Professional Life and Accomplishments
In 100 words or less, tell us about your career path.
Fordham University: American Studies, Anthropology, and Elections & Campaign Management. During graduate school I worked on an Assembly race in the South Bronx. After we won, I was a receptionist at a law firm in Manhattan and took classes at night. After graduating, I became a full-time paralegal at another law firm. As 2016 came around, it was time to put my political chops to the test. I joined GSG, and here I am – three cycles later!
What would your co-workers be surprised to know about you?
I co-wrote a chapter of a legal textbook about the history of juvenile justice in Chicago when I was in college (based on high school National History Fair research), which I guess technically makes me a published author!
What accomplishment are you most proud of OR what has been your biggest success to date?
I have been blessed to work on so many important, inspiring projects in my time at GSG. But being a part of the team that helped elect JB Pritzker as Governor of Illinois stands out the most to me. Starting in January 2017, we worked on over 50 projects – surveys, focus groups, and more – to inform the campaign. All the late nights and weekends paid off big time in November 2018 when he defeated the incumbent Republican. Even though I’ve since moved on from Team Pritzker to work on other Chicago- and Midwest-focused projects, I have really appreciated watching Governor Pritzker lead Illinois and am grateful to have played a small part in his effort to improve lives for Illinoisans.
What is the best piece of advice you would give (or have already given) to women starting out in our industry?
My first campaign manager (who was a woman) once told me, “Everybody’s got a side-hustle.” What I’ve always interpreted that to mean is this: It’s important to invest your time and energy into your work, but it’s also important to keep your hands in other projects and passions.
GSGers work so hard to accomplish what we do, and it can become all-consuming (which is how it sometimes needs to be). But I would encourage everyone to take time to cultivate and tend to your other gifts outside of “work.” For me, that means pursuing my career studying and teaching Irish dance and having that as an outlet, especially in (financially, mentally, or emotionally) tough times.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Not necessarily career advice, but life advice from my dad applies to everything I do. “Half of life is showing up.” (By the way, “The other half of life is finishing what you started.”) You owe it to yourself to put yourself out there – to try. Work hard and do your best, even if your best isn’t better than somebody else’s best. “The truth,” he would tell me, “is that most people aren’t willing to put in the work.” The simple act of “showing up” makes your contributions meaningful, your commitment undeniable, and your service irreplaceable. “Showing up” is also a tremendous part of being a leader. In that context, it means making the tough calls when no one else is willing to make them – “showing up” for the people who depend on you, look to you for guidance, and follow your example.
That, and something I learned at my all-girls high school: “Even if you think you’ll get the answer wrong, raise your hand.”
More about Nicole
If you could learn to do one thing, what would it be?
Speak Italian fluently. I attended Italian school every Saturday from age 6 to age 13, but it just never stuck. I’m still hoping on honeymooning in Italy (eventually), so I think it’s time to brush up!
Name a song on your playlist that no one would believe is there.
I’m notoriously pro-Chicago, so probably Frank Sinatra’s “Theme from New York, New York.”
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An astronaut! I was obsessed with the space race and NASA – and, as a consequence of watching Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff, all things Tom Hanks and Ed Harris.