Our CEO, Jim Weiss, likes to ask each of us “what’s your why?” Recently a college student sent me a great note in response to a year old post I’d written about my trajectory into PR nearly two decades ago and it made me think about my current “why.” Because while some reasons may stay the same – the people I work with, truly caring about the work and the impact it can have on patients and society, and the compensation – for me there must always be growth and learning or I naturally lose interest.
As president of BrewLife, an integrated branding and communications agency under the W2O Group umbrella (along with WCG and tWist Marketing), I’m now setting goals for myself and my team that have required a change in the way I think about and approach my work. These are the big things – the personal things – that require an individual journey and are hard to teach. It’s pushed me to work on the parts of myself that hold me back, namely fear, impatience, and self-doubt. And it’s pushed me to liberate the things I do best, like taking calculated risks, and deliberate and compassionate coaching of my team and colleagues. Then there’s my tendency to grow impassioned on subjects I care greatly about and to fight for what I believe is right – and practicing how I channel that action most productively as a leader in the workplace.
It can be really uncomfortable at times, and it requires incredible mindfulness to avoid inadvertently wandering into anxiety. But observing as things fall into place by removing some of the personal obstacles and sabotages, and sharing in the success of my teams makes it a gratifying effort. This tension and the intrinsic reward that results sit at that place where true personal change can occur, and are driving an evolution within me that I can only embrace.
And now for a long post script – in honor of #TBT, here’s that post from last year excerpted from Cosmopolitan magazine, November 12, 2014:
5 Fascinating Jobs You Can Get With a Biology Degree
Just because you study the subject doesn’t mean you have plans to be a doctor.
I interned at a veterinary hospital after my junior year in college. While I loved interacting with animals, I couldn’t stomach the regular procedures that made up the day-to-day work, namely declawing kittens and cropping dogs’ ears. I also volunteered in a hospital for a few years as a candy striper, and I loved it. I had an epiphany in college when I took a couple of classes on Eastern philosophy that Western medicine is incredibly disconnected from the overall well-being of a person. I graduated unsure of what I was going to do.
My first job was as a marketing coordinator for a friend’s digital agency [that] focused on the big three auto companies. My parents lived in Michigan and I was trying to figure out my next move, so I moved in with them for about nine months. My job was a glorified office manager, but I also learned how to optimize websites and began helping with sales efforts. It got my feet wet with the art of the cold call – something that helped me tremendously when I started out in PR.
A year later, I decided to move to San Francisco. I signed on with a temp agency and got a job as a quality assurance coordinator at Elan Pharmaceuticals. It was a pretty mind-numbing job, which consisted mostly of tracking inventory and filling out incredibly detailed reports. It brainwashed me a bit in terms of attention to detail. I also learned that I did not want to work in a lab.
I came across an internship at a tech-focused PR agency, Alexander Communications (which was acquired by Ogilvy & Mather). This was at the height of the tech bubble in 1999, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My prior experience at the digital agency had left a good impression so I went for it.
The internship was pretty competitive, apparently, and the team that hired me said they did so because I had a unique degree that implied an analytical mindset and didn’t carry the typical communications or journalism major. I really enjoyed the people I was working with. Great communicators tend to think fast on their feet and have a good sense of humor, and at agencies you tend to have a younger crew too. My hourly pay meant I was eating ramen during the week, but the tech parties fed considerably better and there were a lot of those.
After five years, I was pretty burnt out on the big agency environment and wanted to move into health care. One of my prior colleagues at Ogilvy put me in touch with the CEO of a six-person agency focused on biotech corporate communications. Here, both my big agency experience and my degree were clear assets.
I’ve been at WCG for nearly 11 years and serve as lead for the 40-person health care practice. WCG is a global communications company that serves the health care industry. I think going to a liberal arts college allowed me to explore a lot of different subjects and follow my natural curiosity from both a left- and right-brain perspective. Ultimately, that’s what my job is about: synthesizing scientific or technical data, and turning it into a compelling and digestible storyline.