Alumni Spotlight: Katherine Puntiel

CREATIVE  – This spotlight series features T. Howard Foundation (THF) alumni working in creative roles.

Katherine Puntiel (THF ’19)
Artist Partnerships Manager, GIPHY

Please describe your role.

I would like to insert the Tiktok audio that’s like “I’m doing my best.” But for real, I am an Artist Partnerships Manager. I take on all things artists related, mostly artists acquisitions/commissions at GIPHY.

What do you enjoy most about your company?

It’s more-so how it came to be, I feel very aligned at this moment in time and that makes me truly appreciate my company. Long story short, I was going through the motions and then, like the entire world, the pandemic took a dark turn for me personally. The position I was previously in didn’t pan out, start date was March 1st, 2020. And throughout a very rough year- after 300+ job applications, March 1st, 2021 I started at my company. It’s everything I asked for in a company that I honestly never considered. Animation, tech, content, brand, and all around, I work with incredible and inspiring teammates. Trust me when I say, who you work with is just as important as what you do day to day, actually it matters a lot more. Personally, I love the start-up environment and all things tech, which thanks to T. Howard for beginning that path for me.

In what way did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?

Well, I was always in this kind of work – collaborating and communicating with artists or creatives – in small jobs since college. All this to say, the small steps are extremely important. Along the way I began to learn what kind of environment I needed to be in to not only thrive but also grow as a person. Ultimately, no job can define me. I learned that the hard way, when it comes to this career stuff you are replaceable. So, the moment I became confident in my abilities and affirmed my value outside of any monetary gain, I got started. I decided to die to live and not live to die. I believe in me and that’s enough.

How has your affiliation with the T. Howard Foundation influenced your career?

It’s the community more than anything else in relation to my career. Literally that week we were in DC… THE BEST GROUP OF PEOPLE. Till this day we keep in touch with one another and in a small way you have an unexpected group of people rooting for you because they get it. Everyone had goals and were determined to go after them.  Including the staff!!! The staff was honest, and truly showed up- where it’s difficult to be seen at times at work, especially in the beginning of one’s career. Raphael and Tjwana- I don’t think they are at THF anymore, but shout-out to them. Thee undeniable moments of laughter and simply being heard. It’s the support for me.

What personal attributes have been essential to your career success?

YOU MUST LIKE YOU, BELIEVE YOU, & ROOT FOR YOU. When I tell you straight out of college I reeked of desperation! I just wanted to be liked and get that family approval etc. (shout-out to my therapist Essence) by working late nights, really late. I literally had no conception of worth especially when it came to getting paid, if you know what I mean, okayyyy. Battling with myself during the beginning of the pandemic, I learned to become so confident that if my role were to go away, I know that I’m good. I AM GOOD. I’ve always and continue to figure it out in a way that best suites me at that season of my life. I am always gonna be good. I was so obsessed with career gain/climbing the ladder that it led to my own detriment. During the pandemic, for the first time because we were in the house, I had to really consider my values and who I am and who I want to be-which is something you don’t think about when you are always on the go. Like I have been working since in high school, did a million things- I remember in college I just did the MOST. Just to prove to people (who really don’t care) that I am worth something. And thinking back I just needed clarity in what I wanted rather than striving to become what other people assumed I would be-if that makes sense? I love me because of me and only me and that’s essential.

If you were entering this career today, how would you prepare to facilitate entry?

This is a hard question because I don’t know. Like while I realized so many things literally recently, I am also grateful because I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am today, and I have so much more in my life. Like I feel aligned for the first time. I think the best way for me to prepare entry is giving myself grace. Being kinder to myself. If I knew – what I didn’t have the vocab for then- I would tell myself that spending more time with myself – in stillness – would allow me to recognize my values earlier. I just remember comparing myself and literally beating myself up because I felt “so behind.” So in order to compensate, I actually did all my readings in college (no one does that), had 4 jobs, and did a billion other things. Like it takes time to gain confidence specifically in your career. If possible, work on confidence in solitude. Don’t be busy just to say you are busy. What makes you valuable? Why do you like you, if you even do? I feel like if I would have asked my 21-year old self that, I would start crying or something.

Are you extroverted or introverted? How does this show up in your professional life?

VERY INTROVERTED. But also I am an adult. Again taking the time to get to know who are you WILL REALLY help you and also who you want to be around. Frankly that wouldn’t matter (being introverted or extroverted) if you are working around the right people. That’s why I personally love the tech/start up environment. I know people who are awkward vice versa and that part of their personality makes working with them fun and unique. For me, ultimately, I am getting the work done regardless. Ironically, I prefer avoiding confrontation, but I have no problem being confronted or asked a question. If I don’t know I don’t know or the famous “let me get back to you on that once I’ve gathered my thoughts.”

How do you re-charge at work?

Re-charge….. I am lucky to work from home and have an amazing team where they consistently check-in about band width. Like when people work after hours, it’s strange. By stopping when work stops, taking breaks, having a full lunch. I am honestly not exhausted for the most part.