Day in the life: Kelley Smith

Job descriptions only go so far in explaining what a job is all about. And even if you are already working at a company, you don’t necessarily know what exactly your co-workers do. That’s why we decided to talk to the many different people working at VSA about what they do on an average day. Today, we’re getting the scoop from Kelley Smith, Director, Client Engagement.

How long have you been at VSA? 

6.5 years

Where were you before VSA? 

I started my career in sports marketing, then I made my way into the agency world. I came to VSA from a smaller agency that specialized in financial service clients. What was good about my varied experience (prior to VSA) was that I came here knowing what I was—and wasn’t—interested in. Working with such different people at different places gave me a good sense of my strengths and weaknesses. It helped keep me really open (and inspired!) to being challenged by new experiences.

Give us an overall sense of what your job at VSA entails. 

In client engagement (more typically know as account leads in our industry) we are the link between the client and the VSA team on the account.

We’re responsible for writing project briefs, working with the client and our internal team to scope the proposal for the effort; kicking off the project by collaborating with our project managers to distill down the most critical information for the very first work session, reading the findings from competitive audits or interviews that our strategy team has put together; and also managing the project budget and reporting details to our partner leads and financial teams.

Most importantly, we’re in lockstep with our client in terms of what’s most important to them. We ask ourselves: What can I do to help bring context and insight to them before they know they need it? How can I think about other ways they could be/should be solving or planning for future business challenges?

What was a particularly exciting project you recently worked on?

It’s not one project—it’s actually a client, a business that sells a commodity product facing major challenges in its segment. Our team helped this company completely shift how it communicates in market. Instead of leading with discussion around product specifications, we have helped the client communicate on an emotional level, stressing the value and benefit that using their product and partnering w/their company would bring to an end user. Making that shift in how the company speaks, behaves and goes to market has been a huge and exciting endeavor.

With whom do you most often collaborate? 

You name the person and their role, and I’m working with them. That’s probably the best part of the client engagement role—that the role requires us to get to know and work closely with everyone from finance, to the creative team, to the strategy team, to the UX and content strategy team. Probably my closest relationship is with my project managers. They are the CE’s right hand team member, helping keep things on task, on budget and moving.

What is the vibe of an average meeting?

VSAers make things happen and we don’t just do things for the sake of doing things. That applies to (most) meetings, too. If we’re having a meeting, we’re there to be as productive as possible, making sure everyone present is there for a reason and adding value/advancing our effort.

What is the best part of your job?

Cliche answer, but it’s true: the people and the challenges we get to solve. Clients come to VSA because they know we provide unparalleled solutions that actually help solve their business challenges. We don’t just “design” something or “build something” or “market something.” We’re constantly challenging each other, questioning each other, pushing ourselves to be better, more strategic, more clear. It shows when we deliver our work and by the engagement we see from our clients and their customers.

What advice would you give to somebody who might be interested in a job like yours?

Be very, very open to admitting what you don’t know. This quickly eliminates any barriers that would keep you from learning every day from all of the different clients and disciplines that you might work with. There’s no way you can be an expert in everything—you may have one client who sells salads, another who is in the paper and cellulose business and yet another who is a technology giant.

Clients aren’t necessarily coming to VSA because we’re experts in their industry. They are coming to us because they trust that we are the best in ours. What they want from us is to quickly jump into their world and be engaged, responsive and care—and then solve their design/communication/marketing integration/brand challenges. Help them connect the dots in a way that is informed and that will drive their business.