Just Do It: Taking the Non-Traditional Route to Career and Driving Social Benefit

Olivia Smith | January 7, 2021
Director of Program Operations & Marketplace, Nike

In our Campfire Stories, we spotlight Appi Campers and share their stories in their own words. In times like these where we are adapting to new circumstances every day, we invite you to get to know us and lean on our community- the app marketing experts and your camp friends- as we continue to grow, step forward, and learn together as a community.

Olivia Smith’s Campfire Story

Olivia Smith has spent over 8 years in growth marketing helping businesses of all sizes scale their brands and grow their presence. After working in fashion, technology, education, and transportation, she recently pivoted to an Operations & Marketplace role within Nike’s Innovation wing. There, she works on scaling new ideas from day one, strategizing across marketing, technology, and general operations. She is an LA native who currently resides in Northeast Los Angeles.

Just Do It: Taking the Non-Traditional Route to Career and Driving Social Benefit

I lived in many different cities throughout my childhood. Though I was born in Southern California, I moved to Michigan when I was six and lived there for about 10 years. During high school I moved to Texas, which was the polar opposite from living in Michigan and California. Coming full circle, I moved back to California halfway through college and I’ve been here ever since.  

I’m now living in my grandparents’ old house, building my plant collection and caring for my two dogs. I’m working at my dream company which feels surreal to say now. It’s been a journey to get here!

The Start of My Journey in Mobile

When I lived in Texas, I started working for a local company called Houston Fashion Bloggers, which then morphed into the Texas Influencer Network. This was back in 2011-2013, before influencers were really a thing. Everyone working there was either a beauty or a fashion blogger. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Houston is a mecca for small designer blogs. There are lots of smaller couture fashion shows held in Houston, and in Austin as well (Dallas not so much).

The brands we were working with included Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Vera Wang, Zac Posen, and more. We were at the forefront of establishing the brand and blogger partnership. I worked as a Content and Assets Manager. The biggest questions we were facing were: How do we connect niche bloggers with top brands? How do we build what is now considered the influencer profile? And once the profile is built, how do we connect it to these brands so that they have a strong partnership? 

This experience is what led me into marketing. Being at the forefront of influencer marketing was really exciting. We never had the same two days in a row, and I find marketing brings that excitement, whether it’s app marketing, growth marketing or influencer marketing.

I had wanted to get into marketing for a long time, but I didn’t know how. It was difficult to find a female CMO in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. Having a female example, someone I could look up to while pursuing my career, was very important. That’s why being exposed to the fashion influencer side of marketing really solidified that I wanted to be in this industry.

Gaining Real-World Experience

Rather than continuing to pursue higher education, I sought to gain real-world experience. I got a job offer for a small startup in California in the digital marketing space called StaffGarden. We aimed to innovate how healthcare workers, specifically nurses, are hired. We asked: Why does it take three months to hire a nurse when there are so many qualified nurses? And so many job openings in hospitals across the US? Our goal was to solve this issue. We found that the system was quite antiquated, many hospitals had only 1 or 2 individuals who were responsible for hiring nurses. Another problem was that a lot of the nurse leaders didn’t have the proper resources to train new staff.

We provided a software solution for HR to easily go through applicants, so they could get through 400 resumes a day instead of 40. It was an effective solution, but more than just allowing for efficiency, it helped hospitals realize that people are more than what they are on paper. It takes picking up the phone and talking to someone to really understand their experience. People are more than what they are on paper.  

Breaking into User Acquisition

I also spent time working at another startup in the digital marketing space called Arena Education, which aimed to help women obtain the skills they need to work in digital marketing. We created a system that let a candidate do an intensive course in marketing, without needing to pay upfront. The candidate could then be matched with an industry partner and receive a pilot internship with the intention of being hired. The candidate would then be put on a 5 year repayment plan to pay back the cost of the certificate.

After this, I transitioned into a role at HopSkipDrive, which provides a safe youth transportation solution. Everyone at HopSkipDrive was super passionate about the business and worked very well together. This is where I dove into my large-stretching UA role. I was thinking heavily about the questions: How do we acquire parents that are users? Or businesses as enterprise clients? This is where I really started to get in my groove. I loved digital marketing, but at the same time, I realized I needed to be in a role that was even more strategic. Then, I was contacted by a mutual friend for the role I’m in now at Nike.

Just Doing It

Receiving my role at Nike was almost too good to be true! I oversee marketing in an operations capacity, which is a highly strategic role. It was bittersweet to leave HopSkipDrive, but I knew this was the right step forward for me. Working in the innovation wing at Nike has been one of the most eye opening experiences I’ve had. The questions we ask include: How do we think about the next wave of innovation? How can Nike be a part of it? Working on small projects gives my team a startup mentality, yet with the support of so many other individuals and departments who help us drive toward innovation. 

Driving Innovation and Social Benefit

One constant that has always been in my career is: How do I benefit at least one individual or type of individual? How do I work somewhere where there is a strong mission and a way to drive social benefit? Every role that I’ve had thus far has been catered toward providing a solution for a specific type of person. Most companies have the ability to make a social impact, they just need to be able to market that.

Taking the Road Less Traveled By

I found that in my unconventional route, I’ve been able to progress in tremendous ways. Though I am a strong planner to an extent, a lot of what brought me here were gut decisions that were aimed toward achieving career milestones and helping the companies I worked for drive social benefit and innovation. I didn’t necessarily think two steps ahead when making the individual decisions I made that led me here. I just did it. And I’m better off for it.