October 29, 2012
Like many people in the association management industry, Kellen Company employees have enthusiastically answered the question, “And what do you do?” only to receive a blank stare and a polite “Huh?!” Although association management employs tens of thousands of people, most of the world doesn’t know about the thriving industry. Many of us didn’t even know about it when we started our careers. In this ongoing series, we’ll share how our employees discovered this career path and why they’ve stuck around.
How do you explain your job at cocktail parties?
I usually ask if the person I am talking to belongs to an association for their profession or are they familiar with the Parent Teacher Association with their kid’s school. I then indicate we manage those types of organizations providing a wide variety of services for groups and individual companies (e.g., marketing, public relations, regulatory/legislative monitoring). One of my first jobs at the company was to help our clients understand the just-released Nutrition Labeling Education Act (NLEA) regulations. Sometimes I tell people I help companies (many in the food industry) deal with government regulations like NLEA, manage their budgets, crises and grow their memberships.
What did your 12-year-old self think you were going to be when you grew up? Are you doing anything related to that dream job now?
I’m not sure what I wanted to be when I was 12 – but I liked cooking (not the case now) and baking. I was eventually interested in nutrition and wanted to work in the restaurant or nutrition fields. I did not like hospitals, so didn’t want to be a dietician in that setting. I did some catering throughout high school and college. After majoring in Food Science and minoring in Nutrition & Packaging at Clemson University, I had a number of positions in product development (General Nutrition) to quality assurance (Frito-Lay). When I first started with Kellen, I was Director of Regulatory and Technical Affairs for several of our food clients. At the time, I answered a lot of technical questions from clients based on labeling, manufacturing, food safety and ingredients. After 20 years with the company, I do more “management-type” work related to staffing, budgeting and strategic direction. However, the majority of the clients in my group are still food related, and I work with marketing, operations and sales individuals in the industry. I can relate to their issues from being in the business – but I am glad not to be the one on the manufacturing floor! I have been keep abreast of food industry issues while learning an entirely new skill set in association management. I had no idea this type of career existed – but there is always something new and challenging which has kept me motivated for 20 years.
How did you end up in the industry?
I worked in a number of food related positions from manufacturing with Frito-Lay to Quality Assurance Director for Harris Teeter Supermarkets out of Charlotte, NC. My father was in the hospital in Atlanta and I was reading the paper to pass the time. I ran across a job posting for someone with a food science/nutrition background for the Kellen Company. I had no idea what Kellen did and was interviewing at the time with a food manufacturing company in Maryland. I interviewed with Rick Cristol and Larry Davenport (now retired) of Kellen, and then both companies made job offers. I decided Atlanta was warmer than Maryland, and the job seemed more interesting. I definitely made the right choice.
What’s your favorite part about working in association management?
I like all of the different aspects and people that you deal with on a daily basis. I can spend the day moving from a new business proposal to developing a budget and then onto a conference call on Kellen’s Human Resources Tactical Plan. If something is frustrating, you can move onto another project as a break. Additionally, it is nice to have colleagues that are dealing with the same issues. We can commiserate, share ideas and develop solutions.
What do you think the association management industry will look like in ten years?
I think it will become much more diversified with members expecting individually tailored services. Additionally, the business environment is becoming more challenging and associations will need to be more aggressive publicly with communications and regulatory/legislative programs. Communication with members will continue to evolve with social media and the need for instant response. We will need to be more flexible and efficient.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Rick Cristol told me almost two decades ago that “The first person that speaks loses.” This was in reference to a client budget discussion and holds true today. If you have outlined a proposed budget (or plan or project or idea) and no one has any questions – don’t open it up for more discussion by providing more explanations or over defending the position. Many times, the group is just ready to approve something and move on. This approach has served me well over the years.
About Pam Chumley
Pam Chumley serves as a Group Vice President and is a member of Kellen Company’s Executive Committee. She has 20 years experience in association management and over 28 years in the food industry, with expertise in quality assurance, research and development, regulatory and legislative affairs.
Pam provides senior oversight to a number of Kellen Company association clients and serves as chief executive for several of these clients. Her primary responsibilities include strategic advice, technical and regulatory affairs, financial management, meetings and trade show management, public relations, client research and administration. She is experienced in issues management, membership communications and industry programs.
She currently serves as President of the Association of Dressings and Sauces, the Vinegar Institute and the Horseradish Information Council, and as Executive Administrator for the International Flight Services Association. She provides senior leadership to clients such as the Calorie Control Council, the International Formula Council, the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association and the International Food Additives Council. Additionally, Pam serves as the Advisor to the Kellen Human Resources Tactical Team.
When not working, Pam enjoys spending time with her husband of 20 years, Chuck, and her two children (Grayson – 15 and Blake – 11). She likes to read, take classes at the local gym, shop (collecting shoes) and travel to beach locations.