If you asked me a year ago if I would be working inCSR and marketing at Herman Miller I would've replied with along sigh and the words "in my dreams."
Now, I can happily attest to the fact that dreamssometimes do become reality. The path to Herman Miller has hardly been astraight line or typical; it was full of sections that have been cut andretied. But I do believe that there is a thread tying the story together; astory of jumping at opportunities (and creating some of my own) even if the destinationwasn't always clear, all in the name of trying to make the world a slightlybetter place.
I've been with Herman Miller for seven monthsnow, and feel extremely fortunate to be working for a company that is trulycommitted (and has been for a long time) to building a better world. My position isthe perfect marriage of my education, varied experiences, and personal andprofessional interests. It is a company committed to deeply understanding and addressing human problems; the same perspective I took in my previous work, but in this case applied toward product design and the built environment. And it allows me to leverage my experience in brand strategy and marketing,as well as my social media work around CSR.
However, as I said, the path to Herman Miller could hardly be called astraight line.
My education and early career were focusedon social services and public policy. Iwanted to make the world a better place by experiencing and betterunderstanding the needs of under-resourced communities and then craftingpolicies and programs that would address those needs. I ran programs in some ofthe toughest neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C. area for the local Food Bankand then proposed explored the feasibility of starting Food Banks in SouthAfrica.
Later I did a master's degree in public policy witha focus on econometrics and international development. I spent some time with alobbying organization [Read: A Day in the Life of a Lobbyist] as wellas interning with the Congress' House International Relations Committee,allowing me a firsthand view of the machinations of government [Read: Industry Overview: Government Agencies].Along the way, I also worked for the World Food Program in Malawi and served asa Peace Corps volunteer so that I couldexperience life first-hand as an international development worker.
Diving intothe unknown was risky, but I learned a lot about being entrepreneurial andworking within uncertainty.
These experiences led me tobelieve that the biggest opportunity to drive major change was throughbusiness, where there are resources and scalability. That compelled me to takethe leap into brand strategy and marketing with an agency. There, I learnedbranding, market research, message development, and many other skills. I alsodove into the area of social media and marketing, which encouraged me to starta blog (and Twitter account) on an area of personal interest: CSRand the World Cup.
All of these opportunities, some createdand some taken, were not without risk. Nor was their benefit completelyclear at the time, but they always felt right.
My onlypiece of advice for someone trying to work in the CSR field is to staycommitted to your ideals but take many leaps of faith, becauseyou never know how each opportunity may ultimately lead you to your desireddestination. My story is unlike those of many people in the CSR industry. Ididn't evolve into my current position from within the company or the industry,nor did I receive an MBA, both of which make me even more appreciative of theleap of faith Herman Miller took with me.
--By John Kim
John is the Better World marketing managerwith Herman Miller, a leading manufacturer of furniture, known for itsinnovative culture and business model. John's title brings a smile to his faceevery day as he's obsessed with the idea that business can truly do good in theworld.
This is the first post in a series that Vault's CSR blog: In Good Companywill host, written by John and his colleagues. Herman Miller has alwaysreceived high points from employees for pursuing a people-driven culture andvalues-based mission. These posts will focus on how building a better world around you is at the core of every strategic decision at Herman Miller, andhighlight their professional career paths.
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