Scott Bembenek

Credentials: Firehouse Strategies

Position title: Senior Associate

Major: Journalism (Strategic Communications emphasis) & English (Literature emphasis)

Certificate: Digital Studies & European Studies

Graduation Date: May 2017


How did you end up at Firehouse Strategies?

When I was in college, I was never quite sure what kind of path I wanted my career to take. Throughout college, I interned for non-profits, a government agency, and a lobbying firm. By the time I had graduated, I knew that I was interested in communications and policy, and that I wanted to work somewhere that I could feel my work had an impact.

That brought me to Washington, D.C., where after some time interning on Capitol Hill, I ended up at a public affairs agency. Working there allowed me to get a feel of the ins and outs of the public affairs world, and eventually, the opportunity came to change course and take up my current role at Firehouse Strategies. We have a great team, and I get to work on a whole range of issues that I’m passionate about, which is exactly what I was looking for when I set out from Madison to come to D.C. I’m so grateful I found a job that lets me do the things I enjoy and apply my skills to tackle issues that are timely and that I care about.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

I work with a variety of clients in a wide range of industries, so no day is the same as the one before it, which is one of my favorite parts of my job. Every morning, I start by monitoring the news in the industries that affect the clients I work with, but after that it’s a bit different each day. Some days, I could be drafting content and participating in meetings to help figure out what direction our client projects should head in next. On other days, I could be working on research and project reports. Each client has its own set of needs, and what I do varies based on what those needs are and what’s going on in the news.

How has Digital Studies influenced your career path?

Digital Studies has helped me at just about every step of my career path. Not only did it help me develop the practical know-how and skills to work in an ever-changing media landscape, but even more than that, it helped me to develop my ability to approach familiar problems in new ways. Having an understanding of the digital media and information we interact with every day helped me to look at things from a new perspective, which has been so beneficial working in places where communications strategies are key.

Did you have a favorite Digital Studies class?

There are actually a couple classes that always stand out when I think about doing the Digital Studies certificate and that resonate with what I’m doing frequently. My first semester at UW, I took Communication Arts 346: Critical Internet Studies with Professor Jeremy Morris, and it is one of my favorite classes I took during my four years in Madison. The things we learned were fascinating and gave me a much deeper understanding of a lot of topics I thought I already knew fairly well. I also really enjoyed Communication Arts 155: Intro to Digital Media Production with Professor Eric Hoyt. It taught me a lot of unique skills, like video editing and Photoshop, that have helped me just about everywhere I’ve gone.

Do you have any advice for current students?

The first piece of advice I have is to chase what you love. It can sound a bit cliché at times, especially when you’re in college and everyone is saying it, but it’s true. Doing something you enjoy and working on issues you care about will make your day-to-day that much more fulfilling, and you’ll be happier for it in the long term. The second would be to meet as many people as you can who do things you find interesting and make an effort to keep in touch with them. When I first moved to D.C., I did countless coffee meetings with people who were doing jobs I thought were interesting, and it’s helped point me in the right direction every step of the way. Finally, don’t rush your time in Madison and take the opportunity to enjoy it. UW is one of the best places you can be, in one of the best cities around, and the Badger alumni will be a family for you wherever you end up.