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Alumni Spotlight // Public Relations

SISTERHOOD OF SUCCESS

DialedPR Founder and CEO Andrea Holland ’06
Andrea Holland
Public relations professional, entrepreneur and Gamma Phi Beta alumna leader Andrea Holland `06
(Photo courtesy of DialedPR)

Last year, Andrea Holland `06 took the stage as a featured speaker for the UC Santa Barbara Panhellenic Kick Off, hosted by the Collegiate Panhellenic Council, the parent organization for nine national women’s sororities at UCSB. The theme that year was the “transcendence of Greek life into real life.”

“Use your life experience to your advantage, because it will always come back around,” she said to a crowd of 1000 young women.

A proud alum of UCSB’s Gamma Phi Beta chapter, Holland recalled channeling her UCSB Greek experience when she dealt with a flurry of media requests and follow-up calls during her first days as a public relations professional. “It hit me – I’ve done this before,” she said, talking about writing descriptions and names on the backs of business cards. “How did we remember all the women who came through the door during sorority recruitment? It was the most mundane simple task that we did.”

As the founder and CEO of her own technical consulting firm DialedPR, Holland credits much of her success to her network. "Without my network, I'd be nowhere," she said. "If there is one thing I would teach women looking to start their own business -- especially in client services -- it is to nurture and maintain ties with groups you are part of. For me, the sorority was a key group."

Holland has served as the San Francisco Alumnae Chapter president for Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, the recruitment advisor for Eta, the collegiate Chapter at UC Berkeley and currently as advisor for the executive board of the Delta Psi Chapter at UC Santa Barbara. She also worked as a mentor for UCSB students interested in PR and communications career.

“In every major city that I have moved to, I have joined an alumni group,” Holland told the audience at the Panhellenic Kick Off. “And it’s been great – for networking, for jobs…most importantly for happy hour,” -- she paused as the crowd laughed -- “I’ve been in three sorority sisters’ weddings, and I’ve hired sorority sisters. And I’ve also hired women from other chapters.”

For over ten years, Holland worked in San Francisco and New York, at global PR firms like Fleishman Hillard, Access Communications and The Horn Group, with a client roster of major companies like Intuit, PayPal, LegalZoom and Oracle.

Holland travelled for three months throughout Southeast Asia and participated in a one-month tech incubator called Project Getaway and was featured as a guest speaker at the Singapore Investment Firm Incuvest. After witnessing the dynamic startup scene in the ASEAN region, Holland returned to California to found her own high-tech public relations company DialedPR.

This year, Holland set up a second business venture with fellow Gaucho Sarah Elder `06, creating a six-week coaching program for entrepreneurs and consultants to build their own public relations strategies. "This program will help business owners and consultants build authority, credibility and thought leadership without having to retain a high-priced PR firm," she said.

In this Alumni Q&A, Holland shares her insights about the public relations field -- and how her Greek Gaucho experience helped build her career.

DialedPR founder and Gamma Phi Beta alumna leader Andrea Holland `06 onstage as a guest speaker at the UC Santa Barbara Panhellenic Kick Off 2015.

What drew you decide to study at UC Santa Barbara?

I remember my parents driving me down from the Bay Area to visit, never having been to Santa Barbara before. The second I stepped foot on campus, I decided that anyone who didn’t want to go to college on the beach, in one of California’s most desired vacation destinations, had to be crazy. It was a pretty simple choice, given that I didn’t have a clear direction on my career path at that point, so I wanted a school that would give me multiple opportunities to explore.

How did you decide what majors to pursue at UCSB?

I always had a lot of interests growing up, so it was challenging for me to decide what I wanted to focus on. To this day, I still think I was the last person to declare during my third year. And even then - I chose two!

I always knew I wanted to work with people and problem solve. Therefore, it was important to understand how human society functioned. Whatever I decided to do, I knew had to have a baseline understanding of the inner workings of human connection, behaviors, and patterns. I chose sociology and doubled it up with religious studies as it demonstrates significance and controversy in human culture. I felt like the two complimented each other and now as I work with a handful of International startups and travel the globe, it proves to be very helpful.

Lastly, as a classically-trained singer for 10 years, I chose music/vocal studies as my minor.

What made you decide to join Gamma Phi Beta? How did Greek life enrich your college experience?

I had no intention of joining the Greek system. I wasn’t a sorority legacy and am actually the first person in my immediate family to attend a four-year university. During the first quarter I found myself quite homesick and having a tough time. On the phone one afternoon, my Dad said, “Why don’t you go join a sorority or something?” Famous last words. Little did he (or I) know at the time, that Gamma Phi Beta would become a HUGE part of my life during my collegiate years, and well into my adult years.

Many people don’t realize that being part of a sorority or fraternity and holding an executive role isn’t that different from running a business. You have X number of members, an operating budget, philanthropic endeavors, a recruitment strategy and a brand/mission that you live by everyday to be the best you can be. The leadership training I experienced within Gamma Phi Beta was instrumental. It taught me to be an effective communicator and leader, which translates into running a business and surviving in real life. I left the sorority with a different skill set, prepared for real life, different than the skills/knowledge I learned from my majors. A lot of times, I believe the sorority prepared me for the real world more than theory based classes and lessons, but the two experiences provided me with a well-rounded experience.

What lessons from UCSB do you think made the most impact in building your current career?

UCSB has a ton to offer and I took advantage of every opportunity I could, with the sorority, two majors and a minor, intramural sports, and three part time jobs on and off campus. However, it was the off-campus experiences that gave me my life chops.

I grew a set of intangible life skills while living in Isla Vista that would forever stay with me. They have helped me everyday in the corporate world and as I’ve built my own company.

  1. Interpersonal Communications and Dealing with Conflict: Living in Isla Vista gave me a practical crash course in interpersonal communication, an art that with the inception of smart phones and computers, is lost more and more. But it’s probably the most important thing you can learn, not only for success in the business world, but life. Whether it’s co-habitating with 10 people in a house on DP or 50 women in a sorority complex, the ability to navigate the exchange information, feelings, and meaning is not something that can be taught without hands on practice. It’s benefited me greatly in the business world; a couple years ago I participated in an entrepreneurship program in Southeast Asia and lived in one villa with 20 people from all over the world for a month.
  2. Self Discipline and Self Control: It takes a certain level of self discipline not to get completely engulfed and forget why you’re at UCSB. My freshman year I got caught up in the newness and freedom of it all, and failed Winter quarter. My parents told me I had one quarter to bring my GPA back up, or they were bringing me home. At that moment, I realized it was up to me, and me only, to decide my destiny. I got back on the horse real quick, and taught myself self control and discipline to make sure I succeeded. It was very difficult given the temptations, but it forced me to take my education and life into my own hands, and that sense of ownership is what kept me going.
  3. Networking and Relationships: UCSB taught networking at it’s finest. People knock it for being such a social school, with Isla Vista portrayed as a dirty, dangerous and way too social community, but the people I met and experiences I had during my time on campus and living in IV have been forever fruitful and meaningful. Life is built on relationships, take every opportunity you can to build one and nurture one. From somebody you sell a New Year’s Even ticket to on Craigslist, to the person you randomly meet at a BBQ who introduces you to the CEO of your next gig. You never know where it will go.
Andrea Holland
Photo courtesy of Andrea Holland `06

How important is it for alumni to continue to mentor and interact with current students? What are some highlights of your alumni involvement at UCSB, especially with your sorority?

I think it’s crucial. I wish I had utilized the alumni network more during my time as a collegiate. Within Gamma Phi Beta, I have fond memories of alumni visiting and talking to us about their careers, families and where they are/were now. I remember them telling us that it was a lifelong commitment, and that my experience within the sorority was not going to end after my collegiate years. Upon moving to San Francisco, I became the President for the alumnae chapter for four years, and also volunteered as the recruitment advisor at Eta, which is our Berkeley chapter.

Whether it’s a sorority, a book club, a sports team, an entrepreneurship program or a religious group - having a group of like-minded individuals who want to see each other succeed and provide support, is a beautiful thing.

One of the highlights of the last year was becoming the Advisor at my own Chapter. As an organization that I helped build and grow during my collegiate years, I am instilled with a sense of pride and tradition when I see some of the best practices still intact, and the quality of women and the house in beautiful condition. I hope that as their advisor, I’m a positive example for them, helping them learn and grow during this time, offering mentorship and support. But more than that, I hope I’m teaching them that being part of this organization is a lifetime commitment, and we are always working towards the same goals, ideals and purposes.

Talk to us about how you came about to building your current business, DialedPR. What inspired you to found your company? (And what do you love most about your job/career?)

One week after I walked across the stage at my UCSB Commencement, I moved up to the Bay Area and started a PR internship at a Global PR Firm called Fleishman Hillard. For the next 8.5 years, I lived and worked in SF and NY at Access Communications and The Horn Group, alongside major brands including Intuit and PayPal. When I was 30, I was on the verge of feeling burnt out. I was looking for a change in lifestyle, but more importantly, more control of my own destiny. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, starting my first side business when I was 24. I crafted feathered headbands for women inspired by Blaire Waldorf from the TV show Gossip Girl, sold the first one off my head at the Oakland Airport, then built a site and sold them. It was my first taste of running a small business. Years later, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, I didn’t know what it felt like, but I knew I needed to try.

At 30, I quit my job and started contracting, with the aspiration to build something. I realized quickly there was a market for consultants in my field – companies who were too small to hire a big agency, but growing so fast they wanted just more than one person. Simultaneously, I also got accepted to an entrepreneurship program called Project Getaway – an incubator in Bali with 20 other entrepreneurs from all over the world. During that time I lived and worked alongside like minded entrepreneurs with finance, business, design and programming backgrounds – all skills needed to compliment my budding company. After the program, I ended up staying and traveling through SE Asia for another two months, exploring new business opportunities, tapping into the SE Asia startup scene and meeting amazing people. Upon my return to the States, I relocated back to Santa Barbara full time and began working with a couple tech companies. The portfolio was filling up and I needed help. I leaned on my network and recruited some colleagues I used to work with, some folks I met abroad and some new talent I met in Santa Barbara - and DialedPR was born.

What do I love about it? All the same things that scare me about it. The freedom, the flexibility, the choice to choose my own clients, the capacity to make or break something simply due to a decision I make, etc.

For students who hope to follow your career path - especially women who seek to become leaders in their chosen fields -- what advice would you give them?

  1. Just try it. The worst that can happen, is that you have to go and get a job. Somebody told me this early on, and it crosses my mind probably 2-3 times a week. If you’re afraid of failing, know that most people fail. The beauty and strength comes from getting back up and trying again. Being an entrepreneur is high highs and low lows. Know that it will be the hardest thing you probably ever do, but it will be worth it.
  2. Don’t do it for the money. The money will come. There’s an Instagram quote floating around the Internet somewhere that says “Grind in your 20’s, Build in your 30’s and Chill in your 40’s.” The clichés are true. Life is a game of chess, not checkers, and the road to success is not a linear/exponential path - it’s a jungle gym that you’ll likely fall off of multiple times. Put the bandaid on your knee and keep going.
  3. Learn to have uncomfortable conversations. In business, and in your personal life. It’s one of the hardest things to do, but probably the most important. A mentor once told me to “suspend my own agenda” and listen more. As entrepreneur Tim Ferriss said “ A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

What drives you, every day, to do what you do?

Tough question. I can tell you what drives me right now, at this point in my life – and that’s the ability to travel, be nomadic, and design my own professional agenda to continue learning and growing. Right now, those are my priorities. However, I think what drives you is very dependent upon what stage in life you’re at. What’s important to me 5 or 10 years from now will likely be different, and so will what drives me.

If nothing else, just remember that life isn’t black and white, the road to any kind of success and happiness is always a rocky one, and although the days are long, the years are short. Be a nice human being, always try to do right by others and enjoy the ride - we just get to do this once.

Oh, and coffee.

Check out Andrea Holland at www.dialedpr.com, www.linkedin.com/in/aholland or @andreaholland.

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