Welcome to Season 3 of our series This Is How I Get It DONE, where we take a moment to interview members of the PR In Canada & Profectio community members to find out more about the person behind the desk, how they got their start, their current role (and everything in between). For our fourth episode of Season 3 we talked to Lena Knight, Vice President at Agnostic.
I’m a VP at Agnostic where I spend my days thinking of and creating award-winning programs for my clients. I follow that up with the life of a working mom – cooking, colouring, cartoons and lots of love. It all adds up to a very rewarding and fulfilling gig!
One word to describe your work style:
Empathetic – I find leading with empathy creates a workplace people enjoy coming to, that clients enjoy working with and it lets me be true to myself.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I started my career working in the health and technology practices of a national agency. I then did a small stint working in the UK where my Canadian accent helped me pitch more effectively in its highly regulated healthcare market.
Since returning to Canada, I’ve worked with large international agencies across multiple sectors including technology, B2B, corporate, healthcare and consumer marketing. What that means for my clients is that I bring a fresh perspective and approach to my work because I’m able to think about communicating with multiple audiences regardless of channel or topic area.
What is a typical workday like for you?
I feel like everyone says there isn’t a typical workday in PR and that’s absolutely true. I start my day with a quick check of what’s on for the day and then get right to reading the headlines. Afterwards I usually develop plans, work on new client pitches, review media materials, counsel clients, manage issues, mentor junior staff and network. Throw in a lot of laughs and some delicious treats and that’s a pretty typical day in our office.
What made you choose a career in public relations?
While I was in school, I worked a summer job at a small museum near my hometown. We were a tight-knit team of three and I had to do it all – plan day camps for 25 kids, give tours of the museum, bake for tea time and book era-appropriate musicians for entertainment, manage the museum’s budget and – the kicker – handle media who would come to the museum throughout the summer. My manager there was the first to talk to me about PR and suggested I check out the program at Algonquin College. After attending an information session, I was hooked! It was all I could imagine myself doing.
What was a moment in your career that really helped define how you work today?
I feel like it’s a collection of moments that’s led me to where I am today. Like the all-knowing Oprah says, use your life as a class. There’s a lesson to be learned from every experience and I, too, believe every experience I’ve had has taught me something about what type of leader I want to be.
I took the biggest risk of my life moving overseas with no job, no place to live and just a handful of contacts, but ended up working in an amazing boutique healthcare agency. It’s also about the many people I’ve worked with – those who taught me and helped shape my career, and those who gave me a lesson in how I don’t want to work. Each moment builds a collective to draw from and allows me to better understand who I am, who I work with and how we can all work better together.
How do you balance family-work?
I try to be as present as possible when I’m in each situation. So I put down my phone and spend dedicated time with my family during those precious few hours we get each evening, as well as make the most of our weekends and vacations together. I also hunker down and focus on work when I need to so I can feel good about disconnecting when I’m with my family.
A few years ago, one of my senior leaders imparted some sage advice, saying sometimes your foot will be on the gas for work, and sometimes it will be on the break because home life is more of a priority. That’s ok and there’s no need to feel guilty. It’s what you make of those moments that really matters. This really came to life for me when I returned from maternity leave. I didn’t realize just how much I missed working until I was back in the office. It was ok to want to strive for more in my work life after taking time to build my family.
9-5 is LONG gone, what is one shortcut or life hack that works for you?
Flexibility is the key to our industry. There will be some days you can leave at 5 p.m. and others where you’re working into the evening – or even morning. Know that it isn’t about being always-on, but it’s more focused on always thinking. This is inherent to Agnostic’s approach and it’s one of the many reasons why I love working here!