DMN's 40 Under 40 on the Job

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DMN 40 Under 40 on the Job
DMN 40 Under 40 on the Job

Everyone has to start somewhere. Harry Truman was a drugstore clerk. Harrison Ford worked as a carpenter. Oprah's first job was at a corner grocery store in Nashville. Kurt Vonnegut sold cars.

The 2013 Direct Marketing News 40 Under 40 winners come from a diverse array of backgrounds and they're no strangers to hard work. The inaugural 40 Under 40 Awards luncheon, taking place today in New York City, celebrates the accomplishments of these rising stars—the best and brightest young marketers and creatives in digital, data, and direct.

Take Sam Brubaker, managing director at Champion Factory Direct. He's been working since he was 11, when he first started helping his parents at their construction company.

“I learned from my dad what it means to be a good leader and a good boss,” he says.

Everything Wacarra Yeomans, director of creative services at Responsys, needed to know in business she learned working as a barista—first at Starbucks, then at an independent coffee shop. “There are so many things you learn serving people and when you're representing a brand,” she says. “On a personal level, I never wanted to be asked to take out the trash, but if it was my idea I did it.”

Jason DeLuca, managing director of digital media at Allscope Media, had his first job in a tennis pro shop in a country club in Florida managing the concession stand and doing court maintenance.

“That job taught me that even outdoors in the intense Florida summer heat, if you love what you do and the people you work with, it can be rewarding and fun,” DeLuca says.

Dedication, wherewithal, a sense of humor, talent, and readiness for anything—that's why they're the 40 Under 40. Read on for more first-job reminiscences from our 2013 winners.

"My very first job was on the front line at Burger King. Sadly, I was fired for taking too many orders and the back end couldn't cope with it. What I learned from this job was the importance of delivering a great customer experience—not just at the customer interface, but throughout the business. I still believe this 22 years on.”

  • Theo Fanning, executive creative director, Traction

Fanning's first-job story is actually about the one that got away—and it still haunts him to this day, though he says the experience taught him humility. He wanted to work as a conceptual artist at the well-known International Light and Magic special effects shop in California. He bombarded the company with more than 30 unsolicited portfolios fully expecting them to welcome him with open arms. All were rejected.

“It finally got to the point where the letters said, 'Please stop sending us this crap,' Fanning says. “It wasn't quite that verbiage, but it was sort of soul-crushing.”

But then he learned that there was in fact a job opening—as a floor sweeper. Rather than looking at the job as an opportunity though, Fanning says he turned his nose up at it. He later learned through a friend that a woman a few years younger than he had taken the sweeping post and worked her way to the top.

“She worked as a conceptual artist there. She had the job I wanted,” he says. “It was my dream to do this, but I was too proud to take something that was demeaning even though it was a foot in the door.”

“My first job was as a professional skier when I was 15. It taught me how to deal with the countless challenges that arise while on the way to becoming the best at anything.”

Pettus first cut his teeth as a writer's assistant on a failed NBC pilot from 1997 called Sleepwalkers, starring Naomi Watts and Bruce Greenwood.

“I spent three years in TV production as an aspiring TV writer,” Pettus says. “People usually shift into TV, but for me the level of subjectivity to the entertainment business, specifically TV, was so great that I found it refreshing when I stumbled into advertising where there was some quantitative way to judge the success of your creative.”

  • William Peterson, email marketing manager, U.S. Bank

“I worked at the local Ace Hardware. This first job offered important lessons in relationship building, customer service, and toilet replacement. Besides the practical experience of fixing things, the weekly shelf-stocking process was always a true test of patience and a lesson in teamwork.”

  • Judah Fontz, VP, Search Fundraising, VeraData

“I designed and built bird houses and bird feeders when I was eight years old.  I went to the nursery down the street from our house and got the owner to agree to allow me to display them there.  It taught me that if you create a quality product, others will want to sell your product for you.”

 

When Davis arrived in New York City, she worked at a private-label company for fashion and design. As a wide-eyed Midwesterner, this was a career path she'd never heard of but that nonetheless excited her. “What I learned from there is to do whatever is needed, even if it's just getting the coffee,” she says. “Nothing is beneath doing. You shouldn't worry what the project is, just do it.”

  • Mason Thelen, founding partner/owner, Elicit

“Pizza delivery boy. I was 16 and that job taught me to work hard and show up. Like most people, their first job teaches them the value of a work ethic that won't quit. That job taught me to take more pizzas, work more hours, and sometimes, like during holidays and Friday nights, that it's OK to bend the rules a little bit. And it taught me speed. Hot pizza demands it. Most important, while the job itself was monotonous, showing up day after day for three years of my life helped to put me through college.”

Jason Siegel, partner/creative director, Bluetext

“I worked for free at 14 for a neighbor who installed ponds. He taught me how to create a pond with a waterfall and landscape it with plants, aquatic plants, fish, and water ornamentals. Japanese Koi and the whole nine yards. After two installs, I started my own business, Aquascapes. I paid for college and life with this business through high school and college. The biggest lessons I learned: I didn't want to do manual labor my whole life; creating something from nothing for someone else is a rewarding experience for all parties; and don't be short-sighted—investing in growing your knowledge pays off.”

Jennifer Bunner, director of insight, Outsell LLC

“One of my first jobs was as a research assistant for a cardiology professor during my freshman year of college. I assisted with data collection and analysis and found out that the analytics really interested me and I was good at it. Every role that I've had in my professional career has been in analytics and insights.”

That's just a sample. Come back to dmnews.com and check out our November issue, out Friday, Nov. 1, for full profiles on all the 2013 40 Under 40 winners.

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