From College to Coworkers

Steve and Colleen may be new to McCullough, but they’ve been rockin’ it for years.

I know you’re wondering, so I’ll get it out of the way upfront…it’s pronounced Tar-tag-lee-own-ay. Bonus points if said while using pasta hands! I’m the new Senior Marketing Strategist at McCullough Creative and a storyteller at heart. My colleague, Colleen Havens, is a well-rounded go-getter who manages accounts and helps clients build out their marketing strategies. We met years ago while attending Loras College, crossed paths intermittently, and are finally playing for the same team—hired only one week apart. Check out our conversation below, as we get caught up on everything from cover bands to our new roles…

 

STEVE

We’ve known each other for years, but this is the first time we’ve worked together.

 

COLLEEN

We’ve been friends and competitors. Never coworkers.

 

STEVE

[Laughs] Yeah, we called on the same businesses for a while, but we were friends before that. Do you remember when we met?

 

COLLEEN

We were at Loras, so it was probably 2006. I’m pretty sure we met at a concert. Some people we knew played in a cover band together.

 

STEVE

Denim Dan and the Jeans Factory.

 

COLLEEN

[Laughs] I couldn’t remember their name, but they always played Tom Petty songs.

STEVE

Okay, so let’s pick up the story there. It’s 2006. Denim Dan is on stage wearing a ladybug costume. How did our paths converge at McCullough Creative twelve years later?

 

COLLEEN

After graduation, I started in the marketing department at Northeast Iowa Community College. That’s where I learned all the things they don’t teach you in school, like how to write emails and generate reports.

 

STEVE

[Laughs] You learned to be Business Colleen.

 

COLLEEN

Exactly! From there, I moved into publishing, where I designed email campaigns, online content, and textbook covers, before taking a position as a developmental editor.

 

STEVE

What does a developmental editor do?

 

COLLEEN

I basically guided authors through the development of their online publications. I’d manage deadlines, hire freelancers, and build out content.

 

STEVE

And then you moved into sales, right? How was that transition?

 

COLLEEN

I didn’t have any sales experience at the time, but the more I talked to prospects, the more I picked things up. I’ve always been outgoing, so that made the transition a little bit easier.

 

STEVE

It’s one of your many talents. I’d go into pitch meetings and prospects would say, “Oh, Colleen’s the best. She helped us with this and this and this.” Everybody loves Business Colleen. You’re a pretty respected name around town.

 

COLLEEN

I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of wonderful people. That job opened a lot of doors for me.

 

STEVE

Sure, that’s part of it. But you’ve also been in every local television commercial for the last four years.

 

COLLEEN

[Laughs] That’s quite the overstatement.

 

STEVE

Okay fine. Every other commercial. There’s one with you in a Mexican restaurant, right?

 

COLLEEN

Yeah, I was in a commercial for Los Aztecas. We looked like we were out on the town—we had two giant margaritas in front of us—but in reality, my six-month-old was in a high chair just off camera.

 

STEVE

The magic of television.

 

COLLEEN

I actually made my television debut for Hy-Vee. I took an Instagram photo of my gas tank and Fuel Saver card. I don’t remember if I tagged them or they found it, but they reached out to see if I wanted to be interviewed. So they asked me a bunch of questions in the bakery department of the Locust Street Hy-Vee. It aired for a little while, but I can’t find the video anywhere.

 

STEVE

That’s why you need a clip reel. You can’t just expect other people to hang onto these memories for you. What other commercials were you in?

 

COLLEEN

I was an extra for RF2, Brazen, Namaste, and the Food Co-Op. The back of my head is super famous.

 

STEVE

[Laughs] And now you’re at McCullough Creative. All that hard work and personal branding paid off.

 

COLLEEN

Totally! So how did you end up here? I just realized you’re asking all the questions.

 

STEVE

After grad school, I started freelancing for a paid search agency in Chicago. I’d write thousands of ads every month. Buy Now! Learn More! All that good stuff. Eventually, I moved in-house and took over a few big accounts, even though I had zero marketing experience.

 

COLLEEN

So you were thrown into the deep end, too?

 

STEVE

Yeah, I learned on the job, just like you did. From there, I joined an e-learning company, where I helped develop online courses and mobile apps. It was my job to learn everything I could about a subject and then figure out how to teach it.

 

COLLEEN

That sounds like a very different mindset.

 

STEVE

It was, but that’s also where everything started to click. I could write short form and long form. I could manage campaigns and large projects. With every job, I added another piece to the puzzle. Since then, I’ve been the director of a small digital agency and a content marketer for a sales software startup. Everything’s basically led up to this job.

 

COLLEEN

So what do you do at McCullough?

 

STEVE

I’m the Senior Marketing Strategist, which means I write content and develop marketing strategies for our clients. It’s my job to know each client’s business just as well as they do, so that I’m able to create campaigns that engage audiences and drive measurable results. Plus, I get to work closely with you. Tell me about your role here.

 

COLLEEN

As an Account Manager, I’m the point of contact for clients and our internal team. I keep things moving forward by identifying project goals, managing timelines, solving problems, and making sure lines of communication are open.

 

STEVE

And how have your first couple of months been?

 

COLLEEN

They’ve been great! I’ve worked with McCullough on digital campaigns in the past, and I know a lot of McCullough people through AAF Dubuque, so it’s been a natural transition. I’ve wanted to work here since I was in college, and now I do.

 

STEVE

The first time I heard about McCullough was at the American Advertising Awards a few years ago. They won a ton of awards and I turned to my wife and asked, “Who are these guys?” I didn’t understand how a company like this was in Dubuque. For whatever reason, I assumed they—

 

COLLEEN

We.

 

STEVE

[Laughs] Right! It’s we now. Anyway, I assumed we had a hundred employees based on the quality and quantity of work. It wasn’t until I stepped foot in the building that I realized we were a quarter of that size. It’s kind of insane. Nobody can have a singular talent. We all have to be great at seven different things. I understood very quickly why the hiring process is so rigorous.

 

COLLEEN

I do have to say I shined in my second interview when they asked, “What’s 25 times 25?”

 

STEVE

Those multiplication flash cards finally paid off! Did Greg ask you his culture question, “What would your superpower be?”

 

COLLEEN

Yes, but I think I misunderstood the question. I said people feel comfortable when they get to know me.

 

STEVE

That’s a superpower, I guess.

 

COLLEEN

What was yours?

 

STEVE

I thought I gave a solid answer, but it’s pretty bad in retrospect. I said something like, “I’d love to read clients’ minds.” So terrible. Such a salesy answer.

 

COLLEEN

There are worse superpowers.

 

STEVE

True, but here’s the thing. When I was four years old, I pulled on the sleeve of my assistant soccer coach and said, “Coach Tony, I need some water.” And all he said was, “I’m not Coach Tony.” That’s it. No other response. I’m still embarrassed about this and it was three decades ago. I really hope, thirty years from now, I’m not asking myself, “Did you really tell Greg that you want to be a client mind-reader?”

COLLEEN

I was asked about my favorite movie and completely blanked. The answer is clearly Mean Girls, but I didn’t think it was a good interview response.

 

STEVE

That’s a great answer. Why do you love Mean Girls?

 

COLLEEN

It’s hilarious and I quote it constantly. Whenever it’s on TV, I stop everything and watch it.

 

STEVE

My all-time favorite is Jurassic Park. Every single part of that movie was made for me. I’ve been obsessed with dinosaurs since I was four or five.

 

COLLEEN

The same age you met Coach Tony?

 

STEVE

[Laughs] I already regret mentioning that.

 

COLLEEN

I’ve actually never seen Jurassic Park.

 

STEVE

What? I get that people live different lives, but come on.

 

COLLEEN

We’ll have to do an office movie night.

 

STEVE

That’s a great idea. Apart from this very serious roadblock, how are we going to work together?

 

COLLEEN

We’re going to work really well together. I’ll probably have to reel you in on occasion, but that shouldn’t be a major hurdle.

 

STEVE

I’m an energetic dude.

 

COLLEEN

Yeah, but you ask a lot of questions and so do I. We really want what’s best for our clients. And we’ll talk digital marketing for days, so that’ll be fun.

 

STEVE

Wow, that’s actually a perfect segue to the last thing I wanted to cover. For the sake of context, explain Facebook’s Friendship Pages.

 

COLLEEN

Friendship Pages basically collect the timeline posts between you and your friends. When you click See Friendship, you can view all the dumb conversations you’ve had with another person. The problem is that you can really only see one side of the conversation.

 

STEVE

Right, so when we decided to do this shared interview, you sent screenshots of our Friendship Page, dating back many years.

 

COLLEEN

Uh huh.

 

STEVE

I was reading through some of those half-conversations and found this one, which I sent to you on July 27, 2006. It’s the only message I sent you that day, and it said: “I’d play rugby, but I’m too hardcore.”

 

COLLEEN

[Laughs] Oh boy.

STEVE

For whatever reason, I can’t see any of the messages that led up to this. I have absolutely zero context. Do you have any idea what we’re talking about?

 

COLLEEN

Yes! That summer, I decided to start playing rugby.

 

STEVE

What? That’s awesome. Did you join a club?

 

COLLEEN

Nope, I just decided to play. I think at one point someone told me I’d be terrible at rugby, and I’m the type of person who will always try to prove doubters wrong. I’m not strong enough? Well guess what? Now I’m playing rugby. The same thing happened with cross-country. I started running in high school because someone said I couldn’t. I ended up running varsity for three years.

 

STEVE

So what happened with rugby?

 

COLLEEN

As it turns out, rugby is really, really tough, so I only played for a little while. But that’s obviously not the point. The point is that I played rugby and you didn’t.

 

STEVE

[Laughs] Fair enough. But I think we just found a new motivation technique. I’m just going to say, “There’s no way you’ll orchestrate a super compelling three-part direct mail campaign. You don’t have it in you.”

 

COLLEEN

[Laughs] Bring it on, Tartaglione. Bring it on.

 

 

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