Journey from Religion & Telecom Major to the Top of the Digital Media Industry

By Malinda Inthirath

Picture this: you graduate from college with zero work experience, sell everything you have, move to a new city in an entirely different state knowing only two people. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Not for Chad Mumm.

The VP, Creative Director of Vox Media is a 2008 graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Telecommunications, along with Religion and a minor in Archaeology. Chad studied a very diverse set of subjects, but ultimately knew he wanted to work in media production.

After graduation, he moved to New York City from Atlanta. How did Chad end up as the VP, Creative Director of Vox Media?

For the Love of Tech

Chad started with his obsession with technical gear to make creative content. With his upbeat, extroverted personality, he jumped headfirst into telecommunications. He correctly assumed that the telecommunications major would be the best way to get his hands on a video camera and be surrounded by other production nerds like himself.

“I'd been playing around with cameras and video cameras for as long as I can remember and I was really into music recording, especially on the production side. I'm a people person, so I wasn't a huge fan of sitting in a quiet music studio for hours alone tracking a song. The sheer amount of people involved in a production and that rush that comes from working together as a team to accomplish something great is what pushed me over the edge to focus on video, first in college and then again in my working career.”

Along with his excitement for cameras and technology, Chad had always been fascinated with history, science, philosophy and good-old-fashioned storytelling. Double majoring with religion and telecom gave him the opportunity to explore all of his interests.

A New Beginning

After graduating, Chad sold his truck and moved from Atlanta to New York City. In this new city, the only people Chad knew were his roommates. With no connections and no job prospects, he got desperate.

“The city was so big and everything was so new that I didn't realize how much of a long shot it would be to find any job at that time, let alone one in media/production.”

He left resumes with lobby security guards at big media companies and cold-emailed hiring managers in attempts to find a job. He says his resume was essentially a blank sheet of paper, given his level of experience. Eventually, Chad got lucky and a friend of a friend from Georgia helped him get his first real job. He worked on a commercial shoot as a production assistant, which often meant driving a van for 20 hours at a time.

Moving on Up

Being a PA and driving a van for long hours wasn’t exactly what he saw himself doing long term. He decided to take matters into his own hands by freelancing and becoming an independent director and producer.

“I was so used to making things on my own or with my friends without anybody's permission that I couldn't stand the thought of starting out in an entry-level position and having to work for a decade or so before getting a chance to actually do anything. The incredible thing about that time (and now too!) was that the internet and technology, like the Canon 5D Mark II camera (the first full-frame, video-enabled DSLR) made it possible for me to create, distribute and market content to a potential audience of millions by doing good work and clicking ‘publish’.”

After a year of producing his own content, he eventually became a technology reporter for and transitioned into creating and producing The Engadget Show for AOL. His passion for video production then lead him to become the head of AOL Tech.

In 2011, he joined Vox Media as Head of Vox Studios, which is responsible for all video content for The Verge, SB Nation, Polygon and more. He then founded Vox Creative in 2013, Vox Media’s in-house advertising and creative services division. In 2015, he founded Vox Entertainment, Vox Media’s original production and programming group.

Some Advice for You

Chad doesn’t have any regrets, but when asked what he would change if he could go back to his undergrad years, he says he would intern more.

“There's just no way for school to prepare you for what a business is really like the way that actually experiencing it yourself can. Now as a hiring manager, I look for entry-level applicants who have internship experience that match with our business objectives, just like I do with any candidate at any level.”

Interning is an opportunity to take baby-steps into a field without a huge commitment. Some students intern at a company or agency and realize that it’s not the path they want to take. Even if you don’t find your calling, you will get some real world experience. Actually, many entry-level jobs call for years of some kind of work experience, so an internship is a great way to get an edge.

The Internet has opened up an opportunity for anyone to be seen or heard if they use it to their advantage. As important as a degree may be, Chad says it’s the drive, creativity and willingness to put in hard work that is much more worthy.

You don’t need to know exactly who you want to be when you graduate or what kind of job you want, but the first step is to get acquainted with your interests and explore your options. Go out and get a killer internship — or any type of internship, for that matter. Search for something you enjoy doing. You might be surprised by what you find.

Along with being the the VP, Creative Director of Vox Media, Chad is also the founder of Vox Entertainment. He is focused on creating original programming based on the company’s talent, intellectual property and eight distinct brands. He was also featured as Forbes’ 30 under 30 in media and Variety’s 30 Execs to Watch for 2016.

You can see more from Chad through his Twitter.

Have questions or comments about Chad’s story? Leave them below.

Our next story about a Six Flags ride operator that became the CFO of a major entertainment company, will go live next week.

To get notified when our next story comes out, follow us on Medium or subscribe to our weekly story list.