Friday, June 21, 2013

Hip + Urban Girl of the Week: Katie Paterson

I first met Katie Paterson when I was a wedding DJ. She had contacted me about learning more about the event industry in Toronto and wanted to meet for coffee. I was intrigued that she was a woman working as a mechanical engineer and was looking to make a big career change. 

Today, she is Social Media Community Manager at Achievers and works out of the San Francisco office. She has a super cool job and a bright energy and smile about her, that I have keeping tabs on Katie's career ever since. Please meet Katie, our Hip + Urban Girl of the Week!

How did you end up with an interest in social media?

In 2008, I was two years into my first career after graduation and I found myself wanting to make a career shift. I was currently working as a mechanical engineer and going to night school to obtain a diploma in Event and Meeting Management from George Brown college. I knew if I was going to change careers I needed to gain experience in order to transition into a brand new industry, so I made the decision to connect with as many event industry leaders and volunteer as much possible to ensure I had relevant experience when started to look for a new position. 

I turned to Twitter and started following all the Toronto event professionals I could find. Twitter allowed me to keep a pulse on what was happening in the city and gave me an avenue to reach out to ask for opportunities to volunteer at upcoming events, connect with someone who became my mentor, and discover industry networking events. After landing my first events position at Achievers (at the time named I Love Rewards) as the event and marketing coordinator, I took my social networking knowledge and used it to connect my employers' brand to the attendees at the trade shows and conferences we were exhibiting at, and the rest is history!

What are you in charge of handling in your day-to-day duties?

As the Social Media Community Manager, I oversee the Achievers social media presence, including the corporate Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and Slideshare accounts. There are two sides to my role since I am in B2B (business to business): half of my time is spent nurturing and connecting with our online communities and the rest of my time is spent driving business results which means I need to drive sales leads via social media. It is an interesting mix of priorities and I have to wear many hats; spokesperson, writer, thought leader, data analyst, developer, customer service rep and sales person all in one.

What do you like best about working at Achievers?

The ability to work with some pretty awesome A-Players who are as committed as I am — getting to come to work and do amazing things together. When I started with Achievers in Toronto there were 40 or so employees and it truly was a community that resonated with me right away. Each person has the ability to bring their skills to the table and I learn something new every day from the people within my department and all over the organization. I consider myself very lucky that I have found a workplace that values what I have to say and has built an environment where I can be myself.

Now you mentioned being a engineer - why the sudden career change and how scary was this?

This is the question I get asked most often once people learn about my education background. I value the education I received as a Mechanical Engineer and all the lessons I learned working in the automotive industry for five years. A few years into my post graduate professional career working as an engineer, I found myself wondering if I could see myself sitting at the office I was at 10, 15, 30 years from now and my gut was telling me NO! 

I was doing well at my job, hearing positive feedback from my annual performance reviews, etc., but when I looked around to my counterparts I saw the passion in their eyes when they talked work over lunch and I didn’t have that. I had a passion for process design and creating something from nothing and seeing products come off the line each day, but I still felt like something was missing. 

So I started to research local night classes for things I was interested in; cooking, quality assurance, project management, event production, and wedding planning. I completed a weekend wedding certification course, enrolled in Event and Meeting Management at George Brown college and volunteered for local event planners to gain exposure and get an idea if event planning was something I wanted to pursue and I used social media to connect with Toronto based events and entrepreneurs. 

And was it scary? Sure, but when I look back I feel like I could have been a lot more worried about the future but I just had a gut feeling that I was making the right choice. I had a strong desire to move forward and learn and having support from my family and friends made all the difference in the world.
What is your typical day like?

The first thing I do when I wake up is open Hootsuite on my phone and check to see if there are any interactions on the Achievers social media platforms. While on my commute to work, I check all my emails and make any replies on the go, to keep my inbox in check. Once in the office, I sit at my desk-- which consists of two large screens and a laptop which house my many open tabs that allow me to see all of the Achievers social media platforms as well as the collection of tools I use to monitor social mentions, industry related news/blogs, and CRM tools. I spend the day interacting with our communities and monitoring HR online communities to keep on pulse on what is trending. The second part of the day I spend planning content and setting up campaigns to drive lead generation. Days I am not in the office I may be at a local social media event to keep on top of new ideas or at an industry trade show to meet our great online community members in real life, which is important too!

Tell us about some cool opportunities you've experienced because of your job!

Being on the event circuit I have met Bill Rancic, played doorman at the Mandalay Bay club in Las Vegas, seen Seinfeld perform live, moved to San Francisco, been quoted by, chartered a plane to fly the whole company to New York for an event, performed in a flash mob and filmed a Harlem Shake video and I am sure there are more but these are some of my faves.

What is a disadvantage of your job that maybe we don't think about?

It is a 24/7 kind of thing… a tweet, comment on our Facebook or Google+ page or post in our LinkedIn group can come in at any time and people may expect a response even though it is not “normal business” hours. That is the good and bad of social media;  your company brand can now be accessible all hours of the day and there are expectations that go along with that. It is important you take that into account when you manage a corporate social media presence and plan accordingly.

Where did you go for college/university?

After high school I went to Queen’s University for Mechanical Engineering and completed a professional internship at General Motors in Oshawa, Canada. After graduating, I worked as a mechanical engineer in the automotive manufacturing industry. In 2009 I obtained my Wedding Planner Institute certification and diploma for Event and Meeting Management from George Brown College, Toronto, Canada.

Is there anything you would have done differently or advise others about?

This is an interesting question. Since I am not a believer in regrets, I look at a situation as a learning opportunity and I have never regretted learning something; good or bad. So I will give some advice instead: I would advise others to look at every situation you may be in and identify what you can take from it. If you find yourself in a working environment you are not enjoying, record what you don’t like about it and use that when you are in a job interview to ensure your potential employer is the right fit for YOU. If you look inward when you are in tough time in your life you may learn something new about yourself, and when you get past it, that new found insight is something you will always carry with you.
Who inspires you?

This one is a tough one to answer, I am constantly inspired by the well-known thought leaders like Seth Godin and Sheryl Sandberg, and the people I work with at Achievers but I like to focus more close to home as well. My parents continue to be a huge source of inspiration as I grow more into adulthood and only now can I really appreciate all the things they did for me as a child. Both of my parents had careers when I was growing up, but they still managed to balance their family life and drive me to dance lessons 4-5 nights a week, take my brother to hockey games, and take us both on countless family vacations where they showed my brother and I adventures beyond our backyard. I think I will only continue to learn more from them as I take on the next steps in life; marriage, kids and whatever else!

What would you tell your 20 year-old self?

I would tell her that the world isn’t black or white it is a shade of grey and it is that grey area where you will learn the best lessons. When I look back, it was those grey moments that allowed me to learned new things about myself, gave me time to reflect inward and walk away with some life lesson that I have kept with me ever since.

What life advice do you have for hip + urban girls out there trying to figure out what they want to do?

This such a cliché but find your passion, never stop asking yourself when you are at work if what you are doing lights a fire inside of you. When you can tap into what gets you up in the morning there is nothing stopping you in your career. If you are not satisfied at work, take up hobbies in the evening and see where those take you, use those new found skills to form new career possibilities. Don’t think you can’t take what you learned in university/college and apply it to a brand new industry-- you are a collection of skills and it is what you do with them that will define your success.

Learn more about Katie!
Twitter -  @katiepaterson


  1. How inspiring!!! A great example that career paths are never linear.

  2. Beautifully written!

  3. Wow I really needed this post in my life right now! Lol. I have been questioning what I wanted to do with my life for so long now. Ten years of taking random programs, going back and forth between school and working various jobs. I've finally narrowed it down to wanting to break into the PR and Events management industry. It's refreshing to hear stories like these. How inspiring!

    1. Glad I could pass on some wisdom!! Feel free to reach out to me if you ever want to chat!