Fairygodboss of the Week: Johanna Maska
SVP Communications and Marketing Karmic Labs
San Francisco, CA
Nominated by: Mary Baskerville
Sponsorship Manager Clinton Global Initiative
Mary’s Nomination for Johanna:
Johanna was nominated by her former colleague, Mary Baskerville. Here are the wonderful things Mary has to say about Johanna:
Johanna Maska was Director of Press Advance at the White House after starting in early 2007 in Iowa with the Obama campaign. From 2007 until 2015, she stage-managed the President’s public appearances with a particular responsibility in ensuring media access and coverage. Johanna worked on every major event of the 2008 campaign, including the night candidate Obama said it “all began”— Iowa Caucus victory night January 2008 — and the night the then Senator became President-Elect, Election night in Grant Park November 2008. Johanna went on to work on Inauguration and in the White House immediately following Inauguration.
During her time at the White House, Johanna had her son, Hugh Maska-Jackson. Through hard work and careful planning, she was able to balance family life along with a high-stress and demanding career. She worked tirelessly to make family time a priority, while also meeting work deadlines. On 7-day four country swings, Johanna would use the flight or bus time to plan family activities and then go right from the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews to a family event. After 8 years with President Obama, and after traveling to more than 40 states and 40 countries with the President, Maska moved with her family to California where she works for Karmic Labs as SVP for Communications and Marketing. Johanna is my Fairygodboss because of her consistent dedication to accomplishing her goals - both personal and professional. Johanna taught me to approach your goals with determination and persistence. When you have a goal in mind, work tirelessly day and night to achieve it. Have multiple goals. Go from working on this smaller goal to working on this bigger long-term goal. Always have something you want to accomplish and work towards it. Keep it moving forward. Keep growing. Keep learning. Keep achieving.
FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
JM: I've always wanted to make a difference. I grew up in Galesburg, Ill., a small city that lost its Maytag plant. I went to school at the University of Kansas. After graduation, I wanted to do what I loved and I'd always loved politics. I got involved in Kansas politics, then Iowa politics, and then started in 2007 on the Iowa Obama team. For the next 8 years, I was privileged to work on the campaign, on Inauguration and subsequently join the White House team. I left the White House after serving as director of press advance, managing the public image of the President around the world. I wanted to make a transition to the private sector, learn new skills and continue to make a difference. As I was leaving the White House I had a friend suggest I should look at financial technology as what's happening there can give people real economic opportunity. I'd already committed to joining a passionate team at the LA Times, trying to make the publication more digitally relevant. I believe everything happens for a reason. There was a staff shake-up and I took that opportunity to leave and join the financial technology sector. I'm very lucky to have found a terrifically talented team at Karmic Labs and a fabulous group of women in financial technology who care about mentorship. Together we're starting the Women's Advisory Council to help ensure startups prioritize inclusion early.
FGB: What is your proudest accomplishment?
JM: I will always be proud to have been part of the Iowa Obama team. We changed the course of history. It was tireless, but so very worth it.
FGB: What was a challenge you overcame?
JM: I've always had to be very sure of myself. Look for inner confidence. There were plenty of folks I've encountered along the way who were at times terrifically negative. I do my best to ignore negativity and push forward positively.
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
JM: Listen to NPR, drink coffee, read books, newspapers, design magazines, scour Pinterest.
FGB: Who is one celebrity - dead or alive - that you’d like to have dinner with?
JM: It would have been Gloria Steinem, but I got to have drinks with her for my 21st birthday. She was visiting the University of Kansas and I invited her out with my mom and aunts. She was very influential. I can't remember exactly how she put it but she said something like, “You don't want to be just like me, you want to be the best version of yourself.”
FGB: What is your favorite song?
JM: Anything by Sara Bareilles.
FGB: What is your favorite movie?
FGB: What book would you take with you on a desert island?
JM: Only one?! My grandmother gave me A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen a long time ago. That's one book I read again and again.
FGB: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
JM: Definitely a house. One I could renovate.
FGB: Who is your Fairygodboss?
JM: Alyssa Mastromonaco, a Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House who is now the COO at Vice Media. I got pregnant when I was at the White House and I traveled for work. I was worried about whether I could continue. I loved my job and didn't want to stop. Alyssa took me into her office and said, "We did it for the boys, we're going to do it for the girls."
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate and thank her by nominating her!