I was introduced to Danica Kombol, CEO of Everywhere, when her team came to our company to run one of their customized social media bootcamps in 2010. At that time, the digital agency was specializing in social media marketing. It had already made its mark on the social scene by setting a Guinness World Record for the “most widespread social marketing message” that was the result of their cause campaign, #beatcancer. Since then, Danica and her team have built up an impressive client list that includes both celebrities as well as major brands like Coca Cola, Macy’s, CNN, Imax, and Cox Communications.
Did you think you’d be doing what you do today when you were graduating from college or even early in your career?
Not at all! The internet did not even exist when I graduated from college! I started my career at what’s now known as Sesame Workshop which at that time was still incredibly innovative. I’ve always been drawn to innovative environments – folks who push the envelope and are doing something new and different.
Was there a unique event, or series of events, which heavily influenced your career choice?
No one specific event, though I will say my career path has hardly been a linear trajectory. However, I did know that whatever career I chose had to involve both the logical and the creative. Becoming a TV producer was ideal: on the one hand, I was responsible for scheduling, managing budgets, etc. AND I was in this enormously creative environment where any logical decision would influence the creative and vice-versa.
Think about what makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and head to work, at whatever stage of life you are in..
Rarely in this day and age do career choices happen at one specific moment and I would not suggest waiting for some kind of lightening to strike. I think it makes more sense to expect a series of career decisions to evolve. Think about what makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and head to work, at whatever stage of life you are in.. In my case, I’m a challenge junkie. I have to be around really smart people. I love having just a little too much on my plate. I look at every opportunity to make sure these elements exist before I embrace a career opportunity.
What do you love most about your job?
I love solving problems. I also love the left brain/right brain intensity of my job. On the one hand, I have to be very analytical, research, results and ROI driven and on the other hand, I get to be tremendously creative. It’s a workout but one of those workouts that give you an incredible endorphin high.
This is a question I’ve had heated conversations with my mentors about in the past but always like to ask – how do you balance career and family?
Ugh, I hate the word balance! It’s simply not possible. Something has to give, always. Somebody has to make a sacrifice. One way to balance however is to bring the entire family into the career making decisions. My husband and I carefully negotiated roles and responsibilities at various points in our careers – at the most tactical level. We outlined everything from who was going to walk the dog to who was going to do the grocery shopping. Knowing that the basics of life (taking out the trash, shopping for kids school clothes) all had an owner created a level of comfort that allowed both of us to worry less and focus more on our careers.
It takes a team and we approached career and family as a team.
We also engaged our kids – they have chores and responsibilities around the house. It takes a team and we approached career and family as a team. I won’t lie and say it was easy. It was a challenge. When my kids were quite little, my husband was traveling all over the world, often to some fairly terrifying places in his work at CNN and Fox News. After 9/11, he lived in New York for a year. That year, my kids really chipped in to help mommy. We really approached those years with a fierce kind of team spirit that sticks with us to this day.
You left a high profile position at Ketchum, one of the biggest players in PR, to start Everywhere. What advice would you give to someone who is considering taking that same leap and starting a business?
Make certain you have an entrepreneurial spirit. Are you a natural risk-taker? Do you love environments where hierarchy is abandoned in favor of achieving a collective goal? Are you willing to make a sacrifice (say time/salary) in favor of a long term goal? Most importantly are you game to live without the safety net of predictable income or benefits for a while? If so, how long?
What excites you about young professionals today?
I’m not one of those middle-aged managers who complain about millennials. I love working with millennials. They have such a fresh non-hierarchical approach to business which suits me well. They value life goals while we tried to suppress them to play the corporate game. They also bring a kind of naive faith and lack of scepticism, which is vital for creativity.
What’s your favorite interview question to ask?
What’s the last book you read?
I have to ask now, what’s the last book you read?
I just read the Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan – one of her amazingly complex historical novels – this one tracing the tangled, agonizing and passionate story of an American girl in China who becomes a courtesan. I’m embarrassed to admit why I picked it up, but here’s the truth. My husband has a radio show where he interviews authors. Thus we get stacks and stacks of books in the mail. I take my pick from his leftover pile of books that don’t fit the focus of his show – which is more world affairs than it is popular culture.
For early career professionals who are looking to build a relationship with a mentor, how would you advise they go about it?
A mentor does not have to be your senior. I always say, “mentor up, mentor down and mentor across.” Find people in your life at all levels who can provide you mentorship.
Did you have a mentor or champion that helped shape your career?
No one mentor but many. Most of my early career mentors were men, so I always tell women – don’t just look for a mentor who looks like you. Take advice from someone who has a completely different life experience.
If you were talking to a younger you, what’s the one piece of advice you would give?
Oh my god, I think I’d say, “Chill out!” Okay, maybe I’d phrase it more appropriately, SAY… “hakuna matata?”