How Following CHEN Led Me To Asia & Back

Company Culture Posted Jan 12, 2018 by Gabrielle Kondracki

As a new CHENer and a fortunate member of a company whose main objective is to work hard, work together, and have fun doing so, I often find myself thinking back two short years ago, when I first walked into the CHEN PR office as a senior at Saint Michael’s College. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a concentration in Media Studies, Digital Arts and Journalism, I had wanted to start dipping my toes into the public relations world, and my first attempt happened to be a set of meetings with different members of CHEN. The meetings were casual, endearing, and informative. I got a sense of a workplace that balanced success with teamwork and compassion, and to my surprise, graduating college and entering the workforce didn’t seem as mundane as I had once thought. With this experience as my first introduction to PR, I left relieved that upon graduation I knew what career path I wanted to take.

I had a few other interviews with different agencies from around the northeast after my meeting with CHEN, but as each meeting ended, I had lost that original confidence in my own personal fit into the PR world. After rounds of disheartening meetings, it dawned on me that no company was as caring, humorous, hardworking or knowledgeable as CHEN was, and I think it was at that moment that I began subtly stalking the CHEN team. May of 2016 I had reached out to CHEN again to, not so delicately, remind them that I was a new graduate interested in public relations. Upon which, they politely reminded me that they still weren’t in a position where they needed to hire any new entry-level employees. For a moment, I thought about biting the bullet and applying to other agencies, but at the last minute I was reminded that I was never one to give up on something I felt passionate about simply to maintain a certain level of status quo.

So, I waited. And whilst waiting, I explored. I drove from Connecticut to California. I spent my days climbing, swimming, running, and eating my way through America, all the while taking time to sit down with new friends, fellow travelers and animals I stumbled across on long hikes through the beautiful National Parks of places such as Yellowstone and Yosemite. I had started to appreciate the power of information, and furthermore, appreciate the power behind sharing that information with others. It was the perfect chain reaction– and it was a genuine and sincere one at that.

When I started to realize the indisputable magic behind transmitting information in an honest way, I had started reassessing my involvement in these conversations, and where I once sat as the immediate audience, was transformed into becoming an idle messenger. I began to take on the role of a ‘middle (wo)man’– writing what I had seen, heard, and learned about while traveling from one foreign place to the next. I was writing, I was reading, and I was interacting on a human-based level every day. This was infectious, and its influence drove me towards pursuing my next voyage– moving to Southeast Asia.

I had felt so elevated by my trip across America, recognizing my innate desire to flood myself with information that I had decided to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Chasing that idea, I bought a one-way ticket to Asia, aspiring to do just as before–listen, learn and inform others on what I had been taught. Unlike the States though, this entire production escalated to a different height when diverse language barrier came into effect. As I traveled throughout Asia meeting others from around the globe, our lexical knowledge had made things a bit harder to share and digest thoughts, ideas, and information. Things weren’t the effortless chain that they once were back in America, and I was faced with new challenges. I had to try and figure out how I was going to effectively share all the information I had been trekking through.

Taking time to learn phrases, terms, and questions in languages like Thai, and with a little help from pictography, I had made enough progress to understand something completely unfamiliar to myself. This allowed me to spend most of my time learning Thai, and teaching English. I enjoyed it so much so, that I became what I thought I never would, an English teacher. 40 eager and curious five-year-old Thai kindergarteners greeted me every day as we worked together teaching and learning from one another. The experience I had was one I will hold dearly in my heart for the remainder of my life. Traveling alone in five foreign countries for a year had transformed the way I approached challenge, conflict, unpredictability and unfamiliarity. I had also realized that the passion to be this middle man aligned seamlessly with public relations. It’s seemed that even thousands of miles away, I had an innate desire to connect information from one source to another.

As all things seem to do, my time in Asia came to an end, and I found myself back in America, sending more e-mails to CHEN upon my arrival home. And from there, the rest was history. I’ve been happily employed by CHEN for just under three months now, and have found my experience to be just as I had expected– welcoming, positive, informative, and challenging. It seems, just like in Asia, I am learning a completely new language– cyber-security and high technology (and TRUST me, these certainly have their own language).  Every day I continue to learn from those I work with in an environment where questions are encouraged, teamwork is standard, and boundaries are pushed as I grow alongside the company. Carrying with me the endless experience I have gained since my first meeting with the CHEN team, I continue to find excitement in the unknown, accept unfamiliarity with a positive attitude, and work to learn as much about the world of cyber-security and high technology as humanly possible to ensure I keep CHEN’s reputation in the highest regards. So far, so good. (I hope). After all of this, there is one thing I can absolutely say with confidence– patience truly is a virtue.