Meet LBDN 2020 Sponsor: ActiveCampaign and Kelly O’Connell

Tell me about yourself and your role at your ActiveCampaign

I’m the director of Product Strategy at ActiveCampaign. I work to uncover opportunities in the industry and market, drive forward innovation in the customer experience category, and, alongside the Product team, continue to deliver value to growing businesses. My days are filled with diving into competitor’s offerings, staying up to date on industry news, and brainstorming future concepts and offerings with members from the Product, Engineering or Design teams.

Everyone seems to have their own unique path to Product. I started at ActiveCampaign as the Head of Customer Success, developing the department and starting to understand how we onboard customers and help them find value out of the product. I also worked in the Sales department as a Solutions Architect, where I worked with prospects to understand their business, their toolsets, and find ways for ActiveCampaign to enhance their customer journeys.

Can you tell me more about ActiveCampaign?

ActiveCampaign is a customer experience automation platform that helps growing businesses create ideal customer experiences. We work with over 100,000 businesses to help them map out and automate their customer journey, and provide truly personalized communication across channels & teams.

We’re a global team of almost 600 and still growing! We have offices in Chicago, Indianapolis, Dublin, Ireland, and Sydney, Australia.

Tell me a little about your engagement with ChiTech and how you were introduced.

ActiveCampaign has been involved with ChiTech for a couple years now where we have job shadowing, mock calls and interviews and events like Little Black Dress Night. During ChiTech’s field trip to ActiveCampaign this past February, ActivelyBlack, one of our employee resource groups, had the privilege of sharing their career journeys with the students.

What part of ActiveCampaign’s mission aligns with our mission for Little Black Dress Night. Why did you agree to support Little Black Dress Night?

The hope of ActiveCampaign’s partnership with ChiTech is to be an advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion in tech, and to have an Active Impact (our Corporate Social Responsibility Program) on tech. We want tech to look like the rest of the world. And until that happens, we have work to do.

Is this your first year at the event?

This is my first year at event, yes!

What was high school like for you?

High school felt like it was go-go-go. I was involved in a lot of organizations – NHS, Yearbook, Cheerleading, class leadership. I also took six AP classes – so the work was pretty considerable. Everyone’s goal was to get into college, and beefing up your high school “resume” was the way to do it. If you were smart, you were sort of pushed either to becoming a lawyer or doctor. There didn’t seem to be other options – or at least not as prevalently discussed as those two. There wasn’t a lot of visibility into other disciplines or ways you could take what you were studying into the real world.

How else are you or ActiveCampaign engaged in the community?

ActiveCampaign encourages employees to help out in ways they’re most passionate about. As part of our commitment to Pledge 1%, the company offers three volunteer days off each year for all employees. Together, we’ve cleaned up local parks, mentored students, and distributed food to those in need.

I’ve also gotten motivated lately to increase visibility of Chicago businesses’ fundraisers to help them pay bills and pay their staff while they are closed due to COVID-19. I started a spreadsheet of all the Chicago fundraisers I could find, and continue to track their % to goal. I started to provide a fun way to encourage donations while businesses are unable to open their doors to the public.

Do you see a Young Women’s Leadership program useful in today’s world for high schoolers?

Yes! Leadership is so much more than being the smartest in the class or being ‘the boss’. And, even though there are huge strides being made, being a woman and a leader is still much different than being a man and a leader. Learning how to identify your own strengths, and how to leverage those to influence people around you is something I am still learning, and still work on every day. To start exercising those skills and that self-awareness early on in life, and even starting to get comfortable being a leader, is immensely impactful.

Any advice for young women going on to college and pursuing careers in leadership, tech or entrepreneurship?

I had a unique experience in college where I took a few years off. I had gone to school as pre-med, and after two years, I decided it wasn’t what I was passionate about. I took some time off and finished later with a degree in English. What I learned most in that is that it’s not necessarily what you study, but that you’re passionate about it. It’s even said now in regards to work, you have to care about the problem, not the solution. You’re going to be more driven, curious, self-motivated if you’re studying and pursuing something that you truly care about. That may mean that you take some classes that don’t perfectly line up with your standard curriculum. You could find a hidden gem that sends you off on a totally different focus. And that’s great! The goal of any studying is to learn, not just to advance.

Related to that, I’d say start learning to be comfortable messing up. That was a hard thing for me to learn after high school where the goal was always to get the right answer. In college it was much more about pushing the boundaries, challenging established ways of thought, developing new ideas. That means that sometimes you’re wrong. And that’s okay! Talk to any leader or entrepreneur, they’ve made mistakes. They’ve learned from them, they’ve appreciated them a lot of times.

And lastly, get to know your professors. Early on I was nervous to go to office hours or talk to my professors out of classes – but later on I started to really love it. Having a 1:1 relationship with your professor opens up a lot more discussion, mentorship opportunities, etc. They can help identify opportunities that you weren’t even aware of.

About ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign is a cloud software platform for small-to-mid-sized business and is based in Chicago, Illinois. ActiveCampaign offers software for customer experience automation, which combines email marketing, marketing automation, sales automation, and CRM categories.

About ChiTech

Chicago Tech Academy High School is an educational community whose mission is to educate, empower, and connect a diverse next generation of entrepreneurial thinkers to discover their passions, succeed in college and thrive in a digital world. 

About Young Women’s Leadership Society

The Young Women’s Leadership Society at ChiTech provides support for female students’ professional advancement as future leaders in tech and entrepreneurship. YWLS sponsors events, hosts workshops, plans college campus visits, and facilities discussions. All of these activities are designed to examine stereotypes, explore development of healthy relationships, explore the development of healthy relationships, and fosters the skills necessary for the cultivation of valuable professional networks. 

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