Gillian Dunn, an alumna of Kent State University, is a new member of the WS Development team where she works as a digital content coordinator creating and strategizing content for Boston’s Seaport neighborhood as it expands. Gillian sat down with Holdette to talk all things influencer, social media, and creativity after your 9-5. She is also my [aka Harper] old manager at my last internship!
Harper: Hi Gillian, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today! Can you tell us what you do for work?
Gillian: I’m the digital content coordinator for the Seaport neighborhood, which is under operations of WS development; a real estate development company based in Chestnut Hill.
Harper: So what does a productive day look like, I know originally you didn't have a desk, do you have one now?
Gillian: I do have a desk now! Our team is rapidly growing, and space is constantly changing. We're always working in tandem and moving around to different workspaces, but we are extremely flexible. Since we don't work out of the Chestnut Hill office, but rather in the Seaport and we are "in the field”. Some days, I'm not at my desk for a while due to meetings or going around the neighborhood. On the days that I am spending a good amount of time at my desk, I have to remind myself to get up and go on a walk.
Harper: What responsibilities fall under your job title? Tell us a bit about what you have on your plate day to day.
Gillian: What falls on my plate is being a fresh set of eyes for our marketing team, because I recently joined a few months ago, and before that, the team was quite small. They were excited to bring me on to help streamline logistics and organization as well as how content is planned and conceived. I think it was advantageous for me to come in as an outside consumer initially, I was better able to see how we could best market and grow Seaport as a neighborhood for both established and future audiences.
Harper: I know you used to freelance a lot. Are you still able to? What was that like? What is it like now?
Gillian: I would like to freelance more than I currently am to continue fine-tuning my passion projects. Lately, I haven’t been able to because of the holiday season and adjusting to a full-time position. I feel that I truly utilize and exhaust 100%, sometimes, 110% of my brain capacity each day. By the time I get home, the last thing that I want to do is open up my personal computer and start working on those things. I do still run social media accounts for a linguistics company in New York City. I never truly advertise to find freelance opportunities, but I love having conversations with people and help them with creative briefing and consulting. I recently taught a class of masters students on digital branding at the Berkeley Global Jazz Institute - something I never could dream of doing. That was a great thing to be a part of and to further express my own passion for digital, aside from my job.
Harper: Is there anything you've learned at your new job that was shocking, different, or unexpected?
Gillian: I don't come from a traditional marketing background, a lot of what I've done has been self-taught or through real-world experience, not through traditional education. What is shocking is how much goes into marketing. For instance, making an Instagram story, there are so many checks and balances that need to be in-line before it goes out because Seaport serves as a neighborhood influencer and as a beacon of information. I think truly understanding how robust this role is in terms of digital content whether that be social, email, website and how those elements then translate to physically visual things that your audience is going to see. For instance, we have an upcoming event and you see a photo and when you go there you want to experience what you saw in the photo and your expectations are high. We work very hard to translate that, from the screen to in-person. We take an all hands on deck, cross-functional team approach and it’s extremely rewarding.
Harper: Your job has to do a lot with social media, what's your take on influencer culture? Does it help or hurt a business in the long run?
Gillian: I think the influencer world is super tricky because I feel that it's becoming oversaturated in the sense of authenticity - everyone's trying to push out good content. Sometimes more is more, sometimes less is more. I feel that there is always a time and a place. I wouldn't say it hurts business, but I think that a well thought out strategy needs to be there. For instance, adequate research, and that is something that we do; research on influencers that are coming into the neighborhood and perhaps what brands might align best with them to best reach their audience as well as the brand's audience. Sometimes we decide to move forward with the specific influencer, sometimes we decide to have a different organic approach without an influencer.
Harper: What was something that was super pivotal or influential in getting you to this job? I know you graduated a few years ago and you've been in the workforce for a little while now, but is there something that was a big deal that made you learn a lot?
Gillian: I could take that question as a two-part thing. I think this answer that I'm about to give also kind of ties in with any advice that I could potentially give to someone, especially early on. Say yes to as many experiences as you can. I have a legitimate resume that is one page, but my ‘real’ resume is probably five pages at this point. It's also a very odd mix of things. Additionally, in the moment, I definitely questioned why I was doing this project or that odd job. But as I look back, it truly has laid a brick by brick foundation for me. It’s given me the tools, the confidence, and the mindset to really take on this position that I'm currently in, which is overwhelming and exciting and so dynamic. It's amazing going into work every day and witnessing how everyone is truly passionate about their job and how we’re building this community in Boston. We're looking to the best brands in order to grow this blank slate of a neighborhood. Even though Seaport seems insanely busy right now, we're actually only one third developed.
Also, there was a kind of a profound moment or season in my life where I was transitioning between jobs and I was unemployed. I was scraping together some gumption and trying to figure out ‘how hard can I push myself’ and what I'm truly capable of. Which obviously, is typically skewed for most because we undermine ourselves quite often. I think a mix of trying to stay focused and confident that life is going to work out. During that time, I also worked to get my creative juices flowing, since, I had an ample amount of free time. I worked hard to configure how to best represent myself both digitally and professionally. Also, I was able to explore subjects I am very interested in, elements that I don't fully have the capacity to grasp at times, like coding. I'm always interested in trying to scrape different corners of the creative digital world, so I can grow as a person.
Harper: Have you found community post-college? Whether it's inside of work or outside of work? How did you create a community far from home?
Gillian: That is a very interesting question, which a lot of my friends point out because I meet people in very random situations. Sometimes, I frequent the North End a little too often and started to befriend staff members at various places - to the point where that friendship is translated to group hangs and a larger network of great people. I've even met people who have become a close part of my life from Lyft pools. I truly value my sense of independence and I'm not afraid to do that, which I realize some people can't relate to that, but I moved to a city where I knew practically no one. When I first moved to Boston I was working remotely and didn't have that sense of community in terms of co-workers. So, little by little, I would just take a shot in the dark with acquaintances I’d meet at events or elsewhere and just had to think of it as a date - you're not sure what's going to be good or not. What's the harm in getting a cup of coffee and talking to this person? It may be a situation where we meet the one time, but it's nice to have their contact in your back pocket for the future. I have different levels of closely knit relationships here. Some have grown very quickly, some have faded very quickly. I take it with a grain of salt because the core group of people that I have been able to build this community with over an almost two year period and I’m extremely grateful.
Harper: What is your go-to workwear when it's pouring rain outside like today?
Gillian: My go-to workwear... it's funny I was just talking about this with someone. I personally don’t like warm weather, I prefer fall and winter, but it's extremely difficult to amplify style in winter. You're pretty much subjected to boots, jeans and a sweater which is what I'm wearing today. I have to be practical because a lot of times in Seaport, we have to go outside and we are literally “out in the field” for work. I've started looking at these chic snow pants that Uniqlo has and I'm thinking I'm going to buy them because they're fleece lined and very practical. I don't know if this is corny or overrated because I don't really follow style trends as much anymore, but I love layers. I like to find that sweet spot between September and October where you can do a lot more with your wardrobe. I'd love to wear dresses and skirts and heels. Also, I hate wearing socks, which is ironic because I love winter. If I could wear slides all year round I'd be the happiest camper. I try to find a sweater with an interesting element like the one that I'm wearing. One of the only Instagram influencers I follow, Jenny Walton, inspired this mock neck sweater purchase. She's one of my favorites and I strongly resonate with her “retro-chic” style.
Harper: Before we wrap up, is there anything you want to add?
Gillian: I'm going to plug this because I can… follow @seaportbos. I always thought once I graduated, I was going to move to wherever the job was. Postgrad I worked on Cape Cod in the hospitality industry for a while, then I came to Boston and absolutely fell in love with it. I love the dynamic of modern old school history/European nature of the city coupled with the strong presence of ambitious young adults. I feel very at ease here. Every time that I have guests visiting, I love putting together itineraries of places that I love and know that they will enjoy. I make sure they really get the best Boston experience. When I lived in New York, I would go on the train on the weekend, go to a random stop and get off, explore the neighborhoods see what was there and that's how I was really able to grow. Sometimes I was by myself sometimes with friends - either way, always content. Get out of the neighborhood that you're in and see what's happening elsewhere, because there are so many hidden gems in Boston. The city is tight-knit and things are always happening that are free like festivals. Over the summer I stumbled across a southeast Asian food festival in Copley Square and it was great. I just got out of the gym and I was walking to the library and I stopped for an hour and had these amazing mango pancakes and listened to live music. I think that Boston is an amazing cultural hub, especially with the vast population and education that we have here, so that's my advice is just to get out there AND incase you forgot.. follow @seaportbos.
Thanks for sitting down with Holdette Gillian!
Enjoyed reading about Gillian? Stay tuned for our next post where we'll have a chance to sit down with more working ladies!