Then and Now: 16 digital marketers whose careers have skyrocketed since 2008

Almost four years ago I started my own business. It’s been about five years since I started blogging. A lot has happened in those last five years. Things I never would have expected (including keynoting a conference, co-founding a successful local conference, and working with a number of Fortune 500 companies). But, compared to the fortunes of a number of other people I know, my achievements appear like mere blips on the radar.

I don’t say that to sell myself short. I say that, instead, because some people have really made tremendous strides in those last five years. And it’s been really fun to watch these people’s progress. After looking into this a bit more, I was really surprised at the number of people I’m connected to in some way, shape or form who have really seen a meteoric rise the lsat few years. Let’s take a look.

Heather Whaling

Heather W

2008: Director of Public Relations, Costa DeVault

2013: Owner, Geben Communications

Road to where she is today: Heather started her own agency around the same time I broke out on my own. We’ve shared many stories and tips along the line. We’ve even partnered on a few client engagements. Proud to call Heather a friend–and proud of her work in starting her own shop.


Chuck Hemann

Chuck H

2008: Manager-Research, Dix & Eaton

2013: Group Director-Analytics, WCG

Road to where he is today: I got to know Chuck when he was at his job in Cleveland five-years ago. We worked on the social media track at BlogWorld together, where I got to know him a bit better. And since then, his career has completely took off! And he now possesses one of the more in-demand skill sets in our industry (digital analytics).


Lisa Grimm

Lisa G

2008: Account Coordinator, Risdall McKinney PR

2013: Director-Emerging Media & PR, space 150

Road to where she is today: Lisa’s come a long ways since her days at Risdall McKinney PR. Probably the person locally here in MSP who has made the biggest strides in the last five years. Can’t wait to see where she is five years from NOW! (I’m sure I’ll be reporting to Lisa at some point)


Sonny Gill

Sonny G

2008: Marketing Analyst, Cox Auto Trader

2013: Social Media Manager, U.S. Cellular

Road to where he is today: Sonny’s progress has been particularly interesting to me as five-plus years ago, I attempted to help Sonny (and friend Scott Hepburn) out when they were looking for jobs. The result? We solidified a friendship and I got to know a pretty good guy. Now, Sonny’s in Chicago, happily married, with a new baby and a successful career.


Jeff Shelman

Jeff S

2008: Higher Education Reporter, Star Tribune

2013: Senior Manager-Corporate PR, Best Buy

Road to where he is today: Five years ago, Jeff was on the media side. Now he’s a PR vet after stints at Augsburg College and HealthPartners. Over at Best Buy now, Jeff’s getting a taste of Fortune 500 life.


Tony Saucier

Tony S

2008: Account Supervisor, Weber Shandwick

2013: Director of Social Media, Lifetime Fitness

Road to where he is today: Tony was a lifelong agency guy until his jump to LTF. Now he runs social for one of the largest health clubs in the country.


Scott Meis

Scott M

2008: Social Media Director, Carolyn Grisko & Associates

2013: Vice President-Social & Digital Strategies, Weber Shandwick

Road to where he is today: Got to know Scott while he was in Chicago. Now, he’s leading Weber’s social/digital work in their Seattle office and doing great work (I hear about Scott from my Minneapolis Weber friends from time to time–and got to meet him when I spoke at a PRSA event in Seattle last summer).


Sean Ryan

2008: Communications Associate, Otaka Energy

2013: Director-Digital Marketing, JCPenney

Road to where he is today: I got to know Sean while he was at Target–and sports blogging (he spoke at the MN Blogger Conference two years ago). Since then, his career has taken off with his recent opportunity at JCPenney.


Aaron Miller

Aaron M

2008: Marketing Manager, Target

2013: Social Engagement Lead, General Mills

Road to where he is today: With a rich and varied background on the agency and corporate side, it’s no wonder Aaron wound up in a leadership position with one of the bigger corporations in the Twin Cities (General Mills).


Dave Fleet

Dave F

2008: Senior Communications Coordinator, Government of Ontario

2013: Senor Vice President, Edelman

Road to where he is today: After meeting Dave a few times at social media events across the country, it’s been fun to watch him flourish at Edelman where he’s now senior vice president. Last I heard, Dave was (probably is) leading a team of 50+ for one of Edelman’s largest North American tech clients.


Adam Singer

Adam S

2008: Director of Digital Strategy-Pierson Grand PR

2013: Product Marketing Manager-Google

Road to where he is today: Adam didn’t make the biggest title jump in five years, but the guy does work for the Google now, which counts for an awful lot (and I’m insanely jealous that he gets to live near the Bay now). Keep in mind, Adam did make a pit stop in Minny, working with Lee Odden over at TopRank.


Danny Olson

Danny O

2008: Mobile marketing spokesperson for the “Hotdogger”

2013: Senior Digital Strategist-Weber Shandwick (Minneapolis)

Road to where he is today: From Hotdogger (so jealous) to Digital Strategiest at one of the biggest PR firms in the world in five short years? I think Mr. Olson is doing something right…


Gregory Gerik

Greg G

2008: General Counsel, NextStep Solutions

2013: Social Media Leader, Global eTransformation-3M

Road to where he is today: Probably the most interesting change in the last five years on this list, Greg went from corporate attorney to social media lead at one of the largest companies in the Twin Cities (and a pretty big player worldwide in certain segments).


Amy Taylor

Amy Taylor

2008: Community Affairs Assistant, City of Westerville

2013: Director of Content + Community Strategy, Geben Communication

Road to  where she is today: OK, so I have two folks from Geben Communication on this list. I’m allowed to rave about my friends, right? Amy has gone from a community affairs assistant in Ohio to one of the more in-demand content folks in the business (with a recent stint at Brains on Fire before coming to Geben).


Veronica Sopher

Vernoica Sopher

2008: Merchandising Analyst and Social Media Evangelist, Ben Bridge Jewelers

2013: Social Media and Community Manager, Microsoft

Road to where she is today: Veronica took her experience in getting Ben Bridge off the ground with social and turning that into a pretty killer role at Microsoft–just one of the largest tech companies in the world. No big deal.


Liz Philips

Liz Philips

2008: Worldwide Competitive Response Manager, HP

2013: Social Media Manager, Taylor Made

Road to where she is today: After many years at Hewlett-Packard, Philips took my dream job (one of them anyway) at Taylor Made in San Diego where she serves as social media manager for the golf company.

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19 comments on “Then and Now: 16 digital marketers whose careers have skyrocketed since 2008

  1. lulugrimm says:

    You will most definitely not be reporting to me someday, Arik. Thank you so much for the inclusion this morning. So cool and it’s really fun to see the different paths of folks in our fields. You have always been and continue to be an inspiration to me and many others. Do you remember how I would tweet/call you back in the day and ask about various agencies/brands? Trying to establish what would be the best fit for me? I can’t tell you how important having your ear was and still is. You’ve done great things and I look forward to seeing where you are in five years as well. Also, we need to get coffee soon, okay?

  2. ScottMeis says:

    Thanks for the shout Arik! Great to be included among the fine folks here. It’s definitely been a journey and thank you for continuing to help prompt new thinking, provide excellent strategy insight and serve as an excellent connector for so many.

  3. Shih_Wei says:

    Hi Arik! Thank you very much for adding me alongside fifteen brilliant thinkers and doers. So glad I connected with you early on. Our conversations online and your encouragement have been a great part of the journey, and I look forward to learning more from you.

  4. susie_parker says:

    @Shih_Wei Way to go, Veronica! I always knew you were a superstar. 😀

  5. timotis says:

    @lulugrimm agreed, Arik is a great mentor. He helped me out in the past too. You can never have enough of them.

  6. SeanWRyan says:

    Honored, Arik Hanson. Proof that a combination of knowing the right folks (like you, Arik), being in the right place at the right time, and just plain dumb luck can take you places. Like Texas. 🙂 Lots of work ahead, but fun to reflect.

  7. arikhanson says:

    @lulugrimm I said the same thing about someone who said that to me in my past. And it has almost ended up coming true (and I reacted the same way you did). So, never say never! Thanks for the good words–very much appreciated…

  8. arikhanson says:

    @Shih_Wei My only regret is we didn’t connect in person while I was in SEA last summer! Next time though–we loved Seattle so much, I’m sure we’ll be back.

  9. arikhanson says:

    @SeanWRyan  Arik Hanson Right place, right time. Accounts for 80% of all promotions. I’ve seen in happen too many times for that not to be accurate. And you never apologize for it.

  10. MichaelDale says:

    Nice shout out Jeff Shelman!

  11. lulugrimm says:

    @arikhanson 🙂 Look forward to hearing more about that sometime.

  12. FancyRay says:

    Interesting. For many of these positions, there wasn’t these titles 5 years ago. Where will the next 5 years take us?

  13. cubanalaf says:

    Great list, Arik!

  14. jshuey says:

    Great article. It was great to see the Then & Now of 5 years. Thanks for highlighting my friend Veronica Wei Sopher / @Shih_Wei . I met her because of Social Media. I am proud to have worked with her to found the Social Media Club Seattle chapter … where she worked tirelessly to make sure we got the word out and so much more.

  15. sonnygill says:

    Arik – thanks so much for the nod and a trip down memory lane. It is amazing to think back to our connection (with Scott) way back when, not to mention getting you over to DC to meet in person. Great memories! Glad to call you a friend and to see your growth as a professional as well.

  16. Justin Tsang says:

    I have the pleasure of working with Scott at Weber Shandwick. And he’s the man.

  17. susie_parker says:

    Would be great to have included all their twitter handles in the piece. 😉

  18. Marc_Meyer1 says:

    This was great Arik. I would add you to the list. It was nice to see some old faces on the list.  Seems like yesterday we were doing Tweetchats with a few of those folks and in actuality, it was nearly 5 years ago… 🙂

  19. adamsinger says:

    Thanks for including me here Arik, although the title you have is irrelevant — it’s what you do that matters 🙂