“You can’t do it all, but you can have it all.” This is the advice that Mendy Werne, COO of national B2B public relations firm BLASTmedia, shared with us at our recent event. Speaking at The Hatch, a new co-working space in Broad Ripple (and new home of Linking Indy Women events), Mendy shared her story of weaving together being an executive of a small business, wife and mother.
A native of Indiana, Mendy grew up in a small town before moving to Plainfield when her dad changed jobs. In a new environment, team sports got her through the transition to a new town and helped her learn the importance of team vs. individual that she still carries today. Sports also led her to a scholarship to University of Indianapolis – a factor that was important, as she said she may not have attended college otherwise.
After cycling through a few majors, she took a communications class that turned out to be an “a-ha” moment. Demonstrating how and why people communicate with each other sparked her interest and she decided to pursue this as a career. Through internship experiences, she quickly learned that even those in communications fields are not always the best communicators and the only way she was going to learn was by asking questions – a lot of questions. Her curiosity allowed her to be exposed to several parts of communications – from sales to writing and teamwork. “You aren’t going to get a playbook for life, so you just have to dive in and figure it out,” said Mendy.
For her first foray out of college, she answered a newspaper ad for a job at a public relations firm, which would end up setting the course for her professional life. While the company, local firm Dittoe PR, needed someone for just two months as an intern, the opportunity ended up turning full-time when a team member went on maternity leave. Mendy ended up staying much past those initial months, working at Dittoe for five years in a variety of roles from account executive to manager. She learned by being a sponge – soaking up information from meetings that leadership took her to and by asking questions all along the way. But she cautions those that are exploring their first roles outside of college to not get too cocky once they have a few years of experience under their belts.
As a young professional herself during her Dittoe years, Mendy thought she had learned everything she could and began searching for a new job – and she was called out on it by one of her bosses. Instead of firing her, he took her aside and asked her what was prompting this search – if she was bored, or looking for a new challenge, a role could be found for her to scratch that itch at her current company. Having a conversation of that magnitude from a personal standpoint shaped how Mendy herself has similar conversations with people she manages today. “Business decisions are always going to come up, but people should be first. Determine what is best for both,” said Mendy. Continuing on with Dittoe, she changed directions and explored the new avenue of business development, which she enjoyed. And then the same boss who had talked to her about her job search came to hear and asked if she would be interested in starting a new agency.
Always up for a challenge Mendy agreed – that was 12 years ago, and that company was BLASTmedia. Those 12 years have brought many changes to Mendy’s life personally and professionally, including marriage, kids, opening and closing offices, spin off companies and multitudes of employees and clients. So why does she still do it? The people. Their celebrations, their losses, the folks that trust the company to provide a valuable service. And she never takes for granted the people that choose to work with her – watching them grow, teaching them and then watching them mold their own style and “slay it.” is what is rewarding – even when times require hard business decisions. “If you feel it, say it, but nicely,” is the motto of BLASTmedia. Though there are going to be tough conversations, if you go in respecting the other person and addressing problems head on, you will both come out in a better place.
Continuing education is key to Mendy and her team – she is constantly asking what she is teaching her people and what they are teaching her. This includes not only offering professional development, but personal development as well. Though she “despises” the phrase work-life balance, Mendy does believe happiness is key, and if you don’t have it at work, you should go find it. “You spend 80% of your life working – life is too short to work somewhere you don’t like.” This philosophy has led her to believe that though you can’t do it all, you can have it all. How?
- Have a good support team. This not only includes at work, but people in your personal life who can be true partners – business partners, spouses, friends, etc. “Know your gaps and find others that fill them in. And don’t be intimidated by people that are smarter than you – hire them.”
- Take time for yourself. It can be hard, but something as simple as a workout or Netflixing your favorite show can be healing. This also shows those around you – your team members, your kids – that it’s important to take care of yourself.
- Be present. “Wherever you are, be there,” says Mendy. Put down your technology and have actual conversations – especially when you are at home. Focus 100% on the person in front of you.
“You only have one life and you choose what to do with it.”
We really appreciated Mendy sharing her story with us!
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