Business Shark Doot Doot Doot Doot Doot Doot- A Note of Encouragement

Holly Firestone
4 min readJul 6, 2020

“You’re just not a business shark,” my manager said to me as we walked down the street alongside a city park.

I was stunned and confused. Earlier that week I had asked for some time to discuss my career. I had been exceeding all of my goals, getting praise from leadership and other people around the company, and gotten amazing feedback from our community. Every time I pushed for resources though, I was met with pushback. The same kept happening when I would bring up advancing my career.

“What does that even really mean? Maybe not everyone should be a business shark! There’s no balance at a company if everyone is a business shark. What about someone putting our customers first? What about empathy?!” …is what I wish I had responded when she said that. I wasn’t there yet. I wasn’t brave enough. And at the time, part of me probably believed what my manager was saying.

“I think we could find you a rockstar marketing role,” my manager went on.

“But I’m not a marketing rockstar. I’m a community manager. THIS is my career. Community is important, and it’s going to continue to be more and more important. I just want to focus on community.”

“Community will never be a priority here.”

Within less than a year, community was prioritized as one of the company’s top annual goals. I already moved on to greener community pastures by that time.

One of the biggest challenges I have faced along my journey as a community professional is people not understanding the value of community. Thinking that community is “fluffy.” Thinking it’s about parties, memes, and swag. Changing that perception is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, and I unfortunately I haven’t always been successful, especially earlier on in my career. Now, I’m prepared at any given time to start rattling off community metrics and the business value of community to pretty much anyone that will listen.

Community is brilliant business, and it’s now absolutely necessary. If you as a business don’t have some form of a community, you’re FALLING BEHIND. Community leaders have a seat at the table more than they ever have. This gives me so much hope. Let’s give a huge round of applause for the hard work many community professionals have put in over the years fighting for, proving the value of, and defending community. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

This has been a journey full of struggle, doubt, hesitation, confusion, frustration, the constant need to prove myself and the work I’m doing, and constantly hearing “no.” BUT, it has also been a journey full of excitement, innovation, new experiences, proving the naysayers very wrong, building, creating, and giving businesses an entirely new perspective about providing value to their customers.

I LOVE what I do. I have always loved it. I remember the days of working for a nonprofit, helping them build their local alumni communities, and how happy that role made me ten years ago.

There have been a lot of bumps and curves in the road along my journey, but every one of these experiences led me to this point, and I couldn’t be more grateful. You and community may not always fit the mold of who your manager/leadership sees as a leader and/or a worthwhile program, and if that’s the case, you have to decide if you are really in the place you need to be. I knew that in the place I was in, I wasn’t going to get the runway I needed to build the community I wanted to build.

Now, I’ve got many glorious years of community building under my belt. I’m proud of the impact that I have made on the multiple businesses for which I’ve had the pleasure of building community. I make a salary that reflects my expertise and value, and my expertise is sought after both by businesses and other community professionals wanting to learn more. If you’re not there yet — you can and you will be. If you are in the right place, bravo to you! Share your journey and help encourage those who aren’t quite there yet. We all have a lot we can learn from each other.

I think back to that moment, walking down the street with my manager every once in a while. It used to make a terrible feeling bubble up in my stomach and I would shudder. The more and more I think about it now, it just makes me shake my head and laugh.

Most importantly, it leaves me wondering, does a business shark need to have a hole in his business suit for his fin?

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Holly Firestone

Community Strategist. Currently: CEO, Holly Firestone Consulting. Previously Venafi, Salesforce & Atlassian. Hollyfirestone.com