Kelly Rusk has always had the ambition to lead.
So when – in her mid-20s – the chance to become IABC Ottawa president emerged, she jumped at it.
“The opportunity to lead an organization is not something you usually get so early on in your career,” says Rusk.
“It was quite intimidating, and I felt like I put in a lot of extra hours to compensate for my lack of experience, but I do feel that it very strongly propelled me ahead in my career and prepared me well for many challenges I’ve faced since.”
Today, Rusk is the digital director and partner at Banfield, one of Ottawa’s largest and longest-standing marketing communications agencies, where she leads a team of digital marketers, social media strategists and web developers.
She’s exhibit A of how investing in an IABC Ottawa membership – which, during membership month this April, has never been easier to do – paid off.
Rusk’s journey as an IABC member started at the request of one of her previous employers, who wanted her to get more involved in Ottawa’s marketing and communications industry.
Her involvement with IABC had, to that point, largely existed on the periphery. Like many people who are part of the community, she frequently attended events but never officially committed. That changed when, right as she was filling out a membership form, one of the board members approached her with a request.
Would she consider joining the board of directors as VP Professional Development?
“It was a great collision of my personal interest in career development as well as supporting my professional life at the time,” she says.
At that stage in her career, her major challenge was connecting with people who faced the same problems and opportunities as she did. When she first joined as an IABC Ottawa member she was working in smaller start-up companies – such as MediaMiser (now Agility PR) or SmartHippo – where she was the sole marketing and communications person.
“I was relieved to start volunteering with IABC Ottawa and build a network of smart and savvy communicators I could use to source mentors, to ask quick questions to or validate what I was doing in my job,” says Rusk.
“It really made a huge difference and was very valuable to me at the time.”
She spent two years in the VP Professional Development role, where she became intimately familiar with the organization’s inner workings. Before long, the board nominated her to serve as IABC Ottawa President.
Rusk was 25 years old.
“It was an honour and a huge opportunity for me, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” she says.
Her biggest leadership lesson? Succession planning.
The IABC Ottawa board turns over every year, so there was always a need to be teaching potential successors who could come in and contribute right away. This challenged her to learn to “let go” of tasks – even if she felt like she should be involved with them.
“I now work with the mentality that I always need to be training someone else to do my job—and that a measure of my own success is how well someone else is able to take something I started and grow it even further,” she says.
Today Rusk loves everything about her job. She says Banfield “has cultivated a truly unique and special company culture that is rewarding, challenging and all around fun.”
As for why she would recommend Ottawa professionals join IABC Ottawa, she has just one word.
Well, actually, she has three.
“Networking, networking, networking,” says Rusk. “Joining a professional association is a commitment to your career and when you are looking for reliable people to align yourself with, if they’ve taken the time to join a professional network, it’s usually a sign that they are committed, savvy and connected.”
Get in touch with Kelly Rusk!
April is membership month at IABC Ottawa! Join before the end of the month and be entered into a contest to win a $300 Visa gift card. For more information, visit our membership month page here, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.