Trinity College (Hartford, CT), Sociology
Masters of Business Administration, Darden School of the University of Virginia
Ask Katie Bisbee about work-life balance, and she’ll tell you she loves her job, which makes it hard to feel like there’s much lacking in the balance department. As the chief marketing officer of DonorsChoose.org, an online charity where teachers post requests for classroom supplies and donors choose (get it?) which projects to support. “I feel I’m one of those lucky people in this world who loves what I do every day. If I didn’t love my job, I’d probably complain about all the travel and events I do in my off-time, but I enjoy what I do so much that a business trip and a couple of work events a month is something I love to do," she says.
Katie’s positive attitude and reputation as a trailblazer who gets stuff done grabbed the attention of Campbell’s Soup Company, and they invited her to join their dynamic Camp Campbell Team. The team of 24 game-changing women leaders in social entrepreneurship and innovation, is looking for a 25th member. Do you think you have what it takes? Read Katie’s story below, and then find out how you can apply.
One of the main things I focus on is to be really efficient when I’m at work.
How did you decide social service was your calling?
My passion always has been around social service. My parents had me volunteering before I probably understood what volunteering was! I’ve always been very interested in societal impact and social change. That led me to study sociology in college. In my first job out of college I was doing market research for a lot of for-profit companies. We were advising these companies on big marketing decisions they were making and were making recommendations on what they should be putting into practice. It involved a lot of public and political polling. But, deep down I knew I wanted to go back and obtain a Master’s degree of some sort. Here I was advising Fortune 500 companies out of college, and I had never even taken business classes!
That said, I heard from many friends and advisers that it would be helpful to have a second job under my belt before attending grad school. So, I went to a direct-service nonprofit. This was, ultimately, what I wanted to do. Spending time in that environment helped me figure out what type of grad school I wanted to go back to. It showed me I really needed a business background to make an impact.
What was your next step after obtaining your MBA?
After grad school I assumed I’d go back into a nonprofit, but then was told by many that I needed to go work with a for-profit. That was probably my hardest point ever. I’m someone who likes to be energized by the subject matter I work on every day, and that’s harder for me when I’m working for a for-profit, but ultimately I ended up going back to work for a direct marketing company. It’s the farthest thing from doing good in the world. But I’m so glad I did it and for what I learned in that job. It was a very entrepreneurial company. Everybody was great, engaged, willing to look at things with a fresh eye and test out businesses, even if they failed. I found through this experience that the actual work environment I’m in and who I’m with is the most important part of my career. Social good is a bonus, but it’s secondary to working with who I love each day.
I joined DonorsChoose.org seven years ago, which is where I still am today. I think I’ve found the right job in this company, and it merges well with my background. It’s really business-minded and entrepreneurial, and I have the opportunity to do be at an intersection of everything I’ve done. I couldn’t find a better fit.
What responsibilities do you have in your role?
During the last school year we had about 250,000 individuals participate. The number of large companies that give millions of dollars to classrooms through our website has supported about 60,000 teachers across the country. My two main responsibilities are to make sure teachers are aware of DonorsChoose.org and that we are growing our donor base as needed to support those teachers with available funding. My tertiary responsibility is branding and awareness of our organizations among teachers and donors.
One of the hardest parts of my job, and I would imagine this is true for most business women, is staying focused on primary business goals. Every morning when I get to my desk I repeat what my main responsibilities are. It helps me focus on the bigger picture.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
I have a really big caveat in answering that question. It’s that I love my job. I feel I’m one of those lucky people in this world who loves what I do every day. If I didn’t love my job, I’d probably complain about all the travel and events I do in my off-time, but I enjoy what I do so much that a business trip and a couple of work events a month is something I love to do. When I’m not representing the organization, I make sure I do everything I can that I want to get accomplished. One of my favorite things in life is to do yoga and go swimming, so I make sure I do that every day during the week when I’m in town. I also make plans with family and friends.
One of the main things I focus on is to be really efficient when I’m at work. I think there’s a tendency for people to chat amongst one another or check the morning blogs, but I try to be as efficient as possible when I’m at work so I can do things I want to do when I’m out of the office.
What is the personal code you live by?
No. 1 is that I like to spend as much time with my family and friends as possible. No. 2 is I really love to be inspired by my job. Those two are non-negotiable for me.
How did you hear about Camp Campbell?
I heard about it through Emily and Jeremy at LeadDog (an agency that works with the Camp). When they presented the idea to me it sounded awesome. What they told me about Camp Campbell is what it’s turned out to be. So far it’s a group of 24 really cool women who are all doing things independently on their own. They’re people who are really engaged in what’s going on in their fields, which is really fun. I also love that through the Camp we were able to spend time with the executive team in Campbell.
As I mentioned earlier, I meet large groups of people often as a part of my job. The thing that’s been the most exciting about the Camp Campbell experience is that it’s a small group and every person there as such an interesting story. I’ve learned a lot from those girls.
What type of woman do you think should apply?
I think a woman who is interested in meeting a network, but who also is really willing to bring her own point of view to that network and bring as much to that network as she gets out of it, is the right kind of person for Camp Campbell. Every event we’ve been at has been really fun and we’ve had a good time, so someone who likes to have a good time as well and help Campbell think through some of its business concepts while having a good time would fit in well!
[Editor’s Note: We reached out to Emily Mannix, who had approached Katie about Camp Campbell and she wanted to reiterate the following. “It was a really research-intensive process to find each of the 24 Camp Campbell women that we have. Each one is amazing. These are women who don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. They’re making change in everything they do. They didn’t wait for someone to hold their hand but instead have made their own path. As a female in business, too, it’s very inspiring. We’re looking for women who see a hole and say, “I’m going to fill it. I’m going to do it."]