There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. In a new series to coincide with the launch of BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent, we highlight some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them.
MUMBAI, India — Sita Wadhwani is the digital editor of Vogue India, where she helps shape the editorial direction of Vogue.in, the magazine’s social media presence and other multi-media content. She spent her formative years as a fashion journalist on the features desk of the Indian edition of Elle magazine. Eventually, she was offered the role of editor, although she turned down the position and, instead, dove into digital publishing, founding the Mumbai edition of CNNGo, CNN’s Asia travel website, before working at Vogue.
BoF: Please describe your current role.
SW: Under Vogue India editor Priya Tanna, I am responsible for the digital team and the editorial direction and voice of Vogue India online. That includes content for Vogue.in, our multiple social media platforms, two apps, some video content, fashion week coverage and the multimedia iPad edition of the magazine.
Currently the role of a digital editor means being hyper-adaptive and multi-skilled, and increasingly so. In a day I wear about five hats — as editor, editorial consultant, digital product manager, social media expert, art director, video producer and as the resident bridge builder between print and digital, the old age and the new age.
Also, unlike a magazine's print publishing process, which is departmentalised and linear, the digital team creates content, designs and distributes it as one team. As the head of such a department, my role is to be a bit of an expert in all parts of the publishing process.
BoF: What attracted you to the role?
SW: The opportunity to experience extending a publication to a broader audience with a mighty brand and a market leader; to develop new communication styles, channels and products that reflect the way they consume media. And conversely, looking inwards, to work out new organizational models and communication styles that suit publishing in this medium. We use online collaborative tools such as Google Docs and Skype more than email, which I find to be a highly counter-productive tool of communication.
BoF: What is the most exciting project or initiative you have worked on?
SW: I love the science of digital product development and the art of designing the user's experience from an editorial point of view. The most engaging project I've worked on would be the re-design of Vogue.in and the re-thinking of the magazine for a mobile audience. Which basically means that we think about bringing a print story alive by adding audio and video elements, animation and interactivity — swiping, scrolling and tapping on an iPad 'page'.
Re-formatting the magazine for multiple screens is a lesson in story-telling across mediums. When you're thinking of the magazine not just as stunning images to see and stories to read, but as an experience, you need to coordinate between all departments involved in producing the story — the writers, the bookings editors, the stylists, the photo editors, and add new resources such as film directors and editors and social media managers to produce and gather rich multi-media content at the time of the interview and shoot and maybe after.
You then gather this material and work with the iPad designer on curating these elements, plus animation and interactivity. This happens parallel to the production of the print magazine, so you need to keep track of all the changes and copy edits simultaneously. It is a challenge keeping various different teams for each story coordinated and on the same page across several months of production and multiple issues being produced at the same time. Not to mention that I'm managing the main website, social media platforms and other independent apps simultaneously as well! The upside is that because you are re-designing the reading experience with a brand new set of parameters and a broader vision, often this opens up the business model in unexpected ways.
BoF: How is your role changing? What are the forces driving this change?
SW: Earlier the role of the digital editor was divorced from print. The two teams even sat in different offices. But when I joined Vogue we changed all that and now we're a fully integrated company. I sit right next to the print managing editor, we attend all the same meetings, the magazine writers contribute to the website and social media and vice versa. It's about who's best for the job and this allows us to draw from a much wider range of talent. This month, for example, the print art director and I conceptualised a fashion story exclusively for Instagram. So in that sense my role is increasingly about managing integration on the ground. It's a complicated, messy task but it keeps everyone on their toes for sure!
Digital editors are also becoming more deeply involved in product design and development than ever before. This is the way it has to be because that's how your audience is going to consume and interact with the content. You've got to understand the parameters of digital product development, work within them and communicate the possibilities of technology to stakeholders within the company.
BoF: Tell us about a time you failed and how you learned from it.
SW: In digital publishing, perfection is an illusion, though we strive for it everyday. You're always racing to be the best and be the first to break a story and the target keeps moving. To publish the perfect piece of content, multiple times a day, to the right audience, in a consistent voice, using the right mix of channels in the right sequence, at the right time of day, tagging the right people, procuring the right image, without technology failing you at multiple ends, beating the competition to it… Soon you learn to take "failure" — in that sense — in stride. The main thing is to keep the dynamic and the high energy levels going so that the team is still poised to nail tomorrow's opportunity on the head.
BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?
SW: To convince people in power inside and outside of your company to think and communicate a new way — the digital way — you'll need knowledge, charisma and stamina to act as a proponent of change everyday. Keep yourself abreast of new online collaborative tools for digital project management and news gathering, learn how to analyse Google Analytics data, look out for innovative new publishing models and platforms around the world and build relationships with others in digital publishing and technology. Because most digital editors are largely self-taught, the community is amazingly helpful to one another. We sense that we've got to learn from each other and the UI/UX designers and coders to survive. It's truly the new frontier.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
To explore exciting fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent.