July 30, 2015
Like many people in the association management industry, Kellen 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?
Jobs without titles like ‘accountant’ or ‘lawyer’ can be hard to explain. My short answer is that I help professional societies (I often add, think of the American Medical Association as an example of a professional organization) keep the trains highly tuned and running. If they haven’t made a motion to get another drink, I’ll expand a bit more.
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?
Unlike some kids you knew or read about, I was busy being a kid and thoughts of career and life goals weren’t on my kid radar.
How did you end up in the industry?
I came to Kellen via a job posting for American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) that I instantly saw aligned with my personal mission, values and focus on health/science policy and advocacy – work that enables me to be inspired by researchers and clinicians in a common vision of ending tropical infectious disease. At the time I submitted my letter of interest, I had no experience with or knowledge of what an association management company is or does. With 20+ years in the professional society sector, this was a very new experience for me.
What’s your favorite part about working in association management?
First and foremost, the built-in association management support infrastructure allows me to focus on the complex science and policy issues facing ASTMH and its mission. Second, the readily available pool of fellow Executive Directors and others that offer ideas, solutions, and lessons learned. If they haven’t already experienced ‘issue x’, they offer wise counsel.
What do you think the association management industry will look like in ten years?
For researchers and clinicians, their world is rapidly changing. To stay relevant and competitive, the association management industry will anticipate these shifts and personalize how it serves the unique needs of its broad range of clients. Targeted styles of management will be matched with presenting needs. Management will be fluent in the language and culture across this new and wide range. Also, taking note of the growth of a knowledge economy – strategic thinking, positioning, messaging, and C-level guidance will take precedence over concrete deliverables like conferences, newsletters and membership numbers.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Never let ‘em see you sweat.
About Karen A. Goraleski
I am the Executive Director of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, a 20+ year client. ASTMH is the worldwide organization of scientists, clinicians, and program professionals whose mission is to promote global health through the prevention and control of infectious and other diseases that disproportionately afflict the global poor.
I oversee all aspects of the Society’s efforts that include the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the CTropMed®- Certificate of Knowledge in Clinical Tropical Medicine and Travelers’ Health, the Annual Meeting that attracts a global audience and is widely considered the premier meeting in tropical medicine and a portfolio of activities that includes awards and research opportunities, policy development, advocacy, communications, and membership.
Prior to coming to Kellen, I was a VP at Research!America, responsible for global health research advocacy efforts and focused on boosting the budgets of CDC and NIH. Prior to that I served in executive roles at the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association.