First Job, Lasting Impressions

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DMN's 2015 40 Under 40 Award winners reflect on the indelible marks their first job made on their future careers.

Marketing leaders all need to start somewhere. DMN's 2015 40 Under 40 Award winners are no exception. These marketing all-stars have career histories as diverse as their current roles and industries. And each has a unique tale of a first job that made a lasting impression on them and an impact on their future career.

It's all about the customer experience

Danielle Avalone, VP, Account Services, Lanmark360 Inc.
I worked at a bagel shop, serving bagels. It helped me learn how to cater to people and give the best service.

Kirsten Bjork-Jones, Director, Global Marketing Communications, Edmund Optics
I worked at a custard stand, a typical summer job for a teenager growing up in Wisconsin. It might sound peculiar, but this job was all about personalization and customer satisfaction. 

Courtney Caldwell, Founder, The Write One
My first job, at Eckerd Pharmacy as a pharmacy clerk, taught me that details matter. There were no silly questions when handling someone's medicine, and a smile provided a pick-me-up for customers fighting an illness. It was at Eckerd that I learned how to understand customers at their most basic level.

Kyle Christensen, VP, Marketing, Invoca
In high school I was a lifeguard at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas, where I grew up. At the time it was a Wynn property, and the best place to stay in Vegas. Steve Wynn placed a huge value on delivering an amazing customer experience. Every detail at the property was tailored for an impressive experience, down to the spotless parking garages and polished ashtrays. These details, while small, really mattered and they were noticeably missing from other hotels around town. We were completely indoctrinated on ensuring the guest experience came first.

Yasmeen Coning, VP, Head of Marketing, Genesis Media LLC
I worked for a boutique PR firm out of Boston called Sterling Hager (now Shift Communications), where I learned the art of impeccable client service and attention to detail. Great service has transcended to my internal marketing positions, as well. Each department within an organization is a valuable client of the marketing team, and I treat them as such.

Judge Graham, President, Sq1
I was a barbecue meat cutter, of all things. I'm from Texas, and I worked at a barbecue restaurant. What that taught me was the value and impact of understanding customer service and always focusing on the customer first.

Elizabeth Holub, Marketing Manager; Interim Manager, Performance Promotion, Carl Fischer Music & Theodore Presser Company
My first paying job was doing sales at a music store. It really got me working with customers, seeing how they respond to things; it was a mom-and-pop store in Tucson, AZ.

Alia Kemet, U.S. Media Director, IKEA
I started working at 14. My first job I was working at a women's clothing store called Sassafras. They're all closed now. I was a stock girl; the boxes of clothing would come in and I would have to unpack them—lonely and sad in the stock room. After doing that, at 15 the store manager allowed me to start dressing the window. So, I was a visual merchandiser even though I didn't have that title, I was just the stock girl who dressed the windows. I would do all the window displays. From there I became a salesgirl at that same store; I was actually the youngest person to ever reach the highest level of sales…. I'm a marketer, but I'm a retailer, I love retail. I think it's important that you understand the whole process from the time the person walks into the store or goes on your website, and the journey that brought them there, to their whole entire customer experience. To really do good marketing you've got to understand that. Being a retailer since I'm 14, it just has stuck with me. I try to remember that every day: It's not just about the marketing; it's about the whole customer experience.

Dhanusha Sivajee, EVP of Marketing, XO Group Inc.
My parents are self-employed immigrants from Sri Lanka and they've pretty much owned every small business out there from gas stations and laundromats to convenience stores and post office outlets. Growing up, I spent most every weekend working one front desk or cash register or another, so I learned quickly how making authentic and personal connections with people could help propel sales. We also had a lot of repeat customers come through our businesses, and so I learned early on about the power of a loyal consumer base and the impact of word-of-mouth advertising.

Amanda Todorovich, Director of Content Marketing, Cleveland Clinic
I started working when I was 16 at a grocery store as a cashier. I learned very quickly that customer service is crucial to any business, and when you deliver great service, you feel the reward instantly.

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This is a 40 Under 40 Profile. Click here to see all profiles as well as previous year's winners.

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