Alumni Spotlight: Raina Searles

NON-PROFIT – This spotlight series features T. Howard Foundation (THF) alumni working in the non-profit sector.

Raina Searles (THF ’16) (TDP ‘17)*

Please describe your role. 

Currently, I work as the Marketing Manager at FringeArts in Philadelphia. In my time at FringeArts, I have worked as a Programming Intern, Marketing Coordinator, and Marketing Manager. I started off with minimal responsibility around organizing and doing outreach with artists to connecting those same artists to audiences through ad sales and Fringe Festival marketing campaigns several months later. After I had been at FringeArts for about a year, the Marketing and Communications Director left their position, and for about 7 months, I was then working as the department head with one other employee who was part-time and managing all of our marketing, branding, and communications campaigns. As a result, my day to day work experience varies from goal-setting and strategizing to managing print materials, email, web, and social media content, advertising, copywriting, customer management, reporting, analysis, and data tracking.

What do you enjoy most about your company?

I love how closely I get to work to the art and artists, and I enjoy sharing our work with audiences. I love that overtime for me often means I’m staying late for a show either just to watch or helping out at the Box Office. The work we present is often very fun, thought provoking, and dynamic, so it’s exciting to be able to see these works make it to the public eye, especially the many new works that premiere in our space.

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

I have always had an interest in theater and the performing arts, and was in all the school plays in elementary and middle school. When I got to high school, I got away from theater in favor of more sports, but I kept my interest alive by pursuing pageants and public speaking competitions. When I got to college, I found my way back to theater, and eventually added a Theater minor, so finding a position in marketing for a performing arts organization actually combined by major and minor perfectly.

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

The T. Howard Foundation has provided me with a ton of resources and events to learn new information and network within the media and entertainment industry. While I currently work in nonprofit arts, I see a future ahead that focuses on storytelling and art, in any medium. In summer 2016, I worked as a THF intern at Comcast in Philadelphia where I learned a lot about human resources that has informed my Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion advocacy within FringeArts and added to my passion to work behind the scenes to bring communities together and make life better and more enjoyable for people, something I find especially salient in artistic creation during a pandemic.

What personal attributes have been essential to your career success?

I have always thought to find a job that can also be my passion because I cannot imagine spending 40+ hours per week on work I don’t get any sort of satisfaction. With a background in marketing, I could go anywhere, but I choose to be in the arts and entertainment because that is what gets me excited and gets me out of bed in the morning. It allows me to bring my full energy and passion to my job and stay motivated even when times are tough. From my experience in a scrappy college theater group, I learned about the ability to pick up any sort of work the team needs to make something happen, take initiative to solve problems in creative ways, and make sure that whatever happens behind the scenes, you put out a quality product at the end. Communication for me is also essential. I always tell my interns that it’s totally fine to be confused and have questions, but if you don’t ask them, and instead just do the wrong task for hours or days, then we’re actually in a worse spot than if you had just asked the questions at the beginning. Especially with everything being remote now, it’s essential to be clear and ask clarifying questions since we can’t all pop over to each other’s desks for a quick chat anymore.

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

I think my biggest hiccup was not knowing my worth coming out of college. I thought I had barely any experience with only one internship that was largely research based under my belt and that only knew a thing or two, but I was actually able to learn a lot on the job and many of my non-work experiences, from club leadership to being a Residential Advisor, prepared me much better than some on how to work independently but collaboratively and execute on projects. Now, I’m so much more confident speaking about my qualifications and experience and where I plan to go next.

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

I’m definitely an introvert, but it’s often an interesting balance in marketing. On one level, I get to know so many people (audiences/ticket buyers/artists, etc) through our advertising and ticket sales, but I’m also this anonymous person behind all of our marketing emails, push notifications, and print materials. Nobody actually sees me, and people don’t often imagine the person who’s behind the random email they received from a company Where I do pop up more openly is the FringeArts podcast where I get to have one-on-one conversations with artists and community organizers from around the city, so that’s another way I am able to get my name out there without being the biggest social butterfly.

Do you have any of the following at work? a mentor, mentee, sponsor, work BF or work spouse? If so, which one(s)? What are the advantages of having these relationships?

I definitely have more than one work best friend. We see each other every day and in an open office plan, we ended up in a million and one random conversations within our little seating pod. There’s definitely a marketing/ticketing/independent artist clique, for better or worse, because of where we all sit normally. When everything became remote, I thought it was fine to just see each other in meetings, but eventually we set up weekly Zoom Happy Hours because we were all missing each other and really became friends outside of work as well. I think it’s super helpful to have these relationships because it’s good to be able to talk openly with coworkers about things going on in the office or salary or even work (crazy idea, right?). It also builds an alternate system of accountability because I am coming to them with a project as a coworker, but we’re discussing and working through it as friends who have each other’s back, which can be a much more collaborative and productive process.

An * indicates that this individual is a member or alumnus of T. Howard Foundation’s Talent Development Program (TDP). The TDP provides one-on-one coaching, career resources and services, to recent college graduates and young professionals. You can learn more about the TDP here.