Welcome back to our series This Is How I Get It DONE, where we take a moment to interview members of the PR In Canada community to find out more about them and share with you more about the person behind the desk, from how they got their start to where their current role (and everything in between). For our seventh episode we talked to Kristy Derkson (BIO).
Current Gig: I’m General Manager at GCI Canada [Marketplace Listing], an agency of idea architects. I manage our warm and energetic family of consultants here at GCI—with easily the most competitive Bachelorette pool in the country! In fact, we’re running more pools than a Hilton Hotel right now.
One word to describe: “Integrate”—I’ve spent my career integrating diverse ideas, diverse services, diverse people and diverse skill sets – all with the goal of building teams and strategies that deliver great work for clients.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today: I’ve got a bit of an unorthodox background for a communications consultant, having earned a science degree at university. After a brief stint in provincial politics I ended up at PR school, then worked for a small agency that specialized in travel-tourism. Since then, I’ve spent decades deep-diving into multiple service areas. My agency career has included work in health and wellness, pharmaceuticals, consumer-packaged goods, retail, food and beverage, technology, and not-for-profit. I love the diversity of agency life. It gives you the chops you need to succeed anywhere and has led me to where I am today—offering not just the ability to look at client needs from multiple angles, but to integrate multi-disciplinary teams that can achieve extraordinary things together.
What is a typical work day like for you? There’s a typical work day in the agency world? I’d like to hear about that… But seriously – and not surprisingly – my work day starts long before I get to work, checking my calendar and email as soon as I get up so I can get some sense of what my day might look like. Then, after getting my kids to school, I ride my bike to work. It energizes me for the day and it’s where I do my best thinking. At work, my day rarely goes how I expect it to. It includes anything and everything from client meetings and phone calls, to developing client and new business proposals, to business planning and office reorganizations, to new hires. This is the reason I love agency life though. The energy, the diversity and never knowing what to expect.
What made you choose the profession of public relations? What was a moment in your career that really helped define today? I fell in love with communications through politics. I looked around at the people I worked with and it was the communications director and press secretary who had the most interesting jobs.
There isn’t one moment in my career that defines who I am and how I work today. It’s been a series of small defining moments. Like the time the person I was interviewing with for my first agency job told me she didn’t want to see my portfolio because it would be just like all the other PR students’ portfolios and I convinced her mine was different and got the job. The time I was working on a celebrity brand and their manager hung up on me when he didn’t like the answer to one of his questions. It’s the time the client agreed to the bold idea of building a corn maze in Dundas Square to promote a popcorn brand. It’s the tough bosses and clients who help you manager-proof yourself and learn what you don’t want to be like at work. And the great bosses who teach you what you do want to be like.
How do you balance family-work? When I’m working, I’m focusing on work and when I’m with my family I’m focusing on them. I try, as much as possible, to keep the two very separate. I rarely take personal calls or deal with personal matters at the office and try to do the same when I’m with my family. It’s not easy and not for everyone, but it works for me.