community spotlight - katie ray

Experiencing roadblocks as a community professional can often lead to moments of discouragement. When those moments occur, some find it difficult to stay committed, but somehow, they persevere!

Katie Ray, Community Manager at Sales Hacker, truly embodies the definition of perseverance. During our virtual interview, we discussed some of the obstacles she has experienced in addition to the origins of her passion for helping others.

What are your top 3 personal values?

Integrity, grit, kindness.

When you say grit, is that similar to tenacity and having a “get it done” mindset?

I grew up riding horses and remember hearing this John Wayne quote because it’s one of my absolute favorites.

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyways.”

I absolutely love that. I think it encompasses a lot of what we do in community. We don’t always know what the outcome is going to be. We can only pray, hope, and think. We have no idea what’s going to happen because we’re working with people and people are so unpredictable.

Grittiness comes from creativity, but also cautiousness. It’s not just about going full force, but it’s also about taking time to look at things and evaluate different perspectives. I like that word a lot.

How did you find the community industry?

I totally fell into this job.

I was in sales for four and a half years selling network infrastructure, routers, switches, access points, hardware and some cloud hosted solutions. As a field rep, I was faced with a lot of obstacles. I was managing a lot, but I loved what I was doing! I was really enjoying it, and enjoyed building relationships.

Whenever I saw an opening at Outreach, I knew I had to apply.

I originally applied for a role in content, but after some interviews, realized how old school I am because it’s not called writing. It’s called “copy” nowadays.

Did the qualifications discourage you from committing to the position?

Absolutely not. I saw a LinkedIn post about how 85% of women won’t apply for a job unless they hit 90% of the boxes. At the time, I didn’t hit even close to that number of the boxes, but I thought I could do a really good job and I’m a hard worker.

I remember this experience so clearly. My family was over at our house and I was switching between pacing in my room or sitting in a chair.

My boss explained that the content position was not going to work out, and I totally understood. It was definitely not a surprise. He shared there was two other roles that he thought I might like.

One of the roles was community partnerships, which I knew I could be really good at because I was coming from sales. It was not a big change for me. Then he mentioned a community engagement role.

My biggest concern was that there would not be a career path for me. Community seemed fairly new and there were not many established communities.

I asked myself, do I take this risk? Do I join this community? Do I join this new space? I wasn’t really sure at the time, but I absolutely loved it!

We talked about it for a while and had a really good conversation. I had six different interviews and presentations during the interview process. Through research and conversations with other community professionals I realized that this was a role I could really enjoy.

What are some of the obstacles that you faced when you started your community journey?

As a community manager, you become territorial because these are personal relationships. When you are working with other community managers, you have to find different ways to communicate, just like in group projects! That was one of the biggest obstacles during my first 30-60-90. I had to determine what cross-functional collaboration looked like.

The second obstacle was looking at other communities and figuring out what I wanted to replicate and what I wanted to evolve on. You can’t get into a lot of communities unless you’re a member, so it was hard to identify what was working. That’s why community professional groups are so helpful for me. I can just hop in and ask questions.

One thing that I think would resonate with a lot of people is feeling incredibly overwhelmed or like you’re constantly underperforming. I think that’s something whenever you first get into a community role. You want to do so much, and there’s so many fun initiatives, but there’s already so much work that needs to be done.

I think those are some of the biggest struggles that I personally dealt with.

How do you define community?

In community, you have Big C and Little C. I mentioned this in my CMX Summit session, Big C is the overall community regardless of location. It can be in-person or it could be online, but it’s groups of people coming together for similar goals, missions, focus, or perspective.

And you’ve got Little C, which is like the relationship focus of community. An example would be sitting down and having dinner. I believe Little C is building community, fellowship, and friendship. I look at community a little differently than some people.

I saw you are a CMX Connect Host leading the Community Cafe Chapter. What motivated you or inspired you to get more involved with CMX and take on that leadership role?

I am always looking for opportunities to just try and help other people. I reached out to Beth and asked if CMX had anything similar to my event idea. I wanted to create a space where people can just come and ask questions. She shared that there was already something similar but not quite the same. I shared that there are a lot of people who are now in community roles and may not know what they’re doing, or feel like they are alone, like I did.

A lot of times we look really confident to our managers as if we know the right program we should run, but sometimes we have no idea. I go to my Community Cafe people to ask for advice and gather feedback.

Coming from a sales background, many sales teams don’t have really good sales enablement and training, so similarly in community, you get onboarded into a company that does not provide any type of training. There isn’t continuing education, and a lot of companies don’t give the community enough budget.

I thought about what we can do to make everyone feel welcome, no matter how “tenured” you are or how “junior” you are. As long as you want to learn and grow and ask questions. You should be here and it’s been cool. Community Cafe is just a really awesome opportunity and it’s been really fun to have insightful conversations.

At this point in your community career, what would you consider to be your proudest moment?

My proudest moment in the community industry was speaking at CMX Summit 2021: Rise, I was shocked that they even wanted me to speak. Internally, I was dealing with building authority and legitimacy for myself.

There were moments when I felt discredited because I don’t have 10-15 years in the community industry, so one thing that I really committed to this year was trying to put myself out there more and applying for speaking opportunities.

It was really cool that I applied to be a speaker and got selected. That was definitely one the proudest moments of my community career.

Where do you see the community industry in the next five years?

I think the community industry is going to blow up in the next two years. I have seen so many companies express the need for communities. The community industry is going to have its own sector. I would not be shocked if it has its own category for Gartner and Forrester, or similar types of organizations because it’s going to become such an asset.

Many companies are going to start shifting towards community for their go-to-market strategy. As well account-based products which are led by community growth and really leveraging community.

The Community Spotlight celebrates the work and accomplishments of the incredible folks who are leading the CMX Connect Events program. These Connect Hosts work diligently to define the community industry as a leading source of value to businesses and organizations. Meet with your local community professionals at an upcoming CMX Connect event!

Ronald Williams

Hey, Im Ronald Williams! Content Apprentice at CMX. I was born and rasied in San Diego, CA. I have participated in community programs such as Alliance San Diego: Neighborhood Rising Institute, San ...

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