Year of Graduation: 2012
Current Position: Senior External Communications Specialist at Medtronic
Previous Positions: Senior PR Specialist with Be The Match, The National Marrow Donor Program, Press Representative and Staff Photographer at the Guthrie Theater, Publicist at Sesame Street Live
Please give a brief description of your current position.
My work as a Sr. External Communications Specialist at Medtronic furthers my passion for saving lives each day. I sit on the cardiovascular team and represent medical devices that help people with atrial fibrillation and other heart-related issues, both in being diagnosed (with devices like insertable cardiac monitors) and with product treatment. It’s my responsibility to represent the products in an accurate way to our external partners, like media contacts, through press releases, media pitches and patient stories (just to name a few activities). I also work closely with a handful of agencies who help support all the work that we balance.
What path did you follow to get to these positions?
I knew I wanted to major in Communication when I started school, but I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with my degree. I sort of fell into Public Relations and started as a publicist for Sesame Street Live, VEE Corporation, which is based in Minneapolis. I got a lot of great PR experience planning publicity for our three U.S. tours. I worked at VEE for a year, and then I transferred those skills to theater and started working as the Press Representative at the Guthrie Theater for about 3 years before starting at Be The Match. My most recent experience in the healthcare world helped me get this job at Medtronic.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Internships are so important! You’ve got to start somewhere. After graduation and during the job hunt, you’ll be a standout to any employer if you can show that internship experience on your resume. Another thing to remember is that you learn so much on your first job. If an area of communication doesn’t seem like the right fit at first, try it out for a while, then gain other experiences in marketing. That’s the beauty of this major - it’s so broad that you can get experience in a lot of areas to gain more skills. Also, it pays to be outgoing and curious. I got the job at Sesame Street Live by reaching out to an alum who worked there. There happened to be an open publicist position, so I got lucky and set up an interview the next week. It never hurts to ask!
What skills are important in your field?
Any PR professional must be willing to put themselves out there in order to get the word out about their brand. It takes some guts to come up with a story idea, pitch it to a media contact and either move forward with that idea if they’re interested, or face some rejection. That’s part of the gig! For me, I really like the fact that I don’t work with an advertising budget - all the media exposure I secure is earned, so I don’t often feel a lot of pressure to book every interview I pitch. It also helps to be organized. I need to set up a lot of daily or weekly interviews, so organization becomes really important to stay on top of interviewees and reporters to make sure everyone gets what they need when they need it.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
I feel so lucky to get to work for a company with such an amazing mission – to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. I come to work each day inspired to help get the word out about the products that could help people get back to their normal lives.
For me, the most challenging part has been learning the ins and outs of the devices. The technology can be overwhelming, especially because I write materials for an audience who doesn’t know the specifics of these devices. Translating technical jargon into something that’s relatable and easily digestible is challenging but is also a really fulfilling part of my job.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
I took Dana Drazenovich’s “Intro to Media Writing” class when I was a junior…and it was AWESOME. That course really helped me understand how people in the media write and function on a daily basis. Following my path in communication, this class was very valuable and sparked my interest in pursuing a job working with the media.
Through multiple internships with CSB Athletics, Minnesota Public Radio, KARE 11 and G.L. Berg Entertainment, I gained new experiences in the workplace and learned more about where I wanted to go after graduation. I also participated in JEC and helped plan events around campus. This was a great way to gain exposure to organizing events and working on a team.