Interview By: Amandari Karaca
Kate Herron is the Director of Marketing at Experience Grand Rapids. She has been employed with ExperienceGR for five years and has been the Director of Marketing for four months. What made interviewing Kate so personal and easy to identify with is that she is an alumna of Grand Valley State University. Because of this, I think she understands the educational expectations of Grand Valley State students more. I believe her advice, experience and work ethic are more tailored to what my peers and I are capable of seeing that she was in our shoes only a few years ago.
A “Typical” Day
Kate describes her days as including “a lot of variation,” but narrowed a majority of what she does as working with and servicing partnerships. ExperienceGR is unique in the sense that its primary business function is to promote other businesses in the area. Because of this, they partner with many restaurants, bars, and other venues to create a unique experience for anyone visiting the Grand Rapids area. ExperienceGR also has various marketing materials such as their Food Trail, Beer Trail and Music Trail, which map out each of those areas and show the current happenings within the city. Updating these marketing materials falls under Kate’s responsibilities. Being the Director of Marketing, Kate has become the face of ExperienceGR’s marketing efforts to the media. Therefore, Kate also handles all media aspects of the job such as presentations, conducting interviews and being interviewed.
This workload is appealing to me and reassures me that I am in the right field. I truly appreciate a career containing so much variety and the fact that everything I am learning in school right now, such a public speaking, collaboration, and doing research, is directly applicable to the working world. It is reassuring to know that I will have some sort of an idea of what I am capable of doing for a company and being able to apply skills I’ve learned in my first position after graduation.
Being outgoing is something Kate says has contributed to a lot of her success in her field. “You’re constantly meeting with people you’ve never met, so you need to be confident in those abilities to reach out and connect with new people,” she explained. In addition, Kate made not of how important collaboration is in her work. “I’m constantly working with my marketing team so a lot of our work is truly a team-effort”.
In addition, Kate noted how important collaboration is in her work. “I’m constantly working with my marketing team so a lot of our work is truly a team effort.”
Knowing what skills will important to my career success makes it easier to focus and refine those so I will be more prepared when I enter the workforce. While I understand that each career requires different things, it is not unreasonable to assume collaboration will be important.
Areas of Improvement
Kate believes one of the biggest things she believes she can gain more experience in is public speaking. “I’m actually going to a few conferences and am going to be speaking to crowds of at least 100 people,” she said. Kate has never had this large of an audience before. She has prepared by taking a class on large public speaking and continues to refine these skills.
In addition to knowing my strengths, knowing which skills I need to improve upon is equally important. I identify with the need to improve my public speaking. Therefore, knowing that it is an important skill to master, I feel as if I have more time to practice and refine it. This is something I would have otherwise disregarded and waited to cross that bridge when I came to it. Not a very professional outlook, but hearing testimony from a professional is the most credible form of motivation, in my opinion.
Biggest Problem Faced
“ExperienceGR is based on a huge collective database that fuels our website. Before I came in, the database was a mess. It was outdated and unorganized, so I took on the role of updating and reorganizing it. It was definitely not fun but people definitely appreciated it,” Kate described. Her work on this project helped to keep ExperienceGR as a credible source. In addition, Kate admitted hiring a good intern to help with the workload assisted immensely and taught her that hiring good assistance makes a significant difference.
From this, to be honest, I realized that I want to be that good assistance: the one being hired to help with the tiresome work load and accept it with enthusiasm. However, I also gained the assurance that it is ok to ask for help when needed.
Kate began working at ExperienceGR as an intern. When her internship ended, a front desk position opened and Kate accepted it in order to stay within the company. She assisted the president on projects and she was promoted to an executive coordinator. “I would take on extra work and projects enthusiastically, so at a certain level, I was doing the work of a marketing manager so they promoted me to one,” she said. From there, Kate continued to exceed expectations in her work by taking on a heavier workload and was performing like a Director of Marketing, earning her another promotion.
This was some of the greatest advice I have received from a professional that I usually intend to do but have never considered the benefits that it reaps: take on roles and responsibilities. When I surround myself with a new organization or group, I tend to follow the same participation method, which is to volunteer with enthusiasm. I never realized how much higher-ups notice this work ethic until after Kate reminded me of it. This makes perfect sense, if you’re doing the work of a larger position, why would they not give you the title? The logic is sound and effective.
Advice for Students
“Manage your time well and don’t take on more than you can handle. You will be able to do everything but do it effectively. Make sure you balance your work life and find a place with that flexibility that allows you to do so,” Kate advised.
Kate’s advice was completely and utterly practical yet not obvious. This resonated with me immensely. Being a junior in college feeling like I’m practically begging people at the Career Fair to hire me (total exaggeration, I held a composed and professional exterior), I forget to think about how I have to like the place I am working at as well. Finding a job should be a mutual process and I think that’s the only way you’ll truly enjoy what you do.
I took this with a grain of salt though because you can’t just walk into a position you completely and utterly love after graduation. This is where experience comes into play and Kate made sure to make note of that. “Take as much out of an internship as possible and keep those connections after,” she suggested. This showed me that you need to gain experience and who you know is almost half of the game. Doing research on what you want to do is important and I am eager to seek out the things I want to do as well as market myself to them to show what I am capable of.
Speaking with Kate was eye-opening and motivating. The end of college isn’t a black hole into confusion and stress. Success is obtainable and not far away.