The Community Club

Discussion on: AMA with Holly Firestone

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brianoblinger profile image
Brian Oblinger

How, exactly, did you get to be so awesome?

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel

What Brian asked.

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hollyfirestone profile image
Holly Firestone Ask Me Anything • Edited on

First of all, thanks Brian! I think it’s really important we lift each other up and support each other in this industry. You are one of the best in the business at that, and it doesn’t go unrecognized! I know you’re joking-ish, but I’m going to answer this question because I am an awesome community builder, and it’s taken a very, very long time for me to get here and for me to be OK saying it!

I have loved building community since the day I started doing it. The unfortunate commonality between most community professionals that have been doing this for 10+ years, is that no matter how much we love our work, we’ve been doubted, under-resourced, overworked, and underpaid at multiple points in our careers. Building community is not for the faint of heart. I think we can all agree on that.

I‘ve written about my journey in a few of my blog posts, and I definitely want to write a fuller version of this story at some point. It’s been quite the journey. Towards the beginning of my career, I was working 16-18 hour days while being underpaid, under appreciated, passed up for promotions, and told that the work I was doing wasn’t important. I’m not going to lie, I shed a lot of tears during that time. It was excruciating. I knew I was doing great work, and I never stopped pushing. I’ll never forget when my boyfriend at the time (now husband!) asked if I was really sure this is what I wanted to do in my career. I can’t blame him. He was (and is!) a successful software developer, and there I was, making no money, being treated horribly at work, constantly upset– all while working my ass off. I told him that I loved what I was doing, I believed in what I was doing, and I was going to keep doing it. He supported my choice and supported me during all of the rough times that came along with that choice. There was a lot of ugly crying, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of good decisions, a lot of bad decisions, and a lot learned along the way.

So how did I get to be so awesome? Because I’m stubborn as hell. Because I kept getting back up whenever I was kicked down. Because I took a risk by following my passion and focusing my career on doing what I love. Because I care deeply about the people that work for me, and they have been some of my biggest advocates, too. That risk ended up paying off for me in so many ways. Oh and hey, fun fact, I now make more money than my successful software developer husband 😉 He’s super proud of it.

And that, combined with where I am in my career, the impact I feel I've had on the lives of the members in the communities I've managed, and the impact I've had on the people I've managed, is how I got to a place where I can finally say that I'm proud of myself, too.

Now that I'm at this point in my career, I try to do everything I can to support others. Both as a people leader and as a member of the Community Industry community. I call people out when they're doing cool shit, give advice, and share feedback. When recruiters reach out to me about a role, I ALWAYS take the time to send them a list of other great people to talk to. I share everything that I can. Not only resources, content, etc (which is definitely important to share), but also my stories, down to the very last detail. Every twist, turn, and bump in the road got me to where I am today. I want to help others navigate their own journeys by learning from mine. I'm truly invested in the success of everyone in this industry.

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel

This is SO good. Thank you for being so open and sharing this. I am a lot like you in that I am stubborn and refuse to give up. It's a pretty good trait for a community leader. 💜

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hollyfirestone profile image
Holly Firestone Ask Me Anything

Thank you, Tessa! The stubbornness seems to be a (great) common thread with community professionals.

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brianoblinger profile image
Brian Oblinger

I was not joking at all, and this response is everything I had hoped it would be and more. You've earned it the hard way. Bravo. 👏🏻

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hollyfirestone profile image
Holly Firestone Ask Me Anything

Thanks, Brian 🙂