The value of volunteering: leadership, learning, and lifelong connections

July 11, 2019

As we all know, the way we consume information is constantly (and quickly) evolving—and marketers are challenged with keeping tabs on the latest trends and tools for social media, web design, email marketing, mobile apps, artificial intelligence, and more. At Slipstream, our goal is to stay on the cutting edge and blaze new trails in our journey to influence a clean energy future. Alyssa Spiel, Marketing Manager at Slipstream, took it upon herself to be a part of that cutting edge. Here’s her story.

In 2014, the transformative landscape of marketing led me to seek education and insight beyond the workplace. I made the decision to get involved in a local professional development organization, and when I discovered the American Marketing Association (AMA), I knew it was a perfect fit. AMA provides original research, continuing education, events, and networking for marketers of all levels across the United States (and the world). 

I quickly joined the Madison chapter and, instead of simply attending a few events and noting the membership on my resume, decided to inquire about volunteer opportunities. I met with the current president and, by the end of the conversation, I had agreed to take on the newly-added Vice President of Collegiate Relations role on the board of directors.

It was a bit intimidating at first, but immersing myself in a group of other local marketing professionals was very motivating and refreshing. I had the freedom to define what the VP of Collegiate Relations would set out to achieve for the AMA, and took ownership of the role by setting goals, developing a marketing plan, and building new relationships. I gained a wealth of experience that helped boost my confidence and leadership skills, and am proud to have initiated an annual event with the AMA student chapter at UW-Madison, as well as scholarship and internship programs. 

After working on collegiate relations for two years, I took on the additional role of Vice President of Communications. I saw a lot of opportunity to grow the AMA social media channels, improve email communications, and create a stronger brand by introducing a graphic design volunteer. I accomplished all of the above by recruiting and managing a 10-person volunteer team that continues to lend their time and talents to AMA Madison.

In 2018, I reached a turning point where I felt I needed to make a decision—either step down from the AMA board, or conquer my fears and run for President-Elect. Despite some inner battles and doubts, I went for it, and was selected as the incoming President-Elect of AMA Madison. I spent the year transitioning out of my other positions, digging deeper into AMA operations, and recruiting additional board members for the following year. 

On July 1, I officially became President of AMA Madison, and I could not be more proud of my journey. Volunteering with the AMA has helped me grow tremendously as a marketer and as a leader, thanks to the countless opportunities AMA provides outside of my role at Slipstream. I’ve been able to directly supervise a team, launch an entirely new event series from the ground up, plan an annual conference, and so much more. I have gained confidence in my worth and skills, and am no longer afraid to speak up when I think I have a good idea. I’ve also become much more comfortable with public speaking and networking. 

I sometimes wonder where I would be if I hadn’t joined AMA. First of all, I wouldn’t be as knowledgeable about current marketing trends, as I attend at least one educational event per month. Second, I don’t believe I would be where I am today as a leader, self-starter, or communicator. And finally, I wouldn’t have met any of the countless individuals that are now part of my growing network—many of whom I call friends—thanks to AMA. I have a long list of contacts I can ask for referrals, advice, or help with any marketing-related issue that may come along. In general, I feel much more involved in the Madison community as a whole.

Overall, I highly recommend volunteering for a professional organization—or any organization—if you’re looking to grow as a person. It takes time, dedication, and real effort—but the rewards are truly priceless!