Meet Kelly Wilson, Director of Marketing and PR at SEP
Job Title: Director of Marketing & PR
Degree Path: Public Relations, Ball State University + MA in Organizational Management
Hometown: Carmel, IN
Current City: Fishers, IN
What led you to your getting into tech and this occupation? What was your first job in tech?
After working in the financial services industry for six years I hit the point in my career where I knew it was time to move on. I wasn’t really looking for a job in tech specifically but I knew I wanted a small-mid sized company.
I did a ton of networking during my search. I took a lot of people out for coffee/lunch and started to explore what career options were out there. The more I met with people the more I started to discover what I really wanted (and did not) want to do. I knew I wasn’t going to switch jobs just because I wanted to. I wanted to wait for the right time. It was through a meeting with someone at Indiana Health Information Exchange that I was introduced to SEP. She had heard they were hiring their first marketing person and made the connection. Networking works!
What has been your career path so far?
After graduating from Ball State University, I started working for a financial services company as their Marketing Coordinator. They had experienced marketers who taught me a lot of really good lessons about the ‘real world’. I was lucky to have leaders who cared about me and who wanted to make sure that I gained experience in a variety of areas inside marketing. I had internship experience in event planning so my boss gave me the opportunity to plan their annual incentive trip. I traveled across the country researching venues and selecting locations alongside experts who taught me a lot. This quickly became one of my main responsibilities that I loved at the company (see how important internship experience is!) After some acquisitions and leadership changes, I continued to look at new opportunities in the company to try new positions, and they were very open to that. I was the Communications & Creative Development Manager for a few years (the first person in this role) and even tried sales for a year.
I was lucky to work for a company that allowed me to move around within the company to find my niche. I learned quickly that sales positions weren’t my thing! The money was there, but that was the point in my life when I realized that having a job wasn’t about making the most money possible. It was about doing something that I loved and enjoyed doing. I stayed with the company for six years before I decided to switch industries (right before a trip to the Mediterranean – what was I thinking?!)
When you think of a day in your life, what are the main work activities you do or responsibilities you have?
- Inbound Marketing
- Community Relations
- Social Media
- Educational Based Marketing
- Event Planning
- Website Management
- Lead Generation
- Client Surveys
Help us picture your work environment.
Quick answer: I’m in the office daily in front of my computer…creating.
Long answer: I’m always working with people in various areas of our business so I’m in the office daily running around connecting with people to help move projects along. If life gets in the way, I have the freedom to work from home. My job is pretty flexible, so I’m able to work from a laptop and get most everything done wherever I need to. There was a period of about 5 years that I was planning industry conferences, so I traveled for site visits, meeting with organizers multiple times throughout the year (see how specialized experience can follow you!)
I am the only person at SEP with a true marketing role, so it’s important that I meet peers outside the company to connect with. I found out very early in my career that I need to build a tribe of like-minded individuals that I can call when I need second opinions, feedback, etc. from.
I also have a graphic designer that works with me in marketing full time. This was a position I found out very early in my career that was important to marketing so having them in a full-time role (instead of outsourced) was key.
What do you love about the work you do?
It’s cliche but it’s the variety. I joke internally that EVERYTHING is marketing at SEP. From the sign outside our building, to the SEP t-shirts we wear, to words on our website, I feel like it’s my job to make sure that every time someone steps inside our building they feel the awesomeness that SEP has to offer. Marketing in a lot of companies is just one area of focus, helping to bring in the leads. I think SEP does things right, marketing is involved in a lot of areas because it’s all outward facing that could impact an experience of clients or a future employee.
We have an office full of makers who don’t often get to brag on themselves so I love doing that for them. I work with super smart people who build awesome products and I really enjoy helping them feel proud to work at a company like SEP.
I also love that I am able to come up with an idea, an initiative or a better way of doing things and our exec team gives us the freedom to make those things happen. Having worked somewhere before SEP, I know this is rare. This is what I love about tech companies. They are willing to try new things, work in an agile way and learn from any failures that may happen along the way. This isn’t always the case with public companies.
Which personality traits, interests, and abilities are important or common for a person to succeed in and enjoy this occupation?
Individuals that would love this line of work need to be excellent communicators, be very detailed orientated and learn how to coordinate the chaos! You need to be okay with being behind the scenes to help get things done. It’s not always about strategy and coming up with ideas, it’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting things out the door so you can test, measure and repeat.
It’s also important that you can juggle many different tasks and deadlines and be aggressive enough to nudge others to do the same. You have to be able to get things done.
Which tools/technologies or technical skills are particularly important for a person in your job to be proficient in?
This is a funny one to answer because times have changed! When I started marketing nearly 17 years ago it was totally different. Marketers need to be able to constantly learning new things because technology changes so fast! It may seem silly, but you need to know how social media works; this is the time we live in. I really didn’t want to have a Facebook page for SEP because it was “one more thing” I felt like we’d have to manage over the years until I realized that potential employees were actually going to our Facebook page to see if they “liked us”!
It’s also important to understand how marketing automation tools work and what possibilities they offer to make your job easier. You need to be open to finding/using technology to help make your job easier.
Which soft skills (aka general business skills or employability skills) are particularly important for a person in this occupation to be proficient in?
- Effective Communication
- Detailed oriented
- Good negotiator
From your experience with new grads applying for and beginning jobs in this occupation, are they missing any particular knowledge, skills, or experiences that hold them back? Please describe.
Portfolios! Writing Samples!
I’m so amazed at how many recent graduates don’t collect or keep their work throughout college to show to their potential employers. I want to see portfolios no matter what area of marketing I’m hiring for. Internships are important (I had 3 in college!) so using time wisely in school and making sure that the internships they are applying for, gives the opportunity to show off talents/skills. It’s also important to tell the company what experience they’d like to gain so they know that going into a job interview.
Also, make sure that someone reviews your resume and portfolio before you apply. We see so many resumes with mistakes in them. If you can’t proofread your resume, how are you going to be able to proofread your marketing content?
Which resources, people, books, websites, etc. would you recommend to those who want to learn more or advance their skills in this occupation?
This one is a little harder for me to answer…there are so many! Honestly, it’s connecting with people and partners who do things better than you do. I really feel that following companies that doing marketing well is such a great way to learn. Don’t be afraid to meet with those marketers and talk to them about how they pull some of these things off! We love to share and make others better so get out there and connect. I’d recommend following: Neil Patel, Seth Godin, and Douglas Karr to start them off.
What encouragement or advice would you offer to others considering this occupation or wanting to stand out amongst others?
I think marketers can get caught up on working for companies that have the big flashy brand names. While this is great for brand awareness to tell your friends, the one thing they could miss is the opportunity to make an impact.
Look at the small companies who have a small team or never had someone in marketing before. This is a great opportunity for you to come in and make a difference.
When I started with SEP in 2007, I was their first marketing person (they were a 19-year-old company at that time). That’s unheard of, right? Take a chance on a company who may not have the flashy benefits, cool office space, and big-time name. I did. Since I started we became an ESOP, have a cool office space off the Monon (with our name on the building) and great benefits. It just takes time. Don’t jump ship too early, you’ll regret it.