Posted 18 January 2023
Mention Riann Phillip
Interview by Lyla Maeve

Editorial assistant at gal-dem, Riann Phillip, on entering journalism and working remotely from Coventry

Having studied music at degree level, Riann Phillip opted for a slightly different career, applying for an editorial assistant role at trailblazing publication gal-dem. Multiple tests and interviews later, she scored the role despite a lack of prior journalism experience. Crediting a “welcoming and helpful” team at work with enabling her to learn on the job, Riann supports gal-dem’s output remotely from her hometown, Coventry. Outside her career, she’s not neglected her musical background, following her parents’ steel pan-playing pedigree – even performing at Notting Hill Carnival. Here, Riann chats about why self-comparison is a killer and the playlists she meticulously curates for a potential future in artist scouting.

Riann Phillip

Riann Phillip

Job Title

Editorial Assistant, gal-dem



Previous Employment

Visual Merchandiser, & Other Stories (2021-2022)
Sales Assistant, & Other Stories (2018-2021)

Place of Study

MA Music Industry, University of Liverpool (2021-2022)
BA Classical and Popular Music Studies, University of Liverpool (2017-2020)

Social Media


What I do

How would you describe your job? And specifically what you do at gal-dem?
My job takes on many forms. Mostly, I work in the editorial team and support primarily with ideas, writing, editing and sub-editing: fact-checking, sense-checking, spelling, grammar and proofreading.

I maintain the website by building posts and making sure all elements – including visual and social media assets – on the site appear as they should, as well as identifying bugs and glitches. But more broadly, I work with the entire team, supporting wherever they need. For example, I help the social team with posting, caption and subtitle-writing, making Instagram Reels and so on.

I also help the commercial team with writing briefs, articles, copy-editing and engagement reports. I am also a regular point of contact for third parties, such as book publishers when we post extracts. This list is not exhaustive but most things are covered – and although these are the things I do, all of the editorial team share this workload!

Riann’s interview with Flo for gal-dem

What kind of skills are needed to do your role? And would you say you need any specific training to do what you do?
I didn’t have any specific journalism or editorial skills prior to joining gal-dem – I’ve been learning pretty much on the job. You definitely need a sharp eye for detail, confidence in your opinion and an appetite to learn! Proficiency in spelling and grammar is also preferred, alongside general writing and editing skills.

“In an editorial role you definitely need a sharp eye for detail, confidence in your opinion and an appetite to learn!”

What recent project at gal-dem are you most proud of?
I’m proud to have started a new social series called Take a leaf from their book (below), where I highlight good news and inspirational stories from our communities. It’s a monthly spotlight on our Instagram.

Can you tell us more about your interest in music?
I’ve always been involved in music, with both of my parents being steel pan teachers, and I run a steel band. I have been in multiple bands in different genres – jazz bands, R&B, choirs, steel bands and so on – and have also always written and produced my own music. I went to a performing arts school and then later went to study music at university level. I have also taught and written about music on the side.

I think my interest in music definitely stems from my Trinidadian heritage – with music being so ingrained in the culture, I have always wanted to be around music and musical people. Since I was young, I have always made sure to learn about music and expand my musical tastes. I think I would like to continue my musical journey in my career, but right now I’m really enjoying my time in my current role.

How I got here

How did you land the job at gal-dem?
Honestly, I saw the ad and just applied. I had no in-roads or connections to any of the team prior to joining. The job application was a test looking at Spag [spelling, punctuation and grammar] skills, editing skills, journo instinct-based questions – I don’t even think they asked for my CV!

After I submitted my test application, I was shortlisted for an interview. I was interviewed by [editor-in-chief] Suyin Haynes and [gal-dem’s former CEO] Mariel Richards and they asked me questions about my experience, my favourite gal-dem articles and potential story ideas. Initially I thought I really messed it up – I was rambling and very nervous.

My main advice is not very specific: just go for it. I applied to the job, even though I didn’t think I would get it, but I did. But also: imagine all the different questions they could ask you and have a rough answer prepped for each. Stay calm, be kind to yourself and try not to get too stressed.

Remember that as much as the organisation is getting to know you, you are also getting to know them. Ask questions – what’s the pay? What’s the holiday allowance? How big is the team? Will I be working from home – if so, do I get a work laptop? And remember, if it doesn’t work out, that’s also okay! Treat it as an opportunity to learn, rather than as failure. Mindset is key!

“Make sure you prep for your interview – imagine all the different questions they could ask you and have a rough answer prepped for each.”

Riann’s interview with Eliza Rose

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
It took me a while to find my feet. Like I said before, I went into the job with very little experience – the only writing experience I had before that was purely in an academic capacity. Luckily, the team was so welcoming and helpful. Practice makes perfect and I found it easier with time.

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
At gal-dem we have ‘Work with me’ guides, where every staff member writes a doc about themselves and the easiest ways to work with them. For example, we specify things like our preferred way of communicating about work things and what times of day we are most productive. I found these super-helpful when I first started.

I really enjoy The Receipts podcast. It’s not a podcast about careers, but they often talk about their own job experiences. I’ve found it so useful to listen to their perspectives as BIPOC.

From a music perspective, I make monthly playlists featuring new music that I like. Whether it’s a song I Shazammed or one I discovered on TikTok, it goes straight in the playlist. Partly, this is to document how my music taste continues to change and grow, but also if I ever get scouted into an A&R [artist and repertoire] role I’ll have a back catalogue to fall back on! It’s a good practice and feels kind of like a diary.

Riann with her steel band

Is there a place in Coventry that you’ve found helpful or inspiring to your career?
I love the Coventry Cathedral. I have a lot of fond memories there, as we used to have to go for a service at the end of every school term, so it holds quite a special place in my heart. I also just think it’s visually stunning and I find it quite peaceful.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
The transition from student life, to moving back in with my parents and WFH full-time has been interesting to say the least! I struggled a lot at first because I felt quite lonely, especially with a lot of my friends living all over the country and being on different schedules. However, I’ve realised that this is just a classic symptom of being in your early 20s and being a ‘young professional’. Like I said before, mindset is key, so I’m loving all the positives of being at home and feeling lucky that I have this time to spend with my parents.

Excerpts from Riann’s first newsletter for gal-dem

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Comparison is the thief of joy! Try not to compare yourself to others – everyone’s life is different and everyone goes at their own pace. It’s very easy to get bogged down about money, especially in the current cost of living crisis. So do what you need to in order to get by, and try not to compete with others.

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
Reluctantly, I think social media is intrinsic to my work – it helps me connect with other people in the industry, potentially scout writers and illustrators and so on. It also helps me spot trends and potential news stories, as well as promote my own work and build up a portfolio of sorts. However, social media can also be a cesspit of nonsense, so you have to have a critical eye and not believe everything you see. Definitely form your own opinions.

Have there been any courses, programmes or access schemes you have found helpful or would recommend to get into your sector?
Following The Media Mentor on Twitter is really useful for job listings. Also the NCTJ [National Council for the Training of Journalists] training courses are pretty good – I enrolled on the Editing Skills Masterclass in May and it was really useful.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Do everything. And if you don’t like something, then that’s good too, as it refines your taste.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Make a list of the places you would like to work, find contact details and email or DM the people. Reach out and be visible! Believe in yourself and that you are one of a kind. Go to events IRL – there are so many networking opportunities that are hosted in the creative industries that you can sign up for. Also, if you are outside of London, don’t feel pressured to have to move there. Try and see what’s going on in your area, or help make it a hip and happening place.

Mention Riann Phillip
Interview by Lyla Maeve