I’ve always felt like I should have a better story about how I got into community management, but the truth of the matter is I just sort of stumbled into it thanks to good timing and a little luck. However, looking back, I have no doubt that all of the random jobs I’ve held down over the years have both prepared me for and led me down the path to where I am today.
In college I studied film, theater, and english with the hopes of one day becoming a GREAT FILMMAKER. I made bizarre little films, directed plays, and wrote scripts while I worked as a barista, bookseller, server, sandwich artist, delivery driver, production assistant, multimedia assistant, and at one point I even worked weekends at a used car dealership.
I’ve made a huge mistake.
After graduating, I moved to Chicago where I interviewed for probably 20 jobs before landing a post-production internship that didn’t teach me anything other than how to stock refrigerators and get yelled at by a tiny woman with power issues. I had an apartment I couldn’t afford and a roommate I couldn’t stand and I was miserable. It wasn’t long before I came to my senses, apologized profusely to my ex-boyfriend, moved back to Colorado, and married him.
Upon arriving in Denver in 2006, the first job I was able to land was as a legal assistant for a big corporation. I shuffled papers, entered data, and spent the rest of my time as a moderator for a film discussion forum. A year later I was jonesing for more responsibility and turned to project coordination for commercial construction companies — first in landscaping, then earth moving. After a year and a half of that tough, stressful, volatile industry I’d decided that it was time to move on. And because the universe works in mysterious ways, I was about to stumble across an opportunity that would drastically change my career path.
What’s a Brightkite?
In April 2008, for my 26th birthday, I’d invited a few people over to our apartment and one of them was an old coworker of my husband who had recently been the first hire at a new company called Brightkite. I’d just barely figured out what Twitter was, so I had no idea what the hell Brightkite meant. But at some point I must have mentioned how much I hated my current job, because he told me they would be looking for a community manager soon. A what? He said someone to interact with users, answer support questions, and basically do all the random stuff they no longer had time for. Oh really?
About a month after that, I found myself sitting across from the Brightkite founders, in their newly rented office, being interviewed in ratty jeans and a t-shirt because I had been running around to construction sites all day. We liked each other, I was more than capable of handling the work load, I was the right price, and the timing was perfect. A week later I was their second hire and started as their community manager. Immediately, my arts background and experience in customer service, technology, and project management became invaluable. I may not have always been happy with the jobs that I had, but I always tried to learn as much as possible to see where it would take me. Never in a million years would I have guessed I’d end up here.
Up around the bend.
Four and a half years later, I’m still loving life as a community manager. Nowadays I’m a member of the amazing team at COLOURlovers and the soon to be launching Creative Market, which are two incredibly fun communities to be involved with. On the one hand, I get to manage a massive community of color enthusiasts, and on the other I get to switch gears and focus on building a community of designers around a new product. Both have their own unique challenges, and building momentum for a product launch is one of the more daunting tasks you can face a community manager. Who is your audience? How do you reach them? How do you differentiate? What story are you going to tell? Why?
To help answer these questions I like to look to other startups for inspiration. Companies like Threadless, Etsy, and Woot! have built huge, enthusiastic communities and they continue to do a great job engaging them. Newer startups like Buffer have done a really fantastic job using their blog to build their community and their brand. I also have a great local network of passionate, community-minded friends doing awesome things with many different startups. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by creativity and I try to use that energy with Creative Market whenever possible.