Amanda Byrd, J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Amanda Byrd, senior marketing and communications specialist, J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
The most challenging and rewarding aspects of my job could be described in terms of a juggling act. What I do for a living has two parts. The first part is working as a senior marketing and communications specialist for J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. The second involves studying as a part-time graduate student in Northwestern University’s online program for Integrated Marketing and Communications. The juggling act comes into play as I regularly shift between feeling like a savvy marketer in my field to a once-again student baffled by innovative industry concepts and trends. Although it can be challenging to keep these balls in the air, it is incredibly rewarding to see what can be achieved with a focused mind, over-the-top organizational skills, and genuine persistence.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
A person I admire in business is Jaclyn Johnson. A writer by trade, Johnson is an innovative marketing professional based in Los Angeles. In 2012, she started Create + Cultivate, which is a movement for women looking to “create and cultivate” the career of their dreams. I admire Johnson for her entrepreneurial spirit and the opportunities she developed for women. Essentially, she created a platform that offers advice and inspiration for like-minded creatives, with blogs and conferences throughout the U.S. Such resources are not only valuable, but also fun to check out for women looking to grow in their careers.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
Over the years, I have been increasingly involved with various marketing efforts in the architecture/engineering/construction industry. In my current position with Findorff, I have had the opportunity to drive the creative and production processes on projects, ranging from dozens of customized proposals to graphic design for various collateral pieces and campaigns. I was also very grateful to receive the 2016 SMPS Wisconsin Forward Award for Marketer of the Year.
A specific high point in my career involved supporting Verona Area School District’s 2017 facilities referendum. This was a major undertaking as it was one of the largest referenda in state history, totaling $181.6 million. As Findorff was selected by the district to support pre-referendum efforts, ranging from budgeting to community engagement, my role involved designing communication materials to involve area residents in the facility-planning process and keep them informed of the referendum’s scope leading up to election day. It was very exciting to collaborate with internal team members, consultants, and district representatives to help pass the referendum. This was also a meaningful experience as Verona is where I attended grade school. I loved revisiting my stomping grounds and encountering some familiar faces as part of the referendum process.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
This doesn’t mean I recommend playing hooky from school or posing as “Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago.” Instead, I wish I enjoyed the ride more in my early 20s. After graduating from UW–Madison in December 2007, I moved to Chicago for my post-college career. Although I was excited to take my first steps into adulthood, this was during the height of the recession. Reality hit fast. Within six weeks, I was laid off along with other recent hires due to suspended contracts. Although crushed, I eventually found a new position and even did an internship on the side. As I was working seven days a week, I was consumed with work and did not “stop and look around.” In hindsight, I realize you don’t get your early 20s back. However, I am making sure I don’t miss out on my early 30s. This fall I will be traveling to London, and within a year I will be accepting my graduate diploma from Northwestern University.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
There are so many great things about working in Dane County! However, I would say the best thing is the people. Ever since I moved back to the area from Chicago, the outstanding character of those who represent our local communities has continually impressed me. The people of Dane County certainly give meaning to why “the Midwest is the best.”
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
Although I am a marketing professional and currently pursuing my master’s degree in integrated marketing and communications, I actually earned my bachelor’s degree in interior design. That said, I would say my secret talents involve space planning, as well as having a keen eye for quality furniture and decor. I can even do a little feng shui, as I practiced it while studying abroad in China my senior year at UW–Madison.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I certainly have a sweet tooth, which has led to my genuine appreciation for chocolate — specifically the truffles from Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier. However, anyone who knows me would not be surprised to hear of this guilty pleasure. Something people may be shocked to learn is that, despite growing up in Wisconsin, I am a Chicago Bears fan. However, this allegiance is not my fault. My dad raised me to be a Bears fan. Also, when my dad was younger and had a mustache, he could have been Mike Ditka’s doppelgänger. This may also explain why I root for “Da Bears.”
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