BABE #220: CHAHITA LALWANI - Campaign Lead/Advertising Operations, Hulu
Chahita is the campaign lead of advertising operations for Hulu, where she supports complex video campaigns for Fortune 1000 advertisers. In addition to her various technical and operational responsibilities, she plays an instrumental role in cultivating a company culture that includes facilitating exciting events and philanthropic endeavors. We’re honored she gave us a glimpse into Hulu’s collaborative team approach, her tips for tackling imposter syndrome, and how a tough decision to drastically change college majors ultimately led her to a happier, more fulfilling career path.
Hometown: New York, New York
Current city: Queens, New York
Alma mater: Queens College, City University of New York
Degree: B.A., Media Studies
Very first job: Environmental Health and Safety, St. John’s University
Hustle: Campaign Lead, Advertising Operations, Hulu
Babe you admire?
Bellamy Young! I love that she uses her platform to lead by example, whether she’s spreading kindness and compassion or helping others. She’s endowed a scholarship at Yale and she’s a huge champion of rescue animals, supporting charities such as Operation Blankets of Love and The Humane Society. I’ve learned so much about the butterfly/ripple effect from her. She makes me want to be the best version of myself.
How do you spend your free time?
I consider myself to be a serial hobbyist. I take on freelance portrait requests, calligraph wedding cards, create decorations for events or live-tweet TV shows. Living in New York City, I do love going to the theatre and pop-up museums.
Favorite fictional female character?
It’s a tie between Lorelai Gilmore and Cristina Yang. They’re both ambitious, unapologetic and driven. They don’t change who they are based on the opinions of others.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Indian street food. Bring on the chaats and pani puri. We’re throwing all caution to the wind.
What’s something you want to learn or master?
What’s something not many people know about you?
I’ve sung on stage at Carnegie Hall.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Reese Witherspoon. She’s a force of nature! But, we’d be having whiskey in a teacup instead of coffee.
Tell us about your hustle.
I'm a campaign lead within the ad operations/sales department at Hulu. In my role, I support complex video ad campaigns for Fortune 1000 advertisers, including leadership of communication and coordination with premier television advertising customers, the ad agencies that represent them and internal cross-functional groups.
What does your typical workday look like?
Typically, my role requires me to be in the technical or operational mindspace, working on everything from campaign delivery and optimization to advertiser insights. Then, there are sales meetings and client emails that need to be answered. In my free time, I’m leading a culture club, encouraging everyone to interact and ensuring everyone feels included and celebrated. I help plan movie nights, ice cream socials, educational trips to places like the Museum of Moving Image, and our annual Friendsgiving lunch. I’m also a part of the Give Back committee partnering with Publicolor, New York Cares, Food Bank for NYC, and Volunteers of America. I’ve painted schools, helped lead can drives, stuffed backpacks full of supplies for distribution, etc. Occasionally, after-hours I have the pleasure of attending events such as New York Comic Con and PaleyFest. It’s both technical and creative. That’s one thing I love about working at Hulu--your day is what you choose to make it.
What inspired you to switch gears from PA school to pursue a media studies degree instead?
Getting accepted into the physician assistant major at St. John’s University with a scholarship was a huge deal for me. This was my older sister’s alma mater and major, so proving I could make it through the program was my Everest. However, I was sitting in those required classes wishing I could be somewhere else. For anyone who’s thinking about changing majors: Make sure your dreams are yours, and you’ll be more inspired to go after them. And, say your dream out loud to those around you. I was scared to tell others I wanted to go into media studies, because it was the complete antithesis of the physician assistant major and I didn’t want to be laughed at. But once I did, it put the onus on me to pursue it. Being good at something doesn’t mean it’s what you should be doing if it’s not what you love. Ask yourself: What do I want? What’s the worst that could happen? Why not me?
How did you land in your current role at Hulu?
Hulu came onto my radar after “The Mindy Project” was picked up. I loved the mission of the company, so I applied and was hired a few months later. This is my first real adult job, so I’ve learned a lot about myself, my working habits and the industry in general.
What aspect of Hulu’s company culture do you value most?
We’re one team with six core values. I love our open-office environment where hierarchy and titles are not top of mind. We have a highly collaborative team (not only in New York, but across all our offices!), so daily I can find myself working with several teams including sales planning, integrated marketing, AR, research, creative services, workplace experience, etc. You’re never done learning in the “Huluverse.”
How have your past internships, education and work experiences prepared you for the work you do today? My internships prepared me the most for the workplace because I was suddenly accountable for more than just myself and my grades. Interning at Elvis Duran and the Morning Show (which is where I first heard about Babes Who Hustle!) taught me how to be flexible in fast-paced environments and respond to unexpected demands. Interning with Sony Music Entertainment’s Legacy Recordings taught me how to communicate with different teams.
What’s been your biggest career milestone to date?
It changes often. Earlier this year, I collaborated with our workplace experience manager, Brookes, to help design the entry wall into Hulu’s New York office. It took months to pull together the content, since we wanted something that was representative of Hulu’s growth over the past 10 years. To see her run with my ideas and bring them to life was a big compliment. I pass by this wall every morning, and it’s a great reminder that everyone has a seat at the table, regardless of their title.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
Fortunately, I’ve never worked in places where my gender has affected how my coworkers perceive me or my work. I’ve had some great men (and women) supporting my vision; sitting me at the head of the table, letting me share my opinions and treating me like an equal. It’s upsetting that gender is still considered a weakness in many industries. I think it’s important for us to lift each other up, and I have hope that things will continue to change in our favor.
What’s one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
Imposter syndrome. That feeling of I don’t belong here or deserve this. I never want to fall short of expectations, so it’s a daily reminder to act in spite of fear. Why do we need people to say, You can do it? I just want to go out there and do it. It’s become less about proving myself and more about improving myself.
What would you say is your biggest strength in your role? What would you say is the skill you most need to improve?
Prioritization and time management! To be everywhere, all the time, for everyone, I really have to manage my time well. On the flip-side, I’m still learning how and when to use the word “no.” I find Lena Dunham’s article “Don’t Take It Personally When I Tell You No” to be SO relatable. It’s like she read my journal and wrote that piece.
Are you involved with any other community organizations or side projects?
I’m currently partnering with Anna from BYoungWeb, who’s organizing a fundraiser for Operations Blankets of Love, which kicks off in December. I’m working on a few new art pieces for her that she’ll be giving away to donators. I always try to keep side projects going during my free time.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
To name a few: My fellow “Hulugan,” Mindy Kaling. My friend and former colleague, Michelle Aoun. Her support is unwavering, whether you’ve known her for one hour or one year. My intern supervisor from Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, Web Girl Kathleen. She doesn’t fragment herself into her functions and she’s who I want to be when I grow up. And finally, a true mentor from my intern days at Sony Music, Lisa Del Greco. She sees in people what they don’t know they are yet.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
The media industry is a small world, so network and be nice to people. Don’t think that any job is beneath you; ego is the death of creativity.
What does success look like to you?
For me, success is doing what I can to help those around me, and knowing they’re benefiting from their relationship with me.
What is your philosophy on work-life balance?
Work-life balance is a work in progress for me. I have Slack and email on my phone, so it’s easy to always be “on.” I’m slowly learning not to feel guilty for taking time out for myself, because I can’t give what I don’t have. I’m trying to do more things that make me forget to check my phone.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Be indispensable, be reliable and stay true to your word. Also, ambition is not a bad thing. Own it!
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