Age: 36 | Position: Vice President, Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz
After getting her master’s from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Karen Imas, a native of Rego Park whose family emigrated from Ukraine, assumed that she would be working in international relations, given her academic focus on the post-Soviet landscape.
Instead she landed a job as director of communications for the Council of State Governments, a public policy think tank that aims to share best practices of state capitals from Augusta to Annapolis. Part of the job entailed coordinating with the Canadian provinces, which is how Imas eventually wound up working for the Canadian consulate in New York.
“My role primarily was to be a political advisor to diplomats who rotate a lot and who need to have fixtures on the ground to give them the political lay of the land,” explained Imas.
While she was fascinated by her work at the consulate in areas ranging from energy and the environment to defense, as an American Imas could only advance so far, and eventually she hit a ceiling.
A year ago she moved over to Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz, which was a “big learning curve,” because despite her extensive experience in public affairs, she was a relative newbie to New York City government, the firm’s focus.
“Now I finally feel steady on my feet and much more able to understand the dynamics of city agencies and what players do what and how to effectively respond to a client’s needs,” Imas said. “When they call and say, ‘Why can’t I get this permit?’ or ‘Why does this bill says this?’ now I don’t have to think as much about, ‘Okay, how do I handle this?’ ”
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would love to write a novel at some point.”
What is your favorite place in New York City? “My parents’ house. They have that amazing thing in New York called a ‘backyard.’ ”