Digital Seminar Journal Entry

What I learned from Cathy McKnight

Mark Chinapen
5 min readFeb 2, 2022
Image source: Salesforce.

On January 19th, our Digital Seminar class welcomed Cathy Mcknight. Cathy is the VP of strategy and consulting at the Content Advisory. With 20 years of experience working in content marketing, Cathy has helped clients get to the bottom line of their brand and how they are represented to their audience. During her presentation, Cathy focused on crucial aspects that we as upcoming digital marketers need to keep an eye on. Primarily, the differences between the size of a company and its effect on workplace culture, how to better equip ourselves when researching a prospective company, and lastly having the ability to simply say yes.

Size Vs. Culture

During her presentation, Cathy focused on the size of a company and how the workplace culture is affected by it, depending on how big or small the organization is. She explained that through her career journey, she found that working for a small company as opposed to a large firm suited her better because of the way she liked to work. She understood that where she thrived was one of the most important factors in her career.

This is something that I thought to myself during her presentation. I began to look back at my own career history and I started to realize the correlation between the size and culture of a workplace. I find that I like to work methodically, being given a list of tasks and completing them to the best of my ability is how I like to work. To elaborate, I used to work for a large manufacturing company that had roughly 3000+ employees, with so many people I found that the overall culture was all over the place. Some people were very methodical and worked by the book, while others did whatever they wanted. It made it hard to find a balance where I could do my job efficiently and at times it made me extremely uncomfortable.

Recently, I made the switch to work for a media company that is much smaller, with somewhere around 10–15 employees total. Here, I started to notice the difference. Everybody works on the same page, the environment is very collaborative and conflicts are resolved efficiently. The manner in which tasks are assigned and how they were completed by various members of our team flowed very well and suited my style of working.

Cathy went on to explain in further detail the 4 types of workplace culture: Clan, Adhocracy, Hierarchy, and Market. Each of them has its own perks depending on the organization, for example, the Hierarchy structure is focused on competition and growth, slowly moving up the corporate ladder. A system that would be suited for a large, brand-name firm whose culture is like a checklist. Whereas the Adhocracy structure is defined by its knack to take risks and innovate, I align this with a more free-flowing company. Out of the four, I find that I prefer the Clan structure. Its emphasis on mentorship and teamwork is something I yearn for in my career. Often times we all make mistakes, or we may not know the right way to do something. I have found throughout my professional journey having a guide and working with others not only made me improve in terms of my job, but fostered a sense of respect and compassion from my co-workers.

What It Means For Me

Learning this has affected the way I would go about searching for my career. Cathy’s points on size and culture have given me an idea of what I could expect from a large or small business. From that, I feel as if I would be geared slightly better as to what the environment and the workspace would feel like, and could then figure out how it would complement or hinder my style of working. Knowing that I have a preference for the Clan structure of workplace culture, I imagine that I will search for and connect with those that work in that kind of environment. Considering that I work for a small company right now, I’ve realized that based on my experience and Cathy’s explanations, I would prefer to work for a small company where I can thrive and feel comfortable.

One of the questions I was keen on was the idea of research and how can you learn more about a company you want to work for/are being interviewed for. More often than not I find myself extremely overwhelmed, thinking to myself that I didn’t do enough research or I looked for too much. Cathy made a solid point to look for the company’s socials. Using a content marketer way of thinking, she suggested that we look for a company’s Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or website. That way we get a better sense of who they are from a social perspective.

Another aspect Cathy pointed out was to look for the company’s annual reports, something I have never considered doing before. She explained that this would give us more insight into what they are spending their money on, to understand the trends, and determine if they spend a lot or save plenty. Cathy mentioned that this was very important to look at before taking a job, as it would also give us an idea of who our potential employer is outside of the content they create. As of now, it is something I will start to implement during my job search.

My Biggest Takeaway

Lastly, if there was one thing I learned during Cathy’s presentation that has stuck with me profoundly it is this: say yes! It is such a simple phrase but it is easier said than done. Cathy made it clear to us that early on in our careers, we should expose ourselves to new things, and commit to trying even if we fail. Perhaps it is because of the pandemic or otherwise, but I have found myself trapped in a bubble, scared to actually take risks in fear of failing. However, if we never actually make an attempt how do we know if we failed or not? The only way to know is to take that leap of faith.

This is something I will be trying to do more of while I network and connect with professionals in the industry. Instead of brushing off a conference or a student networking panel, I will say yes instead. Perhaps I could connect with other like-minded students? or have a quick chat with a manager of a small agency that I might be interested in? There are so many opportunities to look for by simply saying yes, I was always scared of doing so for a long time but, Cathy McKnight may have finally given me the courage to do so.

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Mark Chinapen

I like to pretend I’m a critic. Writer and editor for Modern Music Analysis