BABE #246: ANGELA HOWERTER - Director of Corporate Communications, Cobb EMC
Angela followed her love for writing into her career at Cobb EMC, a Georgia co-op delivering electricity to nearly 200,000 residential and commercial consumers in five counties. She also runs an Etsy shop and recently self-published an Everyday Gratitude Journal — and donates 100 percent of the proceeds of both ventures to her local chapter of Autism Speaks. She tackles her work and personal life with intention and compassion, and her interview serves as a reminder to us all that it’s important — and entirely possible — to use our skills and passions to fight for the causes, and people, we believe in.
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Current city: Marietta, Georgia
Alma mater: University of Georgia
Degree: ABJ, Publication Management
Very first job: Cashier at a fast food chain
Hustle: Director of Corporate Communications, Cobb EMC; Founder, LuvSkyy; Author, the Everyday Gratitude Journal
Babe you admire and why?
Sarah Blakely, of Spanx. We invited her to speak to the Association of Utility Professionals, an organization for women in utilities, shortly after Spanx launched. I was inspired by her story and her never-give-up attitude. She turned a male-dominated industry upside down, launched a successful business from her apartment and is now one of the most influential women in the world.
How do you spend your free time?
Exercise, working on my Etsy shop and downtime with my amazing husband and his kids. I love the comfort of home with its familiar warmth and the love of my family and two dogs.
Current power anthem?
I like hard rock and spend a lot of my drive time listening to Octane on Sirius. My husband and I recently spent some time rekindling our love of Hall & Oates in preparation to dress up like them for a party, so anything Hall and Oates gets me fired up. I’m also loving “You Say,” by Lauren Daigle. And “Roar,” by Katy Perry always makes me feel empowered.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
What’s your favorite online publication to read?
I recently discovered BBC History Magazine through Amazon Prime and am loving reading my first issue.
Tell us about your hustle.
In my role at Cobb EMC, I oversee corporate branding and communications for employees and consumers through traditional and electronic media. In my first role as a publications/communications specialist, I managed our member and employee newsletter. I gained a deep appreciation for rural electric cooperative history while studying for the Certified Cooperative Communicator exam, so I took on corporate archives as a pet project. I was promoted to director of publications and digital media and, in that role, I helped start our electronic newsletter and social media. One year ago, I launched my Etsy T-shirt shop, LuvSkyy, just to fundraise for Autism Speaks. I spend some of my free time working on designs, bookkeeping, social media and research about what makes an Etsy shop successful. Additionally, last month I self-published a gratitude journal that has been on my mind for years. My husband and I write in it daily and it has led to a deeper connection between us, as well as a greater appreciation for the good in our lives.
What does your typical workday look like?
I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and am at the office by 6:45 or 7:00. I spend the first few minutes of my workday reading emails from overnight, and then I skim the local newspaper online. After that I start tackling my to-do list. Sometimes I’m helping lead a project and other times I’m just offering direction or a point of view. In-between meetings and personal projects, I might be asked to review an ad or billboard, email newsletter, print newsletter, website change or other communication piece. All communications pass my desk to ensure brand consistency, and then we look at post-campaign insights to evaluate the effectiveness of our message. Last year our management team gave us the option to work from home one day per week, so I often opt to do that. I love those days because I can sleep an extra hour and stay in my pajamas while working. I try not to work past 4:00 p.m. and incorporate exercise into my schedule at least four times per week.
How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
Reading and writing are solo sports. I’m an introvert, and I believe that’s fairly common for people in communications roles. Being both an introvert and in a leadership role is an interesting and sometimes frustrating experience. During my career I’ve had the opportunity to serve our community and participate in local civic and business organizations. These have taught me to step out of my comfort zone and be more outgoing. On the academic side, journalism school teaches you to write for your audience, which is especially important now. Our audience varies whether we’re talking about a printed or electronic publication. We have to know our audience and write for them, and even consider the right stock photography or graphics that will grab their attention. While I fell in love with electric cooperative history when I prepared for my industry certification, I have to remind myself that our consumers are less interested in our origins and more interested in how what we do today impacts them and their bill. The internet, social media and innovations in technology have changed the way we consume information and we have to adapt. When I was finishing college the internet and email were still very new. I have no academic background in electronic communication, so I have to teach myself, learn from my team and attend conferences to stay current.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
I’m happy where I am now. A few years ago, I might have mentioned an award I won or the fact that I had been promoted to the role I’m in now. I believed those things showed my worth, but I’m realizing now that the accolades are not what matter. How I perform day-to-day, evolving and learning from my team, plus taking what I’ve learned during my career and applying it to a side-hustle just feels good. When I quit looking to others to tell me I’m doing a good job, I found contentment. Real success comes from who I am, not what I do.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
I’m lucky to work with a great team of women and men, but I’m particularly proud of the women on our team. They are very smart, capable and talented women who aren’t afraid to speak their mind or express themselves. I try to lead by example and support other women. I speak up for the women on my team and encourage them so they feel heard and appreciated. As women, I think we’re often afraid to speak up and I have been guilty of that myself. It’s important to just show up and be confident. If you can’t, then fake it until you make it. Assertiveness is important.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
The electric utility industry gender ratio leans heavily toward men because linework remains a male-dominated job. That’s not to say that women can’t become line workers. In fact, a female line worker was on our team for a short time, but she took a job in another state to be closer to family. Engineering also plays a large role in our industry. Our company has an employee dedicated to education and community relations, and we do a lot of STEM-based outreach in the schools. I hope to see many more women in engineering roles in the future. We need to remind girls they can do and be anything they want, and foster their interest in math and science.
What made you decide to become involved in nonprofits and civic organization committees?
My first foray into post-college community involvement began in 1998 with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Georgia. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 1995 and when I learned about the organization, I wanted to get involved. I helped the chapter with their newsletter and communications for several years. My company encourages community and civic involvement and I have worked with many organizations in various roles over the years, including serving as an elementary school mentor, on a committee that collects diapers and coats for those in need, communications and development committees, public relations committees, gala committees and more. After four years on the Autism Speaks Georgia gala committee, I recently joined the board.
What inspired LuvSkyy?
The desire to launch LuvSkyy originated due to two special men in my life who are on the autism spectrum: my 22-year-old nephew and my 10-year-old stepson. After serving for three years on the annual gala committee for my local Autism Speaks chapter I was named gala chair, and I wanted to expand my fundraising potential. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with ideas to make money to complement fundraising I was already doing: asking friends, coworkers and companies for donations and sponsorships. And LuvSkyy, an Etsy T-shirt shop, was born. When brainstorming ideas for a name, I was still sad from having recently lost my dog of fourteen years, Skyy. My vision for the shop was to use fashion to remind people to love others and be kind. The world can be cruel to people who don’t act “normal,” and by spreading a message of kindness and love, I hope to help people learn to celebrate differences and build empathy for others, especially those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
What makes you passionate about autism awareness?
I’m passionate about autism awareness because of my personal connection. My nephew is funny and caring and my stepson is full of joy and empathy for others. Since joining the gala committee and now the board, I’ve made new connections to the cause and I want to make a difference. In 2018, the CDC determined approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with ASD. With such a high portion of the population living on the spectrum, I want to help individuals with autism and their families, and increase understanding and acceptance of people with ASD. My goal is for my stepson to become a self-sufficient adult full of confidence and opportunity. There are a lot of misconceptions about the autism spectrum. Every individual with autism is not a savant, nor are they intellectually disabled.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Just the other day I told my stepdaughter, who recently started her first professional job post-college, to advocate for herself. She is in the legal profession, another male-dominated industry, and it’s important for her to know her worth and fight for it. That advice applies to any woman in any field. I also encourage everyone to learn the art of saying no. Many women, including myself, have people-pleaser syndrome. It was hard at first, but once I learned to turn down opportunities that didn’t impact my work or personally bring me joy, I felt more empowered. When I was on every committee and subcommittee I was drowning and was unable to do everything well. It’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself. And lastly, be kind. Words have a lot of power. If you’re kind and genuine you’re already ahead.
In partnership with: Spanx
Created by Sara Blakely (named the world’s youngest, self-made female billionaire by Forbes and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People,) SPANX specializes in comfortable and slimming undergarments, with a mission to shape the world by helping women feel great about themselves and their potential.
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