Carsen Celebrates 10 years at Vovia!
A decade ago, we had the privilege of welcoming an exceptional professional, Carsen, to our team. Fueled by an unwavering passion for innovation, an innate ability to navigate through data, and an adventurous spirit for embracing novel challenges, Carsen has blossomed into an indispensable member of our team, currently holding the position of Group Account Director. Read ahead to learn more about Carsen’s remarkable decade at Vovia and the transformative journey that has unfolded in Carsen’s life since joining our dynamic team ten years ago.
Congratulations on reaching this significant milestone of 10 years at Vovia! To start, can you tell me what inspired you to join Vovia, and reflect on your journey over the past decade here?
My journey to Vovia was quite an adventure. After spending a few years working trades and odd jobs after high school, I went back to school as a mature student, and got my BBA from Mount Royal University, with a Marketing Major and Entrepreneurship minor. I did all the right things in school; worked super hard, excelled academically, participated in business clubs and pitch competitions, and completed internships; the whole 9 yards. I graduated in 2013, right in the midst of the recession, and the job market was far from favorable. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t land any interviews. So, I ended up taking a summer job moving office furniture.
As luck would have it, the owner of that organization (Core Office Movers) happened to be best friends with Cam Prockiw, the founder of Vovia. Whether by sheer luck or destiny, this connection led to an interview with Cam in early September 2013. I remember feeling incredibly nervous as I walked over, but I knew this was my shot, and had done my homework. I read as much as I could about Vovia on their website, and also made sure to read about Cam, including his “Get to Know Cam” blog post on the Vovia site.
So, I came in well-prepared, even quoting things from his blog, which, as it turns out Cam did not write and he had no idea what I was talking about within a few topics (robots come to mind). That interview with Cam marked the beginning of my journey at Vovia, as well my relationship with him as one of my key mentors. The way I like to tell the story is “Cam tried not to hire me at first, but I was very persistent, and persistence beats resistance”.
Although he couldn’t offer me a position at that time, which was fair because I had literally no media experience, it opened up a line of communication between us, and I didn’t give up. I continued to follow up with him, and I believe that persistence kept me on his radar. Eventually, Cam offered me the role of an office manager. So, two days a week, I showed up eager to help with anything and everything, whether it was ordering supplies, decorating the office, or tackling any task I could find. I like to believe that Cam really saw me and my potential in this moment, and at very least, he saw that I was diligent, motivated, and had done my research.
A few weeks later, a friend and mentor named Heather Ilsly began to entrust me with small marketing tasks. The very first marketing thing I remember doing at Vovia was writing a blog about Twitter and how it was still an effective platform (this is 2013 before the meltdown). Vovia was stoked on my marketing and business acumen, especially being so new, and more marketing projects started to trickle in.
This led to more projects like market research, email automation, social media strategy and execution;largely supporting Heather and Jen with various tasks they were working on. One thing led to another, and I was offered a position as a digital media specialist, primarily focusing on social media and email marketing, and I effectively became the first social media advertising specialist at Vovia. But deep down, I knew I belonged in client service; managing accounts, pitching, selling, and flexing my people and presentation skills because that’s where my strengths truly were.
About nine months into my journey at Vovia, I met another key mentor, Susan Murphy, who joined the agency as our new President. Not only did she help transform Vovia into a full service media shop (we were digital only up to that point), she took the time to sit down with me and ask me about my hopes and dreams. I shared my aspirations for client service, and together we charted a path for me to step up, fulfill my goals and become the marketer I knew I was meant to be. This is something Susan is amazing at – seeing people’s potential and giving them the opportunities to do the thing they are passionate about. True story, Heather was on board with the plan to move me to client service, but told me I couldn’t wear my Ninja Turtles belt to work anymore…
So, when you ask what inspired me to work at Vovia, I’d say it’s more about how Vovia inspired me as I worked here and learned the business. This organization truly rewards hard work and dedication, and creates pathways for individuals to succeed in the roles they’re passionate about.
A message I like to give to my friends and all emerging marketers alike, is to be humble enough to take what you can get, but be driven enough to never give up on what you want. This philosophy has always served me well.
Can you highlight some of the most memorable moments or projects you’ve been a part of? Do you have any specific client success story that you are proud of?
I’ve had many memorable moments in my career at Vovia, but one that really stands out to me was during one of our Google events and roadshows. These events involved collaborating with Google to present industry trends and insights across the country to clients, partners, and colleagues that could benefit from the information. It was never planned for me to be involved with the live presentation, but all that changed one fateful day in 2018.
This event I am referring to was winter in 2018; Susan, Heather, and I were scheduled to travel to Winnipeg for the presentation, where Heather would present the content. Well, Calgary was hit with a particularly brutal snowstorm that day, which prevented Heather from making the flight. The way I like to tell this story is it was the only day in history where Calgary was colder than Winnipeg.
With Heather out, I stepped up to present the content with Susan. We learned the content on the plane, and absolutely crushed the presentation together at the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg. This happened relatively early in my career, but it was the moment when I truly had the opportunity to showcase my abilities and present myself as an expert to the marketing community. I hold that experience so close to my heart as a significant milestone in my career.
Another unforgettable moment at the agency was when we signed Swoop Airlines to set up and run their search engine marketing (SEM) efforts for a set period. The way I like to tell the story is, we helped their marketing take off.
What made this account particularly exciting was I got to work with an X-Vovian on the client side that I really admired and respected, Michael Gaudet, and got paired internally with a current Vovian that I had equal admiration and respect for, Renu Deswal. What’s even sweeter about this particular project is that our work was recognized by Google in their Google Premier Partner Awards, and Renu and I got to travel to New York City to present our work on a global stage. I shiver thinking about the caliber of people and projects that we intermingled with that year, and it really reinforced to me that Vovia was competing with agencies far larger than we were, and punching far above our weight class.
Now onto the second part of your question, I take immense pride in the work we do for all our clients, but two, in particular, are close to my heart. Over the last eight years, Bow Valley College has gone through an amazing transformation, and we’ve been right there with them through it all. This was my first big account in 2014 (after removing the ninja turtles belt), and it’s been an incredible journey being an extension of their team and helping the college grow. I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve done to support them over the years, and I am ecstatic to have been part of the transformation at Bow Valley. If you know me, you know that I LOVE ecommerce, and my first client in this space will always be near and dear to my heart. When we first started working with Cabela’s Canada in 2015, they had virtually no online marketing presence in Canada. They were experiencing SEM cannibalization from their U.S. counterparts, and had analytics gaps that were limiting their line of sight into marketing efficacy. We helped them break free from that challenge, and have continuously improved and optimized their online campaigns to the point of significant ROI on their media, and amazing revenue growth in their online business as a whole. It’s been an incredibly rewarding partnership, and I have learned so much from my experience with Cabela’s. I’m excited to see how it continues to evolve, and I always get excited when I see their gear and products out in the wild.
Vovia is known for its culture. How would you describe the culture at Vovia, and how has it influenced your experience, career growth, and job satisfaction?
I like to describe the culture at Vovia as “work hard, play hard.” Over the past 10 years, our company has evolved significantly, and we’ve experienced substantial growth; however, there has always been a belief that it is our culture that makes us great. This was a priority at the executive level, and I credit my friend and mentor, Susan Murphy, with really committing to, and maintaining our culture over this time.
We are an inclusive, equal opportunity shop; respect and celebrate diversity; have regular team-building activities and celebrations; enjoy a dog friendly, hybrid office environment with flexible work hours; and we hire pretty amazing people. All of this helps us maintain work-life balance while keeping us closely-knit. A happy team is an effective team, and this ultimately leads to high performance for our clients.
Team spirit is at the core of our culture, and Vovia truly cares about its people. The leadership team values our opinions, and actively seeks our feedback, which is evident through our annual employee surveys and internal transparency on company revenue, client retention, and business growth. Vovia is committed to adapting and creating an enjoyable and motivating work environment based on the input of its employees. This level of conscientiousness and appreciation for the frontline team is a rarity, and it absolutely sets Vovia apart as an organization that genuinely values its people.
Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for the next decade at Vovia? How do you see your role evolving, and what contributions do you hope to make to the company’s future success?
I’ve recently become a resident of Kelowna. Beyond my commitment to supporting my current clients and nurturing our team’s growth, I hold a strong desire to expand Vovia’s presence in the BC market. Breaking into a new market, even with an established company, presents its own set of challenges; however, my experience at Vovia over the last decade helps assure me that anything is possible within the next decade. So, I guess my hopes and dreams are now to develop our business here to the point where we have a fully operational office, just like we do in Calgary.
While I may be on the front lines here in BC, I am acutely aware of the unwavering support from my many amazing teammates and leadership team as we embark on this expansion together. I will always ensure this faith is well placed, and I will never give up.
Persistence beats resistance.
Finally, do you have any advice or insights for our new Vovians who want to build a long and successful career here at Vovia?
I believe two fundamental qualities are needed for success at Vovia, and in life. I believe people can achieve literally anything in this world as long as they are passionate and resilient. You have to truly want it. You need to have the tenacity and resilience to face the challenges, and to adapt to the inevitable ups and downs. Progress isn’t a linear path; sometimes you need to take a step back to move forward. So, while you should be hungry and driven from your passion for something, it’s equally important to maintain humility and recognize that achieving your goals will most definitely take time.
Reflecting on my own journey, I recall being a one-year-old account manager, brimming with enthusiasm and ready to conquer the world. I thought I was already a pro; in hindsight, I was just a baby in the industry and had a huge amount of learning and growing to do. There’s simply no substitute for experience—you have to put in the work, learn from mistakes, and always keep your eyes on your goals, pushing steadily towards them.
Another crucial trait, especially for newer marketers, is open-mindedness. While it’s important to have your own opinions and approaches, it’s equally vital to be receptive to others’ methods and processes, especially those of highly successful or experienced individuals. In both my marketing work and my musical endeavors, I constantly reference my work against those I admire; effectively comparing my approach to the best of the best to improve my own practice. I use these learnings not to imitate, but to inform and shape my own style. This practice keeps me grounded, honest, and ever-eager to improve, as I believe there’s always room for growth. I am, and will always be, eternally grateful for my amazing mentors, teachers, and teammates. I didn’t reach this point on my own; it was a team effort, and my success is a reflection of the wisdom and kindness I was shown along the way.
I’m here to tell you that dreams come true, but they don’t happen by accident. You are in charge of your destiny. When you want something bad enough, and are willing to work your butt off, the universe will help you find a way.