Laura Kaiser, Wisconsin Technology Council
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Laura Kaiser, communications director, Wisconsin Technology Council.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
As the conference and social media director for the past 4.5 years, COVID has forced the Tech Council to pivot away from 500-plus in-person networking events to more of a virtual presence, while still embracing networking and connections. My new pivot to the communications director will allow me to focus more on outreach and engaging more directly with economic development groups, chambers across the state, and others with significant ties to the startup ecosystem, investment networks, and others with tech ties.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
My admiration stems from leaders who have successfully endured personal and/or professional changes and decided to thrive and learn. I also find tremendous strength from women in my network who have inspired me to think outside of the box, stay true to myself, and follow my passions. A few include Jeanan Yasiri Moe, WARF; Amber Swenor, Strategic Partners Marketing; Emily Bissen, ActionCOACH; Lorrie Heinemann, Madison Development Corp.; Gail Johnson, Restaino & Assoc.; and so many others.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
I have several. Being able to grow my network authentically through relationship building, social media, and referrals has been extremely rewarding. I really enjoy learning about people — their challenges, their goals, and their passions both in work and in life. 2020 was definitely a bummer for networking and seeing people; however, I’ve strived to maintain connections through any means possible. There is no substitute for face to face, but reaching out and connecting with others — and growing to meet new people — during this challenging year has been a high point.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Oh, wow. At 21, I had just moved to Madison to continue my education from UW–Marathon Center. I worked three jobs to make ends meet and was enjoying getting the big city vibes after growing up in small town Eagle River. Looking back, I would have told myself to follow my passions more. I focused on the job title that I thought was important instead of following the courses I loved and the learning that really inspired me. My degrees in sociology and English are extremely helpful, but I wish I had taken more marketing and business classes in college.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
Dane County certainly opens up many more opportunities for family life than growing up in Vilas County did. The variety of farmers markets, swimming pools, distinct areas of Dane County to hang out in, the festivals/fairs, and the ability to embrace all of the seasons are certainly attractive in addition to the job market prospects. The startup ecosystem and the biotech communities are such a fantastic draw in addition to the UW–Madison life. I honestly cannot imagine living anywhere else.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
During the pandemic, I started a passion project making small-batch fudge. I have shipped it all over the country already and was incredibly busy crafting and mailing packages out right up through the holidays. My personal favorite are the individually-wrapped sea salt caramels. I think I failed at nine batches/recipes before settling on one that I absolutely loved. Having the side hustle during the holidays that brought so much pleasure to others was incredibly fulfilling.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Books. My friends refuse to help me move anymore because of my collection. I’m proud to say I have books spanning my childhood, high school days, and college courses, to current fiction and nonfiction and memoirs. I am terrible at lending books because I’m anxious I won’t get them back. I am very careful to not break spines and I have most of them organized by author, of which Jodi Picoult is my favorite.
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