Business Leader Reflection – The Hilltop

Photo courtesy: Caleb Harris

My dad made sure the Wall Street Journal reached my family’s kitchen table every morning. When my siblings and I were learning to read, he made us study a variety of articles to improve our skills. Although this practice ended, the newspapers continued to arrive and I continued to read them. I always enjoy the escape from my reality as I dive from story to story, and the satisfaction of capturing experiences and narratives that might otherwise be out of my reach. I believe that the newspaper is a way to connect with other realities of the world and, ultimately, to diversify the perspective of its reader.

However, I didn’t realize how important this hobby was to me until I got to Howard University and lost access to my dad’s membership. Once I could afford it, I bought my own subscriptions and now I also manage the business affairs of my school newspaper, the top of the hill, founded in 1924 by Zora Neal Hurston and Eugene King. Of all the jobs I’ve had in my life so far, this one has been the hardest, while making me proudest. The Hilltop is an incubator for enterprising people and bold thinkers. My vision is that one day The top of the hill will be the most lucrative vessel for black knowledge while continuing to be fertile ground for young black stories, journalists, and budding businesspeople.

I took on the role of Business Manager just as Covid-19 first disrupted Howard’s system, causing our entire printing operation to be cancelled. Since then, our team has led the transformation and digitization of The top of the hill. This includes introducing an online infrastructure that mirrors standard ad units and building a business team with specialists in audience development, sales and product design. With the implementation of Google Analytics, our team has more visibility than ever, allowing us to develop key growth strategies. The Hilltop is accessible on all Apple devices worldwide via Apple News and our online site now has over 30,000 monthly active users. After I graduate, I will be moving to California to work in corporate finance at Apple. My decision to pursue a graduate degree in business was inspired by my experiences as a business leader and my desire to be a leader and agent of change in areas that I am passionate about.

As hard as it is to be gay, I wouldn’t trade it. As I gained independence, I learned that affirmations, relief from abuse, and peace of mind about the future are fleeting thoughts to focus my identity and purpose on. Instead, I focus on building and leveraging my skills to create the change I want to see and bring my visions to life. I am incredibly ambitious, in part, perhaps cynically, because of these lessons. My goal is to fearlessly set a new precedent for how external thoughts, perceptions, and belief systems can dictate an individual’s success, impact, and ability to solve complex problems.

Growing up, I attended two different churches. My family is a devout Christian and every Sunday I attended DuPage AME (African Methodist Episcopal) where I also participated in Sunday School, Homestay and Scouting. It was here, in the safe environment of my culture, that I learned the discipline and fundamental principles upon which my faith and morals rest. On Wednesday evenings, I attended Calvary Church, a fairly large non-denominational church where I had also attended kindergarten through eighth grade. It was there that I learned to love God and explore his peace in my life, as well as develop unique friendships with former classmates. These two places of worship have both contributed to the strength that my faith now enjoys. The interactions, discussions, and lessons given to each have taught me to persevere and navigate various ideologies and teaching systems. My faith journey has not been easy, but continuing to chase God in every aspect of my life has allowed me to find hope and encouragement in an unjust and unjust world.

Mary H. Martino