Kirsty Whelan is VP, strategy of Imre Health.
What would you do if you didn’t work in healthcare?
I would study race, gender and sexuality and work for a cause that helps women, low-income or marginalized communities. I volunteer for Maryland’s House of Ruth, one of our nation’s leading centers for intimate partner violence. I always wish I had more time to spend helping so that’s probably what I would do full-time if I changed careers.
Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment.
Last summer I attended a health design boot camp at Jefferson University and learned how to apply design thinking techniques to healthcare marketing. Leveraging those approaches, we won our first AOR account several weeks later, realizing our ambition of being more than a social media agency and validating our commitment to using unique, empathic approaches for marketing.
When was the last time you endured an “agony of defeat” moment? What did you learn from it?
I have a handful of moments where I felt defeated for one reason or the other. Usually, it involves not making the impact I want quickly enough, not being able to communicate my vision as clearly as it lives in my head, or making a quick decision that in retrospect needed more time to marinate. In any of these instances, it’s helpful when I remind myself to listen, not just react, and take the time to collaborate.
When did you last recharge your batteries? What did you do?
You need to find time to recharge your batteries as frequently as you might charge your phone’s. While I would give anything to be beachside in Barcelona like I was last September, finding small ways to unplug more frequently is a better recipe for me.
To ensure pay parity and career advancement for women, I will…
Other than unapologetically wear my equal pay sweatshirt in public? I will elevate the voices and contributions of women in every setting I find myself. I will also be generous with my time as a mentor, as I think it’s the most important and rewarding place I can spend time in my career.
What are your words to live by?
My dad, one of the leaders I admire the most, always told me his definition of leadership was “look behind you.” He provided me with a great model for humble, generous and patient leadership that I think about almost daily.
What is one thing you would tell young women starting their careers in healthcare marketing?
Years ago, a mentor of mine convinced me to focus my career in healthcare, noting it’s a great field for women. That made an impression on me, and as a result, I always advocate on behalf of women who consider starting a career in healthcare. That being said, my advice would be to leave no one behind. We need gender, racial and sexual diversity in the ranks so we can grow it at the leadership table. It’s never too early to promote diversity of thought and inclusivity in your career.
What three people, alive or dead, would you like to host at a dinner party and why?
This is too hard to narrow down, so I’ll host a reality TV star edition:
- Panos Spentzos, creative director of Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club in Mykonos, Greece. He’ll know just how to get the party started.
- Tamar Braxton, winner of this year’s Celebrity Big Brother (who enabled my first place ranking in my annual office pool). She’ll keep everyone in stitches and have great stories about her long music career with the Braxton family.
- Erika Jayne, pop sensation and Real Housewife of Beverly Hills. I want to hear her describe every clothing item in her closet in great detail.