From Test Tubes to Trending Topics: My Long and Winding Path towards Community Management

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Just like most of us, I didn’t start my career thinking about community management. My path towards community management was both long and winding and it starts in a lab with test tubes and microscopes. When I was younger, I wanted to be a chemist, to discover and delve into the building blocks of our world. I lived for complex and seemingly unsolvable problems. Then, during my sophomore year of college I started an internship in public relations to help cover the cost of college. I was a chemistry major but I figured learning more about effective communications strategies couldn’t hurt. For three years I studied chemistry (and physics, biology, and mathematics) while I worked in PR. I developed email communications strategies, built our team’s website, and explored ways to leverage chat rooms as a way to create a social campus space (this predated social media by about five years).

After college, I went to graduate school—still studying chemistry. This time I was focused on computational chemistry, so my relationship with and affinity for technology continued to grow while I could feel my love for all things chemistry begin to slip away. Once again, I found myself studying chemistry while I was volunteering in public relations. Something about my academic decisions just didn’t make sense.

After three years as a chemistry graduate student, I withdrew from my PhD program and went to work for a local nonprofit working, finally, in public relations. Or, to be more specific, community relations. I spent the next several years working in the nonprofit sector, specializing in community cultivation, social media, and digital communications. When it made sense, I returned to school and completed a master’s degree in public relations.

After eight years of public relations in the nonprofit sector (with a little social strategy consulting on the side), I decided it was time to make a change. Blackbaud, a company that specializes in building technology for nonprofits, was the change I was seeking. My original role at Blackbaud was to manage an emerging online community for a cloud-based CRM solution. As internal changes happened, new opportunities became available and the work stream owner for the consolidated community project reached out to me. He started the conversation with “I have a project I think you’re going to like …”

From Test Tubes to Trending Topics

The rest, as they say, is history.

I like to think my unique and winding path to community management served to make me a better and more creative community professional. I still love solving complex and seemingly unsolvable problems. I still work with closely with nonprofits. I still think in terms of digital communications and social strategy. I just do all of these things, and so much more, for the new (consolidated) Blackbaud Community.

Holly Herbert

Community Manager at Blackbaud
Holly Elizabeth Herbert is a community manager at Blackbaud. She works to connect Blackbaud customers by building, growing, and managing online user communities. Holly has more than a decade of experience working in the nonprofit sector, focusing on social marketing, digital strategy, and fundraising. Holly has a Master’s degree in Public Relations from Indiana University and has worked on social strategy for local, regional, and national nonprofit organizations. In her free time, Holly is an avid urban dweller and glitter aficionado.
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