100 Women, 100 Stories: Kelly Ann Collins
Where do you live? I am constantly traveling between Washington, D.C., NYC, Austin, Virginia and Maryland. But, I was born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains, so West Virginia will always be my home.
What is your profession? I’m a social media expert and entrepreneur. I own two companies — one is a social media consultancy and one is a software company with several intelligent social media tools that use machine learning AI.
How did you get this role and what was your path leading up to this?
I started my career as a journalist at USA Today. Then, I got turned onto internet marketing and high-tech public relations — and never turned back. I love to write, I love to market, and I’ve always been into hot new tech, so I guess it makes sense that I would end up building cool AI tools and helping startups, orgs and enterprises with their social media strategies.
What did you study in school?
I studied psychology, which surprises lots of people. But, it totally makes sense. I see social media engagement and activity as a form classical conditioning. If Ivan Pavlov were alive today, I am sure he would be into social analytics. Social media behaviors and all of the comments, likes and retweets out there intrigue me!
Has anyone been a mentor to you? What role did they play and how do you feel about mentorship now?
I was lucky enough to be mentored by AOL co-founder Jim Kimsey who always had straight-shooter advice for business. I have also worked with many great minds that are still there for me today. Everyone — especially now, in the age of the Internet of Things — needs a variety of mentors that are older, younger and the same age. Having trusted advisors to help guide you through any situation is so important, even if the advisor is 20 years your junior. I’ve been mentoring for a while now and I love it. As you help others, you can also learn so much about yourself through mentoring. Fresh perspectives from a wide variety of people are vital to success.
What’s the hardest thing that you’ve had to deal with in your career so far?
I almost died about five years ago due to extreme burnout and had to go through some pretty serious recovery. I couldn’t walk at one point because some systems were failing. Starting over is always a challenge, but you can grow from it, too. I look at it as a blessing in disguise because I am so much stronger and focused now. Also, healthier! In other words, I sleep when I am tired versus pushing and pushing myself while hitting lots of caffeine and energy drinks, which is a very bad thing.
What has been a really rewarding moment in your career?
I feel rewarded when I impact the lives of others. It’s also pretty rewarding to actually have the luxury of five free minutes spent listening to birds singing in the park. Instead of focusing on a few big life moments, I like to focus on the small moments. Every day can be rewarding — and should. It’s all about perspective. And, from my perspective, every day we spend walking Planet Earth has uncountable rewards.
What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
I want to make communication easier. I want to amplify great initiatives and products. I want to help people everywhere live productive, full lives. I am one of those pay it forward kind of folks. All about using my powers for good.
What’s something you want young women to remember when thinking about their future?
I go nuts when I hear a young woman say money isn’t important to her. Yes. It is. Get out there, learn a ton and grab as much wealth as you can so you can use it to help the world — and other women. Also, use your voice. Never fear voicing your opinion. Sit at the table — not the back of the room — even if you’re scared. Those intense scary feelings that come with doing new things will fade. Life is short so you really need to grab every day by the horns and make an impact.
What’s one thing you want to try to make an impact on in your lifetime?
My goal is to use my abilities and talents to impact as many lives as possible. I want everything for everyone — from great educations, fresh air and clean water to overall health, well-being and happiness. It all works together. A well-educated person with drinking bad water will not flourish. Just like it’s hard to be truly happy without good food and adequate health care. I want all of us to thrive in every way possible.