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Progress people bring diverse experiences to the table and make Progress a special place to work. In this post, meet Courtney Gagné, senior social media specialist at Progress.
She just got married. She loves Edgar Allan Poe and Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” She set up a place for kickboxing in her garage during the pandemic. And she’s adapting to an ever-changing world, day by day—both personally and professionally. Courtney is, like many social media strategists, able to pivot at a moment’s notice for just about anything—the good, the bad, the ugly, and even the inspiring.
Nov. 27 marks my three-year anniversary at Progress. I guess the best way to describe my work is, I help talk about everything amazing that Progress is doing on a corporate level and also help connect all of the business units together, as well as on an internal level—help everyone get really excited about Progress, what we do and who we are.
Progress for Her is the first employee resource group that Progress had. And it happened in tandem with the inclusion and diversity initiative Progress has had going for a while. Progress always had a women's group, but what I did along with another coworker of mine, Danielle Sutherby, is really formalize that on a global level.
We wanted to make sure that there was representation everywhere and everyone felt they could participate—both men and women, non-binary. So everyone could really feel included. The work that's been done with the inclusion and diversity initiative, especially this year, has just been incredible. I don't know if because everyone's working from home or we've been just working a little bit extra, but it's really been amazing to be a part of it. We’ve even had a thoughtful conversation around Black Lives Matter.
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I think leadership has been one of the driving forces behind it. I'm 30, but this truly is the first company I've worked at where one, the leadership is as involved as they are with their employees, and two, they care at the level they do. The second there was any inkling of concern among employees about things going on in the world, the amount of communication and support that I've seen from our leadership is just—it's kind of mind-blowing. I am a crier, but it's moved me to tears a couple of times. Yogesh Gupta and (Chief People Officer Katie Kulikoski) did a video for our chief inclusion and diversity officer that we're searching for, and to hear their personal emotions behind it and what drives them to it just—it makes you feel like you're really part of something bigger.
Every company has social media. I could do this literally anywhere. But it really is about the people, and I've been blown away with not only how they've taken on all of the activism, but how they've treated us and supported us during COVID-19. There's been so much going on and you hear so much from other companies and what they've been doing and how people have been concerned, and there's been so much support and checking in and “What can we do for you?” and “Are you OK?” and “How can we support you?”
I actually say social media is in my blood. My mother was a part of the first ever Twitter party and it was a part of the mommy blogging boom. I'm a sociologist by trade and my focus in college was on criminology. So I actually was preparing to go into the FBI. But in college, my mother was like, "You have to get on Twitter. You need a blog." I had a web show. I started doing that and I ended up at an internship. I did a lot of influencer work where I just wrote blogs about things I loved. And this was way before influencers was even a term but I got involved in it early on and networked. I was in New York City and I ended up interning at MTV. MTVU at the time just had purchased RateMyProfessors.com and we did the first Twitter party that they had.
It was a really exciting time to be in the first wave of businesses getting involved in social media. Because social media was big at the time for users, but that wave of businesses really using it to connect with people more than just pushing out messaging really hadn't existed yet. The engagement side of things was something I saw as such a huge opportunity.
I have worked in all kinds of industries, and no matter what the industry is what you're seeing, now more than ever, is people expect brands to be human. They don't want to go to your business page and hear only about your product and services. They want to know who your company is as a being, what its values are. They want to know what your employees are like. They want to know if Progress was a human, what would they be like? How would they hang out with you and Sitefinity and Telerik? If they were all in a room together, how would that engagement be like?
Coming into Progress was intimidating because it's easy to feel in awe when you're surrounded by these incredibly intelligent people shaping the future of the world. It's magical to be around. I remember I was at ProgressNEXT, my first couple of months being at Progress, and to see what our customers do with the technology and not only what Progress does, but what our customers do once they take our technology into their hands, I just couldn't believe that it was real.
I felt like I was in the future. I think so many people at Progress are humble and it's my job to brag for them. Our developer relations team is an amazing example. We have our Twitch channel to showcase their talents and the things they do. Sometimes they're on there coding really silly apps and they're doing fun things and there's a lot of talk of chickens (inside joke), but to be able to showcase these amazing humans and all the work they do is a key aspect.
Progress has been around since the ’80s and has made amazing strides in technology, but it always comes back to the people. So for social, anytime you talk about tech, we’re able to humanize it so much easier because for every product advancement, every customer interaction, and everything that we do, there's an equally amazing human behind it.
Things have been bonkers. I just got married. I got engaged the end of August, but I have a family member who is quite ill, and with COVID-19, and additional work and life happenings, well there's a lot going on. My now husband and I decided why wait? More than anything, 2020 has taught us you have no idea what's going to happen. I come from a very traditional Italian family, so they were not the most excited when I said I did not want a big 300-person wedding, but we had an intimate ceremony in my sister's backyard, and she had just moved into her house a month before we decided. So things moved very quickly, but my family crafted everything along with my now mother-in-law, and it turned out absolutely beautiful.
I have a stepdaughter and she started virtual kindergarten two weeks before the wedding, and we’ve been adjusting to that as well.
Adjusting to working from home full-time, having a kindergartner who just started school, and staying committed to my health and movement — I'm an avid kickboxer and not being able to go to my kickboxing studio well, it is my serenity. I have a kickboxing bag now in my garage, so that's been a really major outlet for me.
The short answer is chaos, for lack of a better word. Every social media manager I know will hear me on this. There's been a lot of us supporting each other on Twitter. There's a huge Twitter community right now around social media managers and us just supporting each other. Some people normally have scheduled out content calendars a week ahead, a month ahead, however far out. That is a thing of the past this year because every day something crazy is happening.
You have no idea what you're going to have to rush to change in the middle of the night because something explosive happened. It’s like that on so many fronts, whether it's with the pandemic, whether it's with social justice, whether it's with the election going on. There's something at every turn. Depending on what industry you're in, some people were hit way harder than others. If you're working for an events company this year for example, what are you doing?
One of the most used words for sure this year has been the word “pivot.” I think everyone's heard it. The “Friends” meme has been shared more times than I could possibly imagine. I know I personally shared it a several times. But pivot is 100% the word of 2020. You have to be flexible.
I use Sprout Social as my social media management platform, and there's a great community around the users. They had posted a tweet that said something to the extent of, "If you could ask any social media manager anything, what would it be?" And you would expect people to ask, "What are you creating for this week? How are you handling this holiday coming up?" But everyone asked, "Are you OK?" or “How are you?”
I think a lot of people often forget that there are humans behind those company pages.
I feel like I might have answered it differently before this year. During the process of my wedding I had all the support and love, and one day I was crying to my mom. It was after I had a surprise wedding shower with my co-workers, who had just given so many thoughtful gifts. My mom was on FaceTime and she got kind of close to the camera and said to me, "Courtney, do you not understand how much people love you?" And then I started crying even more, I was like, "No."
It’s hard to talk about yourself. If I had to boil down my authentic self, I guess I would say that I'm an old soul at heart. I love old writing. Behind me there's a ton of really old poetry books. My wedding guest signing book was actually an old poetry book that my mom found. It was barely attached to the binding because it was so old, and it had all these notes and old bookmarks in it from who knows how long ago. I told her not to take any of that out.
I try to always exemplify the characteristics of the person I want to be. I think we need self-awareness and understanding that we're not perfect. We are a constant work in progress.
I love Disney and Edgar Allan Poe. Anyone who knows me, knows that “Beauty and the Beast” is everything to me. My husband and I danced to it at our wedding and I cried the whole time, obviously. And Edgar Allan Poe is my favorite writer. When I was younger, maybe elementary school, that's who got me into writing poetry and short stories. I will never forget in high school, I was struggling finding an author to use for an assignment, and my teacher suggested a playwright named Harold Pinter. She said, "Oh, it's really weird and dark. You'd love it."
Having that balance of weird, and light, and all of that range I think is a key part of me. I think being your authentic self is just more about finding what makes you you and not being ashamed of it, no matter what it is.
To get to know other Progressers like Courtney, read more of our Progress employee interviews here.
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Dave Pierce strives to be a writer’s writer, an editor’s editor, and a marketer’s marketer. An award-winning journalist formerly of The Boston Globe, Dave combines his love of SEO, taxonomy, metadata, content management and social media with his passion for storytelling. At Progress, he manages and optimizes content. Dave lives in New Hampshire with his wife and teenage daughters. You may find him at Northeastern University hockey games on the weekends from October to March. You can find him on LinkedIn every day.
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