After a little more than 6 years, I am leaving my job at Girl Scouts. It’s kind of surreal. This is the longest I’ve worked anywhere, and three times longer than my second longest career stint. I’ve done some of the best work of my career here, and I’m very proud of it. I’m moving back to startup life, which surprises me as much as it’ll surprise anyone else who’s been reading this blog since I started it in 2014. But it’s time for a change. It’s time to expand a little beyond email and to finally branch out into learning newer technology products. I’ll share more about where I’m going once I’ve started there, but I’m very excited about what I’ll be doing and where. I’m taking a week off in between for a much needed family vacation – thoughts and prayers requested for a 13 hour (each way…) road trip with a toddler.
But back to some thoughts about Girl Scouts.
There’s a documentary on Hulu called “Tiny Shoulders.” It’s about the team at Mattel working on Barbie when they launched the recent collection of more diverse dolls a few years ago. In the documentary, during one of their PR meetings, they commented on how there aren’t any other brands that have to go through what they do: generations of women with deep connections to their brand, who have very specific ideas about what it is and what it should be, who love the brand passionately but will also be the first to criticize when the brand makes any changes or decisions they don’t agree with.
Uh, in case anyone was wondering – that’s EXACTLY what it’s like working at a brand like Girl Scouts (um, look at the comments/replies on our social media. The trolls work hard, but the GSUSA social media and customer care teams work harder). When I started, I thought marketing here would be fairly easy and straightforward: everyone knows this brand! Everyone loves Girl Scout cookies! Everyone thinks highly of Girl Scouts! And to an extent, that’s true. But that also means everyone has an opinion about everything the brand does. It’s a lot of responsibility.
But while everyone knows about Girl Scouts and it’s deeply ingrained in pop culture (find an American sitcom in the last few decades that hasn’t made any jokes or references to Girl Scouts ever. I’ll wait.), the general public doesn’t always see what it is beyond jokes about cookies and being a “good girl.” Cookie sales are a fundraiser, yes, but it’s such a small portion of what girls do. The cookie program (when done correctly) teaches girls valuable business skills. It’s also an insanely complex business when you get into the weeds of how it operates. I worked on a small portion of it – transactional emails for the Digital Cookie online sales program. There were 67 emails (that had to be updated every spring for the following year, while we were still in the previous cookie season so we could rarely use anything we’d learned from the previous season), and they had a ton of complexity around them with personalization. It was cool (and yes, challenging at times) to be part of the inner workings of something so complex that was so crucial to the organization, especially during the pandemic.
For everyone who has asked me over the years: No, employees are not going to just give you free cookies – so quit asking (seriously, buy them from a girl!). And yes, there is such a thing as too many Girl Scout cookies (but that’s a rare state that only occurs in people directly involved in the production, operations, marketing, and direct sales/distribution of Girl Scout cookies. Regular people should buy as many as they are able to).
Clearing up one other thing – Girl Scouts did not (and will not ever, as far as I know) merge with Boy Scouts. They are completely separate organizations. I got asked about that a lot a few years ago when Boy Scouts started offering a co-ed program. Not going to comment on that too much, but I would say this: There’s plenty of research out there about the benefits of single-gender environments, especially for girls. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it, especially since my only child is a boy, and my family has a long history with both organizations, but I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
During the last 6 years, I’ve been able to do some pretty cool things professionally: I attended (and spoke at) Dreamforce, Connections, Litmus Live, and several other conferences about my work at Girl Scouts. I volunteered at a massive cookie booth sale for Troop 6000 and helped them sell more than 25,000 boxes of cookies in an afternoon. I tried new GS cookies very far in advance, and got to enjoy my coworkers’ brilliant innovation of making Samoa S’mores (a marshmallow melted between two Samoa cookies – yum!). I co-founded an employee group for working parents and helped make things better for working parents in our organization. I got to use my PR degree for “crisis communications” when a council user accidentally sent an email to four million people instead of 12,000 (and still have PTSD from that experience almost 5 years later). I got to help out at a few photo shoots wrangling girls and uniforms. I participated in some traditional Girl Scout pinning ceremonies, and discovered that I still knew certain Girl Scout songs from my childhood. (Fun fact: Baby Shark was a Girl Scout camp song LONG before it spent its time tormenting parents across the world).
I originated the email role at Girl Scouts of the USA, and was able to grow it into a team of four at one point, and had the opportunity to manage some incredibly talented employees. Of the hundreds of people who I introduced to Salesforce Marketing Cloud, many of them are now certified in it and are becoming advanced users. I onboarded 110 council business units and more than 450 users onto Salesforce Marketing Cloud. I learned that platform deeper than I ever thought I would, and toward the end, learned just how much I still don’t know. I gained a ton of public speaking experience through over a hundred webinars and training sessions, putting together and presenting to Girl Scout staff at councils. When I started – councils were all on different ESPs, and GSUSA was sending image-mapped emails that weren’t responsive. I can leave knowing I absolutely left the campsite much cleaner than I found it. It’s more like a glamp site now, and I’ve spent the last year planting some trees in it that are going to start bearing fruit in the next few months. (Also, I helped plant an actual tree at a Girl Scout property on Earth day!)
Even personally, I’ve experienced several major life events during the last 6 years that I’ve been here: my first trips to Europe, two different apartments, a broken toe that ruined my shoe options forever, forming Women of Email, the death of a dog I’d had for 16 years, losing my grandmother, a pregnancy/having a baby, the pandemic, buying my first home, and leaving NYC after a decade. And my wonderful co-workers have cheered me on and supported me through it all. I’ve met incredibly passionate and wonderful staff at GSUSA and the councils, and it’s been an honor to work with them.
Peace out, Girl Scouts. ❤
*The first was after 6th grade, which I’ve since learned is a VERY common age to stop participating in the program.