With the enterprising Twitter handle @Kristy, author credentials spreading across the Internet, and regular speaking opportunities around the social media and search engine optimization (SEO) industries, Kristy Bolsinger MBA’09 would seem to be executing a clear-cut master career plan.
A Senior Associate in PricewaterhouseCoopers’s (PwC) Customer Impact Consulting group, she will be the first to admit with a chuckle that nothing could be further from the truth; “I fell into social media by accident.”
“Looking Back, I Have To Laugh”
Bolsinger’s rise in the burgeoning world of social media parallels the industry’s own unstructured, organic bloom.
What started innocently as a way for like-minded communities to congregate casually has quickly earned a place among the more established media channels as a viable way for companies to engage customers. For Bolsinger, what started as an internship in SEO for Seattle-based game development company RealNetworks has become a pivotal step in her career path.
As a first-year MBA student at Willamette University, Bolsinger’s interview for the summer internship took an uncommon path to success; “Looking back on it, I have to laugh,” she recounts. “I couldn’t begin to answer their questions with any authority, but I showed them that I was eager to learn and experiment. That was enough to get me the internship.”
Originally, social media was to serve as a means to the end. However, she quickly realized that “social media was an end in itself.”
By the end of that summer, Bolsinger’s boss kept her on remotely as the company’s social media steward, and encouraged her to continue experimenting; “We had great communication and rapport,” she recalls. “I could connect his business objectives to what I was seeing online. Those exchanges nurtured my professional progress and the company’s bottom line.”
Just What She’d Hoped For
“Growing up, I saw very few people going to college, and even fewer earning master’s degrees,” relates Bolsinger. “I didn’t grow up wanting an MBA. But when I got to a point in my career, I realized that I lacked a fundamental understanding of how different parts of a business aligned, prioritized work, and measured their efforts. That’s what lead me to an MBA.”
While Bolsinger’s internship at RealNetworks demonstrated the business case for social media, Willamette’s MBA program gave her the foundation to evaluate and appreciate that impact.
“I can’t single out ‘the most influential course’ or ‘instructor’ from my experience at Willamette,” Bolsinger confesses. “They have all been so helpful. In my current work as a consultant, I’d say that the PACE program was the most useful. I draw on those skills every day. However, while I was earning my MBA, I would have said that the leadership course was the most influential. And as much as the data-oriented classes made me nervous, I’m grateful for them every time I talk with a development or business intelligence team. Marketing is all about making data-driven decisions, and a large part of engaging across social channels draws on the tenets of structured and unstructured data sets.”
Riding a Rising Tide
From her success at RealNetworks, Bolsinger was recruited in 2010 to join Ant’s Eye View, a small firm that helped an impressive list of enterprise clients with their social media strategies; “It was a great place to take what I’d learned at RealNetworks, and leverage my MBA from Willamette,” recalls Bolsinger.
In 2012, PricewaterhouseCoopers acquired Ant’s Eye View. “Everything changed, ultimately for the better,” recalls Bolsinger. “From the dress code to the company policies, from the structure to the culture.”
Her opportunities changed too; “Now I have an entire firm’s worth of opportunity and choice. I’m lucky to have an enabling leadership team that supports the direction I want to take my career. I’m able to bring it up to a higher level. Open my arms wider. Take on more.”
Follow Kristy on Twitter: @Kristy