Most of my career I have spent as an entrepreneur and fundraiser. Setting out to change the world for girls to empower them in science, engineering, math, and technology has proved immensely rewarding. I owe part of my success to my love of marketing. Since the Carter administration I’ve been contemplating how to get on TV and share my bigger message. I remember feeling disillusioned as a small child that the only people that seemed to make the news had done do because they died in tragic accidents. Never to be discouraged, I took matters into my own hands and by the 6th grade when my friend Kim Overton, a serial entrepreneur, and I orchestrated an impromptu carnival at the university housing projects I was embolden enough to pick up Kim’s moms rotary phone and dial the Austin American Statesman directly, insisting that they “Send a photographer and reporter right away!” This Eloise approach to public relations worked for me as an 11 year old. We secured our first media placement, a fabulous shot of Kim on the cover of the metro state that I wish I had today.
As so began my complete fascination with marketing, especially good marketing. After spending my middle school years playing “ad agency” in my (working single) mom’s conference room at work I set my sights on the McCombs school of business and a degree in marketing. My 3.7 GPA paid off and I was the first person in my family to be accepted into business school. My dad was so proud he almost couldn’t stand it, this from a man had spent his life generously exaggerating the mere half successes of my youth: “Rachel was first chair violinist in the orchestra!” In reality I was 9th chair and I only sat next to 1st chair because the chairs were arranged in two rows. My dad would probably dispute this.
I often wonder where I would be today had I actually earned that degree in marketing but we will never know since I was derailed by a poor grade in business calculus. Having internalized the message since 6th grade that I was “bad” at math and subsequently be forced to kiss my childhood dream of a marketing degree goodbye, I set out to change the world for girls and ensure they found math, science, engineering and technology as empowering as they are fun.
After a successful and rewarding career launching and running an organization empowering girls in math I have spent the past two years of my life somewhat undercover as an online marketer, steeped in best practices for non-profits doing online marketing and online fundraising. For me, it has been like getting that marketing degree only more fun and rewarding because it was in practice, not theory and through my efforts hundreds of nonprofits have doubled their fundraising results or more, raising on average 83% more money and getting a 300% return on their investment. I could have never done that in a class in college.
Last week I heard Dr Peter Bishop, futurist from the University of Texas at Houston speak at the Texas Nonprofit Summit. What jobs will there be in the future? They don’t exist yet. They will be determined largely by innovation and the efforts of the creative class – coined by Richard Florida as a profound new force in the economy and life of America - a fast-growing, highly educated, and well-paid segment of the workforce on whose efforts corporate profits and economic growth increasingly depend. Members of the creative class do a wide variety of work in a wide variety of industries---from technology to entertainment, journalism to finance, high-end manufacturing to the arts. While they may not consciously think of themselves as a class, they share a common ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference, and merit. Places that succeed in attracting and retaining creative class people prosper; those that fail don't.
Who doesn’t want to work in workplace culture of creativity, individuality, difference, and merit? I’m proud my hometown of Austin, Texas ranks at the top of the list for the creative class and thankful to be a part of it, self-earned marketing degree and all.
Opportunity is everywhere and life is what you make of it!