Path to Prosek Q&A with Kearney Dewing and Sheila Kulik
Path to Prosek is one of our most popular series amongst our readers. The stories are told from a first-person point-of-view, recounting Prosekians’ experiences that lead them to Prosek Partners. For this month’s story, we thought we would change it up a bit by conducting a Q&A with two of our extraordinary Account Supervisors from Prosek Boston – Kearney Dewing and Sheila Kulik. Following is a condensed version of our conversation about their career journey and the lessons about PR (and life) they’ve learned along the way.
Unboxed Thoughts (UT): Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. We thought it would be fun to change up the format of our Path to Prosek series so appreciate you both for being our first. Let’s start with some basic background questions. What did you want to be when you grow up?
Kearney Dewing (KD): When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. I’ll preface this story with the fact that I’m an only child. In third grade, I asked for an overhead projector for Christmas – you know, the ones with the plastic sheets and Vis-à-Vis markers. My friends and I would switch off being teacher, while we printed off different math and word problems to be displayed on the walls in my room. This definitely kick-started my communication and leadership abilities as I got older.
Sheila Kulik (SK): That’s a cool Christmas gift. I wanted to be a doctor for a very long time. I had a plastic medical set. Specifically, I wanted to be a pediatrician and my “back-up plan” was a veterinarian. I had planned to be pre-med in college, and the summer before senior year of high school, I went to a 14-week pre-college program at the University of Maryland to learn about it. Guest lecturers consisted of real-life doctors in different medical fields. On day two of the program, a plastic surgeon came in and showed us footage of emergency room situations where plastic surgeons saved lives, and my dreams were ruined. I’m disgusted by blood now, so that was a career switch for me.
UT: Describe your education background.
SK: I wanted to attend a large Division I school where I could compete on the varsity crew team. Indiana University Bloomington fit all criteria. While there, I studied communications with a concentration in business and a minor in sociology.
KD: Quinnipiac University was the opposite. I attended QU because it was the perfect size (about 8,000 undergrad at the time) and just the right distance from home back in New Hampshire. I majored in public relations and minored in legal studies.
UT: What was your dirty job?
KD: Oh man! Pretzel Time, aka the soft pretzel stand at the mall. There I was, rolling pretzels in front of everyone passing by at the mall in my uniform soaked in butter – that was quite a sight for friends. I learned a lot about customer service through this job. It was one of my first interactions with people in a transactional environment. I learned the concept of putting customer needs first.
SK: I was a lifeguard. It was literally a dirty job because I did more than just guarding life. I had to clean a lot of bathrooms and pool filters, which shockingly had a lot of dead animals in them. I did save two people so that counts, right? Like Kearney, I learned a lot about customer service at the pool. Pool bathrooms are hard to keep spotlessly clean, which is something you inevitably get a lot of patrons complaining about.
UT: Is being a lifeguard boring?
SK: If you ever get bored when you’re doing it, then you’re not doing it right.
UT: Good one, Sheila. Did you have internships before joining Prosek Partners? Did you always want to work at an agency?
KD: I interned for Calypso Communications in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was one of the best experiences I could have asked for. I was able to acclimate to working in a professional setting while working alongside some incredible people. After that, I interned at Gaffney Bennett Public Relations in New Britain, Connecticut. I was given countless opportunities to stretch my skills there while being taught by some of the best in the field.
SK: Once my doctor dream was ruined, I learned fairly quickly that I was good at writing. In college, I wrote satire for the Indiana Barstool and College Humor pages and did some of their social media, too. After my satire internship, I interned at a web design agency in Indianapolis. This experience taught me prioritization and understanding clients’ needs. Although I was studying for my communications degree, I had no idea that PR was an actual profession until it was introduced to me in my classes. I joined PRSSA and had the opportunity to work with a real client: the Indiana Department of Revenue. It turned out to be the perfect client to introduce me to the world of finance.
UT: Let’s switch gears and fast forward to your joining Prosek. How did you get your start?
SK: During my senior year, I knew I would come back to the east coast and I was determined to graduate with a job. I also knew that I wanted to do PR. PR is such a big industry, so I was very optimistic about landing a job in it, but I didn’t know where to start. So, I did what anyone who was clueless would do. I Googled “PR firm in Fairfield County” and Prosek was at the top of the real results page and it was literally perfect because I wanted something specific and to dive in and learn. My mom has always worked in investment banking, so the world of finance wasn’t that out of reach for me and Prosek was very specific regarding its financial services focus.
KD: During my first few PR classes, I still wasn’t totally sold that PR would be my path. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed by how many different facets of PR existed. It wasn’t until my internship experiences that I truly knew I wanted to work in an agency setting. Senior year, I received a message from Prosek inviting me to apply to the agency’s Apprentice Program for post-graduates.
UT: Describe your first day at Prosek.
SK: I was so excited to find something that felt like the start of a career. I was pumped. But then, the night before my first day as a Prosek Apprentice, I caught some nerves and I was back to Google searching: “What do you do at a PR internship.” I ended up getting to the office at 7:45 a.m. for an 8:30 a.m. start time. Needless to say, everyone else in my Apprentice program was also a half-hour early and I realized, we’re in this together. Everything will be alright. Things are good.
KD: Mine was a bit of a whirlwind. I moved to Stamford, CT that Sunday and started on Monday. I walked into the conference room that morning with no idea what to expect. Within minutes, Sheila, Kelly Whalen, Jacqueline Schofield and I were exchanging numbers - I knew then that it would be an adventure.
UT: What’s your favorite moment at Prosek?
KD: When I look back on all of the funniest, outrageous and proudest moments I’ve had here, I can attribute most of them to the Connecticut office. I started my PR career in an environment that cultivated (and still does) such strong relationships amongst colleagues. Prosek has the perfect recipe of encouraging mentorship and building support systems where colleagues help each other and want you to succeed.
SK: I’m with Kearney; most of my favorite moments are related to getting my start in the Connecticut office. But I’d also add a particularly memorable career moment: my first broadcast media interview with a client, which coincidentally was also his first time appearing on live TV. While we were in the greenroom, the client, not realizing how new I was to everything happening around us, turned to me and asked nervously, “How long should my responses should be?” I was totally caught off guard; I had no idea what to tell him because no one had ever asked me something like that before. Luckily, I was accompanied to the studio by a Prosek senior vice president, so she saved me. Without missing a beat, she stepped in and simply replied, “30 seconds or less.” I was in awe. How did she know the answer? At that moment, I realized that people hire us for our council; we are the media experts. Our clients rely on us in moments like this – mere seconds before they address the world on live television. This moment inspired me to prioritize learning so I can always be the counselor that my clients need me to be. I no longer assume I am not the smartest person in the room.
UT: As part of the founding team of Prosek Boston, how has your experience with the firm changed since you started in Pro-Connecticut?
KD: It’s changed in so many ways. We’ve come into our own as leaders and role models for other Prosek Apprentices. The opportunity to be part of the founding group to expand in an important market has helped build confidence in me as a communications professional. I’m applying everything I’ve learned from Connecticut to our Boston location. It is a winning recipe, so why not repurpose, right?
SK: I agree with Kearney. I’d say I’m quite lucky to start off in Connecticut. Prosek as an agency is very focused on mentoring new talent and has a collaborative culture. We’re bringing this vibe to the team here in Boston.
KD: I always joke around and say, “Isn’t it so great that we get to come to work every day and hang out with our friends?” – but there actually is so much truth to that. Maybe not the “hanging out” portion… maybe we change that to “work diligently” with our friends… 😊
SK: That’s your go-to musing since our Connecticut days and it still rings true here.
UT: *Laugh* This has been great, ladies, but I’m afraid we’re running out of time so we’re going to do a lightening round to wrap it up. We’ll ask you some easy questions. Please answer the first thing that comes to mind. Let’s start with, what is your most favorite day-to-day PR project?
UT: If you could tell your day-one Prosek-self one thing about working at Prosek, what would it be?
KD: Have patience with yourself and others.
SK: Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.
UT: Who is your role model?
KD: Both of my parents.
UT: What publication can’t you live without?
KD: Yankee Magazine
SK: National Geographic
UT: What is your Prosek soundtrack?
KD: People typing on conference calls when they think they’re on mute.
SK: The theme song to The Office.
UT: What is the one question that you’re dying to answer but we didn’t ask?
SK: I know we always tell our clients to have something prepared if they’re asked this question during an interview, but I have nothing! You asked everything. Truly.