University of Florida - Bachelor of Science in Journalism
University of Florida - Master of Science in Entrepreneurship
Tracy Shank knew that no matter where she ended up, she wanted to be as hands-on with the business as possible. She also knew her undergrad degree in journalism might not be entirely fulfilling. So rather than simply hunker-down, suck it up and work the nine-to-five grind putting pen to paper, Tracy decided to go back to school.
Receiving a Masters in entrepreneurship, Tracy got involved in the rich startup culture of Gainesville, Florida, leading her to various marketing roles in tech-based companies and now her own company. At Start Marketing Me, Tracy's job is to provide clients and partners with sound marketing advice and thorough follow-up, a frusration she says is common. It's a challenge Tracy tackles with creativity and an eye for the next big thing. "I look at my job as a form of continued education that I'm more than happy to throw myself into."
Work like you own the business, even if you don't.
You have a Master's Degree in entrepreneurship, but most entrepreneurs just get started. What advantage do you feel your degree gave you?
The MSE was the best thing I feel I ever did for my education and career. I finished my undergraduate degree in three years and realized that I just wouldn't be fulfilled being a journalist. I really like business, but I needed the confidence to do something in that field. I needed the education of some basic business principles and the connections that I made, which actually helped get me my job today.
How did you go from grad with a degree in hand, to working at a startup?
After school, I stayed in Gainesville, Fla., which is a very entrepreneurial community. So it was natural fit to stay involved in this sector. I cut my teeth in a few startups and also spent some time in a traditional company. All of this confirmed that I wanted to be as involved as possible in whatever business I was in, which is easiest when you're in a startup.
What does your job involve on a daily basis, and what types of responsibilities do you have in your position?
My prime goal every day is to make each client happy. As much as I am a consultant, my primary objective is customer service. That means that whatever service request my clients have, I find some way to fulfill it at the highest quality as quickly as possible. This means that my services are constantly expanding as I am mastering new skills for my customers. On any day, I may be building a website, designing a logo, project managing an app, scheduling e-mail campaigns, writing business plans and advising on marketing and business topics.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Learning new things! Every day, I'm pushed to the limits of what I know how to do. That, and marketing methods and mediums are constantly in flux, so I'm always reading up on what's changing and what's effective. The newest thing I've learned is how to manipulate graphics in After Effects; something that until last month, I had zero experience with.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
In a business that I believe I have built around results and customer service, I am always concerned with how happy my clients are. What keeps me awake is the thought of how many people I would like to check in with the next day and how satisfied they are with my service. I am building long-term relationships, and no matter how often I get positive feedback, I will always strive to be better and make my clients happier.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Imbalance can be the name of the game in startups. But I look at my job as a form of continued education that I'm more than happy to throw myself into. I have friends who are in a similar field and in startups who offer a lot of support in celebrating accomplishments and trading war stories. Right now, I'm using my youthful excitement to make it through long days. I'll figure out the rest when that runs out.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
In the world of startups, it's hard to feel comfortable at the beginning. However, I'm at a company whose product I believe in, whose team is fantastic and where I'm able to express myself as a business woman and learn more than ever. To me, this is "making it" right now. When we get the market share in our industry, that will be a day to remember! Right now, all I can do is work as hard as I can to get there.
What are some of the rules you live by?
1 / Every day is a chance to learn and a chance to succeed.
2 / Work like you own the business, even if you don't. Not only will it be noticed, but you'll be surprised at how much you accomplish.
3 / Celebrate the small things at least once a week and make sure your work family knows they have plenty to celebrate, too!
What qualities does one need to possess to be successful in your line of work?
I know I've said it a lot at this point, but you have to want to keep learning. Like so many things in today's fast-paced world, you have to keep up to stay on top. A little creativity never hurt, either. And more than that, you need an undying sense that you will succeed, because if you don't believe it, who will?
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Even then, I was taking the right steps to be where I wanted to be. But looking back, I would tell myself that just because the startup industry is a culture of boot-strapping, I should never undervalue my talents. It feels so amazing to be appreciated for what you do, but working for less than what you'd be making at a traditional job can cause burnout. And if you want to be successful long term, you have to avoid feeling like a full day of work couldn't earn you what you deserve.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I would like to be managing/teaching/learning from a team of really talented people. Companies live and die by their talent, and I would like to position myself for continued success. I am also currently developing presentation and keynote speeches that I hope will become a larger part of my consulting business. I am committed to relationship building and sharing ideas with other, and I believe there is no better or more fun way for me to accomplish this than through strategic speaking engagements.