#StandApart Profile – Katie Drechsel, Vega

Katie Drechsel, Senior Digital Marketing Manager @VegaTeam

Katie Drechsel, Senior Digital Marketing Manager @VegaTeam

Making TELUS talk in 140 characters or less; that’s been the mandate of Katie Drechsel, Manager, Digital Communications for the telecom giant, until a few weeks ago. Now, Katie’s taking up a new challenge: Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Vancouver based Vega, a North American leader in the plant-based natural health and performance products industry. With past roles at Bell, Parklane Homes, Boston Pizza and TELUS, Katie’s become a force to be reckoned with in Vancouver’s digital and social marketing scene. She’s helped break new ground for local mega-project, TELUS Garden, pioneered the first Canadian brand partnership with Songza and led TELUS’ social media strategy to grow their online community to more than 1.2 million connections. “To think, just 5 years ago, at Bell, we didn’t even have a Twitter handle,” says Drechsel, reflecting on just how far she’s come. “Online is my air.”

We’re excited to share Katie’s story as she blazes through new social, digital and mobile heights with an athlete’s precision and a hand-picked ‘board of directors’ (her people) that help guide her career and keep her motivated – inside and outside.


Describe your current role in 140 characters or less…

I support a talented web team focused on health education, driving online engagement and delivering the tastiest plant-based recipes to your inbox. We strive to create inspirational online experiences to help you thrive in all your goals.


One word that best describes how you work.

Passion (& sparkle)


What is your “Superpower”? (What is the one thing you do you do better than most?)

My drive. I’m always looking to concur the next challenge, for opportunities to learn, for new people to meet, for ways to empower & grow my team. I love to achieve goals and dream big.


Intentionality or Happenstance?  Which has played a greater role in building your career path?

Intentionality. The biggest driver in every role I’ve taken since BCIT has been this: how does it grow me in digital and social and as a communicator? Thinking back to my roles at Boston Pizza, Parklane Homes and Bell – the digital pieces were my love and what I saw for my future. So I gravitated to them and put my hand up to lead every project that let me learn more about them. I collected best practises and continued to build my portfolio of digital and social projects. That has evolved into mobile, I’m obsessed with developing digital experiences that create a deeper connection to the user. I’m so excited for the opportunities ahead to enhance user experience in-store and to continue to blur the lines of online and off.


Where does your motivation come from?  Does motivation come easy for you or is it work/discipline to sustain it?

I really approach goal-setting seriously. That’s what motivates me. For me, the two are absolutely and intrinsically intertwined. For better or worse, most of us spend more time at work than at home. So, when I look at a new role, it’s got to push me toward reaching my personal/career goals. A “job” (the people you surround yourself with, the projects you’re working on) should embody everything that’s important to you. Reevaluating my current status on those grounds – Am I surrounded by people I admire? Do the people I’m working with inspire me? Do they push me to achieve more than I think I could? Am I achieving the benchmarks I’ve set for myself?  – helps me push forward and stay on focused. I’m most motivated when I’m surrounded by fellow #goalcrushers and when our best “work” can happen as easily in the office as it does hiking the Grouse Grind.


How has your motivation worked for you?  Has your motivation ever worked against you? Have you ever had to wrestle with your motivation?

For me, it’s all about being selective and focused. I’ve got lots of ideas and lists, but the trick is how to keep filtering out the stuff that’s not as important or won’t make as big of a difference. I try to be motivated with focus, and not live for pure endorphins.

A “job” (the people you surround yourself with, the projects you’re working on) should embody everything that’s important to you.


Can you point to any career/life turning points that either: a) Provided clarity or  b) Served as a springboard/accelerator/ launching pad

Clarity: When I first got out of school, there was a job I was really interested in where a friend happened to work. And because I was determined to ‘get the job on my own,’ I didn’t tell my friend I was applying or interviewing for the job. In the end, I did get the job (I was proud), and it took years for me to realise using your network to support career growth doesn’t mean you are taking the easy route. In fact it takes a huge amount of effort to build your reputation and a strong network. Your network serves to benefit you on so many levels and you will provide valuable benefit to those in your network. It is, in fact, the opposite of the easy way out. Connections and personal networks play a huge role in career development and guidance.

Springboard – When I joined TELUS, I did have any real experience doing “social media”. I was coming from Bell’s marketing department, with a background in marketing and advertising, and though I’d been working on social media strategy for Bell and had spent a lot of time explaining its potential value, I’d only ever really done it for myself. When I had the interview at TELUS, I knew the culture and team were a fantastic fit, however I was scared to death whether or not I could actually do the job. I worked up the courage and just asked: “Are you sure I am qualified for this?” The Director I was interviewing with said, “You don’t know the role, but I know you have the passion to lead the team and inspire others in the company to join you on this journey.” I was scared. I took the leap. It wasn’t easy but I love it and I used that passion to share my vision and the teams’ successes. 

People who achieve great success have one thing in common: they continually push themselves into uncomfortable places. They are not ok with status quo for too long.

I have this quote on my wall – “This is the beginning of anything you want”.


Connections and personal networks play a huge role in career development and guidance.


Have you ever watched someone sabotage his or her own career? If so, how?

No, thank goodness.

Two things I’ve found that can dramatically limit a teams’ success: negativity (it is truly viral and contagious) and lack of accountability.


Why did you make the educational choices you did and what would you recommend for others on this front?

I was still compass-searching when I graduated high school, so I started by taking courses at Douglas College. After loving my “Intro to Marketing” course, I  researched some schools and programs and found that everything pointed me to BCIT. I met with the program head and was immediately sold on the idea of learning from teachers with both hands in the field (I love the group learning approach). BCIT developed me in so many ways. I was never very good at public speaking in high school, so I challenged myself to participate in lots of group work and presentations – anything that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was in inspired by the in-the-thick-of-it learning model. Along the way, I learned that I really liked working with people. I think ‘group’ skills (brainstorming, problem solving and relationship building) have been just as important to building my career as my marketing ability.

As for ongoing-education, the mentorship groups I’ve been involved with, like WXN’s peer group, help me maintain a fresh perspective and continue to build a solid network. There’s nothing like leaving behind the cell phones and computers to talk through issues (personal or work) with peers.


When you look back over your career to date, what are you most proud of?

I am extremely proud and honoured I received the Emerging Leader Award from TELUS at their 2013 Chloe Awards (Chloe awards recognize outstanding women in the company as well as men who support the growth of women). It’s such a large and wildly successful company filled with leading minds. To think I stood out amongst so many talented people is an honour and a personal win. This also highlights an incredible company. I can’t think of any other company that has awards to honour outstanding women within their team.

On a more general level, I’m proud of the way I continuously push myself out of my comfort zone. Lots of people automatically disqualify themselves from a position, but my whole career to-date has been one big stretch-goal. I’m always asking myself: Does this opportunity push or stretch my skill set? Does this feel too easy? In that way, I can see, measure and taste growth. It keeps me moving and striving in this fast-paced industry.

I think ‘group’ skills (brainstorming, problem solving and relationship building) have been just as important to building my career as my marketing ability.


We asked two of your team members,  Colleen Dix and Kathryn Percy what makes you #StandApart. Here’s what he said:

Katie is a shining star on the rise – definitely one to watch. She’s well regarded as a bright and exceptional leader by many and her vision and multi-talented skills are contagious. What’s more, as a team player, she’s always eager to help with projects and brings exciting new ideas to all meetings – inspiring the people she works with to do the same.

– Colleen Dix & Kathryn Percy, TELUS Social


You’re interviewing a candidate and there’s no doubt, they’ve got it. What ingredients were you looking for? When it comes to hiring, what does you/your organization consider the special sauce?

I’m looking for people who are excited and passionate. I like to see they are actively continuing to learn outside of work. Physical activity is so important in my life. I believe an active body leads to an active and healthy mind so you must love to sweat. I also look for people who genuinely care about our customers; that has to shine through no matter what role you are applying for. You can’t go wrong if you have the customer at the heart of your decision making.

I’m always asking myself: Does this opportunity push or stretch my skill set? Does this feel too easy? In that way, I can see, measure and taste growth.


Hire for attitude and train for skills.  Agree or disagree?

I wouldn’t be where I am today if that weren’t #truth.


How “LinkedIn” are you? Do you use it?  What role has networking played in your career?

I love it. We should all be building a strong networks. Genuine relationships will always come first, but I totally respect online tools, like LinkedIn, for helping me grow and maintain connections through the ebbs and flows of “social” time. I also love it as a thought leadership tool and a way to keep up to date in industry. 

Full disclosure: as part of my role with TELUS, I was actually on the advisory board for LinkedIn – the only Canadian company on the board. I really grew to appreciate how they’re continually trying to improve the functionality of the site to be more than just an online resume. And, from a corporate perspective, it’s a huge tool for connecting with past and current employees and for getting out key messaging. I love metrics and we saw great conversion from our company as well.


What devices/apps/tools form part of your regular routine?

Twitter, Sound Cloud, Zite, Instagram, Yahoo weather, & Evernote.


This question was passed on from our last #StandApart Marketer, Catherine Walsh @BestBuyCanada: 1. Where will you be in your relevant industry in 5 years and 2. Favourite leadership development book, and why?

1. I’m in it: Vice President of digital and new media

2. I just finished “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone. Highly recommend this book. I also love reading books about athletes and their journeys. Not your typical “leadership development” book, but I like any book that engages my mind and inspires my body. One of my favourites is “Women Who Run” by Shanti Sosienski


If you could put one question on the list for our next #StandApart Marketer profile, what would it be? What do you want to know?

What’s playing on your ipod on repeat?