Former UConn volleyball player Jackie Wattles on breaking into breaking news at CNN

CNN Digital

Former UConn middle blocker Jackie Wattles thinks being a student-athlete helped her develop time-management skills.

Remember 2013? "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" topped the box office, and "Nothing was the Same" for rapper Drake. And the future of journalism, seemed, well ... bleak. It was assumed that text over 140 characters was somehow obsolete.

Jackie Wattles was moving from staff writer to associate news editor at The Daily Campus, UConn's student-run paper. The former Huskies volleyball player, who graduated from UConn in 2014, was pursuing her sport and her academic discipline, relentlessly. "I was never discouraged by the thought of journalism declining or there not being enough opportunities," said Wattles. "I knew I had to stick with it and had a lot to learn."

espnW spoke with Wattles about time management and her pivot from student-athlete to breaking news reporter at CNN Business.

This interview has been edited for length. 

Adjusting to college life

When I first arrived in Storrs, Connecticut, for undergrad, coming from my hometown of Austin, Texas -- I had to adjust. There was the weather I had to get used to, especially the winters. But, ultimately, I had to find a balance between sport and school. Fortunately, I had a great support system, from my teammates to professors and coaches. And because volleyball isn't as popular on the East Coast, most of my teammates were new to the area as well. We were able to bond and really band together as a unit.

Playing a sport and trying to excel academically doesn't always permit time for a social life. I'd study in the student lounge. I was able to interact with other student-athletes and non-athletes while getting some work done. Adjusting to college life, especially as an athlete, requires time management. This was my way of socializing and studying at the same time.

Timing is everything

I worked on my campus paper, but I also had to be in practice or traveling to games. Then there was school work! I made it a priority to manage my life accordingly. I like to think I'm organized, and that I take things as they come. I don't put things off. I dig into them as soon as possible. And have done that since college. I don't let things pile up.

Being a student-athlete, you've been practicing and playing with all kinds of people and have always been in a team environment. Sometimes people think if you're an athlete, you're just a "jock." But, in my opinion, sports help you learn how to deal with stress, time management and managing different personalities.

My breakthrough moment

I was committed to journalism, and after graduating from UConn, I decided to attend the Columbia School of Journalism in New York City. After getting my master's degree, I thankfully landed at CNN, where I work with some brilliant people. It's fast-paced and you're constantly moving. I can genuinely say that I've transferred many skills from being a student-athlete to the workplace. Working on the business desk, I cover finance, media and tech. I can be working anything from a cybersecurity piece to a space telescope story. I'm constantly learning and growing, just as I did on campus. 

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