January 28, 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?
Typically I think of an association example the person can relate to, which works about 90% of the time. Then I explain how we provide the overall management for associations and it all makes sense to them. For the other 10%, they either have a look of confusion or they simply aren’t interested, so we move on to the next topic.
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?
At the age of 12, I was convinced I would be a math teacher and professional singer.
Turns out I was a Math major in college and my first job out of college was in Actuarial Science. While it was a great job and company, I realized the work environment wasn’t the right fit for me. I needed more interaction with people and more variety in my day! However, I can say my math skills have come in handy with every position I’ve have ever had.
As for the professional singing career, well, it hasn’t kicked off quite yet!
How did you end up in the industry?
After working downtown Chicago in the insurance industry for many years, I had moved out to the “burbs” and decided I wanted to get more involved with my community and try a new career path. One thing led to another and next thing I knew, the local Chamber of Commerce hired me. Over my 10 years at the Chamber, I worked my way up to Vice President of Finance & Operations. Then I discovered Landon, Farrey & Associates. I had no idea there was a local association management firm in Naperville! The structure of the company and my background appeared to be a great fit. Kellen Company acquired Landon, Farrey & Associates in 2012.
What’s your favorite part about working in association management?
I appreciate the overall variety, not only the duties, but the association clients. It’s safe to say there are never two days that are exactly alike!
What do you think the association management industry will look like in ten years?
I have been with Kellen Company’s Chicago office for four years now. In that time, the number of clients in Chicago has more than doubled. I would like to think we will continue to see this type of growth over the next 10 years.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Love what you do!” A good friend of mine gave me a plaque that says these very words and it sits in my office for me to see every day.
About Sarah Washburn
I am the Operations Manager for Kellen’s Chicago office. I’ve lived in Illinois my whole life, I am married to Jim, who I met the first day of college and we have a son who is now in Kindergarten. I often wonder what it would be like if the professional singing career panned out? You never know, maybe I’ll be discovered at the next wedding or funeral I sing at!