With graduation season upon us, commencement addresses that inspire graduates to follow their dreams are the norm. But how do you actually get that dream job? We have started asking some of our industry friends who have scored killer positions to tell us the story behind how they got their start. First up – Keith Gulla, Communications Director at Converse.
Take us back to when you were growing up in Houston. What were some of the professions that interested you.
Music was my passion while growing up in Houston, TX. It started as a young kid with my father playing Elvis records every morning to wake us up. My mother took me to my first concert when I was in middle school and throughout high school I was also going to shows with my friends. I was fully convinced that I was going to pursue a career in music and always dreamed about working for MTV or a cool record label.
When deciding what educational path to take, what factors led to what you actually chose to major in?
During my early years of college, I did everything I could to learn more about the music industry. I worked for record labels doing street promotions and wrote music reviews for a local newspaper. I even worked late-night shifts DJing at a local college radio station. None of these opportunities were paid but they helped me to understand the music industry and eventually inspired me to major in Communications.
Tell us a little bit about your first internship and how it helped you on your career path.
My first introduction to public relations was through an internship at a nationally recognized non-profit theater in Houston. This is where the foundation of my career in communications started. The PR Director at that time was fantastic, she became my mentor and taught me everything I needed to know about public relations.
What was your first “career” job?
As soon as I graduated from college I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in public relations and continue to support the arts in Houston. This led to a PR Coordinator position at a non-profit contemporary art space called DiverseWorks. During my time there, I worked with some of the most ground-breaking visual and performing artists from around the world. It was inspiring to be a part of an organization that provides a platform for young artists to show and create work that always pushed the limits. I continued my support for the arts by serving on the Executive Boards of two other non-profit arts organizations in Houston.
Which position do you feel was your first big break in the world of fashion?
It wasn’t until I decided to get my Master’s Degree in NYC that I was introduced to the world of fashion. This was the second time an internship changed my life. My initial intention was to learn about the art community in NYC through an internship at an organization or museum. After more consideration, I decided to explore the fashion world and applied for a PR internship at Marc Jacobs. What began as a semester internship grew into a year and half of work experience and media relations that would eventually lead me to Converse.
Tell us about your start at Converse.
When I started working at Converse almost 10 years ago, the brand was about to celebrate their 100th anniversary. It was a celebration of the people who made Converse the cultural icon it has become and featured original designs, product collaborations and re-issues from the archives. We also launched a massive initiative with PRODUCT (RED) that invited 100 artists from a wide-range of disciplines and levels of notoriety to use their creative power to design a sneaker to support The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It was an exciting time to join the company and it hasn’t stopped since.
What have been some of your most memorable experiences while working at the brand?
Some of the most memorable experiences I’ve had at the brand were during Converse Rubber Tracks moments. Established in 2011, the award-winning program provides artists the opportunity to record in state-of-the-art studios around the world, a platform for artists to showcase their talent via a live concert series and access to an ever-growing digital sample library – all free with no strings attached. Through Converse Rubber Tracks, I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of artists from around the world and hear the impact the program has had on their musical careers. It makes it easy to go to work every day knowing that you’re making a difference in the community.
We all know that work is not just fun and games, what advice can you give to recent grads about how to turn an opportunity into a career?
The best jobs you’ll ever have are the ones that challenge and inspire you. Until you find that perfect job, my advice is to get as much experience as possible through volunteering and/or internship opportunities. You never know if one of those opportunities will lead to a career or if you’ll find a mentor along the way. Here at Converse, we have an excellent internship program that provides a full immersion into the brand’s culture. I’ve had the opportunity to mentor some amazing students through the program.