Employee Spotlight: Andrew Thompson, Account Manager

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October 19, 2017
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Andrew Thompson is the kind of person who sees connections. Like how trucking relates to technology, or the way insurance intersects with philanthropic foundations. “Industries are often interconnected in surprising ways,” Andrew says. “Even very different businesses experience similar trends. I find the deeper I go with one client, the better I understand another.”

Andrew is an account manager at Gard, which essentially means his clients know who to contact to get what they need, when they need it. Previously, he worked as a lobbyist in the Oregon Legislature during the 2014 session, while completing the Portland Fellows program with the Oregon Leadership Development Institute. He then worked as a senior account executive at Hope-Beckham Inc., an independent PR firm in Atlanta, managing clients across several industries. He made a return move to Portland in 2016 to “see about a girl” and hasn’t looked back.

Andrew, what exactly do you do? Describe a typical day at work.

Occasionally my days start at 4:30 a.m., coordinating a local TV segment. Or at the airport headed to Chicago for a conference. But the majority of my time is spent at my desk in front of multiple computer screens working on projects across several states and time zones. At any given moment I might be in Excel, Mail, PowerPoint, Word or our media database, Cision. As an account manager for different types of clients, I wear a lot of hats.

A typical day always involves learning something new. That might be reading the latest trade publication article about the FMCSA ELD mandate for EROAD, a trucking telematics company, jumping on a conference call with U.S. Cellular engineers to draft a media statement, or joining a brainstorm session with our creative team about a new ad campaign. It’s a nice balance of long-term planning and quick-response projects.

What’s the most surprising thing about your work?

It surprises people how much work goes into a published article or TV segment you might see about one of our clients. For U.S. Cellular, we’re often contacting local media across California, Oregon and Washington to set up interviews with company spokespeople. We pitch the story, develop talking points, conduct media trainings, coordinate the interview details, and then track the coverage through a monitoring service. That’s the easy part. Getting media interested is more challenging.

What’s the most rewarding thing about your work?

Developing meaningful and long-term client relationships. They trust Gard, often for many years, to give them wise counsel and expert strategy. We have a company culture that produces this type of thinking. It’s rewarding to be able to work with clients as they navigate potential paths, finding the best option together.

I’ve also found the deeper I go with one client, the better I understand another. Industries are often interconnected in surprising ways, and might experience similar trends. Trucking technology overlaps with wireless telecommunications. Insurance intersects with philanthropic foundation work.

Of all your past experiences, whether personal, educational, or professional, what’s influenced you the best for what you do now?

Mentorship. My first and most formative mentor worked as a bureau chief for the Associated Press, in international PR for IBM and later ran corporate communications at Chick-fil-A headquarters. He’s also my dad. His father ran a newspaper in small-town Texas, covering a variety of local and regional stories, but most notably the JFK assassination.

In Atlanta, I worked for a longtime local legend, Bob Hope, who got his start as Ted Turner’s PR guy for the Braves during Hank Aaron’s home run record-breaking season, and later when CNN launched. His mentorship and reputation allowed me to work with executives of several Fortune 500 companies and even a few heads of state.

As a result, I’m always looking for ways I can serve and mentor. Whether it’s volunteering locally on the 2018 PRSA Oregon Communications Committee or leading a group at the National Student Leadership Forum in Washington D.C. this weekend.

What’s your favorite activity in your free time?

Reading and travel. Or reading while traveling to be more precise. I grew up in Japan, which instilled in me a love for other cultures. I also studied abroad in Spain, where I read the works of Spanish authors and traveled to the places that inspired their writing.

My wife, Elizabeth, and I are planning a trip to see my brother and sister-in-law in Tokyo this Thanksgiving. To prepare, we enrolled in a community college Japanese class and read the novel Silence. We also watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix, which I highly recommend. It was filmed a few blocks from where I grew up.

Another hobby of mine is picking up random bits of medical information about animals from my wife, who works as a veterinarian. Our dinner conversations often include me attempting a differential diagnosis about a geriatric golden retriever, recommending 100 mg of Galliprant. She says I almost get it right, which surprises her for some reason.

What are you reading right now? What’s the next book on your reading list?

Aside from reading about current events to start my day (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Oregonian and Portland Business Journal), I usually have several books going at once, often a fiction, nonfiction and perhaps a personal development book. I’m currently wrapped up in a novel called That Hideous Strength. It’s the third book of C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy, set in a dystopian post-WWII Britain, in a similar vein to Orwell’s 1984.

I’ve also started The Art of Memory, a fairly academic book about ancient Greek memory techniques. It delves into how orators could combine their spatial memory with mnemonic devices to recall vast amounts of information for long speeches. It’s interesting and oddly practical, but a bit of a slog.

The third I have open at the moment is Garden City by a local Portland author, John Mark Comer. He writes about the intersection of work, rest and the art of being human.

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