January 12, 2023
From Economics to Comic Books
CMU alumna Nikita Kannekanti takes the road less traveled to career success
By Tina Tuminella
How does a research analyst with an economics degree working at the International Monetary Fund become a comic book editor?
It sounds like the setup for a joke, but it’s actually the origin story of Carnegie Mellon University alumna Nikita Kannekanti.
“Working at the IMF was a good learning experience and a great place to work but nothing I wanted to do long term,” she says. “Entertainment was always an interest of mine. I just never realized my passion for television and comics could be tied together into a career path until I heard about Carnegie Mellon’s MEIM program.”
“Comics are popular for all ages these days from kids to teens to adult readers. TV series like ‘The Walking Dead’ have helped popularize the graphic novel, and a real appreciation for comics and graphic novels has grown over the years.”
Editor on the Rise
Nikita began work at Legendary Comics in Los Angeles, California, as a summer intern in 2016 while she pursued her master’s degree in entertainment industry management, a joint program of the College of Fine Arts and Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.
Like other students in the dual-city program, Nikita split her two years of study between Pittsburgh and LA.
“Thinking of next career steps, I knew I wanted to work in entertainment and move to LA, and I thought, ‘This program is exactly what I need.’”
CMU’s focus on quantitative management and strategic skills sealed the deal.
She graduated from the program in 2017, becoming an assistant editor at Legendary Comics in 2018 and a senior editor in 2021.
“Comics are popular for all ages these days from kids to teens to adult readers,” she says. “TV series like ‘The Walking Dead’ have helped popularize the graphic novel, and a real appreciation for comics and graphic novels has grown over the years.”
In her current role, Nikita listens to book pitches; manages Legendary’s young adult social media accounts; assists with business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing; and connects with writers, artists and agents in an effort to find original, new material to publish. She works with authors on story development and reviews each script, providing constructive notes page-by-page alongside each artist. Right now, she is juggling seven projects, overseeing them from the initial pitch throughout the publishing of the book.
Of her many projects, some of her recent favorites include “Enola Holmes,” “The Heart Hunter” and “Championess.”
Nikita loves working with artists and writers to talk through their stories, guide them to think through their narrative arc and figure out what makes a compelling script or comic book page.
“As long as you have great relatable characters that you care about and that you can follow on their journeys, that’s what I think makes a great story,” she says.
“Traveling with my classmates brought a special kind of camaraderie that has been invaluable in a competitive field where relationships are everything. CMU definitely helped me get where I am today. Without CMU, I wouldn’t have gotten the Legendary internship, and I wouldn’t have an extensive network in the entertainment industry of people I know I can always talk to and rely on.”
An Invaluable MEIM Experience
Nikita’s story wouldn’t have had the same arc without graduate school at CMU — and its 1,000 hours of real-world industry experience via internships at entertainment companies.
In Pittsburgh, she interned with Quantum Theater, a local arts organization, and attended South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. In year two of the program in LA, she attended the Sundance Film Festival. These opportunities afforded her the chance to network extensively.
“Traveling with my classmates brought a special kind of camaraderie that has been invaluable in a competitive field where relationships are everything,” she says. “CMU definitely helped me get where I am today. Without CMU, I wouldn’t have gotten the Legendary internship, and I wouldn’t have an extensive network in the entertainment industry of people I know I can always talk to and rely on.”
Beyond relationships, she also gained knowledge, which she still uses on a regular basis from courses like Measuring Social taught by Heinz College’s Distinguished Service Professor Ari Lightman.
“We worked with an actual client to help with a specific issue,” Nikita says. “My cohort helped a Netflix show use data to increase their social media engagement. So that project has absolutely stuck with me.”
Lightman remembers Nikita’s embrace of how the course’s content could impact her future readers.
“Nikita was fascinated with how all media, especially social, could be used to engage and understand online audiences, ultimately leading to strategies to increase awareness,” he says. “I can absolutely see how Nikita’s curiosity, analytical approach and love for media translated into a promising career in comics, storytelling and editing.”
And as for that economics degree? She’s found those skills were actually quite transferrable.
“The finance stuff has definitely come in handy,” she says. “It’s helped me to skillfully review and create profit and loss statements. Everyone needs a numbers person.”