Getting to report to Michelle and Barack Obama, well, that’s an honor right there. Promoting and celebrating your culture at the same time? That’s pretty much a dream job. But for Gabriela Chojkier, senior director of Hispanic media at the White House, that’s just another day in the office.
Chojkier is revolutionizing Latino media as a liaison who works diligently with the press to ensure that Latinos, in the U.S. and around the world, are aware of the president’s key priorities and accomplishments. In turn, she also does her part to make sure the White House’s priorities align with the needs of the Latino community.
We caught up with the lively Argentine-American who shared her personal mantra for success and the inside scoop on working at the White House.
How does one even apply to the White House?
Some people apply online, some start as interns and others are referred from campaigns or government agencies. In my case, I received a phone call one day asking if I would be interested in joining the communications team at the White House. Can you imagine? I just stared at the phone for a good while after hanging up. It’s been a tremendous honor to work with the president and my remarkable White House colleagues on behalf of the American people.
How important were internships for you to getting your dream job?
The sum of my experiences have gotten me to where I am today: a great education, internships, jobs, extensive traveling and interesting people who have challenged my thinking.
What’s the best piece of advice your parents taught you?
My parents always pushed us to experience life, to get a great education and to recognize that this world is filled with different types of people, cultures and beliefs. We were taught to respect others, travel and strive to be the best possible.
Where were you born, what is your background?
I’m Argentine-American, and I grew up in California. My first language is Spanish, and every year I travel to Buenos Aires to see my family.
Finish this sentence, “I am Latina because…”
I am Latina because I embrace my identity and cherish where I come from and where I’m going.
What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Life is full of expected and unexpected twists and turns, so hold on – with two hands – for the ride. Each experience will teach you something about who you are or who you want to be.
What person have you met at the White House that made you the most excited?
Briefing the president in the oval office before his historic trip to Cuba and Argentina will always be the highlight of my professional career. Hanging out with Maná when they came to the White House for this year’s Cinco de Mayo festivities was pretty great, too.
What’s the dress code at the White House?
Most people are in professional attire.
What’s your favorite Latin dish?
My mom’s empanadas. Every time she visits, she makes a couple dozen for me to have in my freezer!
What did you study in college?
My undergraduate degree was from Tufts University, where I studied international relations, and I completed my master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University in communications.
If you had a personal mantra, what would it be?
The great Maya Angelou sums it up well: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”