’s going to work?” and then I’ll call someone and say, “You’re the expert, and I’m a journalist — can you tell me how that’s going to work?”
GC: Looking back at your time at Grady, is there anything you wish you had done (classes you had taken, skills you would have liked to have learned, clubs to be involved with) that would help you with what you are doing today?
JC: As a college student, I was so intent on double-majoring (in English and in journalism) and excelling at the student newspaper. I wish I had taken more classes just for fun! Looking back on my time at UGA, I can truly think of only a handful of classes I took that weren’t fulfilling a requirement or adding to some other part of resume. If I could go back, I like to think I would do that differently. I know I would be a better writer for it, that’s for sure.
GC: What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
JC: There’s no “right way” to build a career and a creative life. Stop trying to find it! Go to Marti’s and eat some pita chips.
GC: What motivates you?
JC: The day after I publish a piece, I set aside time to read all the tweets, emails and comments responding to it. Sure, some of them are negative, and many require an eye roll or, in bad cases, a block and report. But I save all the emails that say, “you put words to what I was experiencing” or “thank God someone finally said this!” or — this one most of all — “I thought I was the only one.” Those motivate me.
GC: Is there anything else you would like to share?
JC: I have spent countless hours, therapy sessions and fat baby tears stressing over finding a mentor. Everyone kept telling me “Do you have a mentor? You need a mentor!” and at all these different points in my career, I resolved to find a mentor who (I presumed) could shepherd me to career enlightenment. But here’s the thing: my strongest advocates and best advice-givers and most generous sounding boards have always been people at the same level as me. Some of them I met at The Red & Black, some of them I met at internships and some of them I met during my early days at my first job. But we’ve all come up together, and grown together, and I want future students to know that building those connections is enough. Now, these peers are worth more to me than any idea I had of some “Fairy GodMentor.”
This is one in a series of profiles about our 2022 Alumni Award honorees and Fellowship inductees.
All our honorees and inductees will be honored at Grady Salutes: Celebrating Achievement, Leadership and Commitment on April 29, 2022 at Athens Cotton Press. Please visit our Grady Salutes registration webpage for more details.