Point Park's Photojournalism Program Prepares Alumna for Position at National Geographic Alumni Profile
Meet Dominique Hildebrand
- Job Title & Employer
- Associate Photography Editor, National Geographic
- May 2016
- College Activities
- Photography Collective, The Globe, NPPA
- Presidential Scholarship
- North Kingstown, R.I.
- High School
- North Kingstown High School
- Now Living In
- Washington, D.C.
- Hobbies & Interests
- Hiking, camping, exploring, wine, cats
"My professors were incredibly influential in not just my education and career, but they became close friends and now colleagues. It helps that we are such a small team, so you really get close with your professors ... I love these people endlessly and really owe a lot of my career thus far to them."
Tell us about your current position with National Geographic.
As an associate photo editor, it is my responsibility to source images for daily production, breaking news and short feature picture stories. Often, I spend my time trying to illustrate a story that has not been photographed or even more often, cannot be photographed.
I am currently pursuing a Master of Science in multimedia, photography and design from Syracuse University, and secured my job by first earning an internship at National Geographic. I got this internship not just through my grades and work ethic, although I hope that helped. But what really helped me stand out was all the extracurricular projects I took on. It showed that I was passionate about photo editing, so much so that for fun after class, I do more photography-related work.
In terms of turning that internship into full-time employment, I think the key really was to be brave. It can be intimidating working with so many talented people! But I really tried to make an effort to speak my mind and share ideas. Most importantly, I asked tons of questions and admitted when I didn’t know something. Knowing how to seek help, to ask questions, and to admitting when you are wrong or don’t have an answer, is incredibly important in professional and personal growth.
What do you enjoy most in your current role?
Working with photographers is easily the best part of my job. It is what drives me every day to be the best picture editor I can be! I love meeting the Nat Geo “legacy” photographers because they have so much knowledge. Through them I learn a lot about storytelling. Plus, many are experts in other fields, like science, technology, biology, etc. It really isn’t an exaggeration when I say I learn something new every day.
An important part of my role that I enjoy is also to bring in new photographers to Nat Geo. I find the process of story ideation to publication exciting and rewarding. But even more so when I get to mentor a new photographer or bring some new skill and talent into the organization.
What college experiences impact you most in your career?
Landing an internship at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through Point Park was greatly influential in my career. I went into the internship with vague ideas about what I wanted out of my career, but with no clear idea how to accomplish them. Through the internship and from the help of the photographers and editors I had the opportunity to work with, I was able to clarify my ideas of what I wanted to do in my career. It helped me discover what excited me most about photography.
Additionally, my professors were incredibly influential in not just my education and career, but they became close friends and now colleagues. It helps that we are such a small team, so you really get close with your professors. April Friges is fiercely passionate about photography and art, and many of the tools learned in senior thesis are now a regular part of my workflow. Christopher Rolinson first introduced me to multiplatform storytelling (audio and video along with still photography) which now is something I require of all photographers I work with and mentor. Matt Adams as a professor reminded us all to “stay on our bus” when we felt we lost our way (we are now both at Nat Geo). And Jessica Steigerwald, who gave me my lowest grade at Point Park, but only because she constantly challenged me to be a better storyteller. I love these people endlessly and really owe a lot of my career thus far to them.
What advice do you have for a student interested in Point Park?
My advice is really for anyone pursuing a college degree. Your education is 100% what you make of it. It is going to be hard, but if you are passionate about the path you have chosen, the work will be rewarding and worth all the late nights and stress. There is no hand holding, you do not get opportunities just by showing up. You have to put in the really gritty work to get what you want out of it. Spend time building relationships with your professors, they will connect you with people in the industry and they will advocate for you. Take time to work hard not just in class, but in your extracurriculars. It is outside of the classroom that you apply that knowledge and experience that will help you stand out in the crowd.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I can’t say this enough. Be passionate about what you want to do. If you care about what you do, the work is not laborious. You will be so much happier if you are honest to yourself first about the things that are important in your life and then shaping your career around the important things that make you happy.