No offense to the many, many people I’ve interviewed for this series before, but this specific PR Rock Star interview may be my favorite. Solely because of the heart and spirit of the interviewee: Jamie Kvamme.
Truth be told, I don’t know Jamie all that well. At least not until last year when I asked her to join the marketing/membership MIMA committee (more on that below!). Since then, I’ve gotten to know her a bit better. And, since last fall, I’ve watched her survive (and thrive) under the most adverse circumstances you could possibly imagine.
Jamie’s is a story of personal strength. Determination. Indomitable will. And joy. Plain and simple. And I’m HONORED to be able to share a bit of it with you here today. Enjoy this wonderful read from one of the most inspiring people I know.
1-You started your professional career at Supervalu back in 2008. How that first internship help shape you into the rock star you are today? What’s the one thing you learned in that internship that you put into practice today?
I loved my time at Supervalu. I sat on a team of smart and driven women and got to participate in a handful of internal communication, PR and creative services projects. It was hugely beneficial to get experience in all of those areas – it helped provide a sense of direction for my next step. Oh, and my first glimpse at amazing power-women was pretty inspiring too (can I be them someday?).
2-You then worked for two academic institutions–Northwestern College and the U of M Carlson School of Management. How did working for academia differ from working for corporate America? What was great about working for academia that many people might overlook?
It was a big shift moving from corporate to academia, but a really good one. My communication teams were smaller and therefore I had my hands on a LOT of different projects and work. There was so much opportunity and it was a bit easier to contribute in high level decision making. That, and the amount of autonomy over my work, are things that make academia (or small business) a fun space to work in.
3-Now you’re over at Polaris on the marketing team working for our mutual friend Holly Spaeth, where you work mostly in a digital role. What was it about digital marketing that drew you in? What do you enjoy most?
I was (and still am) really drawn to how fast everything moves in the digital space. I love how the landscape changes daily and how big brands can interact one on one with a consumer. I think the customer service piece of digital is my favorite. I could tweet, comment, post, ping, chat, or call consumers all day long and never get tired of it. I like helping people solve a problem. And if I can do that online, well hey, that’s pretty cool.
4-Last year, you had a life-changing accident that involved you ultimately losing part of your leg. Since that accident, you’ve unquestionably been an inspiration to many, many people here in Minneapolis/St. Paul who have heard your story (the pic of you wearing the “Still Kickin” t-shirt at one of your physical therapy appointments early on is probably my favorite pic of the year that didn’t include my own kids!). Heck, you were back to work within a few months! Where did you find that strength and what motivates you on a day-to-day basis?
I’m honored that people feel inspired by my story…and that’s a HUGE reason I feel like I can just keep truckin’ along. I’m also a big believer in that things happen for a reason. So yeah, some days it really stinks, but there have been many, many things that have happened since the accident that have been humbling and cool and mind-blowing…and it’s those things that make me feel strong and empowered (if anyone wants to hear about it, I’m always down for a cup of coffee!).
As for motivation, I find it in so many different things — people with similar injuries that are crushing it in the paralympics, working on new projects, a good conversation with a friend, or my husband telling me I’m doing great. I have to re-learn how to do just about everything, so I’ve set some lofty goals for myself. I want to be skiing in the mountains next winter. Running this summer. Lifting weights this spring. It’s those things that keep me moving forward every day. One bionic step at a time.
5-How did the accident impact that way you look at your career and your job?
The accident was eye-opening. I’m so grateful that I survived, and that has changed the way I look at work and life as a whole. Life is short. I want to love what I do and work with people that inspire me to be better. I want to make a difference at work. And I hope that I can inspire my colleagues to grow (in whatever capacity that might be).
I also want to enjoy things…my family, my friends, the world that we live in. So being able to take a breather from work to do those things has also become of significant value. (Take time off people! Seriously though. You’ll never regret it.)
6-This past holiday season, you helped the Red Cross raise awareness for donating blood. Why did you decide to help, and what, exactly, are you doing to help the Red Cross?
I’ve donated blood since I was in high school (but mostly for the free cookies and pop). I knew it was a good cause, but I didn’t really know. So when I received more than four units (equal to four people donating), it gave me a whole different perspective on why it’s so important to give. During the holiday season I got to share my story on behalf of the Red Cross to help generate traffic to some significant blood drives.
7-You also volunteer your time with MIMA, as a part of our marketing/membership committee (so glad you’re a part of our team!). Why did you decided to donate your time to MIMA and now that you’ve been at it for a year, what have you enjoyed most about your volunteer experience with MIMA?
I always knew I wanted to volunteer in some capacity, but had a hard time nailing down what exactly I wanted to do. The MIMA opportunity sort of fell into my lap unexpectedly when you (Arik!) reached out about getting involved with a committee (thanks!). I was more than happy to hop on board and give it a go. It’s been very fulfilling to use what I’m good at to help MIMA succeed.
AND, one of the cooler parts of volunteering is that I’ve been getting to meet so many of my internet-friends. It’s way cool to meet a Twitter friend and become in-real-life friends.
8-Since so many people look at you as someone who inspires them on a daily basis, what advice would you give to those who may be facing struggles–whether they’re struggles at work, or life-altering changes like the one you faced in 2014?
My best advice is this: don’t quit.
Every day is a new challenge. Whether that’s learning to walk again or paying some unexpected bills or battling cancer…there is always going to be something. No one has a perfect, easy life. There are some days when I think it would be easier to just give up, but I also know that won’t make me happy. So I charge on..and occasionally let someone else do the heavily lifting when I can’t handle it. Having that network of people really helps. And if you feel like you haven’t got one, start sharing your story. It’s amazing what happens when you give people a little peak inside your world.