A Washington, D.C. Strategist on WOO (Winning Others Over)
March 03, 2017 | Filed in: Woman of the Week
As we settle into our new permanent home in Washington, D.C., we’re getting to know some of the locals—including KC Sledd, a senior strategy manager at Atlantic Media Strategies (the corporate consulting branch of Atlantic Media). A few weeks ago, we paid a visit to her office, admired her desk swag, and learned about how she got there. For more on WOO (Winning Others Over), corporate responsibility, and swearing off black denim, read on.
I NEVER THOUGHT I’D WIND UP with the career I have now. I went to school in Richmond, VA, and I always wanted to work in fashion. Initially, I studied fashion merchandising, but then I realized I wanted more of a liberal arts education. I ended up double-majoring in French and International Studies with a focus on the arts from a global perspective. You know—really useful stuff when it comes to trying to find a job!
I GRADUATED DURING THE RECESSION, and had no discernible skills to speak of, except that I was fluent in French from studying abroad. So I worked as a credit card concierge at a call center where I spoke French to Canadian customers. As far as a post-college job goes, it was pretty good; I learned a lot about customer service and how to be patient. Our calls were audited, and we were graded on how polite we were. It was a good course in how to really listen to someone, ask questions, and moderate your tone of voice.
I MOVED TO D.C. for a couple of reasons—it was the closest big city to Richmond, and my now-husband, then-boyfriend had gotten into graduate school here. I also wanted to be in a place where I could spread my wings a bit. I figured it would be a good base for a little while, but I did not expect to love it and make a home here. It’s been almost seven years now, and we’re thinking about buying a house. I thought it was going to be a much more transient place than it is.
MY FIRST JOB IN D.C. was the most influential part of my career to date. I worked with GlobalGiving to help run the nonprofit side of the Pepsi Refresh campaign, which was giving out $20 million in grants. I was hired because they had just won a contract with Pepsi Canada, and they needed someone to speak French. It was there that I started learning about corporate social responsibility—why it was important for corporations to be good citizens and use their power for good. Once the Pepsi Refresh campaign ended, I started working with other projects like Nike’s Girl Effect and Symantec. It was a great job.
I WANTED TO LEARN MORE about corporate communications, so while I was working, I took classes at Georgetown. One day, we had a guest speaker come in from Ogilvy, and he talked about social change communications, which I’d never even heard of before. You think of PR as writing press releases, but I realized that it can be so much more, and I thought, I want to do that! So I got a job with Ogilvy, where I worked on some really cool projects, like a teen dating violence prevention program with the CDC [the Center for Disease Control and Prevention], and partnerships with dosomething.org. Then I came over to Atlantic Media Strategies to work with corporate clients on social responsibility, fundraising strategies, and engagement. I currently lead our biggest account, which is Allstate; I also work with the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.
I JUMPED AROUND a bit in the beginning of my career, and at the time, it felt scattershot. But my current position involves client services, corporate social responsibility and communications, so it’s like all my previous jobs have come together nicely into one.
AN IMPORTANT SKILL in my job is consolidating different opinions. There are so many stakeholders in the work that I do, and they’re not always aligned: I have to consider the client’s goals, our budget, timing, and other factors, and then pull them together in a thoughtful way. It takes a lot of patience and listening to create a solution we can implement that will be good for everybody involved.
I AM A RABID PEOPLE-PERSON. At our company, we do StrengthsFinder, a tool developed by Gallup where you take a test and it determines your top five strengths. The premise is that you should play to your strengths rather than try to develop your weaknesses. One of my top five is WOO, or Winning Others Over, and the description said, “You thrive on being around other people, talking to them, and helping them with problems they have.” I actually have to rein it in sometimes, which I’ve been working on. Sometimes I am so eager to fix everything and make everyone happy that I won’t try to push back with a better idea.
POLITICS IS A HUGE PART of the culture here—you are steeped in it every day. CNN is on in every office. You know the expression, “Fish don’t know they’re in water”? It’s like that here with politics, just a constant factor.
WHEN I FIRST MOVED HERE, I was overwhelmed at how much Ann Taylor I saw. Since then, I think it’s gotten a lot more casual. Under the Obama administration, there was a big surge of youthfulness here—not so many suits. Anything I wear has to be flexible—I’m running from work to happy hour, and trying to catch the metro.
WHEN I DISCOVERED MM at a pop-up, I tried on the black Didion top and the Nakamura trousers. I was like, “Oh my god, this is what I want to look like every day. I want to be this person. I look cool and casual, but also polished. I look like all these pictures I put on my Pinterest board. Why have I been wearing skinny denim? Get off my legs.”
Photographs by Lindsay Brown.