Lisa Takeuchi Cullen is a staff writer at Time magazine, covering workplace, business, and society trends; she also writes Time's Work in Progress blog, where she posts about everything from how what you did in high school shapes what you end up doing in your career (She says bullied her way into being captain of her cheerleading squad, a skill that carried her through one of her first jobs at age 23, as "the editor in chief of a ragtag group of New York newspapers") to dreaming about work ("Of all the places to let my unconscious roam in my too-few hours of sleep, it has to trot straight to the office").
She's also the author of the 2006 book Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death, which she wrote and researched with her then-newborn daughter Mika in tow. What was the most striking thing she learned? "Maybe it was the backyard cryogenics experiment at Frozen Dead Guy Festival in Nederland, Colorado," she says. "Or the mummified dog in the pyramid in Salt Lake City. Maybe it was collecting my grandfather's cremated bits by chopstick in Kochi, Japan. It was a weird journey, particularly with a baby on my back."
She and her husband, Christopher Cullen, a freelance classical clarinet player, live in New Jersey with Mika, who is now 3. Baby number two is due to arrive next week; she's still pondering what do to with her blog while she's on maternity leave but says that, for the summer, she's planning to be her own wife.
Tell us a bit about your career path. How did you end up at Time?
I should not be a staff writer at Time. I did not attend Princeton, I do not have an uncle at Time, Inc., and cigar smoke makes me vomit. I took what is considered here a suspiciously scrappy path: After graduating from Rutgers, I took a series of crappy editorial jobs until I somehow landed as a staff writer at Money. After four years, out of boredom, I took the International Reporting Project fellowship in Japan. While there, the Tokyo bureau chief of Money's sister magazine, Time, asked if I would be interested in a job there as a correspondent. I wasn't, really; I was already long married, and my husband wouldn't move to Tokyo. We decided I'd try it out.
If ever you get a chance to be a foreign correspondent, I would highly recommend it: It was and remains the best job I've ever had. I would have stayed on but the 8,000-mile commute was wearing on my marriage. After a year and a half, I begged my bosses in New York to let me transfer back. I've been a New York-based staff writer at Time since fall 2002.