Kate Addis




University of Iowa - Interdepartmental Studies Business Track + Entrepreneurial Management Certificate

While Katie Addis was busy changing her major (five times!) and worrying about falling into a career she wasn't passionate about, she didn't realize she was also gaining valuable experience for a job she'd love. While school was important, it was her summer involvement as a counselor, trainer and camp director with Camp Adventure Youth Services that ended up laying the groundwork for Katie's current job as a recreation program director. "I traveled the world … doing a summer job I was so passionate about. When I returned for the school year, I was yearning for the next summer experience."

Katie's passion for working with children, managing people and sharing her experiences is put to work on a daily basis as she plans and implements childcare and special event programs as part of the Recreation, Parks and Tourism Department. Planning every component of up to six program all at once, Katie knows her dedication and eye for organization goes a long way. Having a job she totally loves doesn't hurt, either: "For the first year, I thought, 'I can't believe I have this job' every single day."

Lead by example. It's the best way to build trust amongst staff.

What drew you to your job?

During college, I was lucky enough to get involved with a program called Camp Adventure Youth Services, which provided day camp programs for military children all over the world. I was trained to be a camp counselor, and after three summers of working as a camp counselor, traveling the world and becoming the lead trainer at my college (University of Iowa), I became the director of my own camp serving 110 military children in Seoul, South Korea on an Army Installation. After working with this program, I knew I wanted to work with children, but I didn't know how I could have as much fun as I was having as a camp counselor for the rest of my life!

On top of learning and my passion for working with children, I discovered I had an equal passion for sharing my experiences and teaching other staff members following in my footsteps how to become great at following their passions. I immediately fell in love with managing my staff in South Korea, realizing there's a difference between being a manager/leader and being a boss. I wanted to be someone that my staff felt comfortable with discussing issues, but also someone who they respected to deliver constructive criticism.

When my current position became available, I was confident in my abilities and what my department was in search of because I performed every job duty in the past and knew I enjoyed doing it. I knew I would be able to succeed and bring a special element to the department that no other candidate could.

How have your previous work-related experiences helped you in your current position?

I grew up with a strong work ethic -- hard-working, motivated, enthusiastic, gives 110 percent in everything they do, the list goes on and on -- because of my parents. They instilled it in me.

But when I was in college, I changed my major five times because I was so indecisive about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was extremely worried about making the wrong decision and being stuck in a career I hated. What I didn't realize was during this time, I was learning my craft through Camp Adventure Youth Services as a camp counselor, learning how to be confident in my abilities to be a team leader and a positive mentor to youth. I traveled the world to places most would dream of going, including Germany, Okinawa, Marshall Islands and South Korea doing a summer job I was so passionate about. When I returned for the school year, I was yearning for the next summer experience.

By doing these programs, I was able to offer experience to my current employer that no one else had in my area. Not only did I offer experience, but drive and passion as well. And those are two things you cannot teach to an employee. They need to feel these themselves to be fully invested into the cause.

What I'm trying to say is: don't worry as much about the major in school as the experience you get along the way. Policies and procedures can always be taught, but your past experiences will help you determine what your passions are in life and what you will and will not settle for in a career. I'm happy in my current job because I followed my passion.

What does your job involve on a daily basis, and what types of responsibilities do you have in your position?

My main responsibility is planning, implementing and initiating childcare and special event programs for the county. My main program is called "Kids Klub" and is both an after school program (which serves more than 200 children at 8 different school sites) and a summer camp program (which services roughly 300 children at 5 different sites). With these programs, I'm responsible for recruiting part-time staff and volunteers; evaluating programs, participants and staff; marketing the programs to the public; and monitoring program revenues and expenses.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Before taking on this job, I was always fearful of speaking in front of people. I didn't think I had enough advanced knowledge to be able to teach a group of people about policies, procedures and expectations on any topic. After leading a few meetings, laying out my expectations and watching my staff learn the new duties within their positions, I've watched them prosper, which has made me feel like I've made a difference. I never thought that trainings would be the favorite part of my position, but it has been the responsibility I look forward to. I'm even leading a nine-week training program for my 2013 summer camp staff!

What challenges keep you awake at night?

Trying to remember to get the little things done: writing a certain email, returning a certain person's phone call, etc. I'm a perfectionist at heart, so I'm always trying to make sure I'm surpassing everyone's expectations at all times. During any month of the year, I'm planning for anywhere from three to six events or programs, so it's easy to have my mind going in several directions when I'm trying to focus on one task.

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

I'll admit, the first year was difficult for me. I didn't complete my official orientation until after my first year, because every month brought a new event or program that required a lot of "learning the ropes." Spring and summer are considered my busy months, even though I'd say that every month is busy. And because I'm always busy, I'm adamant about leaving work at the office and enjoying time with my husband and friends when I'm at home. It's so easy to become wrapped up with work 24/7 when you're given access to email from home and a work phone, but I try not to use these items unless extremely necessary.

Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I can't believe I have this job?" What was it?

For the first year, I thought that very thing every single day. I let everyone in my department know when I was hired that this position has been my "dream job" since college and I'm so lucky to have been giving the opportunity to follow through with my passion.

What are some of the rules you live by?

1 / Lead by example. It's the best way to build trust amongst staff.

2 / Don't be afraid to make a fool out of yourself. We're in the business of creating smiles!

What qualities does one need to possess to be successful in your line of work?

A few qualities needed in my line of work include being self-motivated and decisive. One of the main reasons I love my job is that I'm given the space and the trust from my supervisors to be able to complete my job duties on time and to do them well.

Next, you have to be enthusiastic. One of the many concepts I preach to my staff is that the more enthusiastic they are, the more enthusiastic the kids will be about the activity they are trying to accomplish. (This concept also pertains to me as well.)

Also, be flexible. No matter how much planning you can do for an event or program, you always need to have a back-up plan. I've learned this the hard way a couple times, so I swear by this rule.

Lastly, leadership qualities are paramount. I have roughly 20 to 40 staff members during any month of the year who are involved in an event or program of mine. I always need to show strong leadership and concise expectations, as well as compassion. My staff understands that I like to work hard, but play hard, too. I like to think I have a great relationship with my staffers because they understand I expect a lot, but everything I expect, I'm willing to do myself.

What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?

Follow your passion and you'll always be happy.