Rising Through the Ranks – Mid-Level Career Development @ Curley
As they celebrate their one-year anniversary at the company and individual promotions, Lorianne Walker, Director, and Abby Listerman, Account Supervisor, reflect on their experiences and the lessons they’ve learned to grow as leaders.
What makes Curley so different from other places you’ve worked?
Abby: I value the female leadership component of Curley Company. Jennifer really talks about how that’s a passion of hers and empowering women in their careers, and making bold moves. A big thing was the culture that Jennifer and KayAnn were talking about cultivating. From the interview process through my first day and beyond, I felt like a trusted and valued team member and I was looking for that type of experience at this level in my career. Curley is a supportive and positive place to work.
At Curley, I get to work with clients with varying needs and missions every day. It’s really exciting and fast-paced. I feel empowered to try new ideas and be creative because I feel supported to do so here. I know we always say “we lead from every seat” – a Curley value – but I really feel that here. And in an industry where work-life balance isn’t common and burnout is very real, Curley does a really good job supporting all of us to have that balance and show up as our full selves, which allows us to feel confident and creative. I think it all just goes hand-in-hand.
Lorianne: It does indeed go hand-in-hand. The work-life balance feeds into the creativity, which I think is one of the things our clients talk about a lot. “We love the creativity, we love the ideas, we love the results.”
I love that Curley takes a people-centric approach to client service too. The ability to affect change, have an impact and see the tangible results of our work is something that inspires me every day. I had been working at a firm in Baltimore for about five years and during my time there, the thing that I enjoyed the most was the work we were doing that had an impact on communities, and specifically advocacy and policy work. I was really eager to dig deeper into public affairs and advocacy work and a couple of connections in the industry pointed me to Curley Company as a DC firm that was small, but growing quickly and making an impact.
I started talking to Jennifer and KayAnn, and loved what they were expressing about the culture they wanted to build, and the clients that they were working with.
Did you have to unlearn any tendencies and habits to help you grow into these new roles at Curley?
Abby: We both come from industries where in some ways this hustle culture is rewarded. Sometimes there’s social value, and being the martyr and saying, “Oh, I was up until midnight working last night,” or you feel a social reward for putting in your out-of-office, like “I’m on vacation with my family, but I’m available in all ways, send me a message if you need me.” You know, there’s inherently some kind of reward for that, I think culturally in America, but then, especially in our industry. And so it’s definitely something I’ve had to unlearn. And I think a big part of it is having managers that don’t reward you for that.
Lorianne: I think the work-life balance piece is so huge. It’s made such a difference for me in the last year. Right before I started at Curley, I had a week between jobs where I didn’t check email, I didn’t do any of that. I forgot how precious that time can be when you’re surrounding yourself and around people that you don’t normally get to see, and you remember what’s really important is investing that time, being present, being with the people in your life who matter. And so that was a really good mindset for me to have coming to Curley.
A lot of those habits are impressed on us culturally and in the workplace, and expectations that we start to put on ourselves. At Curley I got to experience very early on people being like, “no, we’re not going to reach out to you. We’re not going to contact you while you’re out. We’ll handle everything.” It was super rewarding, and having leadership that models being offline and creating barriers is important.
How do you feel you’ve evolved and grown as a PR professional in your year @ Curley?
Abby: I get to be creative and create opportunities for clients and try new things, which is why I feel like I’ve grown and learned the most in the last year than I have in the previous four. The perk of working at an agency and across different clients is getting to take what you learned from one client and seeing how we can adapt it to work for another.
Another thing that’s helped me is not having come from the public policy space and having to learn and learn quickly due to the pace of the industry. It forces you to be really creative and think of new ideas and solutions against tight deadlines and turnaround.
Lorianne: In my previous jobs I had mostly been in an environment that was heavily focused on media relations and content writing. But something that makes Curley really unique is the depth of digital expertise that exists in such a small firm because I feel like a lot of times digital is outsourced or completely separate. And to have that integrated approach in this small team, it’s really interesting to get to learn and watch the digital team and all the elements that play into, complement and supplement all of the other verticals and services that I was already familiar with. It allows you to do such a better job of giving clients holistic solutions and plans. So I will say I think this is something specifically from you (Abby) I feel like I’ve learned a lot from over the past year.