January 19, 2014
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 giving an example of a well-known association (like the American Heart Association), even if they may not be a Kellen client, and then explain that an association management company like Kellen can take care of a variety of an association’s needs, from accounting to marketing and public relations (three businesses most people are at least a little familiar with). I go on to talk about my department, the Information Resource Center (IRC) and how we monitor news, regulations and issues for our clients.
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 a vet, but I quickly realized that as much as I loved animals, I was drawn to the arts, not the sciences. I’ve always had dogs and use my caretaking abilities on them, but do not work with animals in any official capacity. I also wanted to be an astronaut but now just enjoy star-gazing.
How did you end up in the industry?
I had no idea I would end up in association management when I moved to the U.S. after getting married. My first job in Malaysia after graduating from university was as a language editor at a company producing educational software. A year-and-a-half after that, I started working as an editor at a public relations firm. I was there for nine years, until I came to Atlanta. When I read the Kellen Company ad for the job of information specialist, it was like the job description had been written with me in mind. I think my English degree and work experience taught me how to be methodical in my work and thinking, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed solving puzzles and searching for answers to questions, which is a lot of what we do in the IRC – obtaining information and answers. I didn’t know what association management was when I saw the job advertised, but I knew I would be happy working in the IRC and I was right. Nine-and-a-half years later, I still love my job and enjoy learning about the many different industries our clients represent.
What’s your favorite part about working in association management?
There is consistently more to learn and understand, which is perfect for me because I’m a strong believer in continued growth and education. We represent so many different associations, in a variety of industries, and that keeps me on my toes, ready to stretch, learn and grow. Also, there are people at Kellen who know so much about so many different aspects of association management that there is always an opportunity to acquire knowledge.
What do you think the association management industry will look like in ten years?
As companies like Kellen expand in order to provide a wide variety of services under one roof, I think the association management industry will also adapt and provide a greater range of expertise to associations. Our expansion into digital services, for example, fills a need that will eventually be recognized by more in the industry as a younger workforce, which is growing up in the world of Twitter, Instagram and Vine, begins to take over the running of more businesses and associations.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Change is the only constant in life, so accept change graciously and learn to adapt. That wasn’t advice given to me specifically but what I’ve learned from reading and observing people and the world. Traditions are wonderful and are important to me, but even the best of traditions are flexible and expand to adopt new practices.
About Prema Jesuthasan
I am the Information Manager in the Information Resources Center (IRC) at Kellen Company. We read a number of newspapers, monitor newswires and websites and do keyword searches each day to produce a daily news compilation for our food business clients and a fortnightly compilation for our building clients. This keeps them up-to-date on news and issues relevant to their industries. I go through the Federal Register each day to look for published regulations and rules that affect our many clients. I also handle trademark and copyright applications for some clients. I get a thrill out of resolving any and all search requests.
I have ridden a horse a couple of times and would love to have riding lessons, but after being on an elephant twice, horse-riding feels like a bit of a let-down. Riding an elephant is an amazing experience – you are far from the ground, swaying gently on what is truly a majestic creature, and you suddenly feel so connected to nature.
My husband and I love traveling and try to take at least one or two trips a year. America is a huge, beautiful country and there is so much to see, but it’s difficult to go to new places each year because I fall in love with cities like Savannah and then want to keep going back there, even though there is so much else to see. We went to New Orleans this year and had a fabulous time. Our dream is to ride the train that runs from the west to the east coast, through the Rockies. My husband also wants to go to Alaska – being from an equatorial country, I’m not sure I’d survive that far up north!
I enjoy cooking and baking, and hope some day to be as excellent a cook as my mother. I also like hiking and camping, but my favorite thing is sitting on a beach, listening to the rhythm of the waves – the most soothing music I know.