I’ve known Emily Negrin now for probably almost 10 years. And, she’s always been one of those people I think would be fun to work with. Why? She’s smart. Values networking and ongoing learning. And, genuinely likes to laugh–and doesn’t take herself too seriously. That’s my kind of co-worker!
Who knows, maybe we’ll get that chance someday. For now, I thought it would be fun to give Emily the stage today and learn a little more about her, including why she loves the ag industry so much, the value of a PR degree, and how to best balance work and family lives.
First, you were recently promoted! Congratulations! Tell us about your current role at Geosys and your areas of responsibility.
Thanks! I am the global director of communications and brand marketing at Geosys, a company which specializes in satellite remote sensing for agriculture. Basically, we use satellites to monitor the growth of large crops worldwide and provide the data in a variety of ways to agronomists, insurers and commodity traders. My role revolves around positioning Geosys as the industry leader in remote sensing for agriculture by serving as a trusted partner for our core market segments.
Since joining the company, we’ve put a strong focus on generating informative content that helps agribusinesses better understand technology and its applications. The AgTech space has become crowded in recent years – but while this has generated awareness for the industry, it also has created noise and confusion. I was a bit of a math and science nerd in school, so I’ve really enjoyed gaining a deeper understanding for the technology to find better ways to communicate on important topics.
And this is a very new role for our organization, so I’ve worked on developing our team and integrating our expertise across our global business.
You travel a decent amount for your current job at Geosys–and not to locations that are close to Minnesota! Any tips for others who have frequent business travel on getting things done from the road?
I would boil my advice down to this – find balance. Business travel should not mean that you need to work 24-7, so make sure you have time for you. Maybe it’s watching a movie on the plane, working out at the hotel or taking a stroll around the town your visiting. But the flip-side is you are there to work, not take a vacation. Make sure you’re getting your work done and being responsible. If the conference gets done at 3pm and you want to get a run in before dinner, that’s great. But that may also mean that you need to spend a couple hours after dinner doing some work so you’re not behind. I just try to make sure that I get a full day of work in, regardless of where I’m working from.
You spent the first 10 years of your career working on the agency side. I recently wrote about the importance of agency experience on the corporate side. What do you see as the biggest benefits of your agency experience that you use every day in your role at Geosys?
I thought your blog post was spot on – nicely done! One of my first pieces of advice when I meet with college students looking to start a career in public relations is to start at an agency. You’ll gain access to a wide array of professionals who can help shape your career and generally have more room to grow at a much faster pace (if you’re willing to work for it).
The long-term benefits of my agency experience are plentiful, but I’d say the biggest one is agility. Time is literally money in the agency world, so you learn to do good work as efficiently as possible – because you want to keep the client or win that next big project. You also become very agile in your ability to work with different industries and personalities. Client management is a unique art form. Master that and you can learn to work with just about any personality. You also gain agility of skills because you are often expected to wear many hats in the agency world, so you become of jack of all trades. While a corporate job may have more linear focus, the understanding of the various aspects of PR and marketing will serve you well.
You’ve spent the better part of your 15-year career in the food and ag business. What drew you to that industry initially? And, why have you stayed in it all these years?
Food was an obvious industry of choice for me – I LOVE being in the kitchen. Cooking is my form of therapy. But the funny thing is for the first 20-ish years of my life, I swore I would never do anything in agriculture. The younger version of me thought agriculture was boring. Both of my parents grew-up on farms and my dad has worked in agriculture his entire career. So, I had good exposure to the industry, but it didn’t really spark my interest until I realized the controversy around modern agriculture. There is this huge chasm between the people who grow food and the general consumer. And worst of all, the chasm is often filled with a lot of misinformation. It’s a huge communication challenge and I’ve always been drawn to a good challenge.
Agriculture is the linchpin of society. It affects everything from the health of people and our land to the world economy. When you think of it, it’s quite natural that my love of food transformed into a career in agriculture. I find it wildly fascinating to learn about the various aspects of the industry and how farming practices vary across the globe. A part of me wishes I had dove into the agriculture industry sooner, but my business-to-consumer and food marketing experience have helped me bring new perspectives to the table and led to some exciting work.
You’re also a board member with Open Arms of Minnesota, an organization devoted to cooking and delivering free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities. What have you learned as a member of that board that has helped you in the day job at Geosys in the last few years?
I have been involved with Open Arms of Minnesota in some aspect for nearly 10 years now – it’s such an amazing organization that has impacted my life in so many positive ways. When I think specifically about my role as a board member and the impact on my current job, I’d say that it has helped me look more holistically at the business. As PR practitioners, we manage a lot of budgets, but we don’t often think about complete balance sheet of the company. I can honestly say that I’ve learned a lot about financial operations from my involvement on the board and this is something that has helped me better approach aspects of my own job.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a quick plug for Open Arms of Minnesota … lots of impactful volunteer opportunities from cooking in the kitchen, to delivering meals, to helping out in the various gardens around the metro. Check it out: www.openarmsmn.org
You’re also one half of Minnesota’s PR Power Couples! How do you and Keith both manage successful, demanding PR careers and a young family?
We laugh at ourselves. A lot.
Like most things in life, it’s all about managing expectations. We’re not trying to win the parent of the year award – we simply want to raise healthy, happy boys who don’t require years of therapy in their adult life to undo the damage we caused. We’re also not trying to conquer the business world – we simply want to do work that we can be proud of and have careers that support my shopping our family. Anyone who know us, knows we have an AMAZING support system with my parents. They jump in to help when travel schedules get demanding. That is huge! You need a village – some have it with friends, some with family – but you need people who love and support you.
However, my biggest piece of advice is this: don’t expect to find balance. Life is not a balancing beam that you’re trying to stay on … it’s a seesaw. If you want to achieve big things in your career, you are going to have moments when you must give more time to your work. If you want to have anyone special in your life – spouse, children, friends – then you are going to have moments when you must give them more of your time. If you want to stay sane, you are going to have moments when no one gets any of your time. And you will fail. But no one who has succeeded in life got there without failing. Which is why I keep the following quote from Nelson Mandela on a post-it note on my desk: “I never lose. I either win or I learn.” Keith and I have done a lot of learning. But we’ve had a few wins along the way as well (the biggest one was finding each other).
Since it’s front-and-center right now, how are you and your team thinking about the impacts of GDPR on Geosys? What steps are you taking to prepare with your global business?
For those readers who don’t have the fun of managing this, GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulation for Europe. In a nutshell, you must provide more transparency about when, where and how you’re collecting personal information on any European citizen – and you need to be able to prove that you have completely deleted their personal information from your system upon request.
Our company was founded in Toulouse, France and most of our staff is still located there. Our IT department really took the lead on this and hired a consultant in France to manage the compliance. From my side, it’s been about making a few minor adjustments to the website and documenting some processes. Because most of our work is business-to-business, most of the data we have is not classified as personal (for example, your work email address), which has made it a little easier for us to manage. I can imagine that this is a much heavier lift for consumer facing businesses.
Blogger Mark Schaefer recently wrote a post making some strong points about how a college marketing degree may be worthless in 2018. Is he right? Especially as it relates to PR degrees?
I have lots to say on this topic, but I’ll try keep this brief. If you want a career in PR, go to college and get a degree.
The best advice I got was from Mr. Richards, the college admissions specialist at Lafayette High School back in Missouri. I knew I wanted purse a degree in PR but I didn’t have my heart set on any particular college or location. He told me that PR was all about experience. Any college with a good school of journalism would give me a solid education in the field. From there, it was up to me to find quality internships. So, he advised me to find a college in, or very near to, a major metropolitan area, as this would provide the best opportunity for internships throughout my four years. I fell in love with the University of Minnesota during my tour on a cold November day… it was destiny. But the rest was up to me.
Once you get to college, you need to be strategic in your class selection. When it comes to your major study, make sure you’re gaining applicable knowledge. It doesn’t matter how things are theoretically supposed to work. This is why I found the greatest value in adjunct professors, as they could best speak to current, real-world examples. Again, going to a college in a major metropolitan area is advantageous because there is a larger pool of working professionals to pull from for adjunct positions.