May 27, 2013
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 start by mentioning Kellen in relationship to association management and then follow up with an example of one of our clients, such as the Juice Products Association noting who they are. I also add that Kellen offers a variety of other services such as website design, public relations and creative services. Regarding my job in particular, I explain that my primary responsibility is to ensure that my food industry clients are aware of those issues that could impact their business, including proposed laws and regulations by Congress, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Agriculture and other agencies.
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 wanted to be physical therapist working primarily with children. With that goal in mind, I majored in biology in college. During my junior year, I thought a career in cancer research would be interesting and attending graduate school was the way to achieve that goal. I started graduate school at Purdue University with cancer research in mind. Once I started working on my master’s degree, I found working in a laboratory (with no windows) and peering through a microscope at sea urchin cells for many, many hours not so exciting. I abandoned that career goal, obtained my master’s degree and never looked back.
How did you end up in the industry?
Prior to Kellen, I had spent 15 years in food manufacturing. My first job in the food industry came almost three years after I graduated from Purdue. I was hired as a laboratory technician at Beatrice Hunt-Wesson Foods in Savannah, Georgia. The company manufactured a variety of liquid and solid vegetable cooking oils, most notably Wesson Oil and Snowdrift Shortening. I also worked at The All American Gourmet Company (manufacturer of frozen entrées) and the Quaker Oats Gatorade facility in Atlanta.
I had a management position and was “on call” around the clock. It was not unusual to be awakened at all hours with an “emergency.” My husband was very understanding until a technician called my home at 2 a.m. asking to speak with me, and I was out of town on company business. After 15 years in food manufacturing, I wanted to change careers.
I saw a job posting for the Kellen position about a year after leaving Quaker Oats. I thought it would be great fit for me since I had extensive food industry experience. I interviewed with Jeannie Milewski and Dr. Andy Ebert (who also attended Purdue) and was hired on April Fools’ Day 2002.
What’s your favorite part about working in association management?
The job that I have requires a good deal of reading so I am constantly learning. I am never bored as there are always new questions, issues, and challenges. I enjoy working with the client committees and feel a sense of accomplishment when a project comes to fruition and the results shared with members.
What do you think the association management industry will look like in ten years?
The environment is always changing with new technology, and social media has made it possible to communicate instantly to a wider audience. The industry will need to continue to embrace these tools to meet the challenges faced by clients. In ten years, I think the way we communicate with our clients will be different.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When I started my position as Quality Assurance Supervisor at The All American Gourmet Company, my manager told me that if I ever made a mistake that could have financial implications for the company, to let him know immediately. He said that waiting days to make him aware of the situation could be detrimental to the company. I have made mistakes and always remembered that advice.
About Pat Faison
Patricia Faison is Director, Regulatory & Technical Affairs for the Kellen Company. She has eleven years of association management experience with the Kellen Company and 15 years of experience in the food industry with expertise in food and beverage manufacturing and quality assurance.
Pat acts as a liaison between several food industries and government agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, to aid industry’s compliance with exacting standards. She also monitors legislative and regulatory initiatives for several technical areas, including labeling, food safety, nutrition, pesticide issues, organic regulations, and microbiological issues and coordinates industry comment. Her client accounts include The Association for Dressings & Sauces (ADS) and The Juice Products Association (JPA). She facilitates activities for two JPA committees and four committees for ADS ensuring that projects of member interest are completed within established deadlines.
Pat recently celebrated 25 years of marriage to Tony. They have two children (Byron and April). When she has time, Pat likes to read and write poetry. She also likes to dance.