Elena Lelchuk, Marketing & Public Relations Manager
Beginning her career in the world of Marketing and Public Relations for lifestyle and hospitality brands, Elena transitioned into the build environment almost five years ago. "I enjoy the excitement and fast pace of the real estate/construction industry and I love being a part of the development and progress of the city I live in." Elena joined Commodore Builders in May 2013 and was immediately encouraged to join SMPS Boston by her co-worker, Sarah Hotchkiss, currently the Director of Membership for SMPS Boston. Elena now serves as the Chair of the Communications Committee and is a regular contributor to SMPS Boston's blog, most notably with her popular "Favorite Five" column.
How do you handle being a non-technical person in a very technical industry?
Although I may not know every detail about the technicalities of a project, I understand the overall vision and goal. I take the time to research and understand the client so that my marketing materials are relevant, never generic and most importantly, "speak their language". It's important to know your audience and communicate in a way that translates most effectively.
What do you find most valuable about SMPS membership?
SMPS Boston has been extremely valuable to me. I was able to quickly connect with several marketing professionals and have been pleasantly surprised by the helping hand that the members of this organization offer.
What is the most daring thing you've ever done?
I moved to Boston and co-founded a PR agency. A new city and a new business at the same time was quite the challenge to take on! In retrospect, it was one of the most rewarding and insightful times of my life. Every success, no matter how big or small, felt like a huge accomplishment.
Next, we have some hard-hitting questions! What is the most-played song on your iTunes/Spotify/etc.?
By 3:00 pm, I usually turn to anything with a fast tempo that will keep my energy levels up!
What is your favorite thing to do in the Fall?
To overindulge in pumpkin-flavored everything!
Valerie Conyngham, CPSM, Associate, Business + Marketing Manager
The Cecil Group
Like many A/E/C marketing professionals, Valerie's path to the industry was not entirely traditional. After moving to Boston fresh out of college with a marketing degree, Valerie applied to several marketing-related jobs and nearly accepted a job at a chemical brokerage firm where she was temping. Sensing that her heart wasn't in it, Valerie instead chose a position with Sterling Associates Architects Incorporated as their first ever marketing person. After taking various marketing positions in other industries, Valerie joined The Cecil Group in 2008, where she serves as Business + Marketing Manager. Valerie has been a member of SMPS Boston since 2009 and is the director of the Communications Committee.
What do you consider to be the most valuable tool in your marketing arsenal?
The planning process, starting with the strategic plan. It's incredibly important to have a firm-wide vision and goals so that everyone knows why they're showing up to work every day. From there you can plan on a departmental level and define how your group is going to support the larger strategy.
What SMPS event(s) have you attended recently? What did you think?
I attended Maximize Your leadership Brand: Know It, Grow It, and Show It, led by Allison Rimm. She shared her Joy Meter with us. It's a simple meter that shows the spectrum of Hassle to Joy and works as a great reminder that if you're feeling more hassle than joy in your current position it might be time to rearrange some things. I have it tacked up in front of my desk as a reminder to increase the joy and decrease the hassle, both for myself and those I work with.
What advice would you give to new SMPS members?
It's advice that is reiterated often, but join a committee! The more involved you are in the organization the more you will reap from it.
Now, for some more fun questions! If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?
That's an easy one, I'd be Vianne from Chocolat. I'm drawn to her passion and enjoyment of life, her independence to be non-conformist and her respect for all others around her, even her antagonists. I'm so drawn to her that in a past life I started an artisan chocolate company and named it vianne chocolat.
What's your favorite material object that you already own?
I'm going to go with my iPhone. While I fall in and out of love with any number of possessions, it's my phone that would prove hardest to live without.
Do you listen to music or podcasts while you work, or do you work better in silence?
I like listening to music, but usually leave it to the discretion of one of my co-workers. The best day is "cursing Friday" when he plays Pink.
If you could eliminate one thing from your daily schedule, what would it be and why?
Waking up to an alarm clock; it's a terrible, forceful way to start the day. I'm more refreshed when I allow myself to wake up to my own internal clock. Unfortunately, its reliability is questionable so for now I'll continue to suffer through the jarring, noisy start of an alarm.
When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?
I read. I like to have at least one fiction book and one business book going at any given time. Right now I'm reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Safon, Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte and On Paradise Drive by David Brooks.
What's your motto in life?
Be flexible, own your opinions and live life for yourself.
Kirsten Papagni, CPSM, Director of Marketing
Columbia Construction Company
Kirsten Papagni’s career of A/E/C Professional Services spans more than 20 years and includes recognition as one of Boston’s 2013 Certified Professional Services Marketers (CPSM). There’s no doubt that Kirsten knows the ins and outs of the industry. Currently the Director of Marketing, Kirsten is moving into her seventh year at Columbia Construction Company. As an SMPS member in years past, Kirsten used to call upon fellow members as a professional resource and encourages newer marketers to reach out and do the same. Back to basics, Kirsten has returned to SMPS with a lot to offer our Chapter - starting with this interview.
What was your path to finding a career in A/E/C marketing?
My undergraduate degree was a BFA from the University of Connecticut (UConn), with additional studies at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt). As a hobby artist with an interest in interior design - I loved to learn. Without ‘career student’ being a recognized option though, I made my start in freelancing. Still interested in design, and looking for a more focused career, I took inspiration from my father who is an engineer. He’s a role model of mine, so I eventually traded my freelance shoes in for a 9-5 job at a local engineering firm. I fell into A/E/C marketing at that point and have been with it ever since.
What about this career path has kept you engaged?
I like the fact that our roles in this industry are so fluid. It’s always interesting and offers a good challenge. That’s all I can ask for in a career!
CPSM: Why pursue it when you’ve got the experience?
At one point in my career I was the only marketer in my firm. During that time I had to learn by doing and reach out to other SMPS members when I needed a peer to learn from. Though I’ve had a lot of practice, I will say to anyone interested that whether you’re 5 years or 25 years in, there is something to be gained from it all. It seemed like a lot of work at first, but it has been well worth it. The learning experience reemphasizes everything you’re doing right, gives you a perspective for improvement, and teaches best practices. It’s definitely a reaffirming process.
As a returning SMPS Member, what event(s) have you attended recently?
I’ve recently enjoyed SMPS’s Lunchtime Learning Labs. They are a members-only education series – which are free and help me keep up on CPSM credits!
Each month, SMPS Boston spotlights a different member of the chapter on the home page. The corresponding mini-profile (a short interview with the member) will join the previous two on this page, remaining visible here for three months before being archived.
If you'd like to suggest someone for inclusion in this feature, please contact the Communications Director.
For further reading about chapter members, visit the Board of Directors page and click on the Information button in each person's section!