Photo courtesy of NPR Generation Listen
Introduce yourself and tell us about where you work.
I’m CJ Craig and I work at ACA Digital, a full-service advertising agency in downtown San Antonio.
Where did you work before?
I worked at Texas Public Radio as a Corporate Relations Associate where my main focus was outreach to corporate and nonprofit agencies. I helped to spread the word about TPR while helping our community partners get their message on-air and out to the community.
What did you find rewarding about your previous job? What is rewarding about your current job?
I really loved working with the community every day. My favorite part of working at TPR was that it wasn’t the same every single day. I got to be out in the community with non-profits, working with them, getting your hands dirty and making an impact in the community. What I love about my new job at ACA Digital is the challenge of advertising. The overall thought process is different; it’s strategic, challenging, and a lot of times, involves putting your sweat and tears into the projects. But the best part is when you see the end result of what you and your team created, how you’ve helped make your client successful, and knowing it was all worth it.
Tell us a little bit about where you went to school and how you got into your career?
I went to UTSA and I studied Marketing with a minor in Geography. I really wanted the emphasis to be in international marketing and it sort of spun into marketing and urbanization. Geography taught me the historical side of international affairs, the development of cultures and communities, and how politically the world works. The marketing side prepared me for real world business scenarios such as working in team settings, project management and analytical skills. Eventually, I went on a career path that was fast-paced and allowed me to put my critical thinking and time management skills to work. UTSA did really good job at preparing me for post-collegiate life by incorporating real world projects into the curriculum– I still praise them for that to this day!
While you were in college, you got involved with the music industry. Tell us more about that.
In college I got involved in band promotions. A lot of it stemmed from my love of music; Indy, rock, soul, blues, and I would go to SXSW every year and help local bands with outreach. This included helping with the merchandise table to coordinating some of their events and being that point person with the venues and stage managers. Then it evolved into becoming a band promoter and working with “big” bands. I have friends who I met along the way, traveling around the world playing big gigs and it’s really exciting to see that because when I first met them they were just small bands at SXSW. When I can’t catch up with them in person, I can usually catch them on late night shows like Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon.
Tell us about some of the community organizations that you are involved with.
I’ve been a volunteer with the Junior League of San Antonio for 5 years. The organization is incredible in that it’s committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the communities through their volunteers. The League has also been an organization that has helped me develop in both my personal and professional life. I also volunteer with TPR. They have a live storytelling event series called “Worth Repeating” that I was fortunate enough to be a part of since its conception. I’m a “storyboard” member and I co-host the event. The concept is to bring together the community, providing them with a platform to connect and hear seven really incredible stories from people in the community. Think of The Moth of This American Life, but live and sourced from your friends or neighbors. The event includes the best of live storytelling, live music, and networking, for only seven dollars.
What are some professional or personal development things that you are working on?
I love reading and learning new things; my favorite books revolve around professional development. Things that teach you to manage your time or to become a more effective leader. I’m also trying to learn new languages. Every morning I get up and study French and Spanish for about an hour. With the way the world is going and the way we do business these days it’s important to be fluent in other languages, so I need to sharpen that skill.
Tell us about someone who has been a mentor in your life?
I have an Aunt Honey and Uncle Steve who, growing up, were the people that I really looked up to. He was a Geophysicist so he was the one that got me interested in Geography and Geology. He worked all over the world with my aunt by his side and they got to see some really incredible places. I’m sure that’s where my love of travel and work ethic came from. He taught me about working hard and achieving whatever you wanted to achieve. My aunt showed me that as a woman, and especially a Hispanic woman, you can achieve whatever you set out to accomplish. She was a very successful real estate broker in Houston for 20+ years. The main lesson learned from them: whatever you do, be good (at what you do and as a person); the rest will fall into place.
What do you like the most about being a young professional in San Antonio?
I love how the city has evolved in the past few years and I think the city has done a tremendous job embracing young professionals along the way. There are so many organizations promoting the multifaceted ways to connect to like-minded people, which didn’t exist when I first moved here over 10 years go. You have organizations like TechBloc and LOOP that make it easy to connect with like-minded individuals. Events like Worth Repeating or Bingo at Blue Star Contemporary for those seeking something different. When I first moved here from Houston in 2004, events like these were few and far between. The hardest part now is finding a way to fit it all into your schedule!
What are some challenges that young professionals continue to face in San Antonio?
One challenge we need help with, in my opinion, is the perception of young professionals from those living outside San Antonio. There’s a perception of our young community either not existing or not being “hip” enough; that start-ups don’t exist; that businesses can’t sustain the talent; or that our city doesn’t provide the amenities needed to attract young professional to our community. The city’s start-up community, arts community, tech and medical industry, and music and culinary scene has flourished over the years, and I don’t think we receive the proper acknowledgement for that.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting their career?
Oh good question! I would tell them to take risks and don’t be afraid if something doesn’t work out. It’s OK to take risks in your career and if something doesn’t work out it’s OK. Don’t be afraid to do something new that’s outside of your comfort zone. It’s amazing at how much you learn about yourself and how much you grow when you’re out of your element. At the end of the day, make sure you are happy and that you love what you do and don’t be afraid to take risks. Be open minded and willing to explore new areas in your career and your life — you might just be surprised what will find you.
What works for you to maintain a healthy work/life balance?
I struggle with this myself because I’m a workaholic and I tend to take my work with me everywhere! One of my favorite ways to disconnect is to go hiking with my husband. We love to go hiking and backpacking through the hill country. Sometimes we purposely travel to places where a cell phone signal is impossible. You take only what you can fit in your backpack and that’s it. It makes it much easier for me to shut everything off when there’s no power source around for miles!
Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.
After discovering the amazing parks in San Antonio, I became an avid hiker. My love of hiking has led me on several adventures, one of them being Guadalupe Peak, the tallest point in Texas, (8,751 feet). My next big hiking adventure will be this summer when I walk across Spain on a pilgrimage, El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). This is a pilgrimage people have been participating in for over a thousand years and I’m excited to be a part of the journey.Tags ACA Digital, TPR, LOOP, Blue Star, Guadalupe Park, Junior League of San Antonio