Elyse Vincent was originally a pre-Pharmacy major at UK, but some early communication classes steered her in a different direction. “My COM classes were just so different, and I really related to them a lot more. Also, looking down the path of classes you could take for the major, it just seemed to be something that was overall a much better fit for me.” Elyse still remembers her “Persuasive Speaking” class with Communication Lecturer Traci Letcher. “Traci was probably the faculty member who had the greatest influence on me. She was an amazing teacher and really brought something different to the classes. She was fun and serious and really made it interesting. I actually went on to ask her to be my advisor, so I got to hang out with her for the rest of college. She was always there for me, and even post-college I reached out to her a couple of times. She is just a great resource. She’s awesome.”
Later, as a senior, Elyse knew she needed to not only find a great job, but one that was a good fit for her, personally. When she began her search, the recession had just barely “ended,” with many companies still reeling from its effects, but one continued to stand out in the public conversation. Elyse set her sights on working for Lexington-based industrial-grade fan manufacturer Big Ass Fans (BAF), now headquartered on Georgetown road. The company and its owner, J. Carey Smith had refused to layoff its workers during the economic crisis, and with a robust workforce, productivity and profits began to mirror the upswing in the economy. Awards were streaming in for BAF’s environmentally friendly designs and for its reputation as an excellent place to work. The employee-centered company hosted “open-house” events biannually for those interested in working there, and Elyse seized the opportunity for face time with the company’s leadership. “They actually bring you to Big Ass Fans, and there could be college students, grad students, or even people that are further along in their careers and just looking for a new job. They bring all these people to the headquarters. You get to meet with whoever you can talk to, but generally if they know you’re interested in marketing, they’ll take you directly to the marketing person that’s there. So I got to talk to engineers, sales and then with Director of Marketing and a few others from the marketing group. I told them my story and what I was interested in, what I was looking for and the experience that I had already had. There wasn’t a position available at the time, but I guess I must have made an impression on them, because when the position did become available, they called me and asked if I would come in for an interview. After a couple of interviews, they decided I was the right fit.”
Starting from the ground floor, Elyse worked as a full-time intern for eight months, and then over the course of the next 4 years saw promotions to Marketing Specialist, then Commercial Communications Manager and finally to Marketing Communications Specialist. The last position “was kind of like a project management role. I managed our collateral and marketing sales materials, so I got to really put my hands in a lot of things, and it was a great experience. I was able to work with a variety of markets and people and sort of found my niche.”
Recently, Elyse’s career took a slightly different turn. In September, she accepted a position as a Project Manager for the Lexington-based International Spa Association (ISPA). The self-described “professional organization and voice of the spa industry” represents health and wellness facilities and providers in more than 70 countries. As a project manager, Elyse is involved in a wide variety of initiatives. “I’m getting to do all of the things that I found I really enjoyed at BAF. I have quite the variety of projects and responsibilities, and it’s been great. For instance, right now, I’m actually in charge of our website redesign. I’m developing all of our content and site maps, and we’re launching it in January. I’m also sort of a technology liaison, when we have any new tech project, whether it be a smart phone app or just internal technology elements, or social media projects, I’m a part of that process and get to sit in on those meetings. I also write a couple of pages in our association’s magazine, Pulse Magazine. So it’s really a variety of things. If a new project comes about, they put me on as the project manager, and I develop a process and a timeline and really see it through to completion, and we get to document that and really optimize it for the next year.”
Her skills in communication are invaluable when it comes to managing projects and working with team members. “I think that my communication classes really taught me to look at things differently and from different perspectives, which in turn taught me how to work with different personalities. In the classroom, you’re working with your friends but also others that you don’t know as well, so you really have to develop those skills and learn how to communicate with different personality types.” At ISPA, “every day I’m talking to new vendors, or to other employees for the company that maybe I don’t work with every day, and I’ve found that figuring out people’s styles is important, especially if you’re not speaking with someone face-to-face. If you’re working over the phone or through email, you can’t see their body language and how they’re reacting. So it’s all about trying to interpret as much as you can with as little as you have.”
When asked if she had any advice for new graduates, she was ready with an answer. “Yes. The biggest advice that I can give is to do your research and really try to figure out what you’re interested in. Maybe step away from the traditional job websites. If you know you want to go to a different city then you should find out the companies that are growing there. It’s as easy as a simple Google search. Then, apply to anything and everything that you can. Take a leap of faith on things that maybe you wouldn’t normally. Be sure to ask lots of questions, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You don’t want to leave anything unknown or go into a job and get blindsided, and not know that that’s exactly what it’s going to be. So do your best to be fully informed. Do your research. Do your homework. Don’t be afraid to take risks.”
It sounds like excellent advice, especially coming from someone who is so clearly happy with her career.